London Perl Workshop Review

(Photo by Mark Keating)

Last Saturday was the annual London Perl Workshop. And, as always, it was a great opportunity to soak up the generosity, good humour and all-round-awesomeness of the European Perl community. I say “European” as the LPW doesn’t just get visitors from London or the UK. There are many people who attend regularly from all over Europe. And, actually, from further afield – there are usually two or three Americans there.

I arrived at about twenty to nine, which gave me just enough time to register and say hello to a couple of people before heading to the main room for Mark Keating’s welcome. Mark hinted that with next year’s workshop being the tenth that he will have organised, he is starting to wonder if it’s time for someone else to take over. More on that later.

I then had a quick dash back down to the basement where I was running a course on Modern Web Development with Perl. It seemed to go well, people seemed engaged and asked some interesting questions. Oh, and my timing was spot on to let my class out two minutes early so that they were at the front of the queue for the free cakes (courtesy of Exonetric). That’s just my little trick for getting slightly higher marks in the feedback survey.

After the coffee break I was in the smaller lecture theatre for three interesting talks – Neil Bowers on Boosting community engagement with CPAN‎ (and, yes, I’ve finally got round to signing up for the CPAN Pull Request Challenge), Smylers on Code Interface Mistakes to Avoid‎ and Neil Bowers (again) on ‎Dependencies and the River of CPAN‎ which was an interesting discussion on how the way you maintain a CPAN module should change as it becomes more important to more people.

Then it was lunch, which I spent in the University cafeteria catching up with friends.

After lunch, I saw Léon Brocard on Making your website seem faster, followed by Steve’s Man Publishing Pint, which turned out to be about publishing ebooks to Amazon easily – something which I’ve been very interested in recently.

The schedule was in a bit of a state of flux, so I missed Andrew Solomon’s talk on How to grow a Perl team‎ and instead saw Steve Mynott talking about Perl 6 Grammars. Following that, I gave my talk on Conference Driven Publishing (which is part apology for not writing the book I promised to write at the last LPW and part attempt to get more people writing and publishing ebooks about Perl).

Then there was another coffee break which I spent getting all the latest gossip from some former colleagues. We got so caught up in it that I was slightly late for Theo van Hoesel’s talk Dancer2 REST assured. I like Theo’s ideas but (as I’ve told him face to face) I would like to see a far simpler interface.

Next up was the keynote. Liz Mattijsen stood in for Jonathan Worthington (who had to cancel at the last minute) and she explained the history of her involvement in Perl and how she was drawn to working on Perl 6. She finished with a brief overview of some interesting Perl 6 features.

Then there were the lightning talks which were their usual mixture of useful, thought-provoking and insane.

Mark Keating closed the conference by thanking everyone for their work, their sponsorship and their attendance. He returned to the theme of perhaps passing on the organisation of the workshop to someone new. No-one, I think, can fail to be incredibly grateful for the effort that Mark has put into organising the last nine workshops and it makes complete sense to me that he can’t maintain that level of effort forever. So it makes sense to start looking for someone else to take over organising the workshop in the future. And, given the complexity of the task, it would be sensible if that person got involved as soon as possible so that we could have a smooth transition during the organisation of next year’s event.

If you’re interested in becoming a major hero to the European Perl community, then please get in touch with Mark.

There was no planned post-workshop event this year. So we broke up into smaller groups and probably colonised most of central London. Personally, I gathered a few friends and wandered off to my favourite restaurant in Chinatown.

I can only repeat what Mark said as he closed the workshop and give my thanks to all of the organisers, volunteers, speakers, sponsors and attendees. There’s little doubt in my mind that the LPW is, year after year, one of the best grass-roots-organised events in the European geek calendar. And this year’s was as good as any.

LPW Slides

A more detailed write-up of the LPW will follow in the next few days. But in the meantime, here are the slides to the three talks I gave.

