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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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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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London Perl Workshop Report

(Photo above by Chris Jack)

Last Saturday was the annual London Perl Workshop. I should write up what happened before I forget it all.

I arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and was able to check in quickly – collecting a bit of swag which included a free t-shirt as I was a speaker. I then made my way up to the main lecture theatre in order to see Katherine Spice welcoming people to the day on behalf of the new team of organisers. After that headed off to the smaller lecture theatre to set up for my tutorial. There were a few differences from previous years. Firstly, I was giving a completely Perl-free tutorial (about on-page SEO techniques) and secondly, I had been moved out of the tutorial track and into one of the main talk tracks. As a side effect of that second change, I was also asked to trim my talk from my usual two hours to a more “talk-like” eighty minutes.

The talk seemed to go well. I got some interesting questions and a few people came up to me later in the day to tell me they had found it interesting useful (sometimes both!) The slides to the talk are available on SlideShare: Web Site Tune-Up – Improve Your Googlejuice.

Following that, I had time to see one talk before the coffee break and I chose Why learning a bit of Crypto is good for you‎ by Colin Newell. Colin gave a good (if, necessarily rather shallow) explanation of how learning a small amount of cryptography can help you improve the security of your systems.

Then it was was the morning coffee break. For the past few years, this break has traditionally included cakes which were supplied by a sponsor. When that didn’t look like happening this year, organiser Neil Bowers (with a gentle nudge from Leon Timmermans) came up with the idea of a community bake. And that’s what happened. A number of attendees baked cakes for us all. I had one of Neil’s blueberry muffins and it was lovely.

There was a slight change in the schedule after the coffee break. Matt Trout was unable to be at the workshop so, at the last minute, JJ Allen stepped in and gave his talk To delete or not to delete, that is the question‎, which was about some impending data protection laws which will affect all businesses. I stayed in the same room to see Neil Bowers explain The PAUSE Operating Model‎ and then JJ returned to talk about something completely different – Perl and Docker, sitting in a tree‎.  JJ’s company, Opus VL, have released some of their Docker infrastructure code to CPAN and I’m sure many people will find it useful.

Then it was lunchtime. I bought a sandwich from the university’s cafe and sat in the foyer talking to various friends who walked past.

I started the afternoon watching Paul Evans on ‎Devel::MAT updated‎. Devel::MAT is a development tool which aims to do for memory analysis what Devel::NYTProf does for profiling. It looks very useful. That was followed by Julien Fieggehenn’s talk Turning humans into developers with Perl‎. Julien doesn’t just train people in Perl, he acts as a mentor for them for a couple of months when they join his company, so he was able to talk in some detail about much wider issues than just choosing which topics to cover in a training course.

Talking about wider issues, I then saw Tom Hukins’ talk Development: More than Writing Code?‎ Tom is, of course, right that there’s more to being a good developer than just writing good code. This is a topic that I’m thinking of developing a training course on. Tom was followed by Paul Johnson giving good advice on Modernising A Legacy Perl Application.

The afternoon coffee break included some professionally baked pastries. They were also lovely, but don’t think they were appreciated quite as much as the morning’s community versions.

After the coffee break, we all gathered in the main lecture theatre for the plenary session. Ann Barcomb spoke about Fifteen Years of Contributing Casually‎. Ann was once a Perl developer. I first met her at the first YAPC::Europe in London in 2000 and she was then part of the organising team for the second YAPC::Europe in Amsterdam in 2001. But since then she has become a researcher into the sociology of the open source movement. You can read a lot of her research on her web site. Her talk illustrated her findings with some personal anecdotes about her own casual contributions to the Perl community. Everyone seemed to find it fascinating and the Q&A at the end of the talk showed every signs of turning into a full-scale discussion. On a personal level, it was great to catch up with Ann again about fifteen years after we had been in the same room together.

