Bridging the PostgreSQL Chasm

"I'm not technical enough to even understand what your firm does."

This message from a new LinkedIn connection last week. The message literally stopped me in my tracks. I was preparing to spend the day amongst new and seasoned developers at DevDay Austin, a free full-day technical event hosted by Amazon Web Services. Cloud computing, IoT, Containers, Artificial Intelligence, and Mobile application development were just a few of the topics to be covered. 

Ironically, I'd spent some time the day before trimming my LinkedIn profile summary, focusing on my primary career in business development for Command Prompt, Inc. 

I've managed a portfolio career approach for several years, working in the craft beer and film industries to supplement my technology career. What these careers share in common is that I most often work as a "connector." Not only do I bring people together who can have a mutually beneficial  but often translating complex subjects into more easily digestible components.

But back to the LinkedIn connection, and my cause for alarm -- this gentleman has worked for 35 years in a profession that I'd aspired to at the age of 10 years of age. His firm conducts archeological surveys, site testing and mitigation, construction monitoring, historical documentary research, and academic research capabilities. Collecting and cataloguing, meeting compliance -- science is data, and data acquistion, analysis, and management is as critical as the fragile specimens of the past.

Where's the Disconnect?

If it's not evident or intuitive how a relational database such as PostgreSQL can support a technical professional's data management and analysis, then there's a disconnect. As someone who's acquired, managed, and analyzed data extensively in the past, I need to rethink my approach, and take appropriate action. There are plenty of PostgreSQL committers and contributors who can converse and engage within the more technical community, and there are plenty of PostgreSQL conferences including the PGConf US series where developers and DBAs can receive valuable training and content. So why aren't we connecting to potential users?

The Chasm

What I see lacking as a whole with PostgreSQL is effective communication and outreach to engage and onboard new users and developers. Geoffrey A. Moore's book "Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers" comes to mind. This book which has been updated several times since its initital publication in 1991 addresses the adoption of technology, including marketing and implementation approaches. 

The initial lifecycle seen above from Moore's book indicates a chasm between the innovation stage and adoption stage, and more recent lifecycle indicate chasms occurring between later stages as well.

Where is Postgres?

I would argue that PostgreSQL is still on the rise of the early majority phase, due to competition from proprietary solutions as well as my observations in much of the technology space. There has been a lot of "white noise" from the NoSQL enthusiasts and an absence of advocacy for PostgreSQL in the Big Data and IoT realm, which is unwarranted. Basic exposure to PostgreSQL teaches that integration between PostgreSQL and NoSQL using foreign data wrappers and other extensions and tools helps to build more robust data management and analytics.

PostgreSQL has long been capable of "deep computing," and as I recently described new features and improvements with PostgreSQL 10 related to a use case to several technologists, they were amazed at the implication towards machine learning. How is this message not getting out regularly?

My primary belief has been that the PostgreSQL community faces inward far too much -- getting out and engaging with users and developers who are unfamiliar with Postgres is the best way to ensure that we are amplifying and advocating for PostgreSQL. With the caveat that I will not claim to be a PostgreSQL evangelist, I am an advocate. An evangelist demands that their beliefs are accepted part and parcel, whereas an advocate can recognize and accept the limitations of their offerings. Without acknowledging the limitations of PostgreSQL, advancements and improvements cannot be made. This is where the global community thrives -- at collaborating and improving on PostgreSQL as a product. But until we as a whole get better at connecting to more users and new developers, then we can't fill and cross the chasms. Especially if MySQL and new developers are intimidated? unfamiliar? with PostgreSQL and don't get to the starting line.

How am I currently affecting a change?

Starting with Phase 1 (through 3) Deep Dive into AWS and communities. My experiences at AWS Start-up Day and AWS DataDay in Austin have been extremely insightful and engaging, so it seemed like a good starting point. Here's what I'm working on at the moment:

  1. Acquiring my AWS Business Professional accreditation, to better relate to users in need of support of their data storage and computing
  2. Attending AWS User Meetups, to understand the AWS Universe as there's a great need in their customer base for RDBMS solutions, and inherently service and support
  3. Attending re:INVENT 2017 this November -- taking "drinking from the firehose" to a whole new level
  4. Keep powering away within my own local community, from DevOps to Linux, and to various sectors and communities to which I am connected, locally and globally
  5. Supporting the organization and execution of PGConf US and Locals conference series
  6. Being open to management offers to travel and support relevant user groups, from AWS users to Data, as well as new Postgres groups

To be continued ...