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barbie (2653)

barbie
  reversethis-{ku. ... m} {ta} {eibrab}
http://barbie.missbarbell.co.uk/

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 ;)

Links:
Memoirs of a Roadie [missbarbell.co.uk]
[pm.org]
CPAN Testers Reports [cpantesters.org]
YAPC Conference Surveys [yapc-surveys.org]
QA Hackathon [qa-hackathon.org]

Journal of barbie (2653)

Tuesday July 12, 2005
11:56 AM

Getting To Know You

[ #25658 ]
Anyone coming to a YAPC Perl Conference for the first time is often faced with a daunting task. Getting to know even a few people. In many cases they often feel intimidated even talking to well known members of the community. Not necessarily because they are shy, but because we seem to know so many people they don't, and without being careful it can appear that there are circles to which they don't belong. YAPC::Europe seems to have faired better, but is still not immune. In every community there are shining stars and several who are motivated enough to make themselves a part of the scene. But what about those that don't feel they're up to the same standard, or who are new to it all and are just trying to find their feet?

In the town hall meeting during the YAPC::NA, a similar question was asked, along with a show of hands as to who was attending a YAPC for the first time. A VERY significant number of hands went up. This I found very encouraging, but alongside getting people along to the conferences, we do need to ensure people get involved and come back again, get inspired and hopefully contact or even create their local Perl Monger group. Similar thoughts and questions get posted both on use.perl, mailing lists and other online forums, so there is obviously interest to keep the momentum going.

I don't know about YAPC::NA, but in the past YAPC::Europe used to make a big deal about a speakers dinner. While the organisers thought they were giving something back to the speakers, in the process they unintentionally created a cabal, where you were only worthy if you were a speaker. Regular attendees were left to fend for themselves. In 2004 there wasn't a speakers dinner and it was more of a free for all, mostly with everyone meeting at the pub or the hotel bar. I liked that. If Birmingham.pm get the bid for 2006 we intend to have an attendees dinner, and I believe Braga are hoping to do the same this year. Toronto.pm had the great idea of arranging both a scavenger hunt and boat cruise for all attendees at this year's YAPC::NA. The social events are a great way for everyone to mix, and have a better chance to welcome in the new perl mongers. They are the events that give everyone a chance to get to know each other, even those that are long standing in the community who have never met, and thus keep people coming back and be more involved in the community. If the newcomers feel they can approach the well known members of the community, then they have an even bigger reason for attending. I know many of us do speak to attendees and encourage them to get involved, or at the very least sign up to use.perl ;) But is there more we can do? Someone is planning to do a talk at next year's YAPC::NA to address some of these things, but I wondered whether there is something more immediate that could be done.

On reflection there are 3 areas that can be covered. The conference community, the online community and the perl mongers community. Many of us who are in one are involved in the others, but several people only get involved in one. How can we enthuse them enough to get involved in the others? What about those who happen upon one, how do we introduce them to the others? I thought of a few things, and there are probably many others .... .

  • The Conference Community
    With YAPC::Europe::2003 in Paris, Fotango donated a photographic printer to make the attendee badges. A second badge was also printed and pinned on a notice board. This made life a lot easier to identify people you wanted to meet, or people you had been speaking to, but didn't catch their name. It was a great icebreaker. With digital cameras left, right and centre these days, it should be a lot easier to have organisers photograph attendees and get the results online or printed and pinned up within the first day.

    Organise some attendee evening events. Not all attendees will be there, but if you give them the opportunity to meet people socially, then many will make the effort. Speakers like to meet new people (and get feedback from talks) as much as attendees want to meet the speakers. It doesn't have to involve beer, though judging by virtually every Perl programmer I know, it would be advisable to include it ;) Meals are good, providing there is the opportunity to mingle and allow attendees to make their own seating arrangements.

  • The Online Community
    So now you've got people talking, what next? Wherever you advertise BOFs, and there should be a noticeboard not just online wikis, also advertise the use.perl journals, the perl mongers groups and IRC channels. If people don't know about them, or more importantly how to join up, they are unlikely to use them. During a conference the IRC channels are great fun, and a useful way to judge whether you're attending the right talk! Many of the members of use.perl, who attend YAPC conferences, update their journals with their experiences. Some are prolific enough to update each day, while others wait until the conference is over. Journals can be a great resource to remember the bits you forgot to mention to your boss as to why it was a great idea to send you in the first place :)
  • The Perl Monger Community
    Lastly one big failing of all the YAPCs I've been to, is that we don't advertise events within the Perl Monger community well enough. We have keynotes from Larry about Perl, we have keynotes from Allison about Perl 6, but where are the keynotes about all the great stuff that various Perl Monger groups have been doing? If there was some forum to say what has been happening, I'm sure there will be many more groups advertising what they do. As a consequence, we're more likely to see groups being inspired by others to try similar or different things, possibly more groups becoming active and hopefully an general interest in all groups grow.

