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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DBIC Training in Granada

It’s been a while since I’ve run a training course alongside a YAPC. By my calculations, the last time was Riga in 2011. But I’ve been talking to the organisers of this year’s conference and we have plan.

I’m going to be running a one-day introductory course on DBIx::Class before the conference (I think it’ll be on 1st September, but that’s not 100% certain yet). Full details are on the conference web site. There’s an early-bird price of 150 Euro and the full price is 200 Euro. The web site says that the early-bird price finishes today, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that gets extended for a few days at least.

Of course, readers of this blog will all already be experts in DBIC and won’t need this course. But I’m sure that most of you will have a colleague who would benefit from… well… a refresher on who DBIC works. Why not see if your company will pay for them to attend the course :-)

The course size is limited. So you might want to think about booking soon.

Hope to see some of you in Granada.

Two updates:

  1. The date has now been confirmed as 1st September.
  2. The early-bird pricing has been extended until 1st June.
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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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Perl Vogue

I’m at YAPC::EU in Pisa, so I’m too busy having fun to write a long blog post about my new project – Perl Vogue. But I thought you might be interested in the lightning talk that I used to announce it yesterday.

More detail when I get back from Italy in ten days.

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YAPC::Europe Talks Accepted

The YAPC::Europe organisers said that they would tell speakers which talks had been accepted on July 1st. Well, it seems that the excitement was too much for them and they decided to do it a week earlier. Yesterday I got email telling me that some of my talks had been accepted and the list of accepted talks is now on the web site. As always, it looks like a really interesting conference.

I’ve had two twenty-minute talks accepted:

The Perl Community

The Perl community is a complex and interesting city. I’ve been exploring it for almost fifteen years and I’m not sure that I’ve been to every corner of it.

In this talk I’ll attempt to guide you round some of the more interesting and useful parts of the Perl community. I’ll point out some ancient monuments, some nice new areas and warn you about some places where you really shouldn’t walk alone after dark.

Things I Learned From Having Users‎
When I first started releasing modules to CPAN it was great. I released modules that no-one used. I could release new versions as and when I wanted to.

Then people started using a couple of my modules. I started to get email about them. Suddenly my modules were no longer just for me. I had to deal with users.

In this talk I’ll discuss how having users effects the way that you develop and release software. I’ll also look at a few ways to keep on top of things.

I’m also doing my first lightning talk for several years:

‎Perl Vogue‎

You might not believe it to look at us, but the Perl community is a deeply fashionable place. If you’re not using the currently fashionable modules in your code then people will be sneering at you behind your back.

Join Dave Cross for a quick review of the history of Perl fashion.

See you in Pisa.

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YAPC::Europe Talks

The Call for Papers for YAPC::Europe closes in four days. If you’re thinking of giving a talk in Pisa then this weekend would be a very good time to give it some serious thought.

I proposed four talks last night. I’m hoping that the organisers won’t choose more than two of them, but I like to give them a bit of choice. The titles are as follows:

  • The Perl Community
  • Web Services for Fun and Profit
  • Things I Learned From Having Users
  • Perlanet Update

I’ve also submitted a proposal for a lightning talk called “Perl Fashion”. It’s been several years since I’ve given a lightning talk, so that’ll be an interesting experience.

Don’t forget that there are also training courses (including my course on Modern Perl).

Looking forward to the conference very much. Hope to see some of you there.

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Training Update

The training courses for this summer’s YAPC in Pisa have been announced. And my course on Modern Perl has been chosen. It’s a one-day course on August 2th (just before the conference). It costs € 180. You’ll be able to book once the payments system on the conference web site goes live.

Here’s the description of the course from the YAPC site:

This course introduces the major building blocks of modern Perl. We’ll be looking at a number of CPAN modules that can make your Perl programming life far more productive.

The major tools that we will cover will be:

  • Template Toolkit
  • DBIx::Class
  • Moose
  • Catalyst
  • Plack

We’ll also look at some other modules including autodie, DateTime and TryCatch.

