I was chatting with my good friend Nick Scuola @nscuola. He’s going to submit some talks for ZertoCon and mentioned he should read advice for writing abstracts. I offered him my experience, and it suddenly hit me that I should make a blog post about it, so it can help others.
I went through one denial and one approval, for what in my mind were very similar talks, but I changed the abstract quite a lot. The things I changed and I think make an abstract work are:
- Make it really useful, try not to be vague! Show the value up front
- Make it easy for the evaluators to see how this session is valuable and different
- Feature how you used a product from the conference vendor in the abstract
- Think about your thought process as an attendee. Would you attend this session? Do you know others who would?
- Your session should teach something, no matter at which level the attendee is. It should be graspable for beginners but still valuable for advanced users
- Look for feedback from others who do this all the time. Since mine was PowerCLI related, and I knew him from vBrownBag, I asked Kyle Ruddy @kmruddy and he gave me some pointers early on
- Don’t try to compete with talks that are expected submissions - people whose day to day is Tech Marketing have much better resources than the normal administrator
- Lessons learned in customer-led use case explorations are actually encouraged
Below are my two abstracts for #vDocumentation. Notice I changed from providing blank templates to using PowerCLI to create documentation automatically - lots more value shown there. Let me know if there are any other lessons you think can be learned through Twitter, and I’ll add them to the above list.
For VMworld 2016 - I couldn’t find my submission but this was my working abstract
Easing VMware administration with community powered documentation templates
The typical VMware administrator is not happy with his documentation or the documentation he receives when assuming a new environment. While partners have access to VMware provided resources and consulting companies have their frameworks, there is little material to guide new administrators as to what should be included in their VMware environment documentation.
There is quite more material available for documenting VMware designs than there is to manage VMware environments. There are public toolkits and the VCDX blueprint provides a starting point, yet there are many more administrators than full time VMware designers.
The VMware community has produced scripts that can retrieve and format information, but there are many unscriptables that an administrator is expected to know and be able to provide conveniently in standard files. With that in mind, I’ve started offering free VMware related documentation templates, which are updated with the suggestions of the VMware community.
The benefits :
- Eases knowledge transfer to other administrators, peers, internal and external entities
- Creates a base level that VMware admins can easily reference that is backed by the community
- Provides new and old administrators with resources which are not covered in classes
- Fosters discussion and subsequently should improve quality in documentation
The documents are made in LibreOffice, provided as ODF formats, and exported to Microsoft Office formats as well; this should allow most administrators to be able to easily use them. Each document contains a bare, unformatted template with relevant instructions and examples, reference KB articles and template versioning information, which the administrator must completely fill out.
For VMworld 2017
Session Title: Achieve maximum vSphere stability with PowerCLI assisted documentation: from buildout to daily administration
Session Abstract: vSphere is the core product on which all other VMware technologies depend on. Adhering to the HCL, whether inbox or partner async, defining, documenting and verifying host and vCenter settings are critical for vSphere stability.
In this session we will talk about the experience and lessons learned of managing enterprise environments in a multi-vendor ecosystem, controlling settings drift when scaled to hundreds of hosts using PowerCLI, and producing relevant documentation that could not be produced otherwise. Likewise, this session will help define what is not achievable through a scripting language, but is nonetheless important to document to achieve stability. Sample decision trees and real vendor examples will be presented, as well as generic, freely available PowerCLI scripts that will ease the lives of administrators and consultants.
Key Takeaway 1: Know the critical factors for vSphere stability and invest time in them
Key Takeaway 2: PowerCLI is a tool for all stages of vSphere deployments
Key Takeaway 3: More than just scripts are needed to ensure stability in your mission critical environments - it’s teamwork, communication and planning