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Unsung Heroes: Steve Atkins

Continuing my Building a Better community series, I contacted Steve Atkins. There was an interesting twist to this particular Unsung Hero. I initially contacted lluad on #postgresql (irc.freenode.net) due to his continuous and untiring efforts to help people on channel. What I didn't know is that Steve Atkins is actually lluad. Read on for some interesting bits.

How do you use PostgreSQL?

I use PostgreSQL almost any time I need to store or process structured data.

Our main software product - Abacus, a ticketing system for large ISPs and ESPs - is entirely PostgreSQL based. We briefly tried to support a couple of other databases as well but gave up on that partly due to lacking functionality but mostly because the companies and communities backing them weren't easy to work with.

It's also the core of a set of perl tools for internet forensics. Data such as IP addresses, hostnames and timestamps from investigators or responses to subpoenas is imported into PostgreSQL, we run tools to annotate it with information from other sources (DNS, domain registration data, routing data) and use that to cluster it. Then it spits out reports and data for subpoenas.

Oh, and I use it as the backend for several websites. Even the websites that don't look as though they need a database.

Why do you participate in the PostgreSQL community?

Partly for purely selfish reasons. IRC and the mailing lists are a great place to pick up pointers to new features or good ways of solving a problem. And it's a good place to sanity-check approaches an issue, or to get pointed in the right direction when you have a vague question and don't know what the right keywords are to search for previous research on it.

And partly to help others out when they're stuck on something or need advice from someone with experience doing what they're trying to do, or just need someone who's interested to bounce some ideas off. One of the biggest value-adds of PostgreSQL is it's community, and that community needs to be tended to and supported (and, very occasionally, policed) to stay healthy.

What was your first version of PostgreSQL in production?

I was developing against 7.1, but we first shipped with 7.2.

What is the *one* thing you wish the PostgreSQL community did better?

I only get one?

Lowering the barrier to entry. Our reference documentation is excellent, but our tutorials aren't particularly relevant to a user who's installed PostgreSQL from a package and needs to get to their first SELECT. pg_hba.conf in particular is powerful, but fairly inscrutable to a new user who just wants to log in to their new database. And then there's the "how do I use postgresql from $LANGUAGE".

We're pretty helpful one-on-one on IRC and the mailing lists, but our training collateral is rather lacking and very dated.

What is the thing you do, that isn’t PostgreSQL?

I do email. Some of the most important online communities are email-based, and even many of those that aren't rely on email to work well - so keeping email a healthy communications channel is important.

I spend quite a lot of time working with other experts on how to make email better - standards development, best practices, training and tooling. It's a great community, and I've made a lot of friends there. And I met my wife on a mailing list discussing spam and email ...

What is your favorite hack to make your PostgreSQL installation solve that unsolved problem?

It's not really a hack so much as a useful feature that a lot of people don't know about: pg_trgm.

From the docs you'd think it was mostly for measuring similarity between strings, but it's killer feature is nothing to do with that. It lets you create indexes on text fields that'll transparently be used for LIKE and regular expression queries, making them very fast even on big datasets. It's great for suggest-as-you-type, or you could build a replacement for google code search in just a few lines of code.


Opinions are my own,
Joshua D. Drake
Founder and Director

PostgreSQL at OSCON 2016!

Austin, Texas – May 16, 2016 – The PostgreSQL community announces their participation at OSCON 2016, the largest open source conference in North America. OSCON takes place in Austin, Texas, May 16 – 19, 2016 and is the best opportunity to meet the open source community.

Stop by the PostgreSQL booth (#109-7) in the non-profit pavilion. OSCON opens to attendees with an Opening Reception on Tuesday, May 17, 5 – 6 pm. The Expo will be open Wednesday, May 18, from 10 am – 5:50 pm (CST), and Thursday, May 19 from 10 am – 4:30 pm (CST). A Booth Crawl will take place on Wednesday from 5:50 pm – 7:15 pm, with complimentary food and refreshments from various sponsors.

PostgreSQL supporters have free access to visit our booth with an Expo Plus pass by using the code “OSCON2016EXPO” when registering. In addition to the Expo Hall, this pass includes access to all sponsored content as well as OSCON events and the always excellent “hallway track.”