 

 

London Perl Workshop 2015

This time next week we will all be enjoying the London Perl Workshop. I thought it was worth looking at what the day has in store.

As always (well, except that one time when they had no power) the LPW will take place at the Cavendish Campus of the University of Westminster. I’m told there are exams or something like that taking place on the same day, so it’s important to follow the signs when you get there or you might end up in the wrong place being forced to take an exam.

The workshop starts at 9am, but registration queues can be quite long, so I’d recommend getting there half an hour or so earlier than that. If you get lucky and register quickly, then why not look for an organiser and volunteer to help out for a while.

You’ll want to be in the main room for the welcome address at 9am – just in case there’s any important news about the day. But the talks start at 9:10.

My ‎Modern Perl Web Development‎ course starts then. Hopefully it will be in my usual classroom. Alteratively, Andrew Solomon’s Crash course on Perl, the Universe and Everything‎ starts at the same time and goes on much longer. Or you might want to see some shorter courses. If I wasn’t running my training, I’d want to see Tom Hukins talking about ‎Escaping Insanity‎ and Rick Deller on Developing Your Brand – from a job seeker , Business to sole contractor/consultant‎ – he assures me that his slides are no longer the shocking pink he has used in previous years.

At 11:00 there’s a coffee break sponsored by Evozon. My training finishes at that point, so I’m free to see a few talks. Unfortunately, I want to see all of the talks in the next slot. I suspect I’ll end up seeing Neil Bowers’ Boosting community engagement with CPAN‎ and Smylers’ ‎Don’t Do That: Code Interface Mistakes to Avoid‎, but I could well be tempted into Aaron Crane’s Write-once data: writing Perl like Haskell‎ instead. Or, back on the workshop track, there’s Dominic Humphries on From can to can’t: An intro to functional programming. Just before lunch, I think I’ll see Neil Bowers again. This time he’s talking about Dependencies and the River of CPAN.

After lunch there’s another session where I want to see everything. I’d love to see Stevan Little talking about his latest iteration of the p5-mop, but I suspect I’ll end up seeing Leon Brocard on Making your website seem faster‎ followed by Kaitlyn Parkhurst on Project Management For The Solo Developer. Dominic’s functional programming workshop continues after lunch and is joined by John Davies and Martin Berends talking about Parallel Processing Performed Properly in Perl on Pi‎.

The big talk after the next short break is going to be Matt Trout on A decade of dubious decisions‎ but it’s another I’ll miss as I’m talking about Conference Driven Publishing‎ in another room during the second half of it. During the first half I’d recommend Steve Mynott’s Perl 6 Grammars‎.  But, I saw him practice it at a recent London Perl Mongers technical meeting, so I’ll be seeing Andrew Solomon explaining How to grow a Perl team‎. In the workshop stream, Christian Jaeger will be covering Functional Programming on Perl‎.

Then there’s another coffee break (this time sponsored by Perl Careers) and then we’re into the last few sessions. In the first you have a choice between Jeff Goff on From Regular Expressions to Parsing JavaScript: Learn Perl6 Grammars‎ and Theo van Hoesel on ‎Dancer2 REST assured‎. I think I’ll be in Theo’s talk.

These are followed by Jonathan Worthington’s keynote – The end of the beginning‎ and the lightning talks. It will, no doubt, be a great end to a fabulous day.

The London Perl Workshop is always a great day a learning about Perl and catching up with old friends. And because of the brilliant sponsors, it doesn’t cost the attendees a penny.

If you’re going to be near London next weekend and you have any interest in Perl, then why not register and come along?

Here’s a brief video of last year’s workshop.

