Saturday, 29 June 2013

YAPC::NA 2013 ROCKED!

[Sorry for the delayed post. I wanted to release this right after the YAPC::NA but just a few days after I got back to my country we got kinda in the middle of something.]

In the live music capital of the world, over 400 Perl hackers from 18 countries got together a few weeks ago for Yet Another Perl ConcertConference. If you're not familiar with Perl and its amazing culture, you might think I'm exaggerating as I struggle to find the proper adjectives to describe just how remarkably incredible it was. So, instead, I'm going to describe a few of the things that happened there and how they unfolded from my own perspective. Since everyone's experience is a bit different, I look forward to seeing your post too!

tl;dr - If you've never been to a YAPC before, I strongly recommend you do so. You'll never forget it.

Nothing Like a Little Rock 'n' Roll Before The Conference Starts

I really enjoy Rock/Jazz/Blues, so Austin is one of the great places for me to be. I was a bit sad though knowing that Monte Montgomery, one of my all-time favorite guitarists, and one pretty active in the Austin scene, was not giving a concert while I'd be in town. I even bitched about it on Twitter, like you're supposed to do. And guess what? Just a couple of days before my trip, and two weeks after my rant, Nutty Brown Cafe replied to my tweet and made my trip even more worthwhile!


I was really excited, and it was even more than I hoped for! Nutty Brown is a great place, with great beer and an awesome open air stage in the back. And Monte is even better live! Seriously, I tried to find the person behind the @nuttybrowncafe to thank her (they told me it's a "she") personally, but she wasn't there at the time. I dreamed of seeing this dude perform live for years, and if not for that single tweet I might never have. I guess this whole social network thing works, eh?

But I digress. Back to the conference!

Arrival Dinner

The arrival dinner was at a place called the Hula Hut, serving us some great drinks and TexMex food "with a surfer twist". I'm not really sure what that means but food was delicious, and I think everybody had a great time. I know I did!


Hook 'em Horns!

The venue was in the University of Texas, home of the Texas Longhorns, a very engaging athletics program for students. Everywhere you looked you'd see someone wearing one of their orange t-shirts. It always amazed me how the USA is so into sports (not just american football, but every single sport they can find), and now I got to see that passion first hand. It might be a no-brainer for you, but as a brazilian, I know my country mostly just cares about football, and even so we don't have our college competitions shown on prime time (or any time, for that matter).


Also, as a metal fan, the "Hook 'em Horns" hand gesture was quite familiar (and a bit funny to see in statues and such).

Christmas in June

One of the reasons I look forward to the YAPC every year is because I get to see a lot of the good friends I made over the years in the Perl community, friends I share a lot in common with but whom I get to see only once or twice a year, if I'm lucky.  Being able to hang out with people like sawyer, auggy, ribasushi, perigrin, sartak, ingy, liz, wendy, apeiron, abigail, frew, dha, stevan, genehack, rjbs, jayhannah, hobbs, karen pauley, hugmeir, mdk, mst, nperez, drolsky, jim keenan, nick patch, paul mantz, scrottie and so many others... just being next to these great, fun and sparkling minds already makes this giant trip worthwhile.

I also had the opportunity to meet other great people, some of which I only knew online. Tobias Leich (FROGGS) has been a partner in crime in the Perl SDL project for several years now, but this was the first time we met in person. He showed me a few pictures of his kid and we talked about some of his cool new Perl 6 hacking. He's not only a great guy but an excellent hacker, even more awesome in person than I expected - and I have pretty high standards! =P

I also spotted the great Tokuhiro Matsuno next to (the also great) Xaicron on the first day and introduced myself, since I'm a big fan of his stuff. I actually mixed them together at first (ごめんね!!) but I blame it all on Xaicron's remarkable orange glasses, which I remembered from his gravatar. I also let Matsuno-san know about a recent issue some people were having when trying to report test results for his Minilla app to CPAN Testers through cpanm-reporter, and he fixed it on the same day! Wow! A few days later at the speaker's dinner I'd be laughing with them (and Karen Pauley, and Shawn) about some very weird (miss)translations we have between languages such as portuguese and japanese. I only talked to them briefly but I hope they've has as much of a good time as I had, and hope to see them again (and even more Japanese developers) on future editions of YAPC::NA.

