Filed under MongoDB

Online MongoDB Education and Study Groups

A few weeks ago, 10gen announced that we would be offering free, online training on MongoDB. We are offering two courses in collaboration with edX (the non-profit consortium between Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley), starting on October 22: MongoDB for Developers and MongoDB for DBAs.

Education has been key to encouraging adoption of MongoDB. It’s why we value and invest in training, MongoDB days, and MongoDB User Groups (MUGs). Online courses take that strategy to the next level by enabling us to scale our educational offerings. Last year our in-person, public training courses enabled us to educate 1,000 people on MongoDB. Through, we’ve already enrolled over 10,000 people for the online classes.

Yet, we also value the real-world interaction that our training, MongoDB conferences, and MUGs provide. The face time is important for the community to get to know and learn both from 10gen and from one another.

Hence, I was thrilled when my colleague Francesca had the brilliant idea of incorporating our new online education platform with our user group network. One of the biggest challenges the MUGs face is coming up with new content on a regular basis. The launch of provides the MUGs with the perfect set of content for weekly study groups. As each course is released on a weekly basis, the groups can work together on the material and assignments, and hopefully encourage a higher rate of completion of the course.

Francesca met with several of the MUG organizers over Google Hangout to discuss this idea, and they were extremely enthusiastic. And I’m excited that 10gen will be hosting a study group in NYC, which I plan to participate in. Hope to see some of you there!

You can find a complete listing of MongoDB User Groups on If you are interested in starting a MUG and/or organizing your own study group, contact

5in5NYC: The MongoDB Episode

5in5NYC is a new online show that features different New York City-based startups every week. The startups pitch their companies and ask one another questions about their businesses. It’s a great concept for building community across startups in New York City, so I was thrilled when Eric Skiff, one of the founders, reached out to us:

I’m a big Mongo fan and have used it in a few projects, and didn’t realize until now that you were in NYC!

Would you be interested in joining us for a taping soon?

I immediately responded and suggested that we put together a “MongoDB show” to highlight some of the interesting companies that are using MongoDB. The show featured Roman Shtylman of bitfloor, Buck Heroux of Next Big Sound, Kareem Kouddous of Crowdtap, Daniel Doubrovkine of, and me, representing 10gen.

Interestingly, each of the startups in this group exemplified some of the unique characteristics of New York City. Roman applied his background in finance and high frequency trading to bitfloor, the professional bitcoin exchange that he founded. Buck and the rest of Next Big Sound relocated to New York City from Colorado to get better access to record labels, musicians, and the music industry. Crowdtap spun out of an agency and works with big brands to identify and manage their influential consumers. aspires to give the rest of the world access to amazing art — something that New Yorkers definitely take for granted!

In retrospect, 10gen appeared to be the outlier in this group. We’re one of the only pure technology startups in New York City, and definitely the biggest. Many might be skeptical of building a database software company anywhere other than the Valley. I hope that we are paving the way for future software startups here in New York.

Each of the people who spoke on 5in5NYC have been really supportive of MongoDB, blogging, speaking, and generally evangelizing. Thanks again Roman, Buck, Kareem, and dB!

The show is now posted on the 5in5NYC site, so check it out and let me know what you think.

Reflections on MongoSF 2012

Last Friday was the third MongoSF, our annual MongoDB user conference in San Francisco. This event means a lot to me, since I organized the first MongoSF in April 2010. We’ve really come a long way since then.

Two years ago at MongoSF, we were thrilled to have over 200 people at the event. There were three tracks of speakers. We had 2 or 3 sponsors. Eliot demoed sharding and Dwight talked about replica sets, both of which were in development at the time. There were probably about a dozen people working at 10gen at the time.

Fast forward two years later, and we welcomed over a 1,000 people to MongoSF. There were 7 tracks, including an entire track dedicated to the MongoDB ecosystem and related technologies. We had an expo hall full of sponsors and partners. Many MongoDB users presented on how they are using replica sets and sharding in production. We had demoes of the newest features coming in 2.2, such as the aggregation framework. The 10gen team has grown to over 100 employees (several of which we were recruiting at the first MongoSF!).

While I was excited to welcome so many new people to the MongoDB community, I enjoyed seeing many familiar faces at the conference. Seeing that people love the event and come back for more is very gratifying.

On a personal note, I faced my personal anxiety over public speaking by introducing Dwight at the beginning of the conference!

Usually these events are extremely crazy for me, and I’m exhausted from running from room to room. I recently purchased a FitBit (it’s basically a fancy pedometer) to measure my activity. Studies show that taking 10,000 steps per day — about 5 miles — is key to a healthy lifestyle. On the day of MongoSF, I took over 17,000 steps and climbed 52 flights of stairs!

Thanks again to everyone who came out to the event. I’m looking forward to MongoNYC. I wonder how many steps I will take!

hackNY Spring 2012 Hackathon

This weekend I enjoyed the 5th hackNY hackathon. hackNY is an amazing non-profit that aims to federate the next generation of New York City hackers. hackNY organizes a student hackathon each semester, and pairs students with NYC startups through their summer fellows program.