YAPC Europe 2015: A Community is a Home

I’m in Granada, Spain for the 2015 “Yet Another Perl Conference” (YAPC). The three-day conference finished about an hour and a half ago and, rather than going to a bar with dozens of other attendees, I thought I would try to get my impressions down while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

YAPC is a grass-roots conference. It’s specifically planned so that it will be relatively cheap for attendees. This year I think the cost for an attendee was 100 EUR (I’m not sure as I was a speaker and therefore didn’t need to buy a ticket). That’s impressively low cost for such an impressive conference. Each year since 2000 (when the first European YAPC took place in London) 250 to 300 Perl programmers gather for their annual conference in a different European city.

Day 0

Although the conference started on Wednesday, there were a few tutorials over the two days before that. On Tuesday I ran a one-day course on DBIx::Class, Perl’s de facto standard ORM. There were slightly fewer students than I would have liked, but they were an enthusiastic and engaged group.

The night before the conference was the traditional pre-conference meet-up. People generally arrive during the day before the conference starts and the local organisers designate a bar for us all to meet in. This year, Eligo (a recruitment company with a strong interest in placing Perl programmers) had arranged to buy pizza and beer for all of the attendees at the conference venue and we spent a pleasant evening catching up with old friends.

I should point out that I’m only going to talk about talks that I saw. There were four tracks at the conference which meant that most of the time I was having to make difficult choices about which talk to see. Other people blogging about the conference will, no doubt, have a different set of talks to discuss.

Day 1

The conference had a keynote at the start and end of each day. They all sounded interesting, but I was particularly interested in hearing Tara Andrews who opened the first day. Tara works in digital humanities. In particular, she uses Perl programs which track differences between copies of obscure medieval manuscripts. It’s a million miles from what you usually expect Perl programmers to be doing and nicely illustrates the breadth of Perl’s usage.

I saw many other interesting talks during the day. The one that stood out for me was Jose Luis Martinez talking about Paws. Paws wants to be the “official” Perl SDK for all of Amazons Web Services. If you know how many different services AWS provides, then you’ll realise that this is an impressive goal – but it sounds like they’re very nearly there.

Lunch was run on an interesting model. Granada is apparently the only remaining place in Spain where you still get served tapas whenever you order a drink in a bar. So when you registered for the conference, you were given some tokens that could be exchanged for a drink and tapas at ten local bars. It was a great way to experience a Granada tradition and it neatly avoided the huge queues that you often get with more traditional conference catering.

At the end of the day, everyone is back in the largest room for the lightning talks. These talks are only five minutes long – which makes them a good way for new speakers to try public speaking without having to commit for a longer talk. They are also often used by more experienced speakers to let their hair down a bit and do something not entirely serious. This session was the usual mixture of talks, which included me giving a talk gently ribbing people who don’t keep their Perl programming knowledge up to date.

The final session of the day was another keynote. Curtis Poe talked about turning points in the story of Perl and the Perl community. Two points that he made really struck home to me (both coming out the venerable age of Perl) – firstly Perl is language that is “Battle-Tested” and that isn’t going anywhere soon; and secondly the Perl community has really matured over the last few years and is now a big part of Perl’s attraction. This last point was apparently reiterated in a recent Gartner report on the relative merits of various programming languages.

Wednesday evening saw an excuse for more socialising with the official conference dinner. This was a buffet affair with around the swimming pool of a swanky Granada hotel. Conference attendees paid nothing for this event and the food and drink was still flowing freely when I slunk off back to my hotel room.

Day 2

Thursday morning started with another Perl community tradition – the “State of the Velocirapter” talk. This is an annual talk that focusses on the Perl 5 community and its achievements (in comparison with Larry Wall’s “State of the Onion” talk which generally concentrates on the Perl 6 project). This year, Matt Trout has handed over responsibility for this talk to Sawyer, who was in a more reflective mood than Matt has often been. Like Curtis, the previous evening, Sawyer has noticed how the Perl community has matured and has reached the conclusion that many of us love coming to YAPC because the community feels like our home.

Next up was Jessica Rose talking about The Cult of Expertise. This was less a talk and more a guided discussion about how people become recognised as experts and whether that designation is useful or harmful in the tech industry. It was a wide-ranging discussion, covering things like imposter syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect. It was rather a departure for such a technical conference and I think it was a very successful experiment.

