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barbie (2653)

  {barbie} {at} {}

Leader of [] and a CPAN author []. Co-organised YAPC::Europe in 2006 and the 2009 QA Hackathon, responsible for the YAPC Conference Surveys [] and the QA Hackathon [] 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 ;)

Memoirs of a Roadie []
CPAN Testers Reports []
YAPC Conference Surveys []
QA Hackathon []

Journal of barbie (2653)

Monday September 28, 2009
07:22 AM

YAPC::Europe 2009 Survey - Results Now Online

At the beginning of August 2009, the 10th Annual YAPC::Europe took place. In the following weeks attendees were asked to complete surveys for the talks, tutorials and the conference as a whole. I'm pleased to announce that the results of the YAPC Conference Survey for the YAPC::Europe 2009 event are now available online.

The additional comments and suggestions given via the feedback forms have been sent to the organisers, as well as to next year's organisers, hopefully giving them the opportunity to refine their ideas to improve the conference experience for everyone in the future.

In addition, the results of the talk and tutorial evaluation forms have also been sent out to the respective speakers. If you were a speaker in Lisbon and haven't received an email from me by the end of today, check your spam box first, then contact me if you still haven't found anything.

My thanks to the organisers for letting me run the survey for YAPC::Europe this year, and many thanks to everyone who responded to the main survey, as well as all the evaluation surveys.

If you have suggestions for improving the surveys, please let me know.

Monday September 21, 2009
03:09 AM Technical Meeting - Wed 23rd September

Event:   Technical Meeting
Date:    Wednesday 23rd September 2009
Times:   from 7pm onwards (see below)
Venue:   The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street, Birmingham, B1 1BN


  • Python Web Trends [Stuart Langridge]
  • Silverlight and Expression Studio [Nick Harewood]
  • Web Mashups with Catalyst [Jon Allen (JJ)]


This month we're lucky to have two special guest speakers; Nick Harewood and Stuart Langridge.

They'll be taking us beyond the realms of Perl, with Stuart talking about the latest web trends in the Python community, and Nick taking us through Microsoft Silverlight and Expression Studio. This will be a great opportunity to find out what's happening in other languages. In addition, JJ will be flying the Perl flag, with a talk about building web mashups with Perl and Catalyst.

As per usual, this month's technical meeting will be upstairs at The Victoria. The pub is on the corner of John Bright Street and Beak Street, between the old entrance to the Alexandra Theatre and the backstage entrance. If in doubt, the main entrance to the Theatre is on the inner ring road, near the Pagoda roundabout. The pub is on the road immediately behind the main entrance. See the map link on the website if you're stuck.

As always entry is free, with no knowledge of Perl required. We'd be delighted to have you along, so feel free to invite family, friends and colleagues ;)

Some of us should be at the venue from about 6.00pm, usually in the backroom downstairs. Order food as you get there, and we'll aim to begin talks at about 8pm. Talks usually finish by 9.30pm, with plenty of time for discussion in the bar downstairs afterwards.

Venue & Directions:

The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street, Birmingham, B1 1BN
- Pub Details
- Picture
- Google Map

The venue is approximately 5-10 minutes walk from New Street station, and about the same from the city centre. On street car parking is available see full details and directions on the website.


These are the rough times for the evening:

  • food available until 9.00pm
  • talks: 8.00-10.00pm
  • pub closes: 11.00pm

Please note that beer will be consumed during all the above sessions ;)

Monday September 14, 2009
07:58 AM

YAPC::NA 2009 Survey - Results Online

For those interested, the results of the YAPC Conference Survey for the YAPC::NA 2009 event are now online.

The additional comments and suggestions given via the feedback forms have been sent to the organisers, as well as to next year's organisers, to hopefully given them some ideas to improve the conference experience for everyone in the future.

In addition the results of the talk and tutorial evaluation forms have also been sent out to the respective speakers. If you were a speaker in Pittsburgh and haven't received an email from me by the end of today, check your spam box first, then contact me if you still haven't found anything.

My thanks to the organisers for letting me run the survey for YAPC::NA this year, and many thanks to everyone who responded to the main survey, as well as all the evaluation surveys.

If you have suggestions for improving the surveys, please let me know.

Wednesday September 09, 2009
07:43 AM

Celebrating Our Ninth Birthday

Back in July 2000, Mike Bissett and I went to OSCON in Monterey. While there we attended a BOF about Perl Monger groups. When we got back, we had a look around and discovered the nearest PM group to Brum was a now defunct group based in Stafford. So that August we applied to run Birmingham Perl Mongers.

We held our first meeting in The Hogshead in the city centre, with Mike, myself and Mike's girlfriend. Humble beginnings, but we have since grown to a regular(ish) crowd of about 10 (more on a good day). We now hold regular technical meetings, as well as the traditional social meetings. We've had guest speakers and visitors from foreign parts (including Milton Keynes!), all of whom have been very welcome to eat, drink and chat with us.

