Introducing Your SmartOS Community Manager

About Me

I’m Deirdré Straughan. A great deal about my personal and professional life is available on my site, Countries Beginning with I.

I have been a community manager since long before the title existed, first for the Italian startup I worked for in Milan, then for Adaptec (when it bought us), then for Adaptec’s software spinoff, Roxio. The website I designed for Roxio was probably one of the first (in 2001) to explicitly describe its customers as members of an online community.

Before I ever heard of The Cluetrain Manifesto, I was acting upon my belief that companies and customers have shared interests in the success and usefulness of products/services. I found that customers had better ideas than I did about how to help them use our stuff; my role was less about leadership than about enabling and facilitating them to work with us and each other.

The open source movement takes this attitude a logical step further: though some open source projects originate largely with a company, they need a real community (comprised of both insiders and outsiders) to thrive and grow. And I enjoy nurturing such communities.

As for this specific community: I have been working closely with Solaris and many of its creators since I joined Sun Microsystems in 2007. Though my title changed a few times, my work at Sun (and then Oracle) was always fundamentally about helping engineers communicate, both internally and externally. Part of my job was to help the OpenSolaris community, including a stint as the secretary to the OGB shortly before the end.

Specific tasks included filming hundreds of hours of experts talking about technology, and teaching others how to use video. I also did social media production for technical conferences worldwide. I also do text: among other things (blog writing and editing,articles), last year I edited (the non-code parts of) the DTrace book.

Putting it all together, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with hundreds of smart, interesting people in tech, and that’s something I very much enjoy doing.

About the Job

Last December I began working for Joyent – once again, helping engineers and other technical types communicate what they know, including using video. Then, about a month ago, I had the chance to change roles and managers while still at Joyent. Here’s the job description as Bryan Cantrill gave it to me:

Especially as we integrate native KVM into SmartOS, we have a great opportunity to build a community around the operating system: we are the first OS to unify DTrace, ZFS, Zones and KVM under one OS kernel, and we believe that that makes us the preeminent OS for cloud computing. But to make that happen, we need to build and manage community around it. This means a bunch of things, and I’m flexible on the definition €” that’s part of why I want you heading this up.

It means making available resources to the community that explain these technologies and why they are a giant win for cloud computing; making sure that we have an awesome experience for the developer and community member to download the system, learn more about it, and start building with it (which in turn means a web presence, documentation, the right downloads, etc.); that we are engaging with the illumos community to both strengthen that community and to leverage it to strengthen SmartOS, etc. This role is reporting to me because I expect it to have quite a bit of interface with the engineers.

I was happy to accept the job, and that’s what I’m doing now.

A few words about what I am not:

  • I am in no sense a computer scientist / software engineer. I’ve attempted only one programming course in my life to date (Pascal, my freshman year at UC Santa Cruz €“ so long ago that I narrowly escaped having to use punch cards!). I had no particular talent for it. I see software, like music, as an art which I can admire and enjoy, while being damned near incapable of producing it myself.
  • I’m not a sysadmin. I can just about find my way around a command line, given a cheat sheet. (I took a Solaris Sysadmin course 18 months ago, but never had the opportunity to practice any of what I €œlearned€ €“ and I’m more a hands-on learner.)

So you may have to be patient with me sometimes – I don’t know a lot of what you know. But I am not afraid to admit when I don’t understand things, or to ask questions until I do understand. If you’re willing to teach, I’m happy to learn.

Right now I’m just starting to learn who you are, what you want from SmartOS, and how we can help you. You can reach me at smartos [at] joyent [dot] com, and I often hang out in #joyent, #illumos, #openindiana, and related chats on I’m a prolific Tweeter at@deirdres, and can be found on Google+ as well.

I look forward to working with you to help make SmartOS great!

Note: I should have had this post ready on August 15th, when we began telling the world about SmartOS and KVM. Unfortunately, I was then distracted by personal circumstances.

Originally published on

Note: Around December of that year, I also took on the community for illumos, the open source operating system kernel which is SmartOS’ parent.

New Videos: The Gregg Performance Series

Working for Joyent, I continue to create lots of technical video (~32 hours of edited material to date). Most recent examples, here, are the start of a series I’m doing with Brendan Gregg (author of the DTrace book). In the course of his research to make these videos, Brendan even made some surprising discoveries about tools that everyone thought they knew all about.

Above: Brendan Gregg discusses vmstat, a performance tool used in Solaris-based operating systems, including Solaris 10, SmartOS, IllumOS, that shows the health of the entire system. Part 2 covers all the fields in detail. Part 3 talks about how vmstat works in Joyent’s SmartOS.

^ Brendan talks about the 1, 5 and 15 minute load averages as reported by tools such as uptime and prstat, and then explains in details how they work on Solaris-based Operating Systems including SmartOS, and reveals why they aren’t really 1, 5 and 15 minute averages.

Below: Brendan discusses the key fields of mpstat, another performance tool used in Solaris-based operating systems, including Solaris 10, SmartOS, Illumos, to shows the health of the CPUs on multi-processor systems. Part 2 covers all the fields in detail. Part 3 is a deeper dive into the fields using other tools.


node.js Community Event: Rough Cut Videos

Joyent hosted a node.js community event at our San Francisco offices the other evening, in which Ryan Dahl announced a new version of node.js, and Brendan Gregg showed some amazing stuff you can do with Joyent Cloud Analytics on your hosted site to understand what’s going on in your node.js app.

For more details on cloud analytics, see Dave’s and Robert’s blogs, and two more hours of video with Bryan and Brendan demoing.

Technical difficulties with UStream meant I didn’t have a stream recorded to their servers that night, technical difficulties with everything else meant I couldn’t get these rough cuts hosted anywhere til now. This is exactly what you would have seen on the stream (and more), including the bad camera angle which was forced by… oh never mind. A better view of cloud analytics will be forthcoming.

(NB: These videos disappeared from Joyent some time ago. Sorry.)

Joyent End User Tutorial Videos

Wondering what I’m up to in my new job? As mentioned, I work for Joyent, which does cloud computing. In addition to and as part of my job as Director of Technical Training, I’m doing a lot of video (well, what did you expect?) including live streaming events like a talk by Bryan Cantrill and Brendan Gregg on Cloud Analytics.

I’m also helping to produce videos to help customers of Joyent’s public cloud, below are a few examples.

For my Solaris buddies, there’s a special offer still in effect: you can try out a 1GB SmartMachine for just $45 per month (that’s $80 off the regular price). This monthly price is good for as long as you keep your SmartMachine.

Introduction to Joyent Virtualmin and Webmin

Setting Up a New Domain on Your Joyent SmartMachine

Recovering a Password for Your SmartMachine

Accessing Your SmartMachine from Windows Using Putty

Backing Up MySQL with Webmin

I only do final edits on these, the scripting and production are by Joyent‘s Jasun Wurster.