Marketing Perl at FOSDEM

It’s two weeks since I went to FOSDEM and I promised to write an article about what happened there. Better do that before I forget everything.

Some time ago, Gabor applied for a Perl stand at this year’s FOSDEM. The idea was that we could go along and promote Perl to people who are part of the Open Source community but not part of the Perl community.

When I first arrived at the venue, it took me some time to find the Perl stand. This was largely because I was searching in the wrong building. I forgot that FOSDEM is spread over several buildings at the ULB. I had assumed that we’d be in the main building, but we were actually in another building along with most of the stands.

The Perl Foundation had paid for some stuff for us to give away from the stand. We had some postcards listing Perl events in Europe this year and some round tuits. There were also a few other leaflets promoting particular Perl events.

I think it was unusual for a programming language to have a stand at the conference. Plenty of other projects had stands, but I didn’t see any other languages. A lot of the other stands were promoting projects that they were able to demonstrate. I think it’s hard to demonstrate a programming language in a situation like that.

We got a lot of people passing by the stand and many of them stopped to talk. The round tuits attracted the most attention, but it was sometimes hard to explain the joke to people whose first language wasn’t English. There were at least a couple of times when I just gave up trying.

On Saturday afternoon, Juerd arrived. He brought a projector with him and we set that up projecting a hastily assembled slideshow on the wall opposite us. That also drew a lot of attention to the stand. In the future I think it’s a good idea to plan something like that in advance.

Just about everyone who we talked to knew about Perl. And most of them had used it at some point. Most of the people I spoke to were still using it to some extent. But very few of them knew about the “Modern Perl” projects that we were promoting (Catalyst, Moose, DBIx::Class, etc) or the huge number of Perl events that take place i Europe every year. I think we got some of them interesting in Modern Perl and I’m hoping that we’ll see a few new faces at various Perl events this summer. I promised to buy a drink for some of them if they come along to YAPC::Europe. If they all take me up on it, it might get a bit expensive.

Our presence at the conference was all very experimental. We know that this is something that we want to do more of, but we’re just working out the most effective approaches to take. But I think that we can count this attempt as a success and take the lessons learned forward to other non-Perl conferences. The next one on the list is CeBIT.

Other people have also written about this event: Gabor, Claudio, Erik, Salve.

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