“OSCON represents the best, brightest and most innovative group of Open Source technologists in the industry. It is an incredible opportunity for PostgreSQL as an Open Source Project to be able to represent the best, brightest and most innovative of Open Source database systems.” – Joshua D. Drake, Founder & Director, United States PostgreSQL

Learn more about the recently announced beta release of PostgreSQL version 9.6 which is now available for download. This release contains previews of all of the features which will be available in version 9.6.

PostgreSQL 9.6 includes significant changes and exciting enhancements:

  • Parallel sequential scans, joins and aggregates
  • Support for consistent, read-scaling clusters through multiple synchronous standbys and "remote_apply" synchronous commit.
  • Full text search for phrases
    And much more!

    About PostgreSQL:
    With over 20 years of active and mature development, PostgreSQL is the proven database architecture that has earned a strong reputation for reliability, data integrity, and correctness. The world's most advanced database, it is scalable, extensible, and 100% open source. Whether it is a traditional normalized structure or document database features (NoSQL), there is no database that provides greater extensibility of PostgreSQL. It offers the features and stability your organization needs. Find out more about PostgreSQL at http://www.postgresql.org/ .

    Onsite Contact:
    Debra Cerda
    debra.cerda .at. bluetreble.com
    (512) 785-6813 direct

    General Press Inquiries:
    PostgreSQL US PR Team
    press .at. postgresql.us

  • Building a better community: The Unsung Heroes collection

    For every Robert Haas, Bruce Momjian, Dave Page, Tom Lane, and Peter Eisentraut there are dozens of Jonathan Katz, Jim Mlgodenski and Denish Patels. Beyond that there are hundreds of Lloyd Albin, Boyan Botev, Eric Worden, David G. Johnston, and Debra Cerdas. They are all valuable community members and they all play their part in helping the community continue to succeed.

    There are a lot of ways to build community but few are as powerful as making sure that people feel it is worth the time they are investing with the community. This applies to submitting code patches, documentation patches, volunteering at conferences, organizing community conferences, as well as a host of other items such as running monthly user group meetings or hanging out on the official IRC channel. If the community isn’t appreciative, they will move on to greener pastures where their efforts are acknowledged.

    With all that in mind, this is a start of a new blog chapter within my wider ‘Building a Better Community’ series. A series on the unsung heroes of PostgreSQL; the people who are supporting the foundations of this awesome community.

    Our first Unsung Hero is: David G. Johnston

    David is a long time active contributor to the PostgreSQL mailing lists, providing support and collaboration to our community. Of course at no cost and a considerable personal time investment.

    David has graciously offered more of his time to contribute on a personal level. Below you will find a QA session digging into his reasoning as to why he is a contributor and why he continues through the years.

  • How do you use PostgreSQL?

    Extensive data manipulation. While I have familiarity with typically DBA assigned tasks my focus is in understanding and using the capabilities exposed via SQL.

  • Why do you participate in the PostgreSQL community?

    I get the satisfaction of helping others: both those whose questions I answer as well as taking away some of that volume from others so that they can focus more of their attention on aspects of PostgreSQL that I am less able to contribute to. The adage that the best way to really learn/understand something is to teach it to others is something that my experience tells me is true.

  • What was your first version of PostgreSQL in production? ​8.2​

  • What is the *one* thing you wish the PostgreSQL community did better?

    I think having more, or more obvious, "how you can contribute" and "welcome to the team" type of webpages, readily navigable from the main site, would reduce the intimidation factor. For both potential contributors and plain-ol'-users having some kind of picture and narrative of the community structure would probably be a helpful inclusion in said "welcome packet"..

  • What is the thing you do, that isn’t PostgreSQL?

    ​Recreational driving & travelling

  • What is your favorite hack to make your PostgreSQL installation solve that unsolved problem? (Example: Looping through a list of database names to get a proper logical backup)

    ​Got nothing here that comes to mind - I tend to be too much by-the-book. I do lots of stuff with shell scripts and the like but much more broadly than the DBA-oriented example you give.

    Thanks to David for taking the time to answer a few questions about his involvement with our great community.


