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Archive for the 'YAPC' Category

YAPC::Europe – Lunch Time

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I have noticed that YAPCs are starting to provide more food for the attendees.  I am surprised by how much they are able to do considering the low cost of attending the conference.  The lunch bag contained a bottle of water, salad, two rolls and a small yogurt based dessert.  It was very nice and it was good to not have to go outside to try to find somewhere to eat around the venue.

Visiting the Dentist

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Today I made my first visit to a dentist in Japan.  I have had a lot of pain in an erupting wisdom tooth since the middle of last week.  This happened to the same tooth a couple of years ago.  I went to see a dentist in Northern Ireland and at that time I was told the tooth was fine and that it was normal for this to cause a lot of pain.

This morning I woke at around 5.30am with a fever and decided that I would need to go and see someone about the tooth.  I had no idea where to go so I did a quick search for “English speaking dentists in Tokyo”.  Luckily for me one of the top results was a surgery in the building Marty works in.  Going to the dentist can be quite a traumatic experience.  I have never really understand what dentists do to make people feel so uncomfortable.  Today I didn’t feel nervous but that was mainly because the fever made me feel sick and I was in quite a lot of pain – I didn’t really think anyone could make me feel worse.

I turned up without an appointment just after the surgery opened.  I was told that I would have to wait for an hour.  I was thrilled with this.  When I had the problems in Northern Ireland I found it really hard to get an appointment at the dentist.  Even though it was considered an emergency, because of the pain, I still had to wait for two days until a dentist could fit me in in their lunch break.

I was impressed with the surgery.  It was really clean and peaceful.  The dentist made me feel comfortable and took time to explain everything that was going to happen.  It seemed more efficient than any dentist I have been to in Northern Ireland.  The dentist who analysed my x-ray and looked at the tooth didn’t do any of the mundane things like taking the x-ray or cleaning my gums.  He had a dental technician to do this for him.

Although the visit went well it turns out that I have a problem with my tooth.  The dentist wanted to schedule surgery to remove it at the start of next week but I will be in Europe as I am going to YAPC::Europe.  It’s haven’t felt well in days and it’s possible that I am going to feel awful throughout my whole European trip but I don’t want to cancel.

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.

Speaking at YAPC::NA 2008

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

The schedule for YAPC::NA has been announced. I already knew that my talk had been accepted but I really wasn’t expecting to be the first speaker of the conference. I’m already feeling nervous but at least speaking at the start allows me to relax for the rest of it.

Nothing To Talk About

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

The deadline for talk submissions for YAPC::Asia is tomorrow. I won’t be submitting a talk. Usually at a YAPC I talk about communication or management – things I don’t have any experience of in an Asian context. I did think that Marty would submit a talk but he doesn’t use Perl much anymore and doesn’t think he has anything to talk about.

I am considering not speaking at any conference this year. Part of me loves to speak but the part that hates it is stronger tonight.

Lightning Talks: Would I be brave enough to give one?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

I always thought that Perl conferences had lightning talks to encourage new speakers. I had a look at the description that MJD wrote when he was organising them and he mentions how they are a good place to start speaking. Geoff, who now runs most of them, also states that they are a “great choice for your first speaking experience”. But I’m not convinced that is true anymore.

In Vienna and Houston last year the lightning talks were held in the main hall in front of the whole conference. The only other speakers who were put under this much pressure were the keynote speakers – who were all experienced. Can you imagine having to give your first ever talk in a large room in front of 300 or so people?

Of course many of the speakers who give lightning talks are very experienced. How would you feel if you were giving your first talk ever and had to speak after 8 other people who had obviously been speaking for years and on top of that were witty, original and funny? Lightning talks have become stand-up comedy. The ones people rave about tend to be the ones that were most entertaining. I imagine that for most people it would be easier to speak for 20 minutes on something technical rather than try to give a five minute talk that is entertaining enough to keep the audience laughing with them throughout it.

I asked Marty recently if he would give a lightning talk at a conference and he said, “I have nothing funny to say”. And I think the expectation is now that lightning talks are there not to teach you something but to entertain you. There was a really good non-funny lightning talk at YAPC::NA last year but it seemed to be out of place. When Paul started talking about his elderly parents I wanted to laugh because that’s all I had been doing for the rest of the talks. It is hard to change pace and recognise that the person on the stage isn’t telling a joke but sharing a technical solution to a serious personal problem.

The lightning talks are not scheduled against anything else at YAPC conferences because so many people want to go to them. We all want to be entertained and I think we should keep these but I would like to see an appropriate forum for inexperienced speakers to talk about technical things.

Pittsburgh Perl Workshop

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I meant to write up the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop when I was there in October but didn’t get round to it. Mint has been writing about it lately, which reminded me that I hadn’t.

(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.)

Pittsburgh isn’t exactly close to Tokyo but it was a good opportunity to catch up with some friends.

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.

Travel in 2008

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I should really start to work on my travel plans for 2008. There are a number of conferences that I hope to attend as well as some family events I want to go to. At the minute I am planning on attending the following:

Making Me Smile

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

After a conference I like to read blog reactions. I haven’t come across anything about my actual talk but I did come across a comment about myself. And I must admit that being called “utterly lovely” has made my week if not my month.

YAPC::Europe 2007 – Making Announcements

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

This year, for the first time since Belfast, I had to be at a YAPC conference for the opening. I couldn’t afford to be a late as I had an announcement to make just after it began. I was surprised by how stressful I found this and if I have to do it again I am going to find the conference venue the evening before the event. I was also shocked that it was just as stressful to make a short announcement as it is to give a talk or tutorial. I always feel fine once I start speaking – which is just as well or I would never agree to speak in public again.

I was announcing, on behalf of the YEF Venue Committee, that next year’s conference will be in Copenhagen.