YAPC Europe 2016

I’ve been back from Cluj-Napoca for almost a week, so I should really write down what I remember about YAPC Europe before it’s all forgotten.

Day -1

I arrived in Cluj-Napoca on Sunday evening and got to my hotel quickly. There was just time for a quick meal before bed.

Monday was the day that I was going to get to grips with the city. After meeting a few Perl Mongers at breakfast, my wife and I set off to explore. My first target was to find Cluj Hub, the venue where I was running a training course the following day. That was simple and took less than fifteen minutes. We then explored both the Orthodox and Catholic cathedrals before settling into a bar on the main square called “Guevara” for a coffee. After that we decided that we needed to pick up some supplies and whilst on that hunt we bumped into Max Maischein who recommended a visit to the botanical gardens.

On returning to the hotel with our supplies, we met Curtis Poe and invited him to join us for lunch. Wandering at random we found a really good restaurant called Livada and enjoyed a very pleasant meal.

After lunch we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours in the botanical gardens and only just failed to get back to the hotel before it really started raining. That evening we ate in restaurant really close to the hotel called the Crying Monkey (but in Romanian).

Day 0

Tuesday was my “Modern Web Development with Perl and Dancer” training course. This was by far the most successful training course that I’ve ever run at a YAPC. I’ll write more about it when I get the feedback results, but I think that the attendees enjoyed it. I know I had great fun giving it. Cluj Hub was a great venue and Andra Gligor and her small team looked after us all really well.

That evening, the traditional pre-conference meet-up was held on the roof of Evozon’s offices. As always, it was lovely to catch-up with old friends that I only get to see once or twice a year.

Day 1

On Wednesday, I set off in plenty of time to find the venue. It turned out that our hotel was really well located for both sight-seeing and the conference and I got there in ten minutes or so. The registration queues seemed shorter than usual and before long I had my name-tag and bag of conference swag.

As always, there were far too many good talks and it was impossible to see everything. I’ll just talk about the talks that I saw. Everything was videoed, so it will all be online soon.

The day began with Amalia welcoming us to the conference. Then the YAPC Europe Foundation announced that next year’s conference will be in Amsterdam. This is the first time that the conference has returned to a previous city (the second YAPC Europe was held in Amsterdam back in 2001) and I’m looking forward to going.

The first day’s keynote was from Curtis Poe. It was a wide-ranging talk covering the history and future of both Perl and the Perl community. After that I went into one of the small rooms to see H. Merijn Brand talking about his recent improvements to Perl’s CSV parser followed by Alex Muntada on how the Debian project packages CPAN modules. I then went back to the main room to see Mickey Nasriachi talking about PONAPI, which is a Perl implementation of JSONAPI.

Lunch suffered slightly from the inevitable queues, but it was worth the wait as the quality of the food (as it was throughout the conference) was very high.

After lunch I saw Lee Johnson giving some Git tips, Sawyer talking about the XS guts of Ref::Util and Jose Luis Martinez talking about PAWS (the Perl interface to Amazon Web Services). I saw Jose Luis talking about PAWS last year in Granada but really wanted to see how the project is progressing. I think this has the potential to be a great advocacy tool for Perl.

A quick coffee break and then I saw Thomas Klausner give his opinions on writing API endpoints and Tina Müller talking about App::Spec which looks like a great tool for easily writing command line applications.

Then it was was lightning talks. They were the usual combination of the useful, the banal and the ridiculous. I think the highlight for me was Curtis Poe announcing more details of his online game (which is now officially called Tau Station). This was the point at which I announced Cultured Perl – which seems to be going well so far.

That evening was the conference dinner. Which was a buffet party held in the open-air quadrangle at the centre of the Banffy Palace (Cluj’s major art museum). A great time was had by all.

Day 2

Another day, another keynote. This time it was Sawyer X with “The State of the Velociraptor” – an annual round-up of what’s going on in the Perl 5 world. This year Sawyer found a number of volunteers who all gave short talks about their part of the Perl community. This was a great idea which was only slightly marred by the fact that the projector wasn’t at all happy changing laptops – so the switches between presenters weren’t as smooth as they could have been.

After that I saw Max talking about how he uses ElasticSearch on his laptop to give himself a local search engine and Job van Achterberg talking about making web sites more accessible. This was a great talk – particularly the sections where he showed just how bad most web sites appear to screen readers.

Another queue for another great lunch. And also many interesting conversations.

After lunch I saw a former colleague, Mirela Iclodean, talking about how her company have managed to shoe-horn many modern tools and practices into their working day – while still maintaining a nasty monolithic code-base which they are slowly chipping away at. It was a great talk and it made me miss working on that project. I’m hoping that she will repeat this talk at the London Perl Workshop.

Later that afternoon, I gave my “Error(s) Free Programming” talk – in a slot where every speaker was a London.pm leader. The talk seemed to go down well, but somehow I ran considerably short.

After that I saw Albert Hilazo talk about his first few months as a Perl programmer. I found this really interesting as Albert talked in some detail about things that other language communities provide but he found hard to find for Perl. In particular, he would like to see more “war story” blog posts showing how people have solved particular problems using Perl tools.

