It has been a week, or so, since the London Perl Workshop and I am still in the recovery phase of post-conference fun. I thought I would make a change this year by writing a little about the event and sharing my thoughts and feelings.
Sponsors brought along a bunch of Perl Letters and camels
Each year we, myself and the organising team, manage to arrange an international event in a city that is three hundred miles away from where we live. This may seem a little strange but the principles involved in organising an event are sufficiently predictable that being local only has advantages in specific circumstances. In negotiating with food or social locations having a person on-site is very useful, which is why for many years we have had the wonderful Steve as our man on the ground.
There is also the advantage that we have performed this several times before, I have now organised every LPW since 2007 and many of the current organisers and helpers have been with us for more than three years. The speakers and sponsors are also willing to help out and need little management and time which really smooths a lot of the process.
It was 6.15 a.m. and the SC organising team were on a train into central London with piles of workshop materials
London Perl Workshop has grown each year and this year was no different. There were so many submissions this year that we had to have an extra track and also ran the longest day so far. This year there were:
- Two lecture theatres;
- Two class rooms;
- Two Workshop rooms;
- Fifty-five talks;
- Fourteen lightning talks;
- Four workshops;
- The talks totalled twenty-eight hours and twenty-five minutes;
- There were in excess of two hundred and fifty attendees;
- Fifteen corporate sponsors and five community sponsors;
- We started at 9 a.m. and finished at 7.15 p.m. in the evening.
It has led to an interesting conversation as to where we go from this point and what shape the next year's event will take.
Last year I started a new trend for the workshop. As many of you know the London Perl Workshop is a free-to-attend event, this goes along with the general feeling in the Perl community of having low barriers to entry and not penalising people fiscally.
However the event grows each year and to put on a better experience I started the process of 'buying' a ticket. There are several ticket prices ranging from £0 to £100 with levels in-between. The idea is that if you can afford to donate to the workshop and its continuing success you should do so.
This donation system has worked surprisingly well, last year we raised a little over nine hundred pounds and this year close to one thousand. This money will go directly into the pot for the hosting of next years event.
There are always a large number of volunteers who help out either on the day, or leading up to, the London Perl Workshop. It is usually a task to recall who did what and when, but in a vague manner I wanted to single out the following people:
Ian: Each year he is there to drive, fetch, carry. clean and generally run around organising on the day making sure things run smoothly.
Tom: This year Tom ran the toys section and also helped with all the fetching and carrying.
Claire: A large number of tasks fall to Claire. Sign making, list collection, administration, invoicing, liaising with many different people, catching all the emails I let fall, accounts and then fetching, carrying, organising, announcing and manning the registration desk on the day. (Told you it was a large number).
Errietta: This year we also enlisted the Shadowcat intern to help lift fetch and carry.
Leigh: We also enlisted Leigh to do the same thing, she thought she was just attending to do the Arduino course.
JKG: This man ran back and forth between two rooms making sure speakers were helped and the rooms set up and then volunteered immediately after to do the same next year. A star.
Martin: Without fail he organises room one on the day, he shepherds people and provides help. he also helps to put up the signs, organise the delegates, provides water and has for several years grabbed pizza and sustainables for the volunteers and sponsors who man stands throughout the day.
Steve: There is a rumour, due to imminent dropage of child, that we will lose Steve next year. This makes me sad as the man is a treasure. On the day Steve organises a lot, putting up signs, running around making sure rooms are ready, helping on registration, fetching, lifting and carrying. Steve has also been responsible for organising the social events for a number of years, prompting the book and project Man-Pub-Beer. If he must move on to family life like a disgraced politician we will miss him deeply.
Steve hard at work on the registration desk
Sean: Each year I call on Sean to be the liaison and aide at the university and each year he surpasses himself. He arranges our workshop rooms, organises University bodies and is even about on the day to offer moral and physical support. He has been a firm supporter of the event and a constant friend for many years.
One of the other things that volunteers do is things by themselves. Rhaen approached me with the information that he was only doing a lightning talk this year and not a full talk. With that in mind he offered to start a Flickr group for the LPW images and to collate and manage this, and he has done.