And then there were the lightning talks. They were their usual mixture of intriguing and entertaining. Mark Keating (enjoying his first LPW that he wasn’t organising) implored us to get involved in the Enlightened Perl Organisation. I announced a plan to publish more Perl books (of which, more later). I was particularly impressed by Kenichi Ishigaki who flew in from Japan just to give a lightning talk about his module Perl::PrereqScanner::NotQuiteLite.

After that, there were a few closing words from Neil Bowers and, in another innovation brought in by the new organisers, drinks were served on site rather than in a local pub. Of course, some people went off to a local pub after that as well.

As always, it was a great day. The new organising team seem to have hit the ground running and produced an impressive workshop. My thanks to the organisers, the volunteers, the speakers, the sponsors and all of the attendees.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s workshop.

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Feedback

During the week, Barbie sent out the results from the feedback survey that he ran after YAPC Europe. The general results will be published later, but all of the speakers will have received an email containing the feedback from their talks. That feedback is private, but I’m happy to share mine with the world.

The feedback survey takes the form of five questions. People are asked to answer these questions with a rating from 1 to 10. The questions are:

  • Q1: Your prior knowledge of subject?
  • Q2: Speaker’s knowledge of subject?
  • Q3: Speaker’s presentation of subject?
  • Q4: Quality of presentation materials?
  • Q5: Overall presentation rating?

There is also an opportunity for people to write in more detailed comments if they want.

I gave two talks at the conference. A lightning talk called “Medium Perl” which introduced the idea of the Cultured Perl blog and a longer talk called “Error(s) Free Programming” which talked about Damian Conway’s module Lingua::EN::Inflexion.

Eight people gave feedback on “Medium Perl”.

Qu 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Avg
Q1 1 1 2 1 2 1 4.5
Q2 1 1 1 5 9.25
Q3 1 1 1 5 8.875
Q4 1 1 1 5 8.875
Q5 2 1 1 4 8.875

What aspects of the tutorial or presentation worked really well?

  • I always enjoyed Dave’s humor.
  • History and goal are clear
  • Excellent presentation, as you always do. Funny and surprising.

How could the tutorial or presentation be improved?

  • Make Medium use a readable font or have them stop forcing me to use serif fonts. As long as the articles are presented as they are, I won’t read them at all. Period. (let alone open the possibility that I would post any material myself)

I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to make Medium change their fonts. I suppose I could suggest that they make other fonts available as an option. But then, so could the person who made that comment.

Four people gave feedback on “Error(s) Free Programming”.

Qu 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Avg
Q1 1 1 1 1 4
Q2 3 1 9.25
Q3 2 2 9.5
Q4 1 3 9.75
Q5 2 2 9.5

What aspects of the tutorial or presentation worked really well?

  • Just about everything, an excellent presentation. Congrats.
  • Damianware!

How could the tutorial or presentation be improved?

  • I misunderstood the topic, and I thought it was a talk about programming without errors instead of how to solve localization of messages.

I can only suggest that the last people reads the talk description, not just the title in future.

I also got feedback about the “Modern Web Programming with Perl and Dancer” course that I ran before the conference. The feedback here is in a slightly different format as it’s a form that I made up myself. I got feedback from 11 people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Avg
On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate your Perl ability?
1 1 2 2 3 1 1  7.09
On a scale of 1 to 10, how useful did you find the course?
2 1 6 1 1  7.45
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you enjoy the course?
1 5 2 3  8.54
On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate the instructor’s knowledge of the subject?
2 1 6 2  8.72
On a scale of 1 to 10, how well did the instructor teach the subject matter?
1 2 2 4 2  8.36
On a scale of 1 to 10, please rate the amount of material covered
1 1 3 1 1 2 2  6.27

That last question is always tricky. The form is clear that if you think it was just right, to score 5. But I always get some people choosing 10 and I think I’d know if people thought I was covering stuff far too quickly. That 1 is a bit of a worry though.

So, all in all, not bad scores. And generally people saying nice things. Which is always nice to see.

Now I need to start thinking about the London Perl Workshop.