(This is only the second Perl Workshop I have been to and I haven’t been able to work out why they are called workshops. To me this implies something more practical with an exchange of information and not a series of presented talks.)
Sometimes things can be a bit chaotic at a grass roots event but this workshop was very well organised and there seemed to be very little that the organisers hadn’t thought of in advance. It wasn’t the first workshop they had put on and it showed. Like most Perl Workshops the event was inexpensive and great value for money. Given the low cost I was really surprised by how much food was provided. Breakfast and lunch were served at the venue. They also provided snacks on the Friday night before the workshop, dinner on the Saturday night and a beer at the end of the conference on Sunday night.
The event was held on the Carnegie Mellon University campus and the rooms were all an excellent size. This is always a hard thing to get right at conferences as you don’t know when you are booking how many people are likely to turn up. It was also within walking distance of shops and restaurants – which I think is very important for a conference. I don’t find it as enjoyable attending conferences when I am stuck on a university campus outside the city.
I didn’t attend many of the talks, as I ended up helping out at the registration desk, but I did chat to lots of the attendees. It was noticeable that some of them were not at all interested in the “Perl Community” and were much more interested in learning how to do things with Perl. This meant that some of the attendees I spoke to found the opening keynotes dull as neither the Perl Survey nor Perl Mongers were of interest to them. This made me realise that the workshops are different than the YAPC conferences. At first a workshop looks just like a mini YAPC but at a YAPC there is much more talk about “community” and people do want to know what it happening within the community and with organisations like TPF.
After the 2006 Pittsburgh Perl Workshop the organisers ran a survey, as they wanted to know what they could improve for 2007. One of these things was more teaching for beginners to the language and in 2007 they ran a one-day tutorial to do just that. YAPCs do run talks for beginners but they also have to cater for the very experienced Perl programmers who attend year after year. Marty and I gave a talk for beginners about CPAN at YAPC::Europe 2006 and in the audience we had some of the most prolific CPAN authors. I remember looking round the room to see if there was anyone there who hadn’t already released modules on CPAN. I imagine if I had given the same talk at Pittsburgh that the audience would actually have been full of the sort of people the original talk was aimed at.
Mint pointed out another difference in the workshop: the fact that there was a higher percentage of students in attendance than there was at YAPC::NA. As he mentioned, both conferences took place at universities, although YAPC::NA was held in the summer, but the workshop appeared to encourage student attendance more by reducing the cost for students.
I’m sure I had more to say about the workshop but his post already feels too long to me. Maybe, if I get to attend again this year, I’ll try to write things up a lot sooner.