Today, on the 9th September 2009, we will be celebrating our 9th birthday. For the geeks that's 09 on 09/09/09. We didn't plan it honest, and in fact I only noticed it when checking the date for the next meeting after last month's :)

If you're in or near Brum tonight and want to help us celebrate, please feel free to drop by, we'll likely be there all night ;). We'll be at The Dragon Inn on Hurst Street (about 5mins walk from New Street station) from about 5.30pm onwards. Hope to see you there if you can make it.

Wednesday September 02, 2009
01:30 PM

CPAN Testers Summary - August 2009 - Ten

Cross-posted from the CPAN Testers Blog.

This post is a bit of a celebration (you'll have to imagine the fireworks and associated oohs and ahhs), as last month we hit a few very notable milestones.

The 5 Millionth Post

Firstly, Chris Williams posted the 5 millionth post on 13th August. While very notable, many posts to the cpan-testers mailing list are CPAN Upload messages and in the early years included discussions when the submission of reports was fairly low. So it doesn't equate to the 5 millionth report. However, ....

The 5 Millionth Report

For our second milestone, Oliver Paukstadt posted the 5 millionth report on 25th August. Considering we only had our 4 millionth post in June, it's been an incredibly short period of time to post 1 million reports. Over 300,000 of those reports came from Dan Collins and Chris Williams who both topped over 196,000 reports and 107,000 report respectively for July and August.

The sheer volume of processing was noted on the CPAN Testers server, as the page builder was put under load to consume the reports as quickly as possible. Thankfully it has been coping rather well and while some page requests have been delayed by up to 3 days at times (it takes over 5 days to rebuild the site from scratch!), the number of pages outstanding has been very manageable. This has largely been a good thing as I was on holiday last week, without any internet access, and I wouldn't have been able to do anything had something gone wrong. A testament to stability of the server these days.

CPAN Testers is Ten Years Old

Thirdly, yes we hit another milestone last month, and perhaps the biggest cause for celebration. CPAN Testers has been running now for TEN YEARS! On August 28th 1999, at 7:08am Pacific Standard Time, the very first post to the cpan-testers mailing was recorded, it was a CPAN Upload mail announcing Bundle-ABH had been released to CPAN. A few hours later, at 12:14pm Pacific Standard Time, the very first report was posted to the mailing list by Paul Schinder, an UNKNOWN report for FCGI-0.48 running on a Solaris box under Perl 5.5.3.

The idea of CPAN Testers was started by Chris Nandor and Graham Barr all those years ago, and has had many contributors to the eco-system since. Having said that notable mentions go to Robert Spier, Ask Bjørn Hansen, Andreas König, Jos Bormans, Léon Brocard, Audrey Tang, Adam Foxson, David Golden, Chris Williams, David Cantrell, Slaven Rezić, Adam Kennedy and I suppose it doesn't to hurt to mention myself (Barbie) too ;)

My thanks to all the CPAN Testers who have contributed reports over the years, whether they have submitted several thousand or just the one, it has all helped.

YAPC::Europe 2009

At the beginning of last month several CPAN testers attended YAPC::Europe in Lisbon. We had a BOF and discussed ideas, and hopefully recruited some new testers to our humble community. One potential tester may have access to some very under tested platforms, so here's hoping we can add those to our regularly tested platforms each month.

We also discussed statistics, following on from my lightning talk about the state of CPAN. The talk had been previously given in Pittsburgh for YAPC::NA 2009, but had largely been overlooked. It seems giving it as a lightning talk provided a much greater impact and left a much longer lastring impression for European attendees.

Many of the statistics mentioned are now available on the CPAN Testers Statistics site, and I'm always happy to hear of more suggestions to include on there. The one overwhelm message taken from the talk is that CPAN contributions, both in terms of distributions and authors have been increasing consistently ever since CPAN was instigated back in 1995. New authors are signing up and contributing every month, and the existing contributors are not letting up either. Perl and CPAN have probably never been healthier. Which all goes to show just how important CPAN testers can be in helping authors maintain good quality and reliable code for the benefit of all.

Promoting CPAN Testers

It was an incredible month last month for CPAN Testers, with all the potential for announcements. Sadly, I was without an internet connection last week to be able to make announcements for the last two events at the time, as it would have been nice to have spread a bit of good karma around to everyone who has been involved.

Which raises a point about CPAN Testers that I have been asked several times over the last year. Why don't we shout out more about CPAN Testers, as according to some, it is one of the Perl Community's successful community projects. Sadly I'm only one person, and I don't shout very loud. I used to give talks about becoming a CPAN Testers regularly at YAPCs in North America and Europe, but these days look more to the BOF sessions to encourage interest. Chris Williams has started to continue the CPAN Tester howto style talks in Europe, but we could do with others around the world.