There are several other good courses running both before and after the conference. I’m sure there’ll be something that you’ll find interesting.

N.B: This is not an April Fool’s joke!

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YAPC::Europe 2009

Today I travelled home from YAPC::Europe 2009 which was held in Lisbon. Readers of my other blog will know that I almost didn’t get there at all. The return journey was far less stressful.

On the weekend before the conference I gave a two-day “Introduction to Perl” course. We had six people on the course. I’m pretty happy with that as I think it’s a brave decision to have a beginners’ course at a Perl conference. I’m also happy to report that a third of the attendees were women.

There were four tracks of conference talks. This, of course, is guaranteed to lead to situations where you want to watch more than one talk at the same time. I think that at one point I really wanted to watch three of the four talks. Of course, there’s also the “hallway track” which is the best part of any good conference. This week there were two or three occasions when I found that I’d missed talks that I wanted to see because I had been so engrossed in an interesting conversation. All in all, I’m really glad that some of the talks were being recorded.

One highlight for me was meeting Paul Fenwick and Jacinta Richardson. I’ve been talking online to Paul and Jacinta for something like seven or eight years but we had never met face to face before because we spend most of out lives on opposite sides of the Earth. It was great to finally meet them. They’re as lovely in real life as they are online and they’re also both great speakers with interesting things to say.

Another highlight was the Marketing BOF that we held on Tuesday evening. There’s a growing concern in the Perl community that people outside of the community have an out of date and rather uncomplimentary view of Perl. The conference was full of people who had many ideas for fixing this. Ovid has a good description of this BOF over on use.perl so I won’t repeat the details here. I’ll just point out that some of us tried to have a similar meeting at EuroOSCON in 2005. At that time we had four people turn up. This week there were more than fifty.

The quiz show on Tuesday night was fun too. Greg and I were a last minute substitution as one of the teams failed to appear. We won our qualifying round, but came third (out of four) in the final. I was particularly embarrassed to have been beaten to the answer to the Buffy question.

And it seems that I owe the Perl community an apology. In his closing keynote, José Castro gave some examples of bad Perl advocacy. Number one on his list was my Why Corporates Hate Perl article. José pointed out that many people only read the title of an article and that my title was, perhaps, badly chosen. I’m sorry if I’ve caused any damage.

All in all, a great conference. Many thanks to the organisers for all of their hard work.

Hope to see you all in Pisa next year.

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The Send-a-Newbie project is the Perl community at its best. People with a bit of spare money have donated to a fund to send people to YAPC::Europe. Edmund von der Burg and a team of trusted helpers have counted the money and closely examined the applications that they received. Edmund writes:

First, a quick recap: the Send-a-Newbie program is meant to help people go to YAPC who have never been to a YAPC before, are unable to do so by their own means and already involved in some way in the Perl community.

Applications were submitted, questions were asked, answers were given, difficult choices made and we now have our lucky YAPC Newbies.

We’re delighted to announce that we will be sending the following three to YAPC in Lisbon:

Alan: Based in India, started using Perl about a year and a half ago. Since then, he’s contributed to several CPAN modules, released WWW::Rapidshare::Free and is currently working on the TPF grant “Fixing Bugs in the Archive::Zip Perl Module”. He’s never been to any meetings of the Perl community.

Alistair: Based in Scotland, has just finished university, started using Perl for creating his websites and performing several small tasks. When choosing a placement (for his degree) he chose a Perl shop in London, and became part of London.pm

Rosellyne: Based in England, self-funded university student. Also a grant manager for TPF (past four years), member of London.pm and active on PerlMonks. Keen to meet people she’s worked with for years.

There were other great applications that we will not be able to send. Hopefully they’ll be able to attend a future YAPC.

All of this is possible due to the lovely people who have donated and helped. It’s been a great demonstration of the community that has formed around Perl. Thanks also to the YAPC::EU organizers who have been supportive of this project right from the start.

Thank you to all involved and see you all at YAPC::EU::2009!

The three lucky participants will have their travel, hotel and conference fees paid. They’ll have to pay for their own beer.

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