Awesome Community Chef: Mike Fiedler – “Roller Derbies & Cookbook Versions”

If you’ve ever seen a Roller Derby bout, you know they’re serious business. Rough, tumble, rock, and roll. If you haven’t, stop reading now and check this video out, then come on back.

With all the jostling, racing, skating, and contact, refereeing Roller Derby is no easy task. A sharp eye, a timely whistle, and a strong sense of the rules – what can slide, and what requires diligent attention – are key qualities for a Roller Derby referee. They also happen to be important qualities when it comes to creating and maintaining Chef Cookbooks. And that’s where one Awesome Community Chef Mike Fiedler comes in.

(You were probably wondering where this was going right?)

Many of you in the Community likely know Mike for his frequent code fixes and contributions, and especially for his work to create and maintain the Cookbook Versioning Policy on GitHub, letting all the awesome non-Opscode-employed Chefs out there collaborate on cookbooks using some common (and always evolving) policies.

What most don’t know is Mike is a longtime Roller Derby referee, bringing his excellent judgment, commitment to shared, fair rules, and keen sense of observation to Chef.

Image courtesy of Sean Hale Photography (www.seanpatrickhale.com)
Image courtesy of Sean Hale Photography (www.seanpatrickhale.com)

As mentioned in a previous post, we want to put a larger, more focused spotlight on those of you in the Community doing awesome things for, and with, Chef. This means profiling the individuals making it happen day in and day out. Mike is one such individual. There are, no doubt, many more. So if you know of someone you think deserves a profile, please drop a comment or send us a tweet.

Now, back to Mike.

Born in California, Mike moved with his family to Israel at the age of 10. The son of a software engineer, his father instilled the love of technology and engineering at a young age.He went on to serve three years in the Israeli Air Force (IAF), where natural curiosity and a cultural orientation toward technology – not to mention Mike’s father being a software engineer – led Mike to begin picking up IT systems knowledge bit by bit (pun intended).

After leaving the IAF, Mike began working as a freelance sys admin within the vibrant Israeli start-up community, continuing to grow his skills and knowledge base on the job. Soon his expertise overtook the scale of challenges in Israel and Mike’s eyes turned toward his native US for new problems to solve.

“I loved the start-up culture in Israel, but there was a lot of outsourcing during that era, and the companies were a good deal smaller than in the US, so I basically ran out of new things to chew on,” Mike said. “I started looking for jobs in the US where I could stay in the start-up world, but jump bigger, more interesting hurdles.”

It was in the USA that Mike found start-ups dealing with infrastructure challenges at scale and many opportunities to dig in to exciting dilemmas. The US also offered a broader, deeper network of IT conferences and communities, where Mike first discovered the potential of IT automation. However, the only technologies in the early Aughts were based on Domain Specific Languages (DSL) and Mike wanted something he could extend into any environment or problem without bolted on code patches.

Some time passed and in 2010, Mike came across Chef. It’s basis in Ruby appealed to him, as did its extensible potential.

“Chef is basically light Ruby, so if you know Ruby, you know Chef. Even if you don’t, it’s a quick learn. Plus, going from step zero to step one with Chef is easy, so you can get going right away,” Mike continued.

Mike soon began using Chef for basic configuration management but it wasn’t until he met Nathen Harvey, who at the time was at CustomInk and is now Opscode’s Community Manager, at a MongoDB conference. Nathen introduced Mike to Knife Plugins and the ability to extend it’s client-side functionality for just about anything.

“That’s when it really clicked for me. Now I could write code for what I wanted a server or app to do, and use Knife to execute the client-side code,” Mike added. “There’s so much potential to do what you want better and faster. Plus, since others are doing the same thing, we can share code, collaborate, and help solve each others problems.”

The idea of sharing code and collaborating across the Chef Community fully crystallized for Mike when he attended the first Chef Summit.

“The first Chef Summit was so awesome. It opened my eyes to all sorts of new ideas, people, and approaches. Not to mention it made the idea of ‘community’ so real. Like, here were all these actual people just like me, playing together in the same sandbox.”

Since that first Summit, Mike’s has contributed tons of code and dynamite ideas to the Chef Community, most notably the aforementioned Cookbook Versioning Policy document that gets heavy use on GitHub, and the Knife Community plug-in that provides a set of standards and process for releasing open-source cookbooks to the Community.

So what’s next for Mike? More roller derbies no doubt, and more rad contributions to the Chef Community, including a secret project he’s currently working on. When pushed to spill the details, Mike was tight-lipped, but did offer:

“I think folks will be really excited about it. Everyone likes good rankings.”

Though it may seem Mike’s schedule is already jam-packed, he also finds time skydive, perform as primary editor for Ops School, regularly participate in the Food Fight podcast, and is one of the organizers of the nycdevops Meetup Group, now numbering 1000 members. Oh, and he spoke at #ChefConf 2013. So, if you find any extra time lying around, please send it Mike’s way!

I hope all you in the Community can join us here at Opscode in thanking Mike for all his work and contributions to Chef, with much more to come!

Lucas Welch

Former Chef Employee