What this year’s Fluent Conference means to me

What this year’s Fluent Conference means to me

Around eight years ago, when I started working in the web performance space, I knew nothing about performance. I’m not exaggerating or being falsely humble when I say that. I knew zip. Zero. Nada.

My first O’Reilly Velocity Conference, back in 2010, was a revelation. Not only was there this arcane-seeming niche inhabited by people who were dedicated to making web pages faster, but this niche was surprisingly big.

Since 2010, that performance niche has grown even bigger and vastly more complex (much like the average web page, but I digress). Companies both huge and tiny offer incredibly nuanced solutions to problems we barely knew existed a handful of years ago. As my father-in-law used to say, “It’s been a helluva toboggan ride.” It’s been my joy and privilege to be on this ride with so many talented, caring people.

Last fall, when the folks at O’Reilly told me that they were re-jigging Velocity to focus more on the engineering and operations side of things, and shifting the front-end focus over to Fluent Conference, the decision made immediate sense. When those same folks invited me to co-chair Fluent and help with the transition, of course I jumped at the opportunity.

In a completely random coincidence, just a month ago I joined Steve Souders and Mark Zeman at SpeedCurve. For those of you who may not know this, Steve is one of the co-founders of Velocity. Mark is the founder of SpeedCurve, the performance monitoring company he created that was inspired by things he learned at Velocity. Mark and Steve’s eventual partnership sprang up out of their connection at – you guessed it – Velocity. And Velocity was where I got to know Mark and Steve over the years that led up to them offering me a role. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings of delight and serendipity I have at the fact that here I am today, working with Mark and Steve while also helping chair Fluent. Eight years ago, if you’d told me that I’d be here… well, I don’t know what I would’ve thought.

As you might guess, I have a very sentimental attachment to Velocity. It’s been a touchstone of my working world for many years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I take my role as a shepherd of the evolution of Velocity and Fluent very seriously. The performance community is an amazing group of people, and I want all of those people to know that their work is more important than ever.

Here’s why.

The theme of Fluent is “Building a Better Web”. When my co-chairs – Rachel Roumeliotis, Ally MacDonald, and Kyle Simpson – and I first discussed this theme months ago, it was pretty easy to agree on what a “better web” means to us.

A better web is:

  • accessible,
  • secure,
  • reliable, and
  • fast.

Obvious, right? And some might argue that, yeah, while the web isn’t perfect, it’s good enough. So we’ve more or less hit our goals, right? We can all go home? Not so fast.

Many of us are lucky to live in happy bubbles where the web is accessible, secure (well, reasonably secure), reliable, and fast (well, reasonably fast). We’re the web equivalent of one-percenters. And like one-percenters, we’re dangerously at risk of being oblivious to what the rest of the world experiences.

internet
Image: DAPD

The vast majority of people around the world – the 99-percenters – don’t live inside happy web bubbles. Yes, roughly half of all people worldwide have access to the internet (mostly via mobile devices), but their experiences are difficult, non-secure, unreliable, and slow.

From a purely user experience perspective, this sucks, especially given the fact that more and more vital services and information are migrating to live solely online. But there’s more at stake here than just UX.

The modern web is a mirror of the modern world. For too many people, it isn’t just the web that’s inaccessible, unsafe, unreliable, and slow – it’s everything. It’s education, governance, economics, food, and water. As technologists, we may not be able to fix all those problems, but we can fix the web.

The web has become a vital part of how we live and share this planet. When we talk about building a better web, what we’re really talking about is building a better world. We may not be digging wells or building schools, but our work matters. This is why, when you look at the Fluent program, you’ll see so many talks that focus on how to use existing and emerging technologies to make the web accessible, secure, reliable, and speedy – in real-world, non-bubble conditions.

I’m an optimist: I believe the world is getting better. But I’m also a realist: I know it takes a lot of hard work to make things better. I’m looking forward to working hard with you.

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The Twenty Tammy Challenge

The Twenty Tammy Challenge

Alternate title: A somewhat tongue-in-cheek – and hopefully humorous – exercise in illustrating the silliness of the claim that it’s difficult to find women tech speakers

Back story: You might want to read this Mic piece by Melanie Ehrenkranz first. Tired of the stale excuse that finding women to speak at tech conferences is hard, she put out a call on Twitter asking for names of experienced women/LGBTQ/non-cis speakers. She got a thousand names in the first twenty-four hours.

