YAPC::EU is taking place near the end of August in Sofia. I keep finding myself looking at flights so obviously there is a part that would like to attend the conference. I missed last year’s YAPC::EU because it was awkward and expensive to get to and it looks like the same is true this year. I am aware that since I live in Japan I’m not the target attendee for this conference but I will keep hoping that it moves to a European hub at some point in the future. It also ends four days before YAPC::Asia, so the timing is not great for me.
I miss the European Perl Mongers. Mind you at the minute there are only 52 committed attendees for the conference and the Perl Mongers group with the most committed users is Houston.pm. I imagine that the number of attendees will double once the speakers are announced at the start of August, but it will be interesting if the country with the highest representation at the conference turns out to be America and not one in Europe.. . .
When I’m travelling I’m often asked about life in Japan and one of things that surprises people most is the cost of fruit. Not all fruit in Japan is incredibly expensive but fruit given as a gift or fruit that’s just come into season is. I had told people in Orlando that I expected pears to arrive in the stores soon and that they would probably be around $5 each but the first pears of the season are just over $7 each this year.
My local department store also had a gift fruit section that contains mangoes that cost around $40 each. As you can imagine I won’t be buying pears or mangoes any time soon.
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Yesterday afternoon I got to experience one of the more annoying things about Japan – rules. I have sat many exams but I have never sat exams with as many rules as the ones run by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. The three papers lasted 2 hours and 5 minutes in total and another hour was spent listening to rules. No-one could have that many new rules – this was much worse. It was the same 15 minutes of rules read out 4 times during the afternoon. The rules were exciting things like - do not speak during the exam, if your phone rings you will be given a red card, if an alarm goes off on your watch you will be given a red card, if you do not put your pencil down when instructed you will be given a yellow card, you can place an eraser on your desk but it must be taken out of its box, if you blah blah blah… A yellow card was a warning, two yellows equaled a red, and being given a red card meant you had to leave the test centre immediately and that your paper would not be marked. I had to stop myself from laughing at the way they held up the card and paused each time they read out a rule that invoked the use of one.
The most confusing rule involved an envelope that was on each desk. You had to place your mobile phone inside the envelope. I thought this meant that they were going to collect them but they just wanted it placed in an envelope and put on the empty desk beside the one you were sitting at. At first I think many people were just going to ignore the rule and leave their phones in their bag but if you were caught doing this you would be given a red card and would have to leave the test centre immediately.
We only had one rule breaker. There was no clock in the room so I think that people were surprised by the “pencils down” command when it was given at the end of the first paper. One student continued to write, but he was given a yellow card for doing this. I was pleased that the rules were upheld. I would have been so annoyed if we were allowed to break them after having to listen to them so often.
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We’ve just spent a long weekend in Chicago. We stayed on the Magnificent Mile, which is a rather grand name for a shopping street, but it does mean that we were central and could easily explore on foot. We did more shopping than I expected but I also got to walk round the parks. We had a small kitchen in our apartment, but we did eat out quite a bit. I do enjoy the food in America but we are still trying to adjust to American sized food portions. For breakfast we ate at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. Making the most of our jetlag we were there to queue for it opening at 6:30am. I managed to eat around half of what I was given, which was probably still too much food. I have asked why food portions are so big but I get answers like “we pride ourselves in the size of our portions” which doesn’t make much sense to me. Why not put quality over quantity?
On Saturday night we went to see Eddie Izzard! It was such an unexpected treat. We walked by the Chicago Theatre on the way back to our hotel on Saturday afternoon and saw the adverts for the show. We weren’t expecting to be able to get tickets but there were a few left and we ended up with good seats just a few rows back from the stage. I was a little worried when giants turned up to sit in front of us but we could still see clearly. The theatre was huge and wonderfully old fashioned but the seats were small and crushed together. This didn’t cause me a problem but the people around me were all super-sized. They must put something in the water here to make them grow. The men in the row in front of me were all more than a foot taller than me.
Eddie Izzard was amazing on stage. He looked fanstastic. His suit was beautiful and I loved the red nail polish he was wearing. He was tired after flying in from the D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations in France, but he owned the stage. He has such presence and his rambling speaking style was incredibly amusing and had Marty wiping tears of laughter from his face many times during the two hour performance.
We’ve had a fantastic time I do like the city but I can’t imagine living here. During the weekend there were 4 people killed in shootings and another 27 people injured. The streets of the city were also filled with homeless people. I find the contrasts in how different sections of the community live hard to reconcile.. . .
YAPC::NA, the largest American Perl conference, is taking place in Orlando from June 23rd to the 25th. I’m going to be speaking on Working with Volunteers, and since the YAPC::NA schedule is now up I am thrilled to discover that I’ll be speaking on the first day. The schedule is not complete yet. I’ve been looking at it regularly, waiting for the addition of the keynote that is going to be given by Charlie Stross, which I’m really looking forward to hearing. It’s not listed yet but I have seen both the conference organizers and @cstross tweet about it, so I’m fairly sure it’s going ahead.
