Khaos

Archive for May, 2008

YAPC::Asia – Registration

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

The registration process at YAPC::Asia made use of QR codes that Japanese mobile phones can scan and read. The attendees were supposed to print their unique QR code from the website and bring it with them in place of tickets. Last year tickets for the conference could be bought at a Lawson convenience store. I have never needed a ticket for the European or American YAPCs. I usually give my name to the person at the registration desk and they check this off a list or find a badge that contains this name. But YAPC::Asia makes good use of technologies that are common in Japan. I have bought tickets at Lawson for everything from flights to concerts. And QR codes are found even on the wrappers that McDonalds use for their burgers.

Although the registration process was very well organised I do think it should be possible to improve it as I thought it was a bit slow. Not because of the QR codes but because the codes related to a name badge that was filed by number in a box. You would get to the desk and someone would scan the code and then find your badge. This was done in a small area limiting the number of people who could help with registration. And even if the area had been bigger only so many people can look through a couple of boxes of badges at any one time.

One way to speed up the registration process would be to limit that number of things that need to be given to a specific person. If attendees printed their own badges with QR codes on them then these could have been scanned but no badge search would have been required. The conference bags were generic so handing these out was easy. The badges, however, were not the only things tied to a specific attendee. Each attendee was given details of how to access the wifi system and because of security reasons the wifi access accounts and passwords were connected to the userid of the person registering. They also were the property of the university and this information could not have been given to attendees via the web-site.

There was enough space, however, to allow more people to help with registration. And there were certainly enough people on the conference crew to do this. It should be possible to find a way to split up registration. For example speaker registration could have been done separately. Sometimes registration of a large number of people is set up alphabetically. This would have been hard to do though because the attendees queuing at the door wouldn’t have been able to see these signs and it could have caused quite a bit of confusion in the entrance hall – to say nothing about the fact that the attendees names wouldn’t all use the same alphabet…

As well as registration on the first morning a pre-conference registration took place the night before. I suppose I’m just worried about what would have happened if 400 people had all turned up 15 minutes before the conference started. Mind you, there is probably no fast way to deal with that.

YAPC::Asia – The Venue

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

One of the most important things about running a successful conference is the suitability of the venue. This year YAPC::Asia was held at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. I believe that this was the best venue that has been used for a Japanese YAPC::Asia – and not just because it’s within walking distance of my apartment!

The venue was easy to get to as it was beside a train station. I always prefer conference venues that can be reached by public transport. I don’t drive and I have had to use taxis in America to get to conferences that were held in hotels that weren’t close to anything. Last year at YAPC::NA I didn’t get to see any of Houston as the venue was outside the city and it wasn’t obvious how to get to anywhere without calling for a taxi. I understand that at the American YAPCs it’s important to have access to University Halls for cheap accommodation and that this restricts where a conference can be held. This doesn’t seem to be an option in Tokyo nor does it seem to be a requirement. As Tokyo has such an amazing public transport system YAPC attendees can stay in most parts of the city and given that so many of them come from Tokyo they probably just go home in the evenings.

Registration took place outside the main auditorium. This area was big enough to allow registration without blocking entry to the room. The auditorium comfortably held the full conference. It was a tiered room which I always like as I’m small and find it hard to see over hundreds of people in a room that isn’t tiered. Each chair had a small table though most people weren’t using these. I used mine as I needed somewhere better than my lap to balance my laptop when I was typing up the talks. The only problem that I can think of was that the seats were quite close together and I don’t know how comfortable they would have been if you had been quite large.

The other rooms were smaller but seemed adequate for the number of people going to them. The DeNA room did appear very packed at one point but not uncomfortably so. Additional chairs were brought in and more space could have been made by laying the room out without tables.

The venue was close to a variety of restaurants and coffee shops providing options if you didn’t want to eat the lunch provided. The beautiful weather probably also helped. The rooms for the talks were in three separate buildings and I don’t know what it would have been like to move between these in torrential rain – though umbrellas were provided in the conference bag. But as the weather was beautiful it was possible to sit under the trees and eat lunch in the sun. And the walk between buildings was really pleasant.

