Splunk .conf 2016, through my eyes 👀

Giving my first talk in the community theater, it was packed! — Credit: Shane Daniels

Disclaimer: all images and thoughts in this post are my own (unless otherwise noted), and do not reflect the views or opinions of Splunk, Inc. Visit Splunk Blogs for official content. If you appear in a photo I used here and want it removed, please let me know.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Shakeel and I’m a software engineer at Splunk’s Seattle office. I’ve been working at Splunk for over three years, the first two as an intern. Splunk .conf is our annual user’s conference, and this year we hosted over 5,000 customers and partners!

Since Instagram Stories launched earlier this year, I’ve been posting fun content about my day throughout the week. I knew .conf was coming up, so I decided to document my .conf experience with Instagram Stories!

As you can see, I mixed it up with a few Tweets as well!

This post has many photos from my Instagram Story with lots of emojis and a bit of doodling, brace yourself! 😎

Day -1: Traveling day 🚕✈️🚐

Instagram Stories is a great feature!

This year .conf was held in Orlando for the first time instead of Las Vegas like the previous few years. The only caveat was our flight options were limited from the west coast, so we flew in a day early.

The non-stop flight was quite a journey, luckily with some great views above the clouds! As we began descending into Orlando, the pilot mentioned a storm was passing below. “We’d need to circle until we’re cleared to land”, he said. This ended up delaying the flight a good 30 minutes, and we had to remain seated! Needless to say, the limits of my bladder were pushed to a whole new level. 😁

View from my hotel room

.Conf was held at The Disney Swan & Dolphin Hotel, so we headed there immediately after landing.

I’m super thankful I was able to stay in the same hotel as the conference! Several of my co-workers had to Uber/Lyft/shuttle to/from a hotel farther away.

After checking in and unpacking a bit, I took a moment of solitude to take in the day so far.

I realized none of had eaten since leaving Seattle 7 hours ago (plus the 3 hour time change). So a few of us got together looking for our dinner options.

“When you don’t know what to eat, run for the sushi!” — me

I love sushi! 🍣

We settled for an amazing sushi dinner! Afterwards we walked around and explored the hotel. I was very impressed with the event marketing team this year. They did a phenomenal job at turning the hotel into a Splunk hotel (Splunk-tel?) for the week!

The event marketing staff went all out this year! Also, me doing a tree pose and dabbing at the same time!

I’m always up for a photo opportunity! I posed for some silly photos outside near the light-up palm trees with a Splunk ninja sign. We walked around the Disney Boardwalk a bit, and headed back to our rooms to get some rest after a long day.

Day 0 is a critical prep day for employees, speakers, and anyone staffing the booth. It’s our only chance to get organized, practice our talks, and setup showcase booths!

Day 0: Prep day & the Welcome Soiree

The HEC and GDI (getting data in) booth

Wait. Why the HEC did I go to .conf anyways? To talk about HEC, duh! Hang on, I think I messed up the punchline there…

One of the core features I worked on at Splunk is HTTP Event Collector (H-E-C, or HEC for short). We released the feature at .conf last year, and made a ton of improvements in time for .conf this year.

This year I gave 2 talks about HEC, and helped my colleague Oleg staff the HEC booth!

The Welcome Soiree is when we open the booths for the first time on Monday evening. We had a few hours to kill, so I took some time to explore the hotel in the refreshing Florida heat and humidity (which I loved). We started with an awesome breakfast buffet, tried to play outdoor ping pong ft. Cecelia, then took a quick nap (my first time using a hammock)!

This 3-panel arrangement works pretty well (on desktop).

Then it was time for the Welcome Soiree!

Our time to show off

Our main attraction at the HEC booth this year was a selfie demo! (Available on GitHub.) We used a few technologies to pull this off:

  • Take a photo using a Macbook webcam
  • Convert the image to ASCII art
  • Use a python script to send the data to Splunk over HEC
  • Then you see the photo, as ASCII art, come into Splunk as a single event, in real time!
A little Twitter promotion
The .conf logo is my mind going up in smoke 🙂

I was pleasantly surprised by how many customers and partners wanted to take selfies with me! Maybe this is my first step to fame… 😎

After a couple hours of awesome interactions and so much excitement from attendees, we had to shut it down for the night.

After a photoshoot at one of the .conf signs, a few of us got dinner. Then walked around for a bit and got some sleep — the big first day is tomorrow! 🎉 Remember, most of us were still operating on west coast time.

Day 1: Opening Keynote, My First Talk, & the Search Party

That’s EST, so 3:20am Seattle time…

Last year at .conf we started a morning run club, I thought I’d give it a try this year. “I ran my first 5k this year, I can probably keep up!”

I didn’t really think the commitment all the way through. The 6:30am run was more like 3:30am for me with the time change. I had to end it after about 1.5 miles, I just didn’t have it in me — I don’t think I was fully recovered yet either.

So I got showered up, got some breakfast with everyone in the meal tent then headed to the keynote! (Watch the replay here.)

I was too close to the front to continue taking pictures, otherwise I’d have taken plenty 🤗. After the big show, we ran over to the showcase to make get the booth setup for the first full day of awesomeness!

After a quick lunch, I gave my first talk! This was a short 15-minute presentation in the Community Theater at the front of the showcase near the booths, within line of sight of the HEC booth!

I remembered the previous evening a customer mentioned at my session was “full” on the .conf mobile app…

But I had no idea there would be so many people there! The audience was really engaged, and the folks up front were super supportive while I waited for others to file in before starting.

A view from the other side. Credit: Shane Daniels

After my talk I answered some very well thought out questions on my way back to the booth. Oleg finally got a break (you’ll meet him in a moment) and we headed to the Splunk Enterprise keynote.

