Well, I’m finally home with a spare minute to write. I and the two guys who went to the conference with me (Peco and Robert) got a lot out of it. I apologize for the brevity of style of the conference writeups, but they were notes taken on a precariously balanced laptop, under bad network and power conditions, while I was also trying to get around and participate meaningfully in a very fast-paced event. I’ve gone back and tried to soften them a little bit, but there’s no rest for the wicked. You can access many of the slides for the sessions here.

The conference was quite a success. Everyone we spoke to was enthusiastic about the people and information there. O’Reilly is happy because attendance was above their expectations, and it looks like it’s been expanded to 3 days next year, which is good – it was *so* session packed and fast paced I didn’t get to talk to all the suppliers I wanted in the dealer room and at times it felt like the Bataan death march. The first day we barely had time to grab a fast food dinner, and we often found ourselves hungry and hurrying. We enjoyed talking with the people there, but it seemed less conversational than other conventions – maybe because of the pace, maybe because half the people there were from the area and thus needed to scamper off to work/home and were therefore not into small talk.

There were the usual forgivable rough spots of a first year conference – programming varied from 15 to 45 minute slots and some of the sessions were shoehorned into a too-small spot or something meriting more of an Ignite format given a long slot. Really, the only thing that bothered me was how much one of the two rooms (both carved out of the same superspace in traditional hotel style) sucked compared to the other. The main room was great – big, good AC, good sound. The second room was a nightmare – very long, about 85 degrees, and poor sound. I had to go out and complain once to the staff about at least getting the AC going in there. The Marriott was very nice overall but that one room kept me away unless the subject was really compelling. And sometimes, a talk most people were fleeing from (SOX, I’m looking at you) was in the big room while the session that everyone was in was in the small one.

What were my biggest takeaways. Well, as always, a bunch of opinions on what tools are good to be looking into. Jiffy sounds neat, we’re already using KITE, and we’re evaluating proxy caches and CDNs so all the info on those was great. It was also a good opportunity to touch base with suppliers old and new – it really helps the relationship to be able to interact with them out “in the wild,” not over the phone or on a sales call. We talked at length with Keynote and Coradiant, current supplier partners of ours; got to talk with prospectives like Akamai and LimeLight, and got t meet new ones we were impressed with like ControlTier. And the EFF even had a booth. Fight the power!

A lot of the talks were too short to really get useful specifics out of per se, but they serve as valuable pointers to further information. The image optimization talk by Yahoo! was one of those, we’re going to be looking into that stuff hard. And Steve’s Even Faster talk. And all the random name-dropped tools, open source and not, that people are getting mileage out of.

You know, a side note to that – it sucks that there’s not a semi-definitive list of a “Web Admin’s Toolkit.” What areas you need to have solutions in (monitoring, configuration management, proxies, etc.). Maybe we’ll try to put together something like that, a multidimensional vote-driven thing where people can rate their faves all in one place.

In closing, I’d like to thank O’Reilly for putting together a conference that serves a growing and largely unserved part of the technical populace, and specifically to Steve for spearheading it and asking me to speak!