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
Andy Lester gave a good talk regarding project management. A point he reiterated several times is that a task is either not started, in progress or complete. There are no halfway houses. It's something that I try and do myself, so you can have a better idea how a project is progressing. Any large task should be split into smaller manageable tasks, which you can easily tick off as complete. In Andy's example he uses 4 hours (virtual rather than actual) as his time limit for tasks. This is useful as you can easily say to yourself I need to have it done by lunch or before I go home. In future I think I'll try this method, and see how well it works.
After the break were a series of related CPAN/Perl talks, beginning with Ivor Williams' 'Portable Perl' talk. I was intrigued to see Ivor's talk, as on the surface it appeared it could overlap with my talk. However, it actually tied quite neatly into it, as whereas Ivor was looking at the bigger picture and largely using perlport as his primary resource, I was using examples drawn from cpan testing. Next up was Cog with 'Perl Blue Magic'. This was essentially a guide to writing distributions for CPAN, with an outline of the files to include, what you need to change, etc. Unfortunately with no timer on hand, Cog started to overrun. When I did my talk, 'Preparing For CPAN', for Birmingham.pm it took 30 minutes, and I had managed to reduced the slide count by 5 in the hope I could still get through in 20 minutes. When I saw the schedule i had 30 minutes (including changeover time) allotted, so was quite relieved. Unfortunately, Cog manage to cut heavily into my time. I stepped up to do the talk with just under 20 minutes left. Desperate not to leave anyone in the room with lunchtime calling, I rattled through the slides at quite a pace. It didn't help when halfway through Larry Wall walked in and sat down. I would have liked to have taken more time over certain sections, and explain the details a bit more fully, but hopefully there was enough interest, that any one listening could revisit the slides later and discover more. I had some very positive comments and questions afterwards, so I was happy.
A break for lunch and I shot off to make my last call home for the week.
Before lunch, due to a timing issue, Casey was unable to present his talk. As Casey is such a nice guy, and a good speaker, the organisers allowed him to present the talk before the lightning talks in front of everyone. I'm glad about this, as I lamented with Casey earlier that I missed his talk as I wanted to see Andy's talk at same time. His talk, 'Five Development Tools I Can't Live Without', was a bit of a fib, as actually there were actually 9. I like talks like this as often you get to learn about applications and modules that you might not ever hear of. For any newcomers, these kind of recommendations are invaluable. I have to thank Leon Brocard, Mark Fowler and Richard Clamp for similar presentations in the past when I started learning Perl.
Finally we were onto the lightning talks. There were some great talks in there and several I hope came out on video. Zak Zebrowski started with 'SQLite && DBD::SQLite Intro', which was really just a quick look at the DB, and Zak saying why he liked it. Nice advert for Matt though
Next up was a special presentation. With an introduction from Damian, and plenty of Star Wars references, a final keynote came from Chip Salzenberg. Chip has been well known within the Perl community for many years, and has recently taken on the mantle of Architect for the Parrot. The keynote started with some observations around Krav Maga, a combat system that appears to have several analogies to Perl. However, the keynote turned to questioning what happens when the attack comes passively, where you are completely helpless to protect yourself. The situation to which Chip was referring to has now been further advertised by way of use.perl and GeeksUnite site. From an outsiders point of view, this only emphasises how much power corporate America has within politics and the judicial system. The UK and other countries certainly are influenced by big business, but not to the extent that corporations in America can wield their power. From reading the details in this case, it boils down to a judge who doesn't understand what is involved. With corporations (HMS in this case) able to hire expensive lawyers who can take advantage of these situations, the individual is virtually helpless. Chip warns how other telecommuters are also at risk from these tactics, and it's quite worrying for employees as to what kind of protection the law will offer in the face of them. While the law may state innocent until proven guilty, in performing a witchhunt for any piece of evidence (by confiscating every item of computer hardware, whether owned by you or not), the law can effectively destroy a reputation and lives. Quite a sobering thought.
The conference ended with the Town Hall Meeting. This is essentially a free for all question time, where the floor is open to everyone. This is not something that has ever been done at a YAPC::Europe, so would be interesting to schedule to see whether it works. There were some interesting questions posed, one of which I'll deliberate further in another post in the coming week, several thank yous, and the opportunity for Jesse Vincent and DHA to present the idea of the NJAPH awards. NJAPH = Not Just Another Perl Hacker. The idea is great, and allows the Perl community to suitably recognise programming contributions. There are two categories, "Best serious use of / hacking on Perl in the past year" and "Scariest use of Perl in the past year". Nominations can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the top ten nominees in each category being announced at OSCON. The awards will then be presented at YAPC::Europe. This last piece was a welcome change. There have been some significant contributions from European Perl mongers and several who have won awards which they weren't able to collect. I look forward to hearing the nominees. The voting system will be for one vote for each category from each Perl Monger group. How that works within each group is for the group leaders to decide.
Then it was all over. I've enjoyed the conference, and met some great people who I wouldn't normally have the opportunity to meet. Put a few names to faces too. The organisation of the conference itself has given me a few ideas, should Birmingham.pm win the YAPC::Europe bid for 2006. And most of all, I've really enjoyed visiting Toronto. For years I've wanted to get here, and finally I did. Thanks to all the organisers from making this a great first YAPC::NA.
Update: It seems I missed out the first lightning talk. My apologies to Jim Martinez, who talked about Apache::Test and refactoring Web Applications. Unfortunately, while I did take some photos, I failed to write notes and completely forgot what his talk was about. Hopefully the videos all came out.