Leader of Birmingham.pm [pm.org] and a CPAN author [cpan.org]. Co-organised YAPC::Europe in 2006 and the 2009 QA Hackathon, responsible for the YAPC Conference Surveys [yapc-surveys.org] and the QA Hackathon [qa-hackathon.org] websites. Also the current caretaker for the CPAN Testers websites and data stores.
If you really want to find out more, buy me a Guinness
Following the introductory speech, Allison Randal took to the stage for the keynote speech, 'State Of The Carrot'. I liked the idea of the title and all, but I was expecting a bit more from the speech than a roll call of fixes in Perl, Parrot and PONIE. I was hoping to be inspired by the cool stories from behind the scenes, or something akin to Larry's State Of The Onion speech. Instead for me it fell a bit flat. Even though the carrot jokes were intentionally bad, it didn't add anything to content of the talk. A break for coffee (and tea) followed, incorporating a mad rush for wi-fi, hub and power points.
It wasn't until later that I realised I knew the guy sitting looking after the network hub. Jason Clifford, who I had met briefly at The AFFS conference earlier this year, had impressed me by giving away all his profits from his company, UK Free Software Network, to the AFFS to promote Free Software projects in the UK. A very commendable fellow.
We were then onto the first run of regular talks before lunch. Unfortunately the Belfast guys had been very let down by the number of speakers. Several people who had previously said they were coming, some even getting as far as submitting talks, failed to even get back to the organisers to say the couldn't make it. Although some had very good reasons, far too many dropped out. However, that's not to say we didn't have some very good talks, it just meant we finished a little earlier each day. It was noted that several notable US speakers were missing, especially after a few had made noises to the effect that they were attending. I don't know their reasons for not attending, but it did feel they let the side down. Nevertheless we were treated to some great talks.
Staying in the main hall, Jos Boumans presented a talk called 'POE to the Rescue'. If you were at Paris last year, you will have seen a version of this talk. Everyone who saw it had raved about it afterwards, so I was determined to see it this time around. The talk is largely about the online game Utopia, and how Jos and his friends managed to infiltrate and virtually take over the game. It has several hilarious moments, but at the core of the talk are some very cool Perl scripts. Jos used POE in several ways, and managed to present a very good example of how you can use POE. If he ever does this again, go see it, it's great fun and you learn something too.
WWW Smackdown was up next, which featured a series of talks relating to the web. I got to watch 2 of the talks, before venturing off to another room. BooK presented ACT (A Conference Toolkit), which was basically the software Paris.pm used to implement their site for YAPC::Europe::2003. It had some interesting aspects, although for Birmingham.pm we already have a website ready to go now
Next up was Maypole by Simon Cozens. Sitting from the side I was a little confused by why Simon was only using the bottom two thirds of his slides, while the top third was blank. On moving closer I discover he'd actually thought it a good idea to use *yellow* titles on a *white* background. It was hard enough to read for regular sighted people, I hate to think how hard it was for anyone who was colour-blind. I may be missing something, but what is wrong with black text on a white background (or at least some other high contrast colours)?
While Maypole has certainly been getting considerable amounts of press coverage, I really didn't feel it was anything to get too excited about. Sure if you have a simple requirement on your data, and are not bothered about authentication, then Maypole looks to be a viable tool for the job. However, if you need any level of security or slightly different requirements on the data presentation, it starts to look a lot like hard work. I certainly didn't feel like I was in any position to start using it after the talk, but then I tend to have a lot more demands on my data, the presentation of said data, and the authorisation & authentication required for said data in most of my applications. However, it was good to see who it works in practice.
After the coffee break I headed for the Moveable Type room, where Hendrik Van Belleghem was presenting a talk on Image Manipulation with Perl and C. This was interesting for me in that I'm currently overseeing the image filtering project within MessageLabs. However, seeing as the talk was only 20 minutes long, it meant Hendrik could only scratched the surface. This is one talk that would have greatly benefitted from a longer slot. Unfortunately I didn't learn anything new here, and much of what was presented was featured in a Birmingham.pm technical talk by Paul Whitehead. However, the timings Hendrik gave were interesting.
Last talk of the day for me, and several other MessageLabs guys, was Building A Mail Server With Apache And mod_perl by Mock. Matt Sergeant had already proved how qpsmtd could act as a web server, so a little of thunder was taken out of the talk. But this didn't deter Mock, who had purely done it in the first place to prove it could be done. It was still a good talk and has served to see Apache::TieBucketBrigade hit CPAN
Back to the hotel to dump stuff, and plan for the night ahead. While waiting in the lobby, Geoff Avery introduced several of us to Fluxx. He started a phenonmemon that was to last throughout the conference. After only a short while, a significant number of Birmingham.pm and Paris.pm, along with a few others were totally engrossed in the game. So engrossed that we agreed to move to the hotel restaurant and carry on playing while we ordered dinner