    Opinions are my own,
    Joshua D. Drake
    Founder and Director

  • Building a better community part one

    As one of the founders of United States PostgreSQL, I have always had a vision of where the corporation should go. Our corporation has continued to move forward and we have achieved some great things. Although it has taken longer than I expected and we are still behind from some of my goals, PostgreSQL has become one of the dominant Open Source databases in the market. By sticking to a tried, true and tested model our community has built strongholds in every sector of business from small mom-and-pops to Wall Street to the Military.

    Our community is one of the best in the Open Source world. We are inviting, fun and have a brain trust that other database projects dream about. I attribute this to a couple of specific PostgreSQL quirks:

  • A goal of doing it correctly first
  • A community that truly helps each other
  • A long standing tradition of encouraging users at every level to participate
  • A respect for all walks of life

    At its heart that is what this post is about. I want us to build a better community. There are always places to improve and like every PostgreSQL release; our community evolves and hopefully becomes better.

    I am the director who initiated and championed the Diversity Scholarship program. I would like to see us raise more funds for this program. Our community and brain trust will only be stronger by encouraging all walks of life to integrate with our community.

    Our President (Robert Treat) has created the committee required for the Diversity Scholarship program and with time I expect to see a great deal of benefit from this program. We are currently funded for the scholarships at 50% of our initial goal. I am sure that with proper execution we will be able to greatly increase our budget for the these scholarships.

    I will be writing more on the subject of community building and vision in the coming months. It is my hope that bringing community building to the same level as software development will increase the penetration of our great software and build an army of advocates for the right way of doing things.


    Opinions are my own,
    Joshua D. Drake
    Founder and Director
    United States PostgreSQL

  • PgConf.US Partners with Techie Youth for Annual Charity Auction!

    There are many PostgreSQL conference opportunities throughout North America and there are many reasons to attend all of them. There is only one reason you need to attend PgConf.US 2016 and it is not:

    • The amazing selection of content to chose from
    • The largest networking opportunities available from any PostgreSQL conference
    • Rubbing elbows with the who’s who of PostgreSQL
    • The dedication to diversity within the community
    • The best education opportunities within the PostgreSQL ecosystem

    No, it is not any of those reasons. Although any of those reasons is reason enough to attend or sponsor PgConf.US, we have a better reason: Helping people. This year PgConf.US has partnered with TechieYouth for the PgConf.US charity auction.


    “It has been a great honor for Techie Youth to work with the internationally respected PostgreSQL community in bringing technology to at-risk foster-youth in NYC. While most kids have a parent or two who can help them in their technology endeavors, or at least enroll them in a course, foster kids do not have permanent parents or family involved in their lives, and many have nobody to ask for things other kids take for granted – that is where Techie Youth steps in.” -- Eric David Benari, Founder, Techie Youth

    So join us April 18th - 20th and be a part of something truly special. We will be auctioning an array of items at the 20th anniversary party of PostgreSQL (free to attend for all comers) and all proceeds go directly to this worthy organization and its attempts to help the future PostgreSQL developers of the United States!

    PgConf.US and the community pavilion!

    PostgreSQL loves community and nowhere is that more obvious than PgConf US. This year PgConf US has instituted a fan favorite, the Community Pavilion. When you combine the most advanced database in the world with some of the best open source technology in the world what do you find?

    A powerhouse of interest that brings forth every corner of the technological spectrum to collaborate.

    Who are a few of these technological marvels attending the largest and most popular PostgreSQL conference in the United States?

  • Python via BigApplePy
  • Node.js
  • Django via Django Foundation
  • [...] and more

    If your community would like to attend the best PostgreSQL event of 2016 and receive these fantastic benefits:

    1. Free booth
    2. Five free passes to the main event
    3. A 10% discount for your community members
    4. Infinite access to the acclaimed hallway track

    Drop a simple email to jd at postgresql.us

    PgConf US runs from April 18th-20th, 2016 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriot. The time to register is now! Find out more and register at http://www.pgconf.us/ .

  • Why PgConf.US, 20 years of PostgreSQL -- That's why!

    A conference specifically engineered to bring together community, developers, users, and the companies that support PostgreSQL, PgConf US is the conference for PostgreSQL in North America. When you attend you will be surrounded by the best and brightest that our community has to offer.