This slide was a proud moment since the Packaging Toolkit was built entirely in the Seattle office! Our last few hours at the booth were lower traffic since people were spending their time in breakout sessions, a win-win.

Then I ran into Yunke! We were interns together in the Seattle office the summer of 2014, 2 years ago! Yunke now works for Deloitte and gets to come to .conf as an attendee, I saw him at .conf last year too.

Yunke & I

After another great selfie, I got changed for the Search Party! The name is very intentional. When someone gets lost, you send out a… search party. Splunk’s core functionality is… search. So what do you call it when a bunch of Splunk users get together… A SEARCH PARTY!!! This year it was held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after hours just for us, we took a short shuttle ride from the conference.

One of many Search Party brochures. Credit: Hannah Sook Yun

Introducing the Powerpuff Gang: Cecelia, Hannah, Ruji & myself. We all work out of the Seattle office and we spent most of the night together because that’s what friends do 💯

Even these cars with DJ booths were .conf branded!

Ruji didn’t want to go on any rides and I still wasn’t feeling great. So we tore up the dance floor while Hannah & Cecelia went ride crazy. It was getting late. Ruji and I got talked into going on some rides — they were all free for .conf attendees, so we had to take advantage (plus no lines)!

I NEVER thought I would go on a ride like the Tower of Terror, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Even though we were the very last ride of the night just before midnight (added spookiness?). This next photo needs no caption!

Credit: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Everyone had an amazing time that night. The Search Party was definitely the highlight of .conf, major kudos to the organizers!

After getting back to my room, I realized I still needed to prepare for my breakout session the next day. So, I was up for another couple of hours diligently preparing🤓.

Day 2: My Breakout Session & Demo Drama

After a late night, I had a nice easy start this morning doing some yoga in my hotel room to shake off the grogginess. I headed down to the showcase with some green tea, and put together the final pieces of my demo for the breakout session.

Itay Neeman, my manager and Director of Engineering, and I co-presented for the breakout session — it was especially exciting for me since he hired me back in 2013. One of our key partners for HEC was NetMotion Wireless. John Knopf their VP of products gave a fantastic testimonial towards the end of our talk.

View from the very back of the room — Credit: Hannah Sook Yun

The audience was very responsive to our super hero themed deck and helped us shout out the comic book sound effects (ie: BOOM, POW, BANG). Towards the end of our 45 minute session, as we’re running out of time I started to run the selfie demo at scale — a photo of the whole audience!

Everyone loves HEC!

When I took the photo I must have unconsciously put my thumb up to cause this reaction. Unfortunately the demo didn’t quite work because the search I ran was showing the ASCII art from another photo, but the crowd still loved it! After I got back to the booth I told Oleg what happened. He was doing the exact same demo at that time at the booth. So, during my demo I was actually showing a photo Oleg took for his demo! Maybe we shouldn’t have used the same demo instance of Splunk… Now is probably a good time to meet him!

Look at that smile!

Oleg was one of the backend engineers for HEC, also based out of Seattle. This was his expression after I asked him how he liked his first .conf!

“After many years, this is the first time in my career people are telling me that they’re using something I worked on. Everyone loves HEC!” — Oleg

I have to give a humungous thanks to Oleg for helping staff the HEC booth this year. He did an incredible job of explaining the benefits of HEC and helping customers find use cases within their organizations on the spot!

Day 3: Yoga, Security Keynote & Goodbyes

This year I’ve done more yoga than my entire life before January. The main benefits for me have been around mental clarity and less around mobility so far. I think about it as active meditation, rather than “boring stretching.”

It was another early day to finish strong, up and rocking at 6:30am yoga! I ended up missing yoga the other days, so this was my last chance to do “.conf yoga!”

We even had Splunk yoga mats!

The class started out slow then got really intense towards the last 10 minutes, I was definitely not able to keep up! 😂 By the end of it though I was at total peace. The feeling of total stillness is really indescribable, you have to experience first-hand to know what it feels like.

After yoga, I got changed, packed up and checked out. I got breakfast with a few customers and headed into the security keynote!

The security keynote was had a great mix of demos, customer success stories and, of course a brief presentation by Robert Herjavec (from the TV show Shark Tank)! Our CTO even gave him a Splunk t-shirt that says “You can’t always blame Canada” (one of our classic t-shirt slogans) since he’s Canadian.

The rest of the day was pretty calm since most attendees were in breakout sessions, and the showcase had to shut down by 2pm. I spent the day connecting with some coworkers from the San Francisco HQ office that I don’t get to see as often.

The rest of the Powerpuff Gang was staying in Orlando for a few extra days to go to Disney World, so we took this awesome photo and said our goodbyes.

The only nice photo we got of Powerpuff Gang

Then I was off to the airport for a long day of flying! I ended up getting home around midnight PST. I’ll let you do the math to figure out how long my day was 😉

Artsy travel photos, really proud of that black & white one

The Aftermath!

The following day was great finally going through my email and responding to even more customer questions, and taking care of loose ends. Around HEC especially, we received a ton of great feedback that I was able to pass on to our engineering directors and product managers.

My first blog post was about my first summer at Splunk 3 years ago as an intern, I feel like I’ve come full circle with this one. Thanks for reading through my goofy rambling! I also want to give a huge thanks to everyone I’ve embarrassed in this post: Cecelia, Hannah, Ruji, Oleg, Itay, Den, Yunke, and all other .conf attendees pictured above.

Of course a final thanks to you for reading this far! Leave a comment below, and 💚 this post so others can find it.

Founder of ntrsct designs, a design firm specializing in brand strategy and brand identity

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