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?

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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.

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London Perl Workshop

The London Perl Workshop 2014 has been announced. It will be at the University of Westminster (the usual location) on Saturday 8th November. That’s a few weeks earlier in the year than it usually is.

The theme for this year is “The Internet of Things”.

You can find out more about the workshop, register and propose talks at the web site. Hope to see many of you there.

Many thanks (as always) to Mark Keating for organising the workshop.

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YAPC Europe Approaches

This time next week YAPC Europe will have started and many of us will be enjoying ourselves in Kiev. The organisers published the schedule over the weekend and it looks like it’s going to be a great conference.

I spent some time trying to work out which talks I want to see and I’ve written some suggestions in an article over at Josetteorama. Let me know if I’ve missed something that you’re planning to see.

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Speaking at the LPW

I gave three talks at the London Perl Workshop yesterday[1]. That wasn’t the original plan, but I kept coming up with talks that seemed to be good ideas.

The last one was on 25 Years of Perl was a bit of a failure as I broke the second rule of presenting (always plug in your laptop) and the battery died just as I got to 2012. Which meant that no-one saw my big finish where I pulled out to give an overview of all 25 years and thanked everyone who had ever been involved with Perl.

I’ve put the slides to all three talks on my (new, very much “work in progress”) talks page. It includes a link to all of the 25 years talk.

Thanks (as ever) to all of the organisers, volunteers and speakers at the LPW. The workshop just gets better and better each year.

See you in 2013 – which will be the 10th LPW!

[1] And also spoke on a panel about the state of the jobs market.

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LPW Schedule

(You wait weeks for a blog post and then two come along practically together. But this is just another short one.)

It’s the London Perl Workshop on Saturday. The schedule for the day was published some time ago and it’s as diverse and interesting as it always is.

If you look closely at the schedule, each talk has a mysterious-looking number at the end of its description. That’s the number of people who have said they are interested in seeing that talk.

Currently, the highest number I can see on the schedule is 26. There are just under 300 people registered for the workshop. That means that a lot of people haven’t marked the talks that they are interested in.

Marking the talks that you’re interested is useful for a few reasons. Firstly, there’s a page on the site which will show you your personalised schedule which just includes the talks you’ve said you want to see. You could print it out and bring it with you on Saturday (or have that page open on your tablet).

Secondly, it’s useful for the organisers. They have a rough idea of which talks are going to be well-attended, but they can occasionally misjudge it. If they find out that 150 people want to see a talk that they have put in a tiny classroom then they can take appropriate measures (like moving the talk).

And finally, it’s useful for the speakers to have an idea of how many people are interested in their talk.

It’s not hard to register your interest in a talk. Just log in to the workshop web site and go to the schedule page. Every talk will have a star in the top left corner. Clicking that star will register your interest. You’re not actually registering for the talk. No-one is going to do anything if you change your mind on the day and go to a different talk on that day. It’s just so we can all get an idea of the approximate levels of interest in the various talks.

Why not pop over to the schedule page and mark some talks now?

See you on Saturday.

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London Perl Workshop Review

Unfortunately O’Reilly’s Josette Garcia couldn’t be at the London Perl Workshop, so she asked if I could write something about it for her blog.

It took me longer than it should have done, but my post has just been published over at Josetteorama.

Hopefully Josette will be back at next year’s event. She was much missed (although, of course, Alice did a fine job of making up for Josette’s absence).

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A Brief History of the LPW

In his opening remarks on Saturday, Mark Keating suggested that we might be at the tenth London Perl Workshop. That seemed unlikely to me, so I’ve done a little research.

And it seems that I was right. The first LPW was in 2004, which makes this year’s the eighth. In a way, I’m happy that it wasn’t the tenth, as we now have two years to ensure that the tenth LPW is celebrated appropriately.

Here’s a list of the LPWs so far. I’ve also included details of the talks I gave at each workshop – mainly so that I can disprove Mark when he claims that I always show up and run training.

It seems that the web sites for some of the earlier workshops have fallen off the internet. This makes me a little sad. If I’m wrong and it’s just that Google can’t find them, then please let me know.

1st LPW – 11 Dec 2004
Lanyrd link
At Imperial College. I gave a 20 minute talk about OO Perl.

2nd LPW – 26 Nov 2005
Lanyrd link
At City University. I gave a 20 minute talk on Databases and Perl.