    Launched in 1997, with decades of history through University of Berkeley Ingres, PostgreSQL is the most advanced database available in the ecosystem. Full Open Source under a liberal BSD style license, PostgreSQL allows an extensible, open, scalable, deployable, and widely used database without the constraints of artificial license requirements.

    In 2016 PgConf US is celebrating 20 years of PostgreSQL with topics such as:

  • How PostgreSQL is tested - Peter Eisentraut, PostgreSQL Committer, Core
  • Predictive Analytics IN Postgres - Jim Nasby, PostgreSQL Contributor, Consultant
  • PostgreSQL Performance, 9.6devel Edition - Mark Wong, PostgreSQL Contributor, Consultant

    “This is the largest PostgreSQL event in North America and I am looking forward to attending PgConf US 2016. The exceptional quality of content rivals that of the sister conference PgConf EU in Europe. Both of these conferences are a perfect chance to meet with core developers, contributors, and users of the most advanced database in the world.”
    ---- Magnus Hagander, PostgreSQL Core, Committer, PostgreSQL Europe

    The content, hallway track, 20th Anniversary party and overall intellectual data download one receives from a conference such as PgConf US brings users from all corners of the globe. We will see attendees not only from North America but also Europe, Russia, and Asia. This combined with an inclusive and diverse community ensures PgConf US’ placement as the PostgreSQL conference within North America.

    To register for the conference please visit:

    http://www.pgconf.us/2016/tickets/

  • PgDay: LFNW!

    JD Wrote:

    Once again United States PostgreSQL is present at Linux Fest Northwest. We are celebrating Free and Open Source software with 2000 other advocates in what is the second largest Free & Open Source conference on the West cost. We have a great list of talks this year with new speakers, speakers from both SeaPUG, WhatcomPUG and PDXPUG. Will you be joining us? Here is the list of PostgreSQL talks.

    How we made the PGConf US 2016 Schedule

    Welcome to our annual post on how we put together the schedule for the largest PostgreSQL conference in North America. It is long, thorough, and awesome, so buckle up and enjoy the journey!

    For PGConf US 2016, we allowed people to submit for 6 training sessions as well as 44 regular speaking sessions. We had a total of 139 submissions, which meant we had to decline 2 out of every 3 submissions. We don't say this to brag: it's actually very painful to decline talks, especially when we have worked and hang out with some of the submitters for more than a decade.

    The training submissions were competitive but were not nearly as daunting as picking the talks. Jim & I researched each training session and hammered out the lineup in under an hour. The rest of the talk submissions went to the full talk committee.

    Like last year, we tried to answer the following questions when looking at the talks:

    • Does this proposal have real-world applications? Case-studies scored major points with everyone, and we tried to measure how broadly the case-studies applied across our attendee spectrum.
    • If the proposal revolved around a tool or utility, would the talk cover real-world deployments of the tool and what problems it helped to solve?
    • Did the talk offer a fresh perspective on a PostgreSQL topic?
    • If the topic was forward-looking, would it be appropriate for a user audience and provide enough information so users could take action now?
    • Did the proposal provide enough information about the talk? Generally proposals that were more detailed met with more favorable reviews. Also, the actually wording of the proposal counts; if you do not write your proposal properly, the odds are you will have trouble conveying your message while speaking.
    • It seemed that people read last year's blog post because the talk submissions seemed to echo the "real-world application" criteria. What made the final selection process very challenging was we had a lot of great examples of people and organizations running PostgreSQL in production that it made it challenging to pick which ones to include.

      It was also interesting to see what themes emerged in submissions over the course of the year. Last year, we had a lot of submissions around PostgreSQL deployment strategies and PostGIS. This year, the central theme seemed to be high-availability and distributed PostgreSQL. Personally, I am not quite sure what to make of this, but there is some sort of technology trend here and I at least want to note it!

      This was also the first year we included a "hackers" or "PostgreSQL internals" track on the agenda. To our pleasant surprise, we received a lot of high-quality submissions that covered topics on how PostgreSQL is developed and tested to its evolution over the years to what is coming up in the newer PostgreSQL releases!