The conference dinner was also held at the venue. This did cause a problem as it couldn’t hold all the attendees. I’m not sure, however, if there is anywhere suitable in Tokyo to host a dinner for 500 people. In the end 300 people got to attend based on a variety of criteria such as how far you had travelled to get to the conference. I didn’t hear anyone complain about this but then given my limited Japanese this isn’t really surprising.

I suppose I should say something about the wifi. This was difficult to use and even though I have a Macbook I wasn’t able to set this up myself. Some of this was because the instructions were in Japanese and some of it was because of the security required by the university. It also didn’t appear to support the number of people trying to use it in the main auditorium. When I finally got connected on the first morning, after both Marty and Emerson had played around with my computer, I wasn’t able to stay connected for long. I needed to be connected as I wanted to help with transcribing and eventually the problem was fixed by asking people who didn’t need to be connected to log out. I didn’t have any problems using this on the second day of the conference.

YAPC::Asia – Time to Actually Post Something

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Marty has pointed out that since I am writing something that resembles a book more than a blog post about the YAPC::Asia conference that I should split my thoughts up into multiple posts. He believes that this will have two benefits: 1) I’ll actually post what I have already written; and 2) someone might actually read it!

All Quiet

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

One of my friends pointed out that I haven’t blogged much recently. With YAPC::Asia, my house guests and not feeling well at the weekend blogging hasn’t been a priority. I have a couple of draft posts regarding YAPC::Asia that I am still working on and I really hope that I get these finished before I arrive in Portugal for the Portuguese Perl Workshop next week.

I also need to get the apartment ready for the next set of guests who arrive before I get back from Europe.

YAPC::Asia – Morning, Day 2

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I haven’t finished writing up Day 1 of YAPC::Asia. Instead of blogging I spent last night eating, watching “The IT Crowd”, and chatting about all sorts of things from tree booze to local temples.

Even though we stayed up much too late Marty and I did manage to get here on time for the start of the staff meeting this morning. I was glad about this as I hate to be late and it means that we have an assigned task for today – we are going to keep time in the DeNA room. This means that I will probably hear more talks at this YAPC than I have at the last few I have been to.

At the YAPC::Europe and YAPC::NA conferences last year I spent quite a bit of time sitting around chatting to people and not actually attending that many talks. But here in Tokyo, even if I wanted to do that, it doesn’t seem to happen quite as much. And I have heard no-one talk about a bar track (not that I want to attend one).

YAPC::Asia – Meeting Guests

Monday, May 12th, 2008

We are having a few people stay with us during YAPC::Asia. It would be lovely if their flights had similar arrival times but that’s just wishful thinking. Today I nearly ended up going to Narita airport to meet a guest who is arriving tomorrow. Tomorrow I think I will be going twice. And then because Casey’s flight was delayed and he missed a connection I will be going to Narita again on Wednesday. I’m glad that Casey is speaking on Friday as he is going to be exhausted when he gets here.

I prefer to meet guests at the airport even though it takes me nearly 2 and half hours to get there. Most people tell me that after the really long flights to get here that the thought of navigating the airport and getting a couple of trains is just too much to think about. I imagine it’s easier if you’ve done it before but this year we have had a lot of guests who have never been in Japan before or any other Asian country. On top of that there is no way anyone is going to find our apartment without us meeting them at a train station somewhere.

I’m hoping that all the travel upsets are over now and the rest of the flights come in on time.

YAPC::Asia – Coming Soon

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

I was wondering how many people are travelling to YAPC::Asia from outside Japan. There are 24 confirmed registrants from outside Japan and 497 from Japan. The biggest YAPC in the world to date seems more a Japanese conference than an Asian one as there are only a handful of people attending from any other Asian country.

