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Monday June 30, 2008
11:33 PM

European Perl Tour: Portugal

[ #36825 ]

Now that YAPC::NA is over, I can start getting things off my to-do list. This is the first in a series of posts detailing my Perl tour of Europe.

I had never been to Portugal (not counting a stop-over in the Azores to refuel a plane), so I was excited to be able to go to a Perl workshop there. Perl is great, but visiting new places and meeting new people is even better. Portugal was my last stop in Europe, right after Barcelona (which will be a different post), so I'm really starting at the end of the Tour.

A couple of years ago, José Castro and I had this idea for a European Perl Tour to get interesting people to travel throughout Europe visiting Perl Mongers groups. He'll tell you it was my idea, but I think it was his. Okay, let's just call it even and share credit. You have to watch out for José; he has a plan to rule the world, so he never wants to take credit for anything lest people should get wise to his path to Supreme Leader.

To pay my way, I convinced the Portuguese Perl Workshop people to set up a master class for me. We'd gave two days of Intermediate Perl training for €200 with a student price of €100. It was well attended for a class and I was able to cover all of my costs. Alberto and José made it a bit worse by insisting on paying for everything for me, including the hotel and most of the meals. I couldn't even buy my own ticket to see Iron Man. Everything I need in Portugal was taken care of by somebody, and there are certainly too many people to thank all at once.

I like that I can do some work to pay my way to these things. I like going to the Perl events, but now that there are so many of them it seems like I could spend a quarter of the year at these things. That's a lot of time off not making any money. Most people have real jobs that continue to pay them no matter what they are doing, but for a small business owner like me, I need to work to get money.

The workshop itself was very nice. I finally got to meet a lot of people I'd only seen online, including Marty and Karen Pauley (organizer of YAPC::EU and current TPF Steering Committee chairperson); Yuval "nothingmuch" Kogman, who told me about the latest Moose stuff and his crazy trips to the weirdest places on the planet; Alberto, who's been writing for The Perl Review for a long time never having met me; and several other people.

I'm new to the keynote role, and for something where I can't fall back to the natural story of technical facts, I'm a bit lost. José suggested "Why I am Passionate About Perl", and liking an assignment over having to choose, I went with it. I think I'm pretty dull talking about myself though, and it's not surprising or enlightening that I like Perl. No matter, I just asked a bunch of people why they were passionate about Perl and told their stories instead. For each person, I put their picture on the screen, so I had very simple slides. I recorded the talk so you can listen to the audio and you can also look at the slides. I also set up a PtPW group on Slideshare.

Two nice things came out of this workshop. There was actually a workshop, and lightning talks got back to their roots. I want to see more of these at other events too (and YAPC::NA in Chicago had both of them, and notice that José was there as well).

José led a workshop on writing modules for CPAN. He started with "José's Guide To Creating Perl Modules", then people formed into groups to apply what they heard. Since I was there, I was able to approve new PAUSE accounts on the spot, and since José would probably do this again, I nominated him as a new PAUSE admin so he could approve new accounts himself. If I'm at another conference, I'd like to take part in a similar workshop to help people go from never having contributed to CPAN to uploading a development version of a bare-bones module in under an hour. Once people see how easy it is, they're probably going to try it again. Once they've met a PAUSE admin, I hope they are more likely to ask for help, too. And, now you can ask José for help, even though you should always write to so any of the admins can help you.

José also added "Improvised Lightning Talks" to the schedule. I've grown a bit weary of Lightning Talks since they are really just 5 minute overly-produced presentations complete with slides, and in most cases a schedule decided days ahead of time. I'd like to see more people just get up with no slides and talk about what they are doing, how they solved some problem, how Perl saved their lives, or whatever. For this workshop though, José went one step further. He chose the topics and assigned them to the speaker 60 seconds before they would start talking. He'll blame either me or Marty for the idea, but it was really hatched around dinner by everyone there. I started off with "Why I Hate XML" and I'm glad I was first; I don't think I could have followed Marty's shenanigans.

After the workshop I took the train down to Lisbon to spend one day there before I flew back the States. That day Portugal won against Turkey in the Euro2008 match, so there was no chance of any sleep. Once the Fado music across the street stopped, it was just car horns and screaming football fans making sure that the two people in Lisbon who didn't watch the match knew that Portugal won.

All and all a good trip, and I'm looking forward to going back to Portugal someday. I'd like to have a longer trip, so maybe they'll be able to put on a bigger conference or something. :)

Next installment: Barcelona.

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