Then it was Matt Trout celebrating ten years in the Perl community by explaining how his career was largely a series of happy accidents and that a lot of the responsibilities he has taken on were just through being in the wrong place at the wrong time – or something like that.

One talk I couldn’t miss was Andrew Yates talking about the work that his team do at the European Bioinformatics Institute. I couldn’t miss it as I was at least partly responsible for Andrew proposing the talk. I ran some training at the EBI earlier this year and during our email conversation YAPC was mentioned and Andrew asked if people might be interested in hearing about their work. I replied “hell, yes!” and sent him a link to the talk proposal web page.

And then, of course, there another ten or so lightning talks to close the day entertainingly.

Day 3

The keynote speaker on the last day was Larry Wall. His topic was “Strange Consistency”. If you’ve seen Larry speak before, you’ll know what it was like.

I followed that by watching Jason Clifford talk about how his team had written a major new toolset in Perl despite management pressure to use other technologies. The project, of course, ended up being very successful.

One of the most interesting talks was Nicholas Clark’s view of an alternative universe where Jon Orwant never threw those mugs in 2000 and the Perl 6 project was never started. The main lesson appeared to be “what goes around, comes around” and his fictional universe didn’t end up too far away from where we are now.

The afternoon had a curious combination of some time slots where I wanted to see every talk and others where I didn’t really want to see anything. So in some cases I’m eagerly awaiting the videos going online and in others I sat in the back of the room only half-concentrating while giving most of my attention to Twitter or Facebook.

I really enjoyed Sawyer talking about the things that were added in Perl 5.24 (and very carefully not talking about the things that were added in previous versions) and also Jose Luis Perez talking about what he has got out of doing the CPAN Pull Request Challenge.

The final lightning talks were as much fun as they always are. The projectors were still giving the speakers plenty of technical difficulties which led to lots of time for “lightning adverts” between the talks. I think that towards the end the differences between the two rather broke down and on the video at one point I expect you’ll hear Geoff Avery saying “I seem to have lost control of this”.

The conference ended, as it always does, with a brief presentation from the organisers of next year’s conference, a final thank-you to all of the speakers and sponsors and a standing ovation for the organisers.

This was one of the best-organised YAPCs I’ve been to for a very long time. And Cluj-Napoca is a city I would never have considered visiting if it wasn’t for the Perl community there. And already I’m considering a return visit. I had a lovely time in the city and returned to London completely recharged and reinvigorated.

See you all in Amsterdam next year.

Training in Cluj – The Poll

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was planning to run a one-day training course the day before YAPC Europe in Cluj-Napoca this year. There have been a few discussions of my ideas in a various forums, so now it’s time for the next stage.

Below, you’ll see a simple questionnaire. Please use it to give your feedback on what course you would like me to run – and how much you think it should cost.

I’ll collate all of the responses in a couple of weeks and make an announcement about what I’m going to do.

Training in Cluj

I’m going to be running a day of training before YAPC Europe in Cluj. It’ll be on Tuesday 23rd August. But that’s all I know about the course so far, because I want your help to plan it.

Training has been a part of the YAPC experience for a long time. And I’ve often run courses alongside YAPC Europe. I took a look back through my talk archives and this is what I found.

  • 2003 (Paris) – I gave a half-day tutorial on “Tieing and Overloading Objects”
  • 2006 (Birmingham) – Another half-day tutorial called “Advanced Databases for Beginners”
  • 2008 (Copenhagen) – The “Perl Teach-In” was a one-day course about new and interesting Perl tools
  • 2009 (Lisbon) – A two-day “Introduction to Perl” course
  • 2010 (Pisa) – “Introducing Modern Perl”
  • 2011 (Riga) – “Introducing Modern Perl” (I had completely forgotten giving the same course two years running)
  • 2015 (Granada) – “Database Programming with DBIx::Class and Perl”

The first two (the half-day courses) were both given as part of the main conference. The others were all separate courses run before the conference. For those, you needed to pay extra – but it was a small amount compared with normal Perl training rates.

So now it’s 2016 and I want to run a training course in Cluj. But what should it be about? That’s where you come it. I want you to tell me what you want training on.

I’m happy to update any of the courses listed above. Or, perhaps I could cover something new this year. I have courses that I have never given at YAPC – on Moose, testing, web development and other things. Or I’d be happy to come up with something completely new that you want to hear about.

Please comment on this post, telling me your opinions. I’ll let the discussion run for a couple of weeks, then I’ll collate the most popular-looking choices and run a poll to choose which course I’m going to run.

Don’t forget – training in Cluj on 23rd August. If you’re booking travel and accommodation for the conference then please take that into account.

Oh, and hopefully it won’t just be me. If you’re a trainer and you’re going to be in Cluj for the conference, then please get in touch and we’ll add you to the list. The more courses we can offer, the better.

So here’s your chance to control the YAPC training schedule. What courses would you like to see?

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?

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.