Hipster DevOps Happens To The Best Of Us

Posted on Saturday, Oct 11, 2014


At the recent DevOpsDays Chicago event, Bridget Kromhout pointed out that there is no “pink-haired, exciting, thought-leadership conspiracy of hipster DevOps” – that we are all in this together. This resonated with me on a personal level, as I’ve gone through my own journey through this thing we call DevOps. I’ve got a couple thoughts on the matter that I wanted to jot down before I forget. Also, this is an exercise to see if I can remember my blog login password. Which I seem to have been able to do. So yay me.

DevOps Community as the Lindy Hop Scene

Back in a former life, I was heavily involved in the swing dancing “scene”. I was one of the creators of a major dance website (WindyHop), which is still there, but not the one I created), and I helped plan a number of large-scale dance events (both fundraisers for Windyhop as well as at least one of the Chicago Lindy Exchanges).

Why is this relevant? As I’ve been moving around more in the “DevOps Community,” I keep seeing striking parallels between the two (I’m sure people in other fandoms/scenes will see this as well, but I’m not in those, so your comparisons don’t help me make my point). One of them is specific to DevOpsDays and Lindy Exchanges, and has to do more with just the mechanics of event planning (I’ll talk about this more in my upcoming post on DevOpsDays Chicago, where I will wax poetic and bring you all to tears with ALL OF THE FEELS, etc), but more so, some things come to mind about the community itself.

In my days of swing dancing, we didn’t have the Twitters or the Facebooks. There were regional websites for the local scenes, but quite a bit of the intersection of “swing dancer” and “person who likes to talk on the Internet” found themselves on a site called Yehoodi.

If it’s written this way, it must be science

On Yehoodi, in addition to ridiculous topics whatever random crap people now use Facebook to discuss, there were fairly active threads about dance styles, good ways to learn, what makes a good instructor, why West Coast Swing dancers were worthy of our mockery, etc.

And often times, in these threads, names would be dropped. But in fact, I would suggest that it wasn’t always name dropping, or even “appeal to authority” – it was just a way of giving credit where credit was due. If, for example, Steven Mitchell said something really smart about connection as a lead, if I just said it, without saying “as Steven said,” that would make me an asshole. That would be me taking credit for his idea. To me, the name-dropping would be for me to say “as Steven told me at an after-party in Herrang.” Subtle difference, but it matters.

So what does this have to do with DevOps?

When I was first learning about DevOps, I was an avid consumer of DevOps Cafe (I still am, for the record). It was really challenging to me, at first, as John and Damon are REALLY SMART DUDES who know a lot of things. And as someone who didn’t know ANY of the things, when they would make references to Allspaw, for example I was all

This happened to me in my early days on Yehoodi, too, when someone would talk about Sylvia (again, usually without a last name, because who doesn’t know Sylvia??). Usually the reference wasn’t someone trying to sound smarter (usually, not always, of course), but because it was “common knowledge” in the scene who Sylvia was.

(Secret time – for at least three-four months, I didn’t know John Allspaw‘s first name)

So what’s your point, Stratton?

In the very first episode of Arrested DevOps, I stated “You won’t hear me say ‘So I was talking to John Allspaw at Velocity,” and for at least a few episodes, I made a conscious effort to not do that kind of thing.

You know what I learned?

That’s fucking hard to do. Because all jokes about “thought leaders” aside, there are a lot of smart people in our community. Smart people who have said smart and insightful things. And I don’t want to take credit for those ideas as my own – I use a lot of analogies that Damon Edwards uses, and it would be disingenuous to not give him the hat-tip when I do.

So my point is…it’s easy to become the accidental DevOps hipster. We play a few rounds of DevOps Against Humanity. We follow people like @PeteCheslock on Twitter. We listen to podcasts. And we start to take on the jargon. Because a) jargon can be a shortcut, and b) WE LIKE TO BELONG. It feels good to be “in on the joke” – not “in on the joke” in the way of “ha ha, look at those dummies who don’t know that Andrew Clay Shafer loves sushi”, but in on the joke as in “that is a funny joke, and I know get to laugh because I follow the reference.”

What can we do?

We can explain our references. Not deeply, and not every single time. But I should be better about this on ADO – if I bring up Lusis, I should at least say “I’ll post a link to his blog in the show notes so you can read some more smart stuff he’s written”. If I mention Mark Burgess, I should at least say “who is considered the father of modern configuration management”. If I mention Michael Ducy I should say “I really can’t explain him, I really wish I could.”

To my fellow accidental hipsters? We can do this too. Bridget did this in her talk at DevOpsDays Chicago – she kicked off with a primer. Know your audience. If you’re a hipster in that audience, don’t be offended when a speaker tells you who John Allspaw is before quoting him – remember, you haven’t always known that either.

This post went a bit off the rails. It’s probably apparent at this point that I haven’t really blogged in a couple of years, and I’ve forgotten how. But I wanted to get some of these ideas written down while i was thinking of them.

(main photo via Phil Davis underĀ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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