Boston Linux & UNIX was originally founded in 1994 as part of The Boston Computer Society. We meet on the third Wednesday of each month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Building E51.

Internet Collaboration and Systems Administration

Date and Time

Wednesday, September 18, 2002 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm


MIT Building 4-370


Tom Limoncelli , SRE Team Manager , Stack Overflow - tal whatexit org


How to write a book with someone you don't know: Internet collaboration for the truly geeky


It's easy to do a new project: Just take everything you've learned before, and reuse it the best you can. When Tom Limoncelli and Christine Hogan wrote the new book “The Practice of System and Network Administration” they had a couple challenges: They didn't know each other. They were 5 timezones apart. They had to share and interact with gigabytes of data.

Their solution was to apply their sysadmin tools to the process. To solve their Internet collaboration needs, they used the tools commonly found in Open Source collaborations (CVS, SSH, Make, Apache, and so on). To deal with the fact that they didn't know each other, they applied the “soft skills” concepts presented in the book.

This talk will cover the techniques they used to collaborate on a project that would envelope their entire lives for more than 2 years. Amazingly enough, the book was completed, nobody went crazy in the process, and they've still only met in person 7 times.

While this talk sounds like it's about collaboration, it's really about system administration. The project had security requirements, reliability requirements, bandwidth requirements, processes to be defined, and tons of scripting. We can't imagine how non-sysadmins write books at all!


Tom manages the SRE team at Stack Overflow in New York City. He is an internatio nally recognized author, speaker, system administrator and DevOps advocate. He has received the Usenix LISA Outstanding Achievement Award. Previously he's worked Google, Bell Labs / Lucent, AT&T and others.


  1. Preview: ``Everything Sysadmin''
  2. YouTube playlist of meeting (8 parts)

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