Smaller, frequent conferences, self-supported by local business and individuals is the way forward and will be a good grass-roots activity
Once again this year I travelled to the theme-park-paradise that is Orlando, Florida for the annual Perl Oasis organised by the superlative double act that is Chris Prather and Jamie Moorhead.
Shadowcat Systems were sponsors of the venue for 2011 and so I was treated with a great deal of love by the organisers. A part of this was that Jamie had managed to organise an upgrade to my room so I was on the twenty-first floor with a great view of the Florida area and in particular I could see Universal Studios. We, the conference attendees, also had access to a hospitality suite which made a great base for social activities of the conference, so kudos to Jamie and Chris for arranging this.
The staff at Shadowcat, and in particular the directors, have always believed in the value of sponsorship, it enables the community and enhances the personal experiences of its members. It was brought to my mind even more this year when Robert of Pitsburgh Perl Mongers made an intertesting point, the Perl Oasis is held for around two-three thousand dollars, which is a very small sum of money (on a side point I have always managed to organise the London Perl Workshop so that it can be held with the same sums of money).
Robert mentioned that it is possible for there to be more small conferences like Perl Oasis, which made me think that perhaps it wasn't important to focus on large events but to ensure a greater number of smaller events that would encourage participation from the local community. Robert has a good point, in a country as large as the USA and in a region as large as Europe it is essential to have more small conferences. We are fortunate in Europe in that almost every country has a workshop or is close to an event each year, but in the States they have fewer events and it is sometimes impossible for people to attend due to time, money and other constraints. Smaller, frequent conferences, self-supported by local business and individuals is the way forward and will be a good grass-roots activity.
I presented a talk this year at the conference, Why I <3 My Community, after doing the keynote last year and then taking a break of a year for the birth of my first child, I thought I would only submit a twenty minute talk. I also did a quick lightning talk at the start of the lightning talks. Both of these should be made available on the Presenting Perl (http://www.presentingperl.org/) website in the near future.
I came back to the UK from my first conference of the year feeling refreshed and excited about the year ahead. I think I have a number of ideas and hope to fulfil them before Perl Oasis 2012 where perhaps I will talk about how much I was able to do and how it was enhanced by attending Perl Oasis 2011.
 I am proud to say that we will also be the venue sponsors for 2012 once again to be held at the Four Points Sheraton on International Drive.
 So for all you Harry Potter fans I could see Hogwarts from my hotel room.
If anyone has feedback (and until we have a commenting system) please don't hesitate to email me at: m.keating [at] shadowcat.co.uk, if your comments are useful, fun, or just plain interest to me, or if I think will be useful to others, then I will add them to the end of this post, let me know how you would like to be named (anon, nick etc.).
Mark Keating is: Managing Director of Shadowcat Systems Limited
Director and Secretary of Enlightened Perl Organisation
Co-Founder/Co-Leader of North-West England Perl Mongers
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