Khaos

Conference Swag: YAPC::Asia

Monday, October 5th, 2009

For the past few years I have attended a YAPC in North America, Europe, and Asia.  All three conferences are very enjoyable but also very different.  YAPC::Asia has been held in Tokyo for the past few years.  The Japanese culture obviously impacts the conference but I can’t always find ways to express these differences.  This year they have helped me out by adding a couple of items to the conference bag that I can’t imagine being given in America or Europe.

The first is a plastic bag that I assume is an advert for one of the sponsors.  Other conferences have given attendees plastic bags and advertising material but the image on this bag is typically Japanese.

Advertising Plastic Bag

Advertising Plastic Bag

The second item was a fan.  Paper fans are very common in Japan and I have been given one at a number of different events.  The image on this fan is a cartoon of two Japanese authors, one of these is Yukihiro Matsumoto, sitting in a Japanese bath with their laptops.

Japanese Fan

Japanese Fan

I think the image is strange but not as strange as being given a PHP and Ruby advert at a Perl conference.

YAPC Speaker Feedback: Remote Controlled Volunteers

Monday, September 28th, 2009

This year I gave a talk called “Remote Controlled Volunteers” at both YAPC::EU and YAPC::NA.  Today I received official feedback from  YAPC::EU and two weeks ago I got the feedback from YAPC::NA.  This is the first time I have ever received formal feedback for speaking at a conference and I’m impressed that a volunteer is willing to put in this much effort for the speakers.

I was curious to see how similar the feedback for both conferences would be.  As I suspected the talk was better at the second conference.  (My average score out of 10 for overall presentation went from 8.80 to 9.23).  I didn’t do an exact count of the number of people at my talks but I think in both cases around 10% of the attendees have provided feedback.  This means that the results aren’t statistically significant.  They are interesting though and the written comments provide useful information on how to improve the talk.  Some of the comments also amused me, my favourite being:

speaker was confident and had no strange odors; laid bare the
problems with being a jerk in a volunteer community, which is
something people often need reminding of

I would love to receive the feedback sooner.  I tend to use a talk for one particular conference season.  This year that meant I was giving the talk at both YAPC::NA and YAPC::EUYAPC::NA took place on the 22nd – 24th June.  The surveys for YAPC::NA were kept open for responses until the 14th August by which stage YAPC::EU, which took place at the start of August, was already over.  I understand that people need to be given enough time to respond but I can’t imagine that much speaker feedback is given at that late stage.  I could be wrong but I know I would find it difficult to answer a survey on a talk more than a month after I had heard it.

Now that I have seen the feedback I’m going to make more of an effort to fill in speaker evaluation forms at next year’s YAPCs.  One other quick point about feedback.  After my talk in YAPC::NA, Miyagawa made a comment to me about my presentation materials.  He was very polite but basically he was telling me that I could do much better.  So it’s thanks to him and a crashed hard-drive (I lost the final version of the presentation) that my average score out of 10 for presentation materials went from 8.70 to 9.0!

Preparing for YAPC::Asia 2009

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I realised this afternoon that this time next week YAPC::Asia will be under way.   Last year I was much more aware of the conference as I volunteered to help out.  This year I’m not planning to do anything other than attend.  The spare room is ready for the guests we know about and I do have another futon or so just in case some of the other foreign visitors decide they want to stay with us.  (With only a week to go it’s possible to imagine that everyone has sorted out things like accommodation but I know from experience that this isn’t always the case in the Perl community.)

Last year YAPC::Asia had more attendees than any other dedicated Perl conference.  With 524 people it was the biggest YAPC ever.  This year the numbers appear to be down (378 the last time I checked) but this may simply be because the other 100 or so who have registered their interest haven’t gotten round to paying for their tickets yet.

As always I’m looking forward to catching up with friends more than attending the actual talks.  But, since the hallway / bar track might be in Japanese, I’ll probably attend more technical talks at this conference than the number I attended at YAPC::EU and YAPC::NA combined.

Perl Iron Man

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I have finally gotten round to signing up to the Perl Iron Man blogging challenge.  I’m hoping that this will motivate me to write more about my involvement in the Perl community.  Someone, probably Schwern, pointed out that since I joined The Perl Foundation that I don’t really write about Perl anymore.  This isn’t a deliberate choice it’s just that lots of my spare time now goes into working on a variety of Perl projects instead of blogging about them.

I have lots of draft posts about the conferences I have attended this year.  It would be good to have these finished before I attend YAPC::Asia in September.

Japan Perl Association

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

The Japan Perl Association (JPA) launched today.  This is the latest organization created to promote and support the use of the Perl programming language.

There is no doubt that there is a thriving Perl community in Japan.  YAPC::Asia has been held in Tokyo for the past few years and it has become the largest Perl conference in the world.  It’s actually difficult to get a ticket to attend as it usually sells out in under two weeks.  I believe that the success of this conference is one of the driving factors behind creating JPA.

The local Perl Mongers groups are also very popular.  When Shibuya.pm holds a technical meeting they expect to have more than 100 attendees.  This contrasts with the technical meeting I attended in Sydney that had 10 people.

There are other organizations that promote Perl, The Perl Foundation (TPF), YAPC Europe Foundation (YEF), Enlighted Perl Organisation (EPO), to name a few.  Since I am involved with TPF and YEF I will be interested in seeing how JPA  progresses and what it does differently than the other organisations.