There are not enough superlatives that can be lovingly lauded upon the sponsors of the event. Each year we have new sponsors and returning sponsors. Without them there would be no London Perl Workshop of this size and scale, we would likely be a group of hardened drinkers who meet in Dave Cross' back garden once a year and are forbidden from tramping mud into the house.
One of the wonderful food displays
There are a crop of previous London Perl Workshop videos on Youtube and this year we were able to record three of the rooms and the videos for those will appear in the very short term. It is quite a task to edit and upload all the videos and the technology is now available to do it as a live stream straight to YouTube. We will investigate doing this in future years.
One of the elements I have always encouraged, and will further encourage is the training sessions we offer at the event. A large number of events charge premium rates to have training and workshops that teach over a greater length of time, but this falls foul of the LPW ethos. I have always appreciated that the workshop presenters have given their valuable time and experience to the event in presenting the workshops. This is why they are considered a commercial support as they are all professional, or experienced, trainers and programmers who could command good rates for their presentations.
The Arduino Workshop was well attended and loved
There is a tradition that at the Workshop we not only accept subjects that fit our theme, but we allow talks that are just generally on Perl. However it also goes further than this, we will accept talks that are just related to Perl, or in fact have no relation to Perl other than we think it will interest Perl developers to hear the talk.
I have always thought that polyglot programmers make for great Perl programmers, and I like to be agnostic in the choice of languages. Perl is a language of choice, but it is a tool that you have in your toolbox, okay it may be a Swiss Army Chainsaw to some, or a monkey wrench to others, I like to think of it as a set of Snap-On sockets. I will comfortably suggest others tools, languages, projects if they have a good fit, I don't like reinvention just to fit a language preference. Doesn't mean I don't like it when we take something written in another language and give it a Perly spin. Just means I don't dismiss out of hand.
Matt S Trout expressing his love for small creatures
The actual presenters amaze me each year, the wide breadth of their knowledge and interest and the great presentations is always a wonder and I know that will continue as long as the event itself does.
Fun and Games
We added another element to the conference this year, I think we have added something new in each and every year I have run the event. Sometimes I have retired elements as they didn't seem as popular or they were not a good fit. This year we added more whimsy in a tool corner, with robots to program, robot football and a remote controlled minion to steer.
Tom took a small time-out to play robot football
This was a mixed success but it fit nicely with the event and I think we may use it again at future events. The Internet of Things, in whichever guise or naming convention you use, is not going away. There will be an increase for a good number of years and so I think we will once again run a hacking room and try to encourage hardware elements as well as software in the conference.
In the Perlverse we have a series of yearly awards called the White Camels that we present to people who have done a lot in the Perl community aside from contribute code. It is a well-established fact that it is hard for me to be awarded one of these, if I were worthy, as I am on a number of committees in the organising body for the award (The Perl Foundation).
The Silver Camel award just before it was presented to me
The local, which is the UK, Perl mongers knew of this but wanted me to be awarded for the number of things I am connected to and in recognition of the work I have done on the Perl Workshop that is their very own. So they made the first ever Silver Camel and Neil Bowers presented it to me at the conference.
I was greatly honoured
I have to say that this was a total shock to me and brought tears to my eyes, to be recognised in such a fashion was a great honour, especially when it is from friends. I still have trouble finding the words to say how proud I am of the award, this was a very special moment for me, I cannot express enough thanks. I think I said it all when I said that 'I will find those responsible for doing this and hug them'.
A Broader Community
There is a feeling, in fact it is a recognition, that we are in a anechoic chamber in the Perlverse. Rather than listening to the echo we listen to ourselves but no sound escapes it. Well this year that was prove to be untrue for the London Perl Workshop.
Paul and Salve find a common item of interest just before they have to present their lightning talks
It seems our efforts as programmers and organisers has been well rewarded as the online marketing company Profit Bricks, who compile a list of the 50 must attend conferences for developers have added the London Perl Workshop to that list. Aside from having the only Pure Perl event on the list, nicely placed at number 40 I might add, we have one of the only conferences where Perl would even be mentioned.
This is an added boost to all of the team and a nice ending to this retrospective of the event.