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PerlCon Europe 2019

Last week I was in Riga for this year’s European PerlCon (the conference formerly known as YAPC::Europe). As has become traditional, here’s my report of the conference.

My conference began on Tuesday night at the pre-conference meet-up. Most people get into town on the night before the conference starts and the organisers always designate a local bar as a meeting place. This time, as the conference was being held in a hotel, the meeting place was a room in the hotel just outside the main conference room. It’s always good to meet up with friends who you might not have seen since the previous conference and I spent a pleasant hour or two, chatting to people before wandering back over the river to the hotel where I was staying before the conference started. As I walked back over the bridge, I could hear the dulcet tones of Rammstein playing a gig about 4km downstream.

The first day of the conference proper was slightly complicated by the need to check out of one hotel and into another. Effectively, it meant that I spent a lot of the day without a room – which was slightly annoying.

The first keynote was Sawyer X talking about The past, the present, and one possible future of Perl 5. From talking to other people afterwards, I think most of the audience was as impressed by his vision as I was. I particularly look forward to hearing more about his plans to engage more companies in the development of Perl. I think that is a great idea.

Following a coffee break, I saw Thomas Klausner talking about Deploying Perl Apps using Docker, Gitlab & Kubernetes. This is a particular area of interest to me currently and it was interesting to see his take on it. I followed that by watching Mohammad Anwar encouraging people to start contributing to CPAN.

After lunch, I took a brief break from the conference (I guess that’s a benefit to knowing that the videoing of the talks is in really capable hands!) I returned in time to see Kenichi Ishigaki describing Recent PAUSE Changes. Because the overall UI of the site has barely changed, I had failed to spot the wholesale changes that have been taking place behind the scenes. It was interesting to be brought up to date.

After the coffee break, I saw Curtis Poe’s talk on Testing Lies. The big takeaway from that seems to be to never trust anyone who claims that something is “always true”.

Then came the first set of lightning talks. As usual, it was a wide-ranging selection including me talking about my Apollo 11 Twitterbot. I particularly enjoyed Job’s amusing walk down memory lane.

After the conference ended for the day there was a new (as far as I know) experiment for a Perl conference – a cocktail party for people who had bought specific kinds of tickets. I had been invited and went along, only to be slightly surprised to find that the drinks selection didn’t include cocktails. I was further surprised to bump into someone who I used to work with back in 2004 and we spent most of the evening catching up.

The second day started with Liz Mattijsen’s keynote DeMythifying Perl 6. I was surprised when she stated that “Perl 6 has damaged Perl 5” was not a myth, but a fact and was totally blown away when she followed that up with a proposal to rename Perl 6. I’ve been saying for ten years that the only thing I don’t like about Perl 6 is its name and I’m really excited to see core Perl 6 developers finally agreeing with this. I’ll be following the developments here really closely.

I then watched Hauke Dämpfling’s WebPerl – Run Perl in the Browser! – which was certainly very clever, but I’m not sure how useful it is. Then I gave my first long talk of the conference – Monoliths, Balls of Mud and Silver Bullets. I think it went well. I certainly got some interesting questions after it.

I’m not really sure what happened after lunch. I think I went back to my room for a bit of lie down and the next thing I knew it was time for the second day of lightning talks. Before that, there were presentations by the two teams vying to organise next years conference (in either Amsterdam or Limassol) and then this year’s attendees got to vote to choose the winner (that’s what’s going on in the photo above). The winner (by only seven votes) was Amsterdam.

I was slightly embarrassed when Lee Johnson mentioned in his lightning talk that my amazing(!) SEO work for last year’s conference meant that Google still thinks all Perl conferences take place in Glasgow – I should probably work out how to fix that! Best of this set of lightning talks was Mark Keating’s adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneetches”.

That evening, the attendees’ dinner took place. This was at the same beer hall that the same event took place at the last time the conference was in Riga. Much buffet was had and a lot of beer was drunk.