According to Nob Seki’s twitter stream from the press conference the main activities of the organization will be:

  1. documentation,
  2. education,
  3. YAPC::Asia Tokyo and
  4. endorsement for next generation Perl technologies.

I’m not sure exactly what some of that will entail but their first educational event will take place on the 21st April.  This will feature Jay Shirley who will be speaking on Better Perl Practices (giving advice on the latest development methods) and Catalyst Guts.

Perl Meeting Places

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Last Wednesday I spoke at a Sydney.pm meeting.  This was the first time I have ever been to a Perl Mongers meeting on my own where I didn’t know anyone.  If I hadn’t been speaking I wonder if I would have managed to do this?

I found it surprisingly difficult to go into a bar by myself to look for a group of men I didn’t know.  I arrived on time but I couldn’t see any other people in the bar who looked like Perl Mongers.  So I sat in the downstairs bar and waited.  I did recognise the Perl Mongers when they arrived, they were talking quite loudly about Perl and CPAN, but it took me a while to go over and introduce myself.

It made me wonder if casually meeting up in a bar to take people to an unknown venue is the best thing.  I would have found it much easier to meet at a venue that was specific for the event.  Belfast.pm held a few talks at the Customer Events room in the BT Tower.  When you turned up there you knew it was for the meeting and that the people in the room were there for the same reason as you.  A bar can be a big place – this one had two floors – and for someone like me who never goes to bars on her own it felt awkward.

I realise that sometimes Perl Mongers groups have little choice on where to meet.  If it has to be a public place, like a bar, here as some things I think you could do to help newcomers:

1. Arrange to have a least one regular member there on time.

I arrived on time.  Timekeeping is a cultural thing.  I live in Japan where everyone arrives on time.  I had no idea what was normal in Sydney so I arrived at the time I was given.

2. Have a sign-up list for the event

Sydney.pm had a list on their wiki of people who were planning to attend.  This gave me an idea of the size of group I was trying to find.

3. Have pictures of regular members of the group on the website so that newcomers know who to look out for.

I did try to find pictures of the members of Sydney.pm in advance in the hope that I would recognise them in the bar.  The person I ended up recognising was Paul Fenwick – the other guest speaker – as I had read up on him before I attended.

4. Have something distinctive for newcomers to look out for.

The leader of Sydney.pm brought a fluffy camel.  He didn’t arrive first but if I hadn’t already spotted the group I would have noticed the guy with the camel walk through the door.

5. Be as specific as you can about where you will be meeting.

I would have felt more comfortable if I had known in advance that the bar had two floors and that we would be meeting in the downstairs bar.  It would have been even better if I had known to look out for Stephen (with a link to his picture) who would be sitting near the door with a fluffly camel.

Sydney Perl Mongers

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

On the 25th March I will be giving a short talk about The Perl Foundation (TPF) at Sydney.pm.  This will be my first visit to Australia and my first time speaking about TPF.

Perl Needs Students

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I’ve been reading about Google’s Summer of Code.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects.

The students who successfully complete the program will receive $4500 but the experience of taking part can be worth so much more than that.

When I was at university I applied for a summer scholarship in order to get £1000 (about $1400) for 10 weeks work.  I still remember how nervous I was applying.  There were only 10 places and the university had hundreds of eligible students.  My senior lecturer sponsored me to continue working on my final year dissertation project.  This was an application for the Apple Mac written in HyperTalk that showed connecting pathways in metabolic systems.

I got the place, finished the project, and decided against a career in biochemistry.  I spent the next four years working full-time and studying at night and just before I completed my  Masters I finally got the job I wanted – Junior Analyst Programmer.  It all seems like such a long time ago but I know that getting that scholarship made me realise that I had a chance at succeeding in computing.

One of the computing related things I do now is work for The Perl Foundation (TPF). TPF is hoping to take part in GSoC this year and  Jonathan Leto has posted a request on his blog asking the world-wide Perl Monger groups to encourage students to take part.

It’s impossible to know how many students use Perl.  But there is no doubt that we want to encourage students to both use and help develop the language.

Non-Perl Conferences

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

For the past few years all the technical conferences I have attended have been Perl related.  This year I decided that I should try to get to some non-Perl conferences.  So far I have registered for QCon Tokyo and the Open Source Developers Conference in Taiwan.

I still haven’t got used to the fact that I live in Asia and that I should be paying more attention to what’s on in my local area.  There are some disadvantages, as I won’t be able to understand all talks, but I will understand enough of them to make it worthwhile going.

I’m looking forward to hearing Martin Fowler speak at QCon and to attending Paul Bakaus’ jQuery tutorial at OSDC.tw.

Travel Planning

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

It’s nearly 2009 and I’m starting to plan my conference travel.  I need to find a balance between conferences I want to go to and realistic amounts of travel.  I am tempted to attend Frozen Perl at the start of February.  I’ve read the schedule, looked at hotels, the city, and even checked the price of flights.  But I will be travelling in January and the conference is much too close to my return to Tokyo.  It would exhaust me to go.

I really like living in Japan but it’s so far away from most of the conferences I want to attend.  I have actually fallen asleep at conferences because I was suffering from jet-lag.  I didn’t expect it to be so difficult for me to travel when I moved here but I am going to try to be realistic in my future travel plans.

I will attend YAPC::NA and YAPC::Europe.  I will probably attend YAPC::Asia but at the minute I’m not sure when it will be or if it will be in Tokyo this year.