The thing I wasn’t expecting to see in the statistics was how few people list themselves as members of Perl Monger groups. Only 53 confirmed attendees out of a total of 521.

This conference was sold out in just over a week. How do all these people find out about the conference? Where is all this Perl interest coming from in Japan? One thing I can’t easily tell – because lots of people didn’t fill this in – is where in Japan the attendees are coming from. Are they nearly all from Tokyo?

Hopefully next week I will get some feeling as to why there is so much interest. I may not though. This will be my third YAPC::Asia and I didn’t find out very much during the last two conferences. I have a big language barrier to overcome. At the first conference I spoke no Japanese. Last year I had some Japanese but not enough to be that useful. This year I have more but I can’t talk about technical things or anything much beyond food, shopping, weather, and other basic life things. I am looking forward to the day when I can speak enough Japanese to properly interact with people in Japan.

I also feel less comfortable than I do at either YAPC::NA or YAPC::Europe. I have heard other women say that they feel like some sort of alien when they attend a big male dominated technical conference. Well in Japan I am a card carrying alien and I do feel out of place sometimes at tech events here. Actually, I haven’t gone to some because I didn’t want to be the only Western woman in the room. This was after my experience at a Free Software event where no-one would even sit in the same row as me. YAPC::Asia was nothing like that but I can still feel out of place at times. That being said I am really looking forward to this conference.

Flying with Morons

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Flying between Vienna and Moscow today I had the misfortune to be sitting behind two annoying travellers. I first noticed them on the way to the gate. We had tried to go to the gate as soon as the sign to do this appeared on the board as we knew that we had to go through security just before the gate. When we arrived there was a really long security queue for around 40 gates. We stood in line and watched as our flight status changed from “go to gate” to “boarding” and wondered if we would actually make the flight. Most people around us were looking at watches and shuffling impatiently. But then I noticed two men making their way through the crowd. They paid no attention to anyone else and just pushed their way to the front of the queue. I remembered glancing over and thinking “why do they think they are more important than anyone else?” When we boarded the plane the same two men were sitting in the row in front of us.

I really dislike sitting behind someone who puts their chair back before the food is served. Given the cramped space on most planes it makes it very hard to eat. But these passengers put their seats back before the plane had left the stand! And the staff didn’t complain or do anything about it. Instead they brought them over a bottle of whiskey and tucked it into their seat pocket. And this wasn’t one of those miniature bottles you sometimes get on airplanes. I thought that most airlines had restrictions on the amount of alcohol that they would allow their customers to consume during a flight. But on top of the whiskey they served wine and other beverages. I wasn’t really paying that much attention but I did notice when the empty bottle of whiskey was taken away.

I managed to ignore them for most of the flight and thankfully I hadn’t planned to sleep but as soon as the announcement was made about the plane descending they became noticeable again – mainly because they were moving about the cabin and making quite a bit of noise. By this stage it was obvious that they were drunk. The announcement was made about putting chairs in an upright position and storing tray tables etc but again this was all ignored. In fact they continued to drink until the plane jerked and the glasses they weren’t holding in their hands smashed onto the floor. Not learning from this they managed to smash more glasses when the plane wheels hit the ground on landing.

The only time the staff told them off was when they started to move about the cabin as the plane was taxiing to the stand. I wasn’t surprised to see them push people out of the way to get off the plane and was really glad to see them disappear off towards immigration whilst we went towards transit. Travelling with Aeroflot has been a strange experience and their lacsidaisical attitude towards the behaviour of the passengers seems to be another quirk I have to look forward to on my flight from Moscow to Tokyo.

Bank Holiday Travel

Monday, May 5th, 2008

I’ve been staring blankly at my computer screen for a while now. Jet-lag is finally catching up with me and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I am sitting at a “laptop bar” in Schiphol airport trying to catch up with my email. But responding requires concentration, which I lack. I can’t even be bothered to walk over to the board to check on the status of my flight when I can look this up on the airport’s website…