Hello, Presto nation!
My name is Brian, and I’m a new developer advocate working at Starburst. Let me give you a little background on how I got here, and cover how my role can help the Presto community.
My career in computation and databases started in the military. As luck would have it, I worked on a big data team as my first job out of college! I was in a Hive shop that dealt with the typical outdated runtime and slow query turnaround. Eventually, our architect introduced us to Presto as an alternative. I worked with him to start testing and moving our existing use cases built on Hive to use Presto. We also used Elasticsearch and had a few cases that needed to perform joins and unions over the datasets in both Elasticsearch and Hive. There were a few use cases that were not going to immediately be transferable without some modification to the Presto Elasticsearch connector.
Joining the Presto community
The first modification was adding support for Elasticsearch array types, and the second was, support for nested types. My first interaction with the Presto community was incredible! As a serial open-source attempter, I always wanted to get invested in an open-source project. I had started pull requests in various projects. Sometimes I ran into unpleasant maintainers, in other cases the rules were daunting or too confusing to start. I created a pull request only to have it sit there with no communication as to why it wasn’t accepted or even looked at. However, when I first joined Slack, I searched to see if there was already a discussion about array types in the history. I ran into a discussion between Dain and Martin about this issue. I conversed with Martin, who was incredibly polite and willing to take time to discuss how this should be implemented.
When I actually pulled the code, I saw how well written and maintained it was compared to many open-source projects I had seen in the past. I made a few changes, wrote a test around my use case, and signed a CLA agreement. After a couple of weeks, my pull request was merged and I had finally contributed to an open-source project. After that interaction, and seeing the code, I wanted to do more. I really saw something special with this community.
While many Presto contributors are doing amazing work contributing code, I noticed there were some holes in other areas of the community that needed to be filled. I started answering questions on Slack, LinkedIn, and Twitter and I planned out a Udemy course for Presto. The initial video I piloted is about tuning the memory configuration of Presto.
Becoming a developer advocate
Around this time I got into contact with some folks at Starburst about joining them to work with the community and Presto full-time! As I joined, we hadn’t figured out what my exact role was at Starburst. Eventually, we decided I would best serve as a developer advocate. What I’ve come to find is this role is aiming to do exactly what I set out to do before I joined. As a developer advocate, I serve the community and act as a liaison between Starburst and the Presto community. Up until this time, that responsibility has been unofficially shared by many of the maintainers of Presto. I am here to simply take some of that responsibility from them and focus all of my efforts on community growth and health.
The health of a community is difficult to define and is generally subject to various signals that we can observe. These signals include an increase in helpful interactions within the community, new members joining the community, members who are actively engaging in the community, diversity of the community, and more. If we start by focusing on making the community successful, the success of the project will follow. Keeping the goal in mind that co-creator David Phillips mentions:
This is the type of project that we look at Postgres as the inspiration. Postgres started in the eighties, it became a SQL system in the nineties, and it’s still in active use and active development today. We say we want Presto to have the same kind of history. - David Phillips
My first goal is to create a larger set of free learning materials, that expand upon my initial goals when planning for my Udemy course. I recently started a show with Manfred Moser called the Presto Community Broadcast. The show landing page is here and contains all the information about the show schedule and where to find new and old episodes. This helps as we can use any relevant material we create on this show for future teaching or blogs. We want these live sessions to be interactive, and look forward to your feedback to understand if our efforts are actually helping, or if you have ideas to improve the show. This show, along with blogs, documentation, and interactive tutorials are how I initially intend to fill some common questions that are received through our Slack and Stack Overflow channels. Another goal of adding these materials is to attract new members to the community. Not all the material may be super relevant to the existing members of the community, but this makes the community much more viable for newer members.
Outside of providing new learning materials, your feedback helps us to understand common problems and allows us to fix them. This feedback will aid us in focusing on issues commonly voiced within the community but somehow get lost in translation. This could be improving the Presto code itself, or it could be making the documentation better, or to address common confusion, even if the confusion comes from a force outside of the Presto community.
For instance, I recently wrote a blog about some shady benchmarketing practices that were painting Presto in a bad light. The goal here was to make fun of the wildly bogus claims brought against Presto and the community. What better way to do that than to write a nerdy Justin Bieber parody?
While I have hopefully convinced you all of my mission here. I can’t accomplish any of this in a vacuum. The whole point of my work starts and ends with all of you. I look forward to speaking with and one day post COVID-19, meeting you all at meetups and conferences. For now virtual meetups and the Presto Community Broadcast are a great start. If you have ideas or want to reach out to introduce yourself, you can find me on Slack or Twitter.
Thanks for reading this and being a part of this community. One last thing to tell you about myself, I’m a sucker for cheesy sign-offs so…
For fast data at resto, Presto is the besto!