Other great people I met there for the first time whom I'd only talked to online included Naveed "Ironcamel" Massjouni and Al Newkirk. Al was in fact one of the first people I interacted with over on irc.perl.org, so I was really glad to finally meet him. Oh! And at last I got to met Karen Etheridge, who's been stalking me online for several months now. Fine, fine, I was the one stalking her - it was driving me mad that all of a sudden she was the release manager of a ton of modules I loved and used on a daily basis and yet I had no idea who she was! Turns out she's not only a great developer but also a very nice person, so yay!

I really can't explain it. There's something about the Perl community that feels like family - for better or worse. So, to me, attending the YAPC is like walking into one big Christmas party. I just love it! :-)

As any family this big, I missed a lot of people who couldn't be there this year, and hope to see them in other conferences or back at the YAPC::NA next year!

CGI.pm is Dead. Long live CGI.pm!

One of the (many) interesting highlights of this year's conference was the whole discussion of CGI.pm - specifically whether it should be removed from the Perl 5 core or not. SawyerX did a lightning talk making a strong case for "killing" CGI.pm. Perrin Harkins, on the other hand, came up on stage with a lovely tribute to all the great stuff that CGI.pm acomplished back in the day and bid it a fond farewell from the core. Later on the conference, Casey West went totally the other way, not accepting CGI.pm's fate/doom in a very funny rendition of his arguments which included sarcasm, the shortest wiki in the world and doing a handwalk on stage wearing nothing but a swimsuit!

The Keynotes

Mark "mdk" Keating gave the first keynote of the conference which secured his Diva status in the Perl community with a brilliant, brilliant talk called Perl of Christmas Past, in which he dwells on the history of the language and other fun facts. For example, did you know that Perl 1.0 was released on the very same day as Final Fantasy 1?! Did you know Perl has been used in Mars? I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for not making it in time to watch it live, but thankfully the conference recorded it so I was able to watch it afterwards, and you should too!

In the evening, Larry Wall gave an entertaining and enlightening (as usual) keynote. It was also the first time (I think) where he openly talked about his recently found cancer and discussed his legacy and Perl's future as a language and community. Not a lot of people know this, but back in 2009 I lost my father to cancer, so I really related to a lot of the things he said. The talk was extremely passionate and got him a well-deserved standing ovation. Incidentally, Perl is being used throughout the world in cancer research, helping to achieve some great breakthroughs in the fight against it over the past several years now. I truly hope Larry wins this battle, and I'm pretty sure the entire community is supportive and wishing him and his family all the best.

Tuesday, Stevan Little gave the "Perl: The Detroit of Scripting Languages" keynote, in which he evolved his OPW talk with new experiences and insights on the present of Perl, stuff we love, stuff we hate, and where to go from there.

Finally, in wednesday Matt S. Trout gave his "Velociraptor of Christmas Future" keynote, also filled with nice insights and perspectives on what the future holds for Perl as a language and as a community, all in mst's unique shoutingtalking style ;-)

cPanel Party Night!

pics, or it didn't happen ;)
On the very first day of talks, cPanel greeted all attendants with an open bar(!!) party at the Recess Arcade Bar down on 6th street, featuring a very nice band called The Spazmatics playing some cool covers. I had a great time there and even got to finish TMNT with 4 other guys (hey, it's an Arcade Bar after all!). It really got me back to my childhood. Thanks, cPanel! You guys are awesome!

Later that evening some of us moved to the pub in front of Recess to chat for a bit - the arcade bar was great, but also pretty loud. This is where I was exposed to the InfoWars magazine for the very first time. I... I... let's move on :-)

Game Night

Tuesday's talk ended with a great dinner with ribs and tex-mex at a place called Salt Lick BBQ - yet another fully paid for dinner, courtesy of our amazing sponsors! The conference organizers even got us private buses(!) to drive everybody there. Food was great, with tasty ribs, lots of side dishes and even dessert. In the meantime they also featured a caricature artist drawing everybody brave enough to ask for it.