So if you're thinking of what talk to do at a forthcoming YAPC, OSDC, Workshop or local technical meeting, or even at a technical conference, workshop or local user group meeting that isn't focused on Perl, please consider whether you could help promote CPAN Testers. I'll gladly feature links to you, your slides and the event in a dedicated post on the CPAN Testers Blog to help out. Likewise if you have written an article for a printed or online magazine or even in your own blog, please let me know and I'll mention it in a future post.

And Finally

Last month we had a total of 166 testers submitting reports. The mappings this month included 23 total addresses mapped, of which 13 were for newly identified testers.

Once again many thanks to all the several thousand CPAN Testers who have contributed reports, and here's to the next ten years :)

Tuesday August 11, 2009
07:53 AM

The YAPC Surveys 2009

This year, both YAPC::NA and YAPC::Europe are using my survey software to administer the talk and tutorial feedback, as well as the regular Conference Survey. This is the first time I'll have run it for YAPC::NA, so the results are going to be interesting, particularly comparing them against views of both conferences.

The YAPC::NA surveys are currently due to close at the end of this week, but as I haven't had the time to send out reminders, I may well extend that by a week. So if you attended YAPC::NA and haven't submitted a response to the survey, please consider doing so. If you've lost your keycode email, please contact me and I'll sort you out a new one.

The attendees for YAPC::Europe needed no encouragement whatsoever, and the rate of submissions was staggering. Less than a day after the survey was opened in Lisbon, we had nearly as many responses as the YAPC::NA survey in the previous 5 weeks! I get that the Americans might be a little skeptical, but I was hoping for more than the 38% we currently have. YAPC::Europe responses, even after less than a week, are already over 42%! The first YAPC::Europe survey in 2006 received just under 54%, while the 2008 survey received just over 67% response. I'm hoping we can get over 70% this year, which will be fantastic.

The survey software itself is being cleaned up, and I'm hoping to be able to properly Open Source it within the next few months, as there are a lot of smaller workshops and conferences that I think may wish to take advantage of the codebase. While I'm happy to run the YAPC surveys, and collate them on the YAPC Conference Surveys website, trying to co-ordinate them all for everyone who wanted to operate a similar survey, would be a little too much work. Plus, it might help to get some feedback and patches to improve the surveys for the future.

Thanks to the organisers of YAPC::NA and YAPC::Europe for letting me run the surveys for them, and thanks to everyone who has contributed to the feedback. It all helps to improve YAPCs for everyone for the future.

Update: Just to give you some hard numbers...

|                       | YAPC::NA | YAPC::Europe |
| Total Attendees       |      284 |          331 |
| Conference Survey     |      108 |          141 |
| Talk/Tutorial Surveys |      373 |          640 |
| Open for (in weeks)   |        5 |            1 |

Monday August 10, 2009
08:23 AM

Another Data::FormValidator Filter

At YAPC::Europe 2009 last week, I launched the Conference Survey during the final keynote, and almost immediately people began submitting their responses. I'll be posting more about the surveys later in the week, but this post concerns itself with a specific technical aspect.

Smylers, being a rather clever fellow, likes to find the edge cases. He found one such edge case in the survey submissions, and although it wasn't a vulnerability, it was potential providing a misleading error to users. The problem arose due to the use of what are usually refered to as Microsoft "smart" characters. These are the characters that don't conform to standard Unicode character sets, as they use a range that is supposed to be reserved for control characters (see Wikipedia for more details).

Smylers had entered an en-dash character and some double quote characters from a Windows machine, and had attempted to submit one of the talk feedback forms. The result was a rather confusing error. The reason being that the backend of the survey system had deleted the field with the smart characters, because they were part of a range not accepted as string characters by the validation code, and flagged as an input error. The solution was to add a filter to the Data::FormValidator profile and translate the characters into something more sensible, before validating the input string. Which is what I did.

As a result Data-FormValidator-Filters-Demoroniser is now winging its way to CPAN. The code has been in the backend system for sometime, just not in the right place to pre-validate input strings. As it turned out it was much easier to abstract it and create a new module than rewrite some of the internal code.

My thanks to Smylers for initially spotting and reporting the bug, the guys behind Data::FormValidator for making it so easy to add the filter, and Dave Wheeler for already implementing many of the translations via his Encode::ZapCP1252 module.

Tuesday August 04, 2009
04:21 AM

CPAN Testers Summary - July 2009 - The Dark Side Of The Moon

Cross-posted from the CPAN Testers Blog.