So please go read Melanie’s article. I’ll wait here.

You’re back! Great!

Here’s what I did right after reading Melanie’s piece: I decided to narrow the search radically and see how quickly I could find twenty Tammys (including Tammis, Tamis, and Tamaras who go by the nickname Tammy) in tech, who are also experienced speakers.

Why?

I don’t run into many other Tammys, so I thought it’d be interesting – and yes, kind of funny. My main goal was to shine a bit more light on the absurdity of the claim that it’s hard to find women speakers. If I can find twenty women who share my name, just imagine how many women I could track down if I broadened my search to include, say, all women’s names?

I went into this research thinking it would be challenging but ultimately do-able. It ended up being waaaaay easier than I thought it would be. All it took was half an hour with Google.

I found a diverse group of Tammys. They represent a great swath of roles – including developers, educators, managers, VPs, CEOs, and CIOs – at everything from startups to global enterprises. (Fun fact: If you want, your next tech event could have an all-Tammy panel of startup founders!) I’ve read all their bios and confirmed that yes, all of these Tammys have solid speaking cred.

And now, let’s peruse the list and revel in the collective Tammy awesomeness…

  1. Tammy Alairys – Principal, IT Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP
  2. Tamara Barr – CIO, Continental Mills
  3. Tammy Brecht Dunbar – Microsoft innovative educator expert, master trainer, certified educator, regional lead; TEACH.org ambassador
  4. Tammy Bütow – Site reliability engineering manager, Dropbox
  5. Tammy Camp – Startup investor and growth partner, 500Startups; founder, Palytte
  6. Tami Erwin – Executive VP, Wireless Operations, Verizon
  7. Tammy Hawkins – VP, Software Development, MasterCard
  8. Tammy A. Hepps – Founder, Treelines.com
  9. Tami Howie – CEO, Maryland Technology Council
  10. Tammy Johns – CEO/co-founder, Skills.com; CEO/founder, Strategy & Talent
  11. Tammy Lind – Technology integration coach; Google education trainer; Google certified teacher; Intel for Education master teacher
  12. Tammy Meyers – Co-founder and COO, QuestUpon
  13. Tammy Moskites – CISO and CIO, Venafi
  14. Tammy Olson – Global virtual learning leader, Cargill
  15. Tammy Perrin – Lead software engineer/software engineering manager, Attunity
  16. Tami Reiss – Product lead, ‎Justworks; founder, Just Not Sorry
  17. Tammy Schuring – VP, Worldwide Sales, HPE Security
  18. Tammy Han – Founder, First Round Capital
  19. Tammy Uyeda – Creator, FitSpark
  20. Tammy Worcester Tang – Instructional technology specialist, ESSDACK

Reminder: All it took was half an hour to find this incredibly talented group of women. The argument that it’s hard to find women speakers is palpably absurd.

Yes, I’m aware that mine is just a general list of women with vastly different areas of expertise. But it serves to illustrate that women with vastly different areas of expertise do exist and they’re not hiding. If you’re not finding women with the expertise you need for your event, you’re not trying hard enough. As someone who has served on several program committees and is now co-chairing O’Reilly Fluent, I get that finding speakers who are available and willing isn’t always a cinch. I feel your pain. But diversity is do-able. It really is.

As fun as it was to compile this list, I don’t think that list-making is the answer to the problem of diversity in tech. As Melanie pointed out:

“Lists aren’t the solution. Action is. It’s important to understand that a list isn’t a solution to sexism in tech. As Jeena Cho wrote for Above the Law in April, asking for suggestions of women speakers for a future event just shifts responsibility.”

But I do like to be part of the solution and all, so here are some helpful links:

No more excuses, okay?

Woohoo! My book is out!

Time-Is-Money-hard-copy

If you know me, or if you’ve ever attended one of my talks or read any of the articles and blog posts I’ve written, then you know I’m fascinated by the impact of web performance on human behaviour. In hindsight, it was probably inevitable that I should finally sit down and pull all these stories under one roof.

I’m so very excited to share that my book, Time Is Money: The Business Value of Web Performance, has just been published by O’Reilly. (You can get it on Amazon and in the O’Reilly store.)

Why should you care about web performance?

