The Perl Conference in Glasgow

View from the ninth floor

Yesterday (despite the best efforts of Virgin Trains to stop me) I came home from The Perl Conference in Glasgow. I had a great week up in Glasgow, and I thought I’d better write about it before I forgot anything important.

Pre-Conference

I arrived on Sunday evening. This was the last day of the European Championships which were jointly hosted in Glasgow and Berlin. As I was checking into my hotel, the receptionist happened to mention that there was some celebration of the championships in George Square so, once I had unpacked, I went off to explore. And I found a free festival with lots of great music. It had been going all day, so I only got to see the last couple of acts (Fatoumata Diawara and Shooglenifty) but it was a great way to spend my first couple of hours in the City.

The following day, I had agreed to meet Andrew Solomon (of Geek Uni) at the conference venue so we could see what the place was like before our workshops on Tuesday. Having done that, we went off to explore the city a bit. Following lunch (which was at the excellent Pizza Punks) we retired to our respective hotel rooms to ensure that our workshops were ready. That, at least, was the plan. When I got back to my hotel, I found that my room hadn’t been cleaned, so I set out for another walk. This time I found what’s left of the Glasgow School of Art and King Tut’s.

Workshops

On Tuesday, I spent the day at the venue, running two half-day workshops. In the morning I introduced a smallish class to the joys of on-page SEO and in the afternoon a slightly larger class sat through my rather experimental “The Professional Programmer” workshop. This was a quick look at some of the things that a professional programmer needs to understand other than programming itself. Both workshops seemed to go pretty well and I’m looking forward to reading the feedback.

That evening, the pre-conference social was held in the venue, so following my workshop, I just had to wander upstairs to meet loads of old friends. Much good food and conversation was enjoyed over the following few hours.

Day 1

Traditionally, the first order of business on the first day of the conference is the announcement of next year’s venue. Thomas of the YAPC Europe Foundation announced that we’ll be going back to Riga in 2019. I’m already looking forward to it.

Then the talks started. Ruth Holloway’s keynote “Discourse Without Drama” proposed a world where we can talk about things (even disagree about things) without every conversation ending in anger and shouting. I’m sure it’s a world that most of us would love to see.

For the rest of the morning, I saw Salve Nilsen talking about the state of Perl Mongering in Europe, Choroba discussing the inconsistencies in type handling between the different versions of various JSON libraries and Leon Timmermans explaining how the Perl 5 Porters have handled language design in recent years. For the last slot of the morning, I saw Makoto Nazaki give an update on what is happening in The Perl Foundation.

After a really good lunch (the venue staff were good at many things – catering was top of the list) I saw Curtis Poe talking about the best ways to sell a legacy code clean-up project to your managers. This was followed by Ben Edwards explaining how Pirum keep their CVS and Git code repositories in step.

The conference day ended with the lightning talks. This included me giving an overview of the twenty year history of London Perl Mongers in five minutes. I think it worked.

Then I made a mistake. The conference dinner was in a restaurant about a forty minute walk or twenty minute taxi ride away. I was due there at about 7:30pm. I went back to my hotel room and got there at about 6pm and laid on my bed for a few minutes. When I woke up and looked at the time, it was 8pm. I could have rushed around and made a late appearance at the dinner, but I decided to take note of what my body obviously wanted and had a quiet night in.

Day 2

Feeling refreshed after a long sleep, I attacked day two of the conference. I started by listening to Thomas Klausner explaining how he has written an asynchronous web application without using any of the usual frameworks. It looked interesting and I’ll be investigating his code in more detail. Following that, I saw André Walker talking about how error messages can be so much easier to understand. He had an example from a module that he had written. It did look good. I then saw Mohammed Anwar encouraging people to follow his lead and submit pull requests to CPAN modules. As someone who has been on the receiving end of many of Mohammed’s pull requests, I can only agree that I’d love to see more people sending me improvements to my code. I try to see at least one Perl 6 talk at every conference I go to and this time I chose my former colleague, Simon Proctor, explaining function signatures, multi-methods and things like that.

I didn’t see much of lunch on Thursday as Andrew Solomon had arranged a “Birds of a Feather” session on “Growing a Perl Team”. A large group of like-minded people (but from many different parts of the industry) talked about the problems they have attracting and keeping good Perl developers. I’m not sure we came up with a clear way forward, but it was certainly good to share ideas.

The afternoon started with Mark Fowler talking though the entries from last year’s Perl Advent Calendar (and asking us to propose articles for this year’s calendar) and I followed that with Andrew Solomon telling us about his experience of running on-the-job Perl training for various companies. Following a coffee break, I saw Tom Hukins explaining what WebDriver is and how to using it with Perl. After that was my talk about the Line of Succession web site. I didn’t get a huge audience, but those that were there seemed to enjoy it.

Then there was a slightly different session. Every year, Larry Wall goes to lots of Perl conferences. And his wife, Gloria, always comes with him. Normally, Larry gives a keynote and Gloria watches from the audience. When he was organising this conference, Mark Keating decided to turn that on its head. He didn’t invite Larry to speak and, instead, asked Gloria to talk to the conference. So we had fifty minutes of Gloria Wall in conversation with Curtis Poe. And it was a really interesting conversation. I recommend you look for the video.

Once again, the day ended with an interesting selection of lightning talks.

Day 3

Friday was good. Friday was the day that I wasn’t speaking. And that meant that Friday was the day I didn’t need to carry my laptop around all day.

I started by watching Wesley Schwengle talking about using Docker with Perl. I keep going to talks like this. Every time I get that little bit closer to understanding how Docker is going to make my life easier. Then I switched to something far less technical and saw Joelle Maslak explaining how mistakes that we all make can make our applications less usable for many people. I followed that with Lee Johnson introducing Burp Scanner and explaining how it finds insecurities in web applications and Ruth Holloway talking about accessibility at conferences and events. I think the people who attended it all found it interesting – it’s a shame that, as far as I could see, not many of them were event organisers.

After lunch I watched Matt Trout introduce Babble, a Perl module that can help you deal with syntax differences between different versions of Perl. Then the final keynote was Curtis Poe talking about some of the possible futures for Perl 5 and 6. After that, there was just another great selection of lightning talks before Mark Keating closed the conference by thanking everyone.

I couldn’t stay around for the post-conference goodbyes as I had to get to Edinburgh to see Amanda Palmer in concert. That was excellent too.

 

When I heard that Mark would be organising the conference, I knew we’d be in safe hands. Mark has plenty of experience of this and he’s great at it. Of course, he had a great team working with him too and I think it really helped that he chose a professional conference venue to host it.

So huge thanks to Mark and his team. But thanks, also, to all of the speakers and the sponsors. I’m sure all the attendees will agree that this year’s conference was outstanding.

See you all in Riga.


Also published on Medium.

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