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Hotsos 2016 Recap

I wanted to go to Hotsos Symposium for quite some time, having heard so many great topics from there for years. And every time I was a bit lazy to think about what I can talk about. Apparently I thought that everything I know is well covered elsewhere, so why would I be accepted. Plus all these complexities of budget, getting a visa, travel arrangements, jet lag, and personal matters in between. Last year, when call for papers was still open, I realized that there’s a good chance I can make it to Hotsos in 2016: I had a budget, visa is a doable thing, and most importantly I knew I had a topic to talk about which most likely will not be in competition with other speakers.

I’ve been working on a large Middleware project which lasts for more than 8 months. And with each and every week of it I was getting confirmations to my theory that many clients, independent of their size, are making silly mistakes in simple things and as a result they have huge issues just because of these small errors in basic stuff. Fixing simple things would give them a huge benefit in terms of applications performance and stability. So I thought this is it: I should talk about simple things done right, and what to expect when you mess them up. I was pretty confident I’ll have no issues explaining what I know in whatever time is available. I quickly submitted a very short abstract and waited till December 1st when I’ve found that I’m accepted. I was happy and worried at the same time: no way to go back and now I have to deliver what I promised, which means the work has to start immediately. I decided that in December I’ll deal with the budget & travel, and start US visa application; not to mention I’ll start adding topics for the presentation. From January I was thinking to spend 1h every day dedicated to presentation, plus whatever time is available over the weekend as well, especially when I’m oncall and have time to think.

After some flight search I’ve realized the most convenient way for me to get to Dallas would be via Frankfurt earlier on Saturday, which would give me some time to fight the jet lag. I also hoped to attend the Training day with Richard Foote, but unfortunately I had to be back in Moscow next Friday evening which forced me to get tickets back home on Thursday mid day and skip more than 50% of the training day. The visa application process for US seemed a bit tricky in the beginning, but in reality it was quite simple: just fill out an online form, pay the application fee and get to the consulate for a so-called interview. The form took me about 3 hours, and it required lots of information like all the countries you’ve visited in the last 5 years. Combined with terrible UI it was tricky. The most complicated part was to take my photo scanned & uploaded with good quality and small size at the same time. I managed to succeed after something like a dozen of attempts. The interview itself is more of a “bring me your passport” and explain what do you need to do in the US. It was easy although took about 2h waiting in the queues. I just showed printed emails with invitation to Hotsos and the conference schedule which had my name on it – and that’s it. Thinking about the process, it is streamlined and is easier than getting a visa to EU countries (those usually require tons of real papers and check them thoroughly), and an order of magnitude easier than getting a Canadian visa (which is also online for the most part but requires you to upload enormous amount of scanned documents and wait for visa processing for something like 2 months or even more). I got my passport ready and delivered in 2 days giving me a visa for 3 years – awesome speed! And one more step closer to Hotsos as well.

Presentation preparation went good and as planned. I realized that the topic I’ve chosen is too complex for a single presentation, and tried to get rid of some things. I hate “bullet point hell” slides so even though I started with bullet points, I was slowly making changes to remove them as much as possible. Sometimes I’ve added very simple visuals just to make sure it is easier to understand a point as I know how hard it is to digest text information without a picture. Sometimes I had to do some diagrams, and animations were required as well. Those were taking a lot of time initially but later it went better and better. So in the end I was OK with animations. Initially I didn’t plan for a Demo in the talk since I thought that it would take too much time both in preparation and presentation. In the end I decided that I need to show at least something, so that the audience could remember it. One of the things I picked up from a quick review of this book was: good presentation should be about 1 thing. Unfortunately it was too late to change the whole slide deck. But in the end it went this unexpected way…

My journey to Dallas started at 4AM on Saturday with a quick drive to the airport to take a relatively short 3h flight to Frankfurt. I remember last time I’ve been there it was very chaotic with huge lines for security check, so I was worried about 1h connection and really long way between the gates. It appears that at this time early in the morning the airport is empty, and the navigation inside has definitely been improved. My flight even though being delayed for 40 minutes, arrived almost on time. The connection was smooth. For the next leg I tried Lufthansa’s Premium Economy first time and was very pleased how good it is: lots of space everywhere, and a bit more service as well. I spent few hours watching end of the 2nd season of Fargo, worked on the presentation for a few hours and shortly after that my flight was over. It was perfect 10h on the plane, couldn’t be better! Great start.

Dallas welcomed with warm weather and no queues at the immigration: I’ve spent less than 5 minutes there. I heard a lot of stories of other people spending hours in line. So I was lucky again. After dark and cold Moscow it was unbelievable to see +22°C outside, so I decided to take a longer route to the hotel by train instead of a taxi. It is a good deal for its price ($5 per daily ticket), has lots of space above the head but for some reason very little space between the rows. Apart from that it is clear that public transport is used by “poor” people with no car </p />
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