What would you say you do here?

Otherwise entitled: THE BOOK IS OUT

The following is adapted from the introduction to my new book, The Read Aloud Cloud, which is available today and will be in stores everywhere over the next few weeks.

I've been building cloud applications for quite a few years, and I’ve always had trouble explaining to my friends and family exactly what it is that I do. In fact, a couple of years ago I realized that I had just kind of given up. 

Sample conversation:

A NORMAL PERSON: "So what do you do for work?"

ME: "Gargle, gargle."

This is not because the cloud is so complex and mysterious. Doctors and scientists don't seem to have any trouble saying "I'm a doctor or a scientist", and their jobs are a lot harder and stranger than mine. I think I just got into my own head.

But I also know I'm not alone. There's a whole industry full of smart and accomplished cloud professionals gargling their way through the dinner parties they totally get invited to, because they never learned the tools to explain what they do. Their fancy computer science degrees taught them to balance binary search trees and negotiate the Border Gateway Protocol, but not how to say: "I write programs that run on someone else's computers."

And really, the larger problem is abstraction. It can be hard to explain the building blocks of cloud because the concepts don't relate to anything in the physical world. We all have some intuitive understanding of why a doctor exists. What exactly does a "cloud architect" build, and why does it matter?

After several years of consideration, the best way I could think of to explain was to create more than one hundred full-color cartoon illustrations, pair them with doggerel poetry, essays, and other assorted nonsense, convince Simon Wardley to write a lovely foreword, and wrap the whole shebang up into a book that Wiley & Sons somehow agreed to publish despite it containing chapters with titles like this:

Evolution of the Cloud (A Prehistory)

The Internet: How Cloud Gets Loud


The Great Cloud Heist And How to Foil It

The Magic of Cloud

Resilience: How The Cloud Stays Up

The Telltale Toilet: An IoT Horror Story

Getting Your Hands Cloudy

Yes, every chapter is fulsomely illustrated, every chapter is written in rhyme (but not always the Dr. Seuss kind of rhyme; Ogden Nash and Edgar Allen Poe are both spinning in their graves today). And if the pictures aren't doing it for you, there’s a chatty little prose essay at the end of each chapter to tie the concepts up in a bow.

I wrote The Read Aloud Cloud for techie people like me to give to their non-techie friends. Or their children. Or their CEOs. (Or just to keep on their desks. No shame in that. There are lots of chuckles in here for anybody who’s ever configured a routing table or magicked a VM into existence.)

See, the thing is, I think the cloud is fascinating. I want everyone else to see it the way I do. As a Rube Goldberg machine made out of millions of tiny tubes. The survivor of decades of cutthroat evolution, red in Bluetooth and claw. A magic show, a Dr. Seuss fable, or sometimes even a gothic horror story or a bank heist. The Read Aloud Cloud is my love letter to the cloud and its people.

My dream for this book is that some eleven-year-old kid will find it on her dad’s desk, get lost in the bombastic pictures or the little “Word to the Nerd” essays that conclude each chapter, and realize that she wants a career as a cloud architect, or a security specialist, or any of the weird and cool jobs that this book explains. And not just that she wants it, but that she can have it. Her future is right there. Waiting to be explored.

For that kid and for you, I want the cloud to take its place where it belongs: in your imagination, as filled with wonder and possibility as any field of endeavor mankind has yet created.

Shall we begin?

Links and events

It’s hard to see past the book launch right now, but I do have a few other things happening:

I’ll be speaking at Comcast’s Cloud Native Revolution conference next week, alongside a whole bunch of more interesting people like Kelsey Hightower and Corey Quinn, so enjoy that from the comfort of your remote office.

Over at the day job, we recently launched the new A Cloud Guru platform, which also comes with a new engineering blog, a choose-your-own-adventure game with clues hidden all over the cloud, and plenty of other fun stuff that I’ll be sharing in the weeks ahead.

And I’m doing a bunch of personalized Job Explainers as book giveaways — if you’ve ordered the book, let me know and I’ll get your name on the list!

Just for fun

Last week, I vowed to break AWS Twitter. And as foretold, I did.