July has seen several major changes to the backend code to running the CPAN Testers Reports website. The builder got some rules added to help manage the updates better and the front page now gets a status table. Tim Bunce suggested having some form of status indicator, and at the time some of the data needed to evaluate any indicators wasn't available. However, with some changes to the database, I was able to get the right information. As the site takes up to 5 days to get through all the changes, I had to wait a week before making the status table visible. At the moment the builder seems to have settled on running 2-3 days behind at most, and high profile pages often get built within a few minutes. The database now gets updated hourly, so there is now a much faster turn around of some of the pages. In addition to the status table, every author and distribution page now includes a timestamp of when the page was last built. If it's waiting in the queue to be rebuilt, at least you can now see how old the data available is. In many cases it will only be a few hours.

There are currently 25k+ pages on the site (double if you include the static site), with roughly 6 files being generated for each request. This is now streamlined as much as possoble, but I'm still looking at better ways to improve the process of creating them. With so much data now available it'll become more important to figure that one out.

Another change has been to the CPAN Testers Statistics website. For the last year or so, I've been asked various questions about the data, and how different sets of criteria stack up. Some I already provide regarding the CPAN Testers, but there is also a lot of data regarding CPAN too. As such, there are now some extra pages included on the Statistics website, that give a current snapshop of the state of CPAN. I've been meaning to provide these CPAN graphs for some time, and was a suggestion given to me after a London Perl Workshop, in 2007! If there are any other trend graphs or stats tables that you think might be useful or interesting, please let me know. I have another couple of tables I'm planning to add, but I'm always open to adding more :)

This week I'll be at YAPC::Europe 2009 in Lisbon. If you're a CPAN Tester and will be in Lisbon too, please come and say hello. I was disappointed to not meet a couple of people in Pittsburgh, though I did get to meet our 4 millionth poster to the cpan-testers mailing, George Greer. So please don't be shy, just come and find me and introduce yourself :)

Last month we had a total of 171 testers submitting reports. The mappings this month included 22 total addresses mapped, of which 10 were for newly identified testers.

Much the same as last month, though congrats to Dan Collins, who has been outstanding in submitting reports. There was a time I thought no-one could compete with Chris, but it seems he does indeed have a competitor. However, for anyone thinking that we have all scenarios covered, please take a look at the monthly test coverage. We are still looking for a variety of platforms, and indeed some of the older perls too. Unfortunately we don't know what is out there in the wild, and concentrating on the latest and greatest is not really a true representation of what companies are actually still using. So if you want to get involved with CPAN Testers, and don't have an unusual platform to test on (if you do, *please* get involved), you can still help out by ensuring that new CPAN releases still work on older version of perl. You might be surprised to learn that deployment is still happening on 5.003! While the author might not be willing to support older versions, many users still need that information.

We're fast approaching the 5 millionth post to CPAN Testers, and expect to see it hit sometime during August month. With so many reports being posted at the moment, I'm also expecting the 5 millionth report to also hit slightly later in August. We shall see by next month's summary :)

Saturday July 25, 2009
12:25 PM

Current Status of the CPAN Testers Reports Builder

Cross-posted from the CPAN Testers Blog

If you don't normally hit the front page of the CPAN Testers Reports site (the dynamic one), you might not have noticed the visual updates made this weekend to the site. The change to the front page now allows you to see the current status of the builder, working away on the backend. The status update reports the number of requests in the queue and the request time of the oldest request. This should hopefully reduce the number of emails I get asking whether the server is working, and whether its coping well with the volume of reports.

At 19:10 on Saturday 25th July, the numbers looked like this:

| oldest              | total | count |
| 2009-07-23 14:01:39 | 11668 |  7900 |

From this you can see that the oldest request is just over 2 days old, there are a total of 11,668 requests waiting, of which 7,900 are unique. That's a low number, which is good. If the total goes over 20k or the oldest request is over 5 days old, then something has gone wrong. If that happens then feel free to send me an email point it out.

On the backend, some of the changes now ensure that the oldest requests are at least processed periodically, so that they don't stay in the queue too long. Also requests which usually have only 1 request in the total, are often quick hits, and every couple of hours, these get looked at too. It all means that the pages get manage quite nicely and the updates keep a nice balance across the whole site.

Sunday July 19, 2009
12:36 PM

YAPC::NA 2009 Survey - Update

After just a few weeks of launching the Conference Survey for the YAPC|10 event in Pittsburgh, we've had 107 people respond to the survey. With 284 registered attendees, that works out at roughly 37.6% response. While on the whole that isn't a bad return, our first survey at YAPC::Europe in 2006 got over 50%, and last years got nearly 70%, so the NA attendees need to do a bit of catching up.

In addition to the Conference Survey, this year each talk and tutorial has the ability to record feedback from attendees. I'm delighted to see we've had 355 responses to those.

The YAPC::NA survey closes on 14th August 2009, so if you haven't completed the Conference Survey, please consider doing so. Also if you can still recall the talks and/or tutorials you attended, please consider completing those too.

If you attended YAPC|10, and have lost or didn't receive your email containing your keycode login, please contact me and I'll get it sent out to you.