3rd LPW – 9 Dec 2006
Lanyrd link
I think this was the first LPW at its current home of the University of Westminster. I can’t be sure as I wasn’t there. I have a good excuse though – I was on holiday celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary.

4th LPW – 1 Dec 2007
Lanyrd link
At the University of Westminster. I gave a training course on Beginning Perl.

5th LPW – 29 Nov 2008
Lanyrd link
At the University of Westminster. I gave the keynote (a history of london.pm as it was our tenth anniversary) and a training course on Web Programming.

6th LPW – 5 Dec 2009
Lanyrd link
At the University of Westminster. I gave the keynote (about marketing Perl) and a training course called “The Professional Programmer“.

7th LPW – 4th Dec 2010
Lanyrd link
At the University of Westminster (although not in the usual building). I gave a training course on Modern Web programming (i.e. Plack) and a talk on Roles and Traits in Moose.

8th LPW – 12 Nov 2011
Lanyrd link
At the University of Westminster. I gave a training course on Modern Core Perl.

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YAPC::Europe Report

It’s nearly three weeks since I got back from Riga. I should probably tell you a bit about what I did.

I flew over on Saturday and on Sunday I gave my “Introduction to Modern Perl” talk. There were nine people on the course and they all seemed to find it useful.

The conference itself started on Monday with a welcome from Andrew Shitov followed by the announcement that next year’s YAPC will be in Frankfurt. Then Larry gave his keynote where he compared Perl to musical styles (and architecture). He was followed by Matt Trout talking about the various philosophical styles required in good documentation. I then stayed in the main hall to see Mallory van Achterberg describing HTML5 and Zefram talking about his latest experiments in bending Perl syntax using some of the new features in Perl 5.14.

I think I spent the first session after lunch talking to various people in hallways and then I went back to the main hall to see Chisel Wright talking about mostly lazy DBIx::Class testing followed by Zefram describing (in great detail) why time is so hard. After a coffee break Book introduced his modules for controlling git from Perl.

Then we had the lightning talks (including my talk which suggested that the Perl community should become a secret society) and the auction – unusually on the first day rather than the last one.

The second day started with Damian Conway explaining how he has converted some of his CPAN modules to Perl 6 and how much simpler a lot of the code got in the process. I then watched Aaron Crane explain why monkey-patching is a problem and how subclassing is often no better. I then saw Max Maischein introducing Flottr and Andrew Solomon running a beginners tutorial about Dancer.

After lunch I went to see Peter Rabbitson talking about DBIx::Class internals followed by Karen Pauley talking about The Perl Foundation. I was happy to she that she took my lightning talk’s “going underground” theme and used it as an excuse to include a picture of the wombles.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was Tara Andrews talking about how she uses Perl in her work on Medieval manuscripts. That was followed by Mark Keating talking about marketing (Mark Keating/marketing – geddit?). Then there was the second lot of lightning talks followed by the attendees dinner where we all ate too much from the buffet and drank too much beer.

Wednesday began with Jesse Vincent’s vision of what Perl might be like moving forward from 5.16. He’s got some great ideas. And somehow he and Leon Brocard persuaded me to volunteer to put out a Perl release next April. That’ll be interesting. Following that I went briefly into Ingy’s talk on post-modern packaging but I wasn’t wasn’t really concentrating as I was getting ready for my talk on Perl Training which was next. I talked about my experiences of ten years running Perl training courses. After that I relaxed by listening to Matt Trout talking about Data::Query.

After lunch I saw Mark Keating talking about the Perl community (and why he loves it so much). I followed that by sitting in Patrick Michaud and Leon Timmermann’s talks, but I confess I was really catching up on email and not really concentrating. Then there was Matt Trout’s State of the Velociraptor, the final set of lightning talks and the Frankfurt.pm team talking about their plans for next year.

And then it was over. Another great YAPC::Europe conference which seemed far too short. Many thanks to all of the organisers for doing such a great .job.

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YAPC::Europe Preview

Earlier this year I met Josette Garcia at OpenTech and she told me about her new blog Josetteorama. She asked me if I’d like to contribute a few articles about Perl to the site. I agreed and then promptly forgot about it for a couple of months.

But I remembered my promise a week or so ago and realised that this would be a great opportunity to promote YAPC::Europe outside of the Perl community.

So I wrote an article called YAPC::Europe Preview. And she published it today. Hope you find it interesting.

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