My First Perl Conference
Simon Proctor Aug 20
By Simon aged 40... something
I've been writing Perl code since I picked up a copy of Learning Perl in my local bookshop in 2001 or so. At the time I was working there, running the computer books department. My time at university had turned me off the idea of programming as a career, I found the theory of computer science to dry for me.
So reading about Perl, a language that felt like language rather than maths really appealed to me. A few months later I got a Junior Developer role and began my career as a developer.
Now we fast forward to 2018, I've been a Perl dev for 17 years working my way up to Senior and have yet to manage to get to a Perl Conference (European or American). As the 2018 one was planned for Glasgow and I have family in Scotland it was a no-brainer. I took a week off and put myself down as a speaker. Why? Because in the last few years I have got very interested in and impressed by Perl6. I have given a couple of talks at the London Perl Mongers about it and expanded on one at last years London Perl Workshop. I love the language and I want more people using it.
Things got interesting when the company that I work for Zoopla decided to sponsor the event and I went from the role of speaker to that of company spokes person. I had a lot more conversations about what it was like to work at Zoopla (awesome) than I was expecting to have.
I arrived in Scotland on the Saturday before the conference but the first two days of workshops I skipped because I had other matters, involving my upcoming nuptials, to deal with. So I arrived on Wednesday not sure what to expect. I'd been to a couple of one day events over the years but not a full three day one.
What I was reminded of was gaming conventions, these I've done a lot of, and the general feeling of a group of like minded people in one place really came across. One major difference between the modern gaming convention and the conference was the male to female ratio was still skewing highly to the male side, that and the lack of a significant child presence. But other than that it felt very similar including the social aspects, meeting up with people who you often only see at these sort of events.
I attended a number of talks, some that I wasn't expecting because the schedule had got changed around and my calender wasn't up to date. Still interesting stuff on a variety of topics. One talk I found interesting was on The Perl Foundation and what it does. I may have ended up volunteering to help manage one of the sites, more on that if it happens. Then I saw Curtis "Ovid" Poe's talk on Rescuing a Legacy codebase (that could also be titled, how to talk to the business). And I got to meet him after and thank him for his excellent talk on Perl6 that had got me interested in it. At the end of the day was the Lightning talks which seemed fun and I decided to write one for Thursday.
Then it was off to Òran Mór for the meal. There was wonderful food (though too many people like the haggis pakora for my liking, I was hoping for thirds). I may have drunk a wee bit too much. But it was a nice relaxing evening.
So Thursday was a bit blurry, I have felt worse but I didn't have enough sleep and was mostly existing on coffee and painkillers. Still I chatted to a bunch of people saw some interesting talks and wrote a little lightning talk.
Then it was time for my talk, I'd been preparing it for a while and had given it once internally to be able to get feedback and I felt I could manage to cover a lot about Perl6 Method Calls. I will admit to feeling some pressure as Larry Wall was sitting at the back of the room. But he's a very nice guy and I got to thank him for inventing the language that got me back into coding. So that was nice. We ended up at a lot of talks together as I mostly was on the unofficial Perl6 track.
As I say, the day was a bit of a blur, but I did give another Lightning Talk (about Perl6 operators) at the end of the day and then ended up talking to a few people about working at Zoopla and Perl6 so it was all good.
By Friday I was having a combination of lack of sleep, way too much nervous energy and general buzz. I saw some great talks and there are more I didn't see. My current plan is as the talks get released on You Tube I'll link to them.
All in all I had a great time, though I'm going to need to learn to pace myself better. I'm not as young as I was and keeping up that level of enthusiasm has somewhat drained me.
And if you're not into Perl (either version)? Well there's lots of other conferences. Find one for what you are interested in, and why not give a talk. It's easier than it looks. Find a thing you know about, preferably something you're passionate about, make some slides and practice some patter.
Also if you're not interested in Perl (especially Perl6) hang around. I plan on getting more things written here about it.