10gen is proud to have been involved with hackNY since the beginning. We’ve presented MongoDB at all five hackathons and have hosted a hackNY fellow two summers in a row. Last fall we started sponsoring buses to bring students to the event. One bus picks up students from Philly, Princeton and Rutgers, and a second bus picks up students from Boston-area schools, Brown, and Yale. This weekend over 300 student hackers came to the event, and 55 of them arrived on the 10gen-sponsored buses.

On Saturday afternoon, several startups presented their APIs to the students, including foursquare,, Donor’s Choose, Tumblr, Etsy, and more. My colleagues Francesca and Barrie represented 10gen (and women in tech) with a rockin’ presentation on MongoDB. In jest, Francesca said that she would buy an Xbox for anyone that used the Erlang driver, which got lots of laughs from the audience.

The students, fueled by pizza, burritos, candy, energy drinks, and their own enthusiam, had 20 hours to form teams and build their hacks using, at a minimum, one of the APIs presented. They had help from a group of mentors and several office hour sessions. At noon on Sunday each team had two minutes to demo their hack in front of the crowd for a chance to win a series of prizes.

This year I was honored to be invited to judge the hacks. The judging criteria was very simple: the most awesomest hack wins! The winning hack was cLoudspeaker, which Rickrolled the entire audience with their MongoDB-powered music streaming app. We also awarded a “Not Quite Erlang” award to Fourthsquare (a lisp wrapper for the foursquare API ) and 10gen agreed to award the student an Xbox :)  You can find all of the rest of the awesome hacks on the Hacker League page for the event.

During the hackathon I decided that the NYC MongoDB community should raise $10,000 for hackNY at MongoNYC this year. It seems ambitious, but hear me out: if 1,000 people come to MongoNYC, we’d only need to get each person to donate $10. Or, perhaps we can include an optional donation on top of each ticket. I’m going to brainstorm with the team this week, but if you have any suggestions please comment!

Driving developer adoption

Chip Hazard from Flybridge Capital recently wrote an excellent blog post on developer driven business models. In his post, he outlines 10 suggestions for driving developer adoption. He even cited 10gen for getting our engineers to evangelize MongoDB at conferences and meetups, and for our success bringing the community together through MongoDB Days.

When I’ve presented about the MongoDB community in the past, I’ve outlined four key reasons that MongoDB has gained traction with developers. It closely mirrors Chip’s list.

Easy to get started

Developers have limited time to invest in exploring new technologies, so it’s critical to make the initial “getting started” experience as seamless as possible. We want it to be dead simple to download MongoDB, and we pride ourselves on ease of installation. You can even try MongoDB without installing anything by playing with our interactive tutorial,

Works with your OS / language / whatever

Early on, we built and supported drivers for the most popular programming languages. As 10gen added more and more languages (up to about a dozen now), the community built and supported many open source object document mappers (ODMs). Another unexpected driver for adoption was support for a variety of operating systems — including Windows. Regardless of whether you are a .NET developer or a Rubyist or a Perl Monger, you can use MongoDB.

Support is the new marketing

In most cases, a free support forum is a new user’s first interaction with the open source community. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Providing good support isn’t good enough; we strive for amazing support that wows new users, so that they tell all their friends about MongoDB. For example, Kristina once fixed a bug in the Perl driver within a few hours. Who would have thought that the person who found the bug was a developer at Craigslist, who would later tell that story in interviews and presentations?

Face to face is important

We invest a lot of time and money into getting in front of our users in person. This includes open office hours in several cities, a network of MongoDB User Groups supported by 10gen, and MongoDB conferences around the world. Often people come to these events because they have questions about MongoDB and they want to learn how it’s being used. My hope is that when they leave one of these events, they feel like they are part of a vibrant community.

These are a few of the things that have worked for us but I would love to hear your thoughts on key factors for driving adoption of new technologies.

WebFWD Presentation on Building an Open Source Community & Business: Lessons from MongoDB

I recently had the opportunity to present to the Mozilla WebFWD program. WebFWD is a Mozilla incubator for startups building businesses around open source software. I talked to the group about how we are building the MongoDB community and ultimately, the 10gen business. My talk is now featured on the Mozilla blog, and I think that they actually did a better job of summarizing my points than I would:

  • Pivoting from being a Platform provider to being a database provider.
  • Getting people to “pay for free software” by developing revenue models around support, training and subscriptions, etc.
  • Treating support “as the most important marketing.”
  • Scaling their community by breaking it out geographically, achieving a multiplier effect: in Meghan’s words, “We see our community as a product manager.
  • Growing from zero sales reps to a position where they are now investing in their sales & marketing team over the past 1.5 years (12-15 sales reps worldwide today).
  • Managing and prioritizing large volume of users and lead flow that comes from being an open source project.

You can watch the entire talk on the WebFWD blog.

Care and Feeding of an Open Source Community – My Slides from SCALE 10x

Yesterday I gave a presentation at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) in Los Angeles on the Care and Feeding of an Open Source Community. My talk was fun, but even better was the great conversation the audience had after my session. I was surprised so many people made it out for the last session of the conference!