The next talk was very interesting too. As I said above, the European YAPC has 250 to 300 attendees each year. But in Japan, they run a similar conference which, this year, had over 2,000 attendees. Daisuke Maki talked about how he organised a conference of that size. A lot of what he said could be very useful for future conference organisers.

After lunch was the one session where I had no choice. I gave my talk on “Conference Driven Publishing” during the second slot. It wasn’t at all technical but I think I got some people interested in my ideas of people writing their own Perl books and publishing them as ebooks.

At the end of the day, we had another excellent session of lightning talks and another keynote – this time from Xavier Noria, a former member of the Perl community who switched to writing Ruby several years ago. He therefore had an interesting perspective on the Perl community and was happy to tell us about some of Perl’s features that fundamentally shaped how he thought about software.

There was still one more session that took us well into the evening. There is a worry that we aren’t getting many new young programmers into the Perl community, so Andrew Solomon of GeekUni organised a panel discussion on how to grow the community. A lot of ideas where shared, but I’m not sure that any concrete plans came out of it.

Day 3

And so to the final day. The conference started early with a keynote by Stevan Little. The theme of the conference was “Art and Engineering” and Stevan studied art at college rather than computer science, so he talked about art history and artistic techniques and drew some interesting comparisons with the work of software development. In the end he concluded that code wasn’t art. I’m not sure that I agree.

I then saw talks on many different topics – and example of a simple automation program written in Perl 6, a beginners guide to who’s who and what’s what in the Perl community, an introduction to running Perl on Android, a couple of talks on different aspects of running Perl training courses, one on the Perl recruitment market and one on a simple git-driven tool for checking that you haven’t made a library far slower when you add features. All in all, a pretty standard selection of topics for a day at YAPC.

The final keynote was from Larry Wall, the man who created Perl in 1987 and who has been steering the Perl 6 project for the last fifteen years. This was likely to include some big news. At FOSDEM in February, Larry announced his intention to release a beta test version of Perl 6 on his birthday (27 September) and version 1.0 (well, 6.0, I suppose) by Christmas. There were some caveats as there were three major pieces of work that were still needed.

Larry’s talk compared Perl 5 and Perl 6 with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings respectively – apparently Tolkien also spent 15 years working on The Lord of the Rings – but finished by announcing that the work on the three blockers was all pretty much finished so it sounds like we really can expect Perl 6 by Christmas. That will be a cause for much celebration in the Perl community.

After Larry, there was a final session of lightning talks (including a really funny one that was a reaction to my lightning talk on the first day) and then it only remained to give all of the organisers and helpers a standing ovation to thank them for another fabulous YAPC.

Next year’s conference will be in Cluj-Napoca. I’m already looking forward to it. Why not join us there?

LPW & Perl Web Book

Last Saturday was the London Perl Workshop. As always, it was a great day with a fabulous selection of talks. As always, I’m desperately waiting for the videos to appear so that I can see the talks that I was forced to miss because of clashes.

I spoke a couple of times. In the morning I ran a two-hour training course entitled “Perl in the Internet of Things”. The slides are up on Slideshare.

And, towards the end of the day I gave a lightning talk called “Return to the Kingdom of the Blind. It was a sequel to the similarly-named lightning talk I gave a couple of times last year. This year I particularly concentrated on the fact that so many people seem to cling to the idea of using CGI to write web applications when there are so many better technologies available.

I decided that part of the problem is that there are no modern Perl web development books and people are still picking up books that are fifteen years old. At the end of the talk I announced that I was planning to put that right and that I was planning to write a new book on Perl web development that would be available in time for the next London Perl Workshop.

The project has a web site, a Github repo and a Twitter feed. I hope that things will start to happen over the next couple of weeks.

Wish me luck.