Dave Stokes has worn a lot of hats in his career, from network engineer to CTO and beyond. He's someone eager to learn and who values communication, so he jumped at the chance to become a community manager for Oracle's MySQL project, a role he's now held for nearly four years.
Dave is one of the featured speakers at the upcoming All Things Open conference in Raleigh, NC. We caught up with him to learn more about his background, his motivation to work with open source, and to get a sneak preview of his presentation in October.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I was originally hired by MySQL AB as a PHP Programmer in the Certification Group and later became the Certification Manager not too long before Sun Microsystems paid $1 billion for the company. Years later, I got the opportunity to join the Community Team. I've been enjoying my current position for almost four years. Before that I was a system programmer, network engineer, webmaster, programmer, sales engineer, group manager, CTO, and other similar titles for companies ranging alphabetically from the American Heart Association to Xerox.
You have a long history in open source. What motivates you to work on a project like MySQL?
Databases are constantly evolving which means there are always new things to learn, new skills to master, and new horizons. What makes MySQL so special is that it is ubiquitous—everyone has some MySQL somewhere in their life even if it is embedded in their network router, having their cell phone movements tracked by MySQL Cluster, their social media whims saved, or as the data store behind the content management system for their favorite hobby. And with this diversity comes new approaches and ideas.
What are the biggest challenges for you as community manager at this moment?
Databases do not stand still, and by that I mean there is always something new appearing. For instance, the NoSQL interfaces to MySQL Server and MySQL Cluster bypass the parser and optimizer, which take a lot of the horsepower in performing a query. So you can see nine times better performance by accessing the data as a key/value pair but you can also have users accessing the same data, on the same disks via SQL at the same time. So your SQL data is also your NoSQL data.
Unless you carefully watch the database industry, which most developers do not have the time to do, you assume that the technology behind the product is stagnant—until a PHB asks to implement something like Big Data or some marketing FUD from a competitor catches your eye. Our engineers (and we ARE hiring) strive to add new features like NoSQL or a Hadoop Adapater that works like MySQL replication. And at the same time, our engineers are improving the core of MySQL, such as the optimizer, and increasing performance. MySQL is capable of so much more with 5.6, our current release, than what we had with 5.5, 5.1, or 4.1! Judge us by the quality of the product. And please try our MySQL 5.7 to help develop where the product needs to go.
What advice do you have for other community managers looking to build relationships and grow their communities?
Each community in the open source world is dramatically different, but you need to be able to communicate to the customers as well take the customers concerns and questions back to management.
Can you give us a slight sneak preview as to what you will cover in your All Things Open talk (without giving too much away)?
My presentation will be the ultimate event of the century filled with humor, pathos, and will inspire all who are attending to greatness, all while stressing my humility.