Overall I was really impressed with SCALE. It’s a completely community-organized event that brings together thousands of people every year. It had, by far, the most diverse audience I’ve ever seen at a tech conference. With both a children’s track and a new to programming track, the event felt very welcoming to people from all backgrounds. Kudos to Ilan and the rest of the team who puts on this amazing event.

Here are my slides for your reference :) Enjoy!

The inaugural MongoDB Masters Summit

Over the past two years at 10gen, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some really interesting people who do amazing work with MongoDB. It’s inspiring to see so many people contribute to the project, whether it’s via code contributions, writing books, docs, and blogs, answering questions on the free support forum and StackOverflow, running local MongoDB User Groups, and more. While the 10gen staff has interacted with all of these people, there hasn’t been an opportunity for them to interact with one another, particularly since these folks are dispersed all over the world.

For awhile now I’ve wanted to create a forum to bring together the key people in the community. I had a few goals in mind. One was to reward and thank those who have been the most active in the MongoDB community. The other was to introduce these people to one another, get them talking to one another, and encourage the exchange of ideas. We also wanted the opportunity to educate MongoDB community leaders on the project roadmap, so that as ambassadors of MongoDB they’re well-informed. And finally, a key goal was to get feedback from the community on the direction of the project and the open source community.

On the day prior to MongoSV, we kicked off the MongoDB Masters program with the first annual Masters Summit. Of the 30 or so people we invited to the program, about 22 attended the summit, with people coming from four continents to attend. In terms of format, we took the lead from Community Leadership Summit and organized the event in unconference style. Prior to the event, there was some discussion on the masters mailing list and the masters wiki about topics that we should cover at the summit. The morning of the event, anyone could stand up and pitch a discussion session. We took the suggested sessions, written on post its, and arranged them on a wall to create a schedule.


Throughout the day, there were a few main themes/groups. There was consistently a set of people discussing their experiences running MongoDB in production (key contributors included Ian White, who ran the first production installation of MongoDB, Kenny Gorman from Shutterfly, and Tony Tam of Wordnik). Driver and ODM development was also an important topic throughout the day. There was also a small subgroup consisting of Justin Dearing, Craig Wilson, and David Makogon that discussed .NET and Windows.


In addition to these three main themes, there were several other sessions sprinkled in. One of my favorites was moderated by Nathen Harvey on how to run a MongoDB User Group. We had a great discussion with contributions from Nathen (organizer of the DC MUG), David Mytton & Harry Marr (organizers of the London MUG), and Takahiro Inoue (organizer of the Japanese MongoDB Community). A few days following the Summit, David sent me an email with an ordered list of ideas and suggestions for re-invigorating the London group. Nathen wrote two blog posts outlining how he runs the DC MUG, and my colleague Francesca put together a page on with tips & tricks for running a MongoDB User Group.

After the Summit, the Masters joined the broader MongoDB community for MongoSV. It was great to have so many of them at the event.

Now that we’ve had such an enthusiastic and fun kick off, we need to continue the momentum in 2012. In addition to our mailing list and IRC channel, I would like to start having monthly meetings — probably on Google Hangout or IRC to start. I’m very excited to see what ideas and feedback come from this group.

New York City Startups are doing amazing things with MongoDB

This past week felt like a celebration of startups using MongoDB in New York City.

On Tuesday, and presented at the New York MongoDB User Group. is a fine art search engine based in the co-working space General Assembly. became an overnight success with the music service they launched but a few months ago. Both companies have been using MongoDB from the start.

That same night, my colleague Dan and the team at Chartbeat presented on MongoDB at the NYC Python Meetup. Chartbeat is a very cool app that we use internally to monitor visitors to in real-time. The following day, a group of node.js users discussed the various node drivers for MongoDB.

We closed the week on Friday with a startup crawl where a group of tech enthusiasts visited seven different startups using MongoDB. Here are the cool New York City companies using MongoDB that participated in the event:

  • Sailthru shares an amazing offices with AOL Ventures. Their clients include large publishing companies and ecommerce sites who can do intelligent, targeted email campaigns with the Sailthru platform. Sailthru uses MongoDB for everything.
  • Crowdtap was one of our first customers and a very early adopter of MongoDB. They recently raised $7 million to help connect brands and with their influencers.
  • Business Insider, the tech and business news site, was the first production user of MongoDB. They also have a ping pong table in their office!
  • Smartling provides a language translation platform that we use to crowdsource the translation of MongoDB documentation into a variety of languages.
  • Yodle helps small businesses – e.g. doctors, contractors, plumbers – advertise online. They are one of the larger tech companies in NYC with 700 employees.
  • GameChanger provides mobile apps and tool for people to keep track of amateur sports.

All of these companies are hiring in technical and non-technical roles.

Hope to have some photos to share from the crawl and subsequent keg party at 10gen’s offices soon!

OSCON interview and slides from my talk on building open source community

I had an amazing time at Community Leadership Summit and OSCON last week. I will probably post more about things I learned at CLS, but in the interim I thought that I would share the slides from my talk at OSCON. The presentation went well and I got some great feedback and questions from the audience. Luckily there were many friendly and familiar faces from CLS in attendance!

I was also interviewed live by O’Reilly at the event.


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