Day three started in a slightly more muted vein (it often does – as the attendees’ dinner is always on the second night). I missed the keynote and only made it in time for Mohammad Anwar’s second talk of the conference. This one was on how to Protect your Perl script from common security issues. I had to skip out before he got to the questions as I needed to set up in another room for my final talk of the conference – Measuring the Quality of your Perl Code. I was rather (pleasantly) surprised to see the room was completely full and people seemed to find it useful and interesting.

I took the afternoon easy again. I saw Robert Acock on Progressive Web Applications (something else, I really want to get to know about – and I have the feeling it’s not as complicated as my brain seems to want to make it) and Mallory on Designing and Coding for Low Vision.

Then it was time for the final set of lightning talks. It was great to see Thomas re-running his Acme::ReturnValues talk from 2008 (in celebration of the fact that this was the 20th European Perl Conference).

And then it was over. Andrew Shitov, the organiser, thanked all the helpers, speakers and sponsors. And then some of us went off on a cruise on the river.

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Perl Conference in Riga

It’s only two weeks until I head to Riga for PerlCon 2019. I thought it was worthwhile posting a quick update confirming that I was going and telling you what I would be doing there.

Firstly, I’ve previously mentioned that I was planning to run my “Modern Web Development with Dancer” workshop on the day before the conference. That’s now not going to happen as we didn’t manage to sell enough tickets to make the workshop economically viable.

But I will be giving two talks at the conference. On day two (Thursday) I’ll be speaking on Monoliths, Balls of Mud and Silver Bullets. That’s at 12:30 in the main room. This is a version of a talk I tried out at a London Perl Mongers technical meeting back in February. It’s a not-entirely-serious look at some of the problems you might encounter when replacing old monolithic code with new, shiny micro-services. Then on day three (Friday) I’ll be giving a longer talk on Measuring the Quality of your Perl Code. That’s, again, at 12:30, but in the second room. This does exactly what its title says. We’ll look at some measurements you can use to determine how good your Perl code is and ways to make those measurements automatic.

I have also submitted a proposal for a lightning talk. It’s about a Twitter bot that I wrote last weekend called Apollo 11 at 50 so, hopefully, you’ll find that interesting if you’re interested in either space or Twitter bots.

I’ll be a tourist in Riga for a few days before the conference. I’m arriving on Saturday 3rd August and leaving a week later on the 10th. Hope to see some of you there.

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Plans for Riga

The European Perl Conference this year is going to be held in Riga in August. That might seem a long way away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about these things. For example the conference web site went live earlier this week, enabling users to register for the conference and buy their tickets.

And people who are planning to speak at the conference or run workshops alongside the conference need to get their act together early so that people who are planning to attend the conference know what is going to be happened. In particular, it’s a good idea to get the workshops organised and announced early so that people booking flights and hotels for the conference know that there are workshops taking place in the days before (and, sometimes, after) the conference and can book travel for the right dates.

So I’ve been thinking about what I want to do in Riga this summer and I think I have a plan.

I’m planning to re-run the “Modern Perl Web Development with Dancer” workshop that I ran in Cluj in 2016. It was easily the most successful YAPC/PerlCon workshops I’ve ever run with a full class of twenty people working through the day to build a simple web application using a number of modern web  development tools. This will be an updated version of the course as things have moved on a bit in the three years since I last ran the workshop.

Nothing is set in stone yet. I’ve submitted a proposal to the organisers and I hope we can get details tied down and tickets on sale as soon as possible. I’ll report on progress as I here what’s going on.

I’ve also come up with a talk that I’ve proposed for the main conference. It’s called “Measuring the Quality of your Perl Code” and it will be a look at was to measure the “quality” of your Perl code – on the basis that only once you start to measure something, can you start to make improvements. Again, it’s currently just a proposal. It hasn’t been accepted (but I’m taking the fact that it’s currently displayed on the front page of the site as a good sign!)