I’m pleased to see that there will be a VIP Reception on the Monday evening. This event was created to welcome first and second time attendees to the conference and create a way for them to be introduced to other people. After recently being at a conference where I didn’t really know anyone I know how difficult it can be to meet and speak to other attendees. And I’m not the only one. Ricardo, the Perl 5 Pumpking, wrote the following in a recent post about attending a conference where he knew only one person:
The most difficult part of the conference, for me, was socializing. Out of the hundred-odd attendees, I knew one — Mark — who was only there on the second day. I found it difficult to strike up conversations with a bunch of complete strangers, although I did try. In fact, I had a number of nice conversations, but it was difficult and uncomfortable to get started. I’m not sure whether there’s anything to be done about that, but it didn’t help that it seemed like half of the conference attendees knew each other already.
This experience really made me think again about YAPC and other conferences that I attend where I already know half the attendees and, even if I don’t, am in a privileged position by virtue of my position within the community. Remember, fellow conference veterans: go talk to the new people and make them feel welcome. It’s important.
I’m leaving for America soon and I need to decide what I’m taking with me. I’m tempted to bring a board game, for the YAPC::NA Game Night, but I’m not sure that I have room in my suitcase. I also need to finish my talk as I really should take that with me. I’ve been working on it today, but haven’t quite gotten to where I feel comfortable with it. I still have time, and thankfully, unlike the last conference I attended, I’m not expected to hand in my slides in advance.
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There are training courses taking place before and after YAPC::NA in Orlando that require a separate registration. For the first time the conference organizers have decided to use Crowdtilt to help them decide which training course should run. The possible course are:
The introductory training courses will take place on the Saturday and Sunday before the conference and the advanced training will take place on the Thursday and Friday after.. . .
I spoke at LinuxCon last week on “Understanding Volunteers”. As always I felt terrible before I was speaking and oddly I still felt rather glum after I finished. It was difficult speaking in front of a mostly Japanese audience. I was incredibly worried that no-one would understand anything I was saying and very aware of cultural differences. Like most of the talks I saw I ended up finishing early which left extra time for questions. I was asked two questions but one of those was “what questions do you get asked at other conferences?”.
I ended up walking an extra 5,000 steps that day though, just in pacing around in circles before I had to talk.
I did learn some things by giving the talk. I now have a much better idea of how the research I have read on the motivations of people who work in Open Source can be applied to the community. And I got to have a couple of conversations regarding the concept that Japanese people are not good at trusting strangers and that they don’t necessarily want to work in an open environment. (These were not my ideas, but the ideas of some people doing post-graduate research on this area.). . .
Last weekend we took a day trip to Jigokudani Yaen Koen to see the troop of wild Japanese macaques that live there. We had a fantastic day.. . .
I was really surprised that there were gluten-free bento boxes at LinuxCon. I had selected this option when registering but getting gluten-free food in Japan can be difficult. The bento box I received on the first day was incredibly good, good enough that I’ve looked up the company it came from so I can buy from them in the future. There was a problem with box labels on the second day but the conference organisers went out of their way to fix that for me. And on the third day one of the conference staff, when they couldn’t find me in the lunch room, brought my lunch to me as I was sitting outside the room I was going to speak in. A conference lunch that made me want to say “wow”.. . .
I spent the past three days at LinuxCon in Tokyo. It’s been a while since I attended a non-Perl conference and this was the first LinuxCon I have attended. It was different than I was expecting. To begin with it had fewer attendees. I am always surprised by how big tech events can be in Japan. The last Perl conference I attended, YAPC::Asia, had over 1000 attendees. This conference looked as if it had less than 500 people and I had expected it to be much bigger, as I thought that Linux was very popular in Japan, given the large sponsorship it has from companies such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC.
The attendees were mostly male, like most conferences I attend, but there were a lot of people in formal business attire and it felt more like the commercial conferences I have attended than the grass-roots ones. For example the conference badges listed the companies that people belonged to and not their nicknames or IRC handles. I attended a number of community talks and I was surprised by how few members of the audience actually contributed to an Open Source project. The community talks were also not well attended, but then there were six tracks so it is possible that nothing other than the keynotes was well attended.
There was no swag bags for attendees, but I am rarely keen on those. The t-shirts that were given out were the usual ones designed for men, though there had been an option for women’s t-shirts when signing up, and I was confused by the size. Usually men’s t-shirts in Asia fit me better than US ones but it turned out that these t-shirts are US sizes. It did come in handy as a blanket during the opening keynotes as the air conditioning made the room much too cold and made me wish that I had thought to wear a jacket.
The conference was mainly in English and I was expecting it to be either bilingual or mostly in Japanese. I had attempted to translate my slides into Japanese, so these could be in Japanese and English, but I didn’t see any other slides like that. The Japanese speakers I saw were speaking in English and every question I heard asked was also in English. The keynotes did have simultaneous translation though, which I thought was a good thing. I’m still confused by the lack of Japanese at the conference as the majority of the attendees were local.
I found it hard attending a conference where I knew so few people. Marty was there with some people from his work, but apart from that there was only one other person that I knew. I don’t like large groups of people so found it really hard to speak to anyone. I did speak to a number of the speakers after their talks, but apart from that I didn’t speak to many people. I didn’t attend any of the evening events. I didn’t want to attend the speakers and sponsors event on my own and by the end of the conference I was too drained to attend the main evening event for all attendees.
I am glad that I went, as I did get to learn some interesting things about community and Japanese culture, and I got to meet some other people who are involved in community leadership.. . .