Maybe you don’t care about performance (yet). But chances are, if you work on a website, you care about one or more of these metrics:

  • bounce rate
  • cart size
  • conversions
  • revenue
  • time on site
  • page views
  • user satisfaction
  • user retention
  • organic search traffic
  • brand perception
  • productivity
  • bandwidth/CDN savings

Yes? Then you should also care about web performance. Because performance has an impact on every single one of these metrics.

I have yet to find a metric that defied mapping. In fact, for me – and I know I’m not alone in this – the relationship between performance and online success has become so obvious that it comes as a bit of a surprise to encounter resistance to the idea. But there is definitely resistance out there – or, if not outright resistance, then at the very least a serious lack of education. Hence this book.

My hopes for this book

One of the topics that comes up a lot in the web performance space is the challenge of convincing other people in your organization to care enough about performance that they’re willing to invest some resources into fixing it. It’s tough fighting for resources to fix a problem that, until recently, has been largely a silent killer. One of my goals in writing this book is to give all the performance converts out there the ammunition they need to put together a strong business case.

If you’ve been in this space for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with some of the research and case studies — from Walmart to Aberdeen — that are mainstays of pretty much every speaker deck you encounter. These stories are great, and you’ll find them covered here for the benefit of performance newcomers. But I’ve also cast my net wide to include stories that will, hopefully, be new to you.

Performance is a human issue

Along the way, I’d also love it if readers put this book down and walk away having internalized the fact that performance is very much a human issue.

We are incredibly lucky that we have the tools to measure and analyze how these people use our sites and apps, but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of reducing those people to mere numbers on a dashboard. There are real people — millions upon millions of them — behind every study and statistic referenced in the pages ahead.

Ultimately, if we care about our businesses, then all those real actual human beings should be the first and last thing we think about every day.

WANTED: Your favourite web performance case studies

If you know me, or if you’ve ever attended one of my talks, then you know I’m fascinated by the impact of web performance on human behaviour. Because of the space in which I work, a lot of this human behaviour gets correlated to business metrics, from bounce rate to cart size. So for the past six years, I’ve been corralling and writing about every case study I can get my hands on that documents this correlation.

In hindsight, it was probably inevitable that I should finally sit down and pull all these stories under one roof.

Time Is Money: The Business Value of Web PerformanceI’m beyond excited to announce that I’m in the process of writing a book — Time is Money: The Business Value of Web Performance — for O’Reilly. I’m well into the manuscript, and this is where I’d love your help.

If you’ve been in the performance space for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with some of the research and case studies — from Walmart to Aberdeen — that are mainstays of pretty much every speaker deck you encounter. These stories are great, and they’ll definitely make an appearance in my book for the benefit of all the performance newcomers I hope will read it.

But I’m hungry for fresh meat.

I’d love to include new stories that illustrate the many ways in which faster pages and increased uptime benefit users — and ultimately site owners. If you have one, please let me know!

Specifically, I’m looking for stories about these metrics (though I’m open to others):

  • bounce rate
  • cart size
  • conversions
  • revenue
  • time on site
  • page views
  • user satisfaction
  • user retention
  • organic search traffic
  • brand perception
  • productivity
  • bandwidth/CDN savings
  • any other metric you can think of

I’d love to hear from every type of business, from mega-retailers to SMBs to SaaS start-ups. In fact, the more variety, the better. I want to tell awesome, diverse data-driven stories that will help drive my goal of making performance a priority for every site owner.

If you have a story to share — or if you can suggest any other publicly available case studies I should know about — let me know, either in the comments on this post or by email at tammy.everts@ignoreme-gmail.com.

6 simple tips for writing a winning conference proposal

I have roughly eight kajillion deadlines right now, so writing an impromptu post on a site I barely keep alive shouldn’t be on my to-do list right now. But given the fact that it’s conference season and calls for proposals are everywhere, I wanted to get this out sooner than later.

I speak at a lot of tech events, and I’ve had the honour of being asked to sit on the selection committee for a few, most recently the Velocity conferences in Santa Clara and New York. So I’ve been on both the writing and reviewing side of the proposal process. I’ve learned a lot since I submitted my very first proposal (which did not get accepted, FYI), and today I want to share a few tips with you.

Continue reading “6 simple tips for writing a winning conference proposal”

A conference survival guide for introverts

A conference survival guide for introverts

If you’ve ever attended a conference, managed okay during the morning talks on day one, but then almost had a panic attack at lunch time when you entered the ballroom full of strangers chowing down on the conference buffet, then this post is for you. Continue reading “A conference survival guide for introverts”