      As you could imagine, as we went through the talks, there were some that were clear winners and clear disappointments, which allowed us to narrow down the list. However, we ended up at a point where we had 40 undecided proposals for 5 slots. This is both a testament to the quality of the talks submitted, but also when putting the schedule together is not as fun for the organizers. To add some levity, I thought at one point it was 40 undecided proposals for 10 slots, but I had an error in my spreadsheet; I should have used PostgreSQL (which ultimately all the data went into our database).

      We took a harder look at this 40 proposals and tried to ensure it satisfied the criteria we mentioned above and made our choices. We applied similar methodology to making our decisions as we did last year:

      • The talk was covered in some way by someone else who also received universal approval
      • We ultimately decided it did not provide enough use-cases based on the proposal
      • We just ran out of space :(

      We are very proud of the talks we selected, but we do wish we could have had a few more. We are looking into adding another day to PGConf US 2017, but it will take significantly more fundraising efforts to ensure we keep our ticket prices low. We did say last year we were going to look into adding another day for this year, and we did: however, to run the event the way we like to, it was cost prohibitive at this point, but we will work on it for last year. Your talks actually help us to recruit more sponsors who want to give back to the community, and hopefully this is the year where we have enough momentum to add another day for 2017!

      Last year, we offered to give feedback on why certain talks were declined. A few people wrote in for the feedback, which we gladly supplied, and some resubmitted this year to PGConf US 2016. The good news: all of them incorporated feedback from the selection committee and most, if not all, had their submissions accepted. Already several people who did not have their talk selected for PGConf US 2016 have reached out on how to improve their chances of making it next year, and we will do our best to provide constructive feedback.

      And now, the final part: making the schedule! As you can see, we decided to group the talks into four different tracks this year:

      • Use-Cases: How did an organization use PostgreSQL and in what way to achieve its goals? These talks should be accessible to the general audience
      • Operations: How do you configure, deploy, and manage PostgreSQL? These talks are geared towards system administrators / DBAs / devops folks, but have lessons for everyone
      • Development: How do you interface with PostgreSQL? What are some good strategies & tools for developing against PostgreSQL? These talks are geared towards developers, but have lessons for everyone
      • Internals: How does PostgreSQL work underneath the layers? How are features built for PostgreSQL? What's coming up with PostgreSQL? These talks are for a wide-ranging audience, from beginners and the general audience to C developers and an advanced audience.
      • We tried to match talks in time slots that would not have overlapping audiences, but I've learned through the years that doing that is more of an art than a science. It is cool to hear people say they want to go to all four talks during a session, but it also stinks. As with last year, we are recording the talks, but per certain restrictions on certain speakers we may not be able to release them all.

        We could not have done this without our selection committee, which comprised of Mehboob Alam, Joshua D. Drake, Jim Mlodgenski, and Jonathan S. Katz. They reviewed all 139 proposals in less than 5 days during a busy work week, so big kudos to them.

        As always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, kudos, etc. you can reach out to us at pgconf@postgresql.us - we will try to answer all of your emails and please do not be dismayed if it takes some time.

        (Click here for last year's edition: https://www.postgresql.us/node/150)

    Whatcom PgDay @ LinuxFestNorthwest April 25th & 26th

    JD says:

    It is that time of year and once again, PostgreSQL will be at LinuxFest Northwest. LinuxFest Northwest is a high attendance (1500+) conference covering Linux and other Open Source technologies. It is a free event (although there are paid options). The PgDay as part of United States PostgreSQL has the following talks!

    * Web-Scale PostgreSQL: The Best of the JSON and Relational Worlds. Speaker: Jonathan Katz
    * Shootout at the PAAS Corral. Speaker: Josh Berkus
    * Vacuum 101. Speaker: Gabrielle Roth
    * PostgreSQL Federation: Joining to Oracle, Mongo and more... Speaker: Jim Mlodgenski
    * Start_Date, End_Date: Calculate . Speaker: Eric Worden
    * Welcome To Total Security Robert Bernier
    * PostgreSQL Performance: 9.5 Devel Edition . Speaker: Mark Wong
    * Webscale's dead; long live PostgreSQL! Speaker: Joshua D. Drake

    AS you can see we have a lot of long time contributors (and a new one) at this PgDay. Come, enjoy a great conference, great weather, great food, great parties and learn all about PostgreSQL and Linux!

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