    I'm not sure of the content for a keynote, but at least something that would raise the awareness of the local groups. I would like to encourage at least a BOF session, perhaps with some group leaders to encourage potential new leaders or just a forum to offer and help and advice to existing leaders. It could also to show those who want to know what a Perl Monger is, why it's a worthwhile experience getting involved. The YAPCs are group led, so it makes sense to me to have the YAPCs promote the local groups more. If newcomers are able to get involved at a local level, it may even be motivating enough to see them become a speaker at a future YAPC. At my first OSCON there was a BOF regarding setting up a Perl Monger user group, and it was what inspired me to create Birmingham.pm.

These are only suggestions, but hopefully future organisers might think of them when they arrange future YAPCs. Birmingham.pm are certainly looking for ways to increase the interest for newcomers, and will be looking for what we can do to help them get involved beyond just attending the talks.

While CPAN might be Perl's killer app, I do believe the user community is perhaps it's greatest strength. We just need to advertise it a bit better.

As an addendum to this, there is also something else that I would like to have some established members of the community think about. Particularly those that write books. I've heard conversations and seen threads before now where its been discussed, so it's obviously an ongoing theme. Why don't we advertise the community in all the Perl books available? There are some that do, but there are many many others who don't. There are hundreds of Perl books these days, and only a few seem to advertise the community, whether conferences, perl monger groups or the online communities. If we get people to conferences then at least we have a fair chance of getting them involved, but if they don't know about us, how are we to get them to make a difference. They often don't know about us because they've never thought about being involved in a user group or thought about searching on the net. Some have never even heard of CPAN either. To us it's not hard, we found it, but to many out there, it's not something they've even considered. They do however read books. If you're an author, think about adding something to your book to advertise the community. If you technical review any Perl books, keep an eye out for references to the Perl community. If you don't find any, suggest to the author they include something with a few appropriate links.

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  • Well said!

    The scavenger hunt in Toronto was SO MUCH fun. I had not planned on going (figuring my stellar personality wouldn't appreciably aid the effort), but kinda got button-holed in the lobby by a team looking for a fourth member ... it was perhaps the most fun I had during the entire conference. I got to know 3 other guys very well. When I'd see one or more of them the next day, I felt more "connected" to the entire proceedings.

    We took lots of digital photos of Perl functions and other reserved words

  • Buffalo (YAPC::NA 2004) posted everyone's photos on a central wall and I thought it was a great idea. (Having the photo on the badge, not so great.) And while we're speaking of badges: I think the names on badges need to be MUCH LARGER than everyone prints out, mostly because it's difficult to tell who someone is from more than five feet away.
  • One suggestion I would make is have people sign up for "Group Lunches/Dinners" on the wiki beforehand. Randomize into groups of 6 for each day (or as many days as people have signed up for - i.e. I can sign up for a group lunch for 1,2, or 3 days) and presto instant socialization.

    Sign up for three lunches and you get to meet 15 people for sure as opposed to the 2 or so that my retiring personality afforded me during YAPC:NA.

    PS: I was sitting to your right during the closing sessions so belated "How yo

  • Just to comment on the badges at Paris, one problem was that the badge equipment arrived on the opening day of the conference. This meant that we had no way of preparing badges for the early arrivals (e.g. the night before). The result, for those of you who were there, was, of course, absolute chaos! Note to future organisers: make sure you have your badge equipment ready ahead of time.

    The second issue with the badges was that, while the second copy on the board was useful in concept, I felt it wasn't as

    • It might have appeared chaos to the organisers, but every one I spoke to thought the idea was great. There are certainly improvements that could be made and some lessons learned, but in general it was a really good idea and worked really well. I noted lots of people taking photos of the photo board.
    • Hey, at least they were better than the idiots that aranged the badges for YAPC::EU last year. Or didn't arange them. And forgot the printer and the software.

      Oh wait, THAT WAS ME.

      Anyway the one thing I've learned about badges is that the thing that needs to be really big - bigger than anything else - is the person's name. We all know what's the conference is called already. But I don't want to have to squint at people's chests to see what they're called.

  • Well Perl Mongers is part of the Perl Foundation so Allison's keynote should include news about Perl Mongers. If it doesn't, well that's because she always asks me for an update about a month before she is due to speak and I always end up replying to he about two hours before she is due to speak :(

    Other than those organisational failings (which I'm working on!) if there is anything else that you think that Perl Mongers groups can be doing to help newcomers to Perl conferences then I'd love to hear them.

    In f
    • Personally I would rather see it as a separate keynote on it's own. If only to highlight the involvement of the Perl Mongers. I would like to see the groups themselves shout up and say what they've been up to, so that a speaker (whether that's you, Allison, or anyone else) simply compiles them into a summary for the past year.

      I wouldn't say there are any organisational failings, it's just we (group leaders) don't advertise what we do beyond our own locale, and it would be nice to hear how the groups are g

  • I think there should be an article about how to organize a perl conference which including all these great suggestions (just like the article about how to creat a perl monger group on pm.org).
    what's good about the previous confs, what's bad, learn from each one and the perl conference will only get better!

    the YAPC::NA::2005 has a wiki page about suggestion after the conference. http://wiki.yapctoronto.org/index.cgi?YAPCFeedback [yapctoronto.org]
    someone mentioned that there should be a bulletin board for everyone to post upda