I should come up with a lightning talk too. Currently, I have no idea what that might be.

How about you? Are you planning to come to Riga in August? Will you be giving a talk?

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London Perl Workshop 2018

Last Saturday was the London Perl Workshop and (as has become traditional), I’m going to tell you how much fun it was so that you feel jealous that you missed it and make more of an effort to come along next year.

This year was slightly different for me. For various reasons, I didn’t have the time to propose and prepare any talks for the workshop so (for the first time ever) I decided I’d just go to the workshop and not give any talks. It very nearly worked too.

I arrived at about 9am, checked in at the registration desk and collected my free t-shirt. Then I went upstairs to the main lecture theatre to see Julian giving the organisers’ welcome talk. Julian is a new member of the organising committee, having only moved to London in the last year. But he’s certainly thrown himself into the community.

Following the welcome talk, I stayed in the main room to hear Léon Brocard explaining what’s new in the world of HTTP. It seems the HTTP3 is just around the corner and while it’s a lot more complicated than previous versions it has the potential to make the web a lot faster. I stayed in the same room to hear Martin Berends talking about Cucumber. I’ve been meaning to look at Cucumber in more detail for some years – perhaps this talk will be the prod I need.

Things were running a little late in the main room by this point, so I was a little late getting to Simon Proctor‘s 24 uses for Perl6‎. I try to get to at least one Perl 6 talk at every conference I go to. And this time, I was galvanised enough to buy a copy of Learning Perl 6 for my Kindle.

I caught up with a few friends over the coffee break and then headed back to the main room to see Saif Ahmed explaining Quick and Dirty GUI Applications (and why you should make them)‎. This was nostalgic for me. Almost twenty years ago at an OSCON in California, I remember a long, drunken night when some of us sketched out a plan to build a framework-agnostic GUI toolkit for Perl (like a DBI for GUIs). I think we gave up when we realised we would need to call it “PUI”. Anyway, it seems that Saif (who was keen to make it very clear that he’s not a professional programmer) has written such a tool.

After that I went to see my former colleague Andrew Solomon talking about ‎HOWTO: grow the Perl team. The talk was based around his experiences helping various companies training up Perl programmers using his Geek Uni site.

And then it was lunchtime. I met up with a few other former London Perl Mongers leaders and we had some very nice pizzas just over the road from the workshop venue. Over lunch, we claimed to be preparing for our afternoon panel discussion – but really we were mainly just reminiscing.

After lunch, it was back to the main room to see Peter Allan’s talk on Security Checks using perlcritic and Tom Hukins on Contrarian Perl‎. Both talks were the kind of thing that really makes you think. Peter’s talk introduced some interesting ideas about pushing perlcritic further than it is usually pushed. And Tom pointed out that in order to write the best code possible, you might need to move beyond the generally accepted “industry standards”.

After that, there was a brief visit to a different room to hear Mohammed Anwar talking about The power of mentoring‎. Mohammed is another recent newcomer to the Perl community and, like Julien, he is certainly making a difference.

I skipped the coffee break and went back to the main room to prepare for the one session that I had been roped into contributing to – ‎”I’m a Former London.PM Leader – Ask Me Anything”‎. We had gathered together as many of the former London Perl Mongers leaders and we took questions from the audience about the past, present and future of the group. I was slightly worried that it might tip over into nostalgic self-indulgence, but several people later told me that they had really enjoyed it.

Then it was time for the lightning talks (which were as varied and entertaining as always) and Julien’s “thank-you” talk. Like last year, the post-conference started in the venue before moving on to a pub. I stayed for an hour or so, chatting to friends, before making my way home.

As always, I’d like to thank all of the organisers, speakers, sponsors and attendees for making the workshop as successful as it (always!) is.

Here’s a list of those sponsors. They’re nice companies:

Hope to see you at next years workshop.

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Conferences

The Perl Conference in Glasgow

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.