During dinner I engaged in a great discussion with Shawn O'Connor, CTO of Perceptyx, about companies and employee engagement. As a manager myself, it was very reassuring to talk to another peer about the rights and wrongs of steering a company and motivating teams. We also had a great talk about football because, well, Brazil :-)

Then it was time for Game Night! Some people went outside to enjoy the atmosphere and play Jenga, and wound up creating pretty big towers - and even more spectacular crashes! Others stayed inside for some board and card games, or just to chat. At one point I was even hit in the back by a frisbee, so I guess there was that too :)

I for one enjoyed a very nice D&D(ish) game by Rik set in the future, who in the end revealed it to be a Star Trek Next Generation spin-off adventure. I'm not a hardcore trekkie but it surprised me that none of us could actually spot his (now obvious) hints and easter eggs throughout the adventure.

Talks, talks everywhere!

This year I spend most of my time in the "hallway tracks", bouncing from room to room and engaging in great conversations with fellow developers. I also volunteered to help the organizers (brown shirts FTW!) so I hung around the main LBJ desk helping Chris "perigrin" Prather as best as I could.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy a few of the 80+ talks (not to mention lightning talks) spread through the 3 days of the conference. I liked them all very much, but I feel I need to mention at least two of them here: first, Ricardo "rjbs" Signes' talk on the future of Perl 5 ("Postcards from the Edge") was great, debunking a few myths and unveiling a lot of how things are thought through in the core development of P5P and what we can expect from Perl 5 versions in the near future - including long-awaited signatures! Second, Augustina "auggy" Ragwitz' talk on extremely easy ways to contribute to Perl 5 (and dip your toes in Perl 5 development in general) was very well thought of and presented, and I really think it can break some entry barriers and reach developers having their first contact with Perl.

The Lightning Talks sessions were also very entertaining and fun. It amazes me how people in the US just rush to line up and talk about all the cool stuff they're doing with Perl. In Brazil, at least, most YAPC attendants don't seem attracted to giving lightning talks. Maybe they're too embarrassed, I don't know. Still need to think about ways to change this around here, I just love lightning talks too much :-)

Worldwide Job Fair

One of the high points of the conference is the job fair, specially if you're looking for new challenges, moving opportunities or simply a larger paycheck. Perl-centric companies from all over the world come to YAPC::NA to promote their business to potential employees and recruit them.

I'd like to take this moment to thank cPanel, Whitehat Security, LiquidWeb, Linode, AthenaHealth, The Game Crafter, MediaMath, Shutterstock, Bluehost.com, Booking.com, HostGator, NextGen, GlobalNOC and everybody else at the job fair (really sorry if I missed your company, just let me know and I'll update this) for being there, not just for the conference, but for Perl developers all over.

Seriously. These companies built their businesses around Perl and heavily rely on it for striving in the competitive market every single day. You should definitely support them if you can. And if you're looking for a full-time Perl job, please send them your resume.

"You're not my community. You're my family."

In between the Lightning Talks, while speakers were setting things up, people had the opportunity to make quick (~30s) announcements on whatever it is they felt like it. On the last day, Ribasushi poured his heart out thanking the Perl community for sponsoring his trip to the event via Crowdtilt. It was very touching, specially since I kinda feel the same way.

My Lightning Talk

For the first time ever, I went to a Perl conference committed to not giving any talks. I failed :) Jim Keenan approached Brian "Hugmeir" Fraser and myself during the pre-conference dinner asking us to follow his fiendish plot of having a Spanish & Portuguese lightning talk at the conference. We were really excited of being able to share a bit of our language and culture with everyone (Hugmeir is from Argentina), specially in a US state so close to Mexico. We were also terrified, thinking there was no way we could pull this off, and that people would just have to settle with a 5 minute "wtf" talk in not one but two different languages. So I figured what the hell, let's make it a comedy act and have the slides in english pretending they're part of the english-only audience and not getting anything we say. Hugmeir was totally up for it and we even got guest stars Genehack and Sawyer to help us flip the slides. As we started talking the crowd quickly turned its initial confusion to giant bursts of laughter. We had a great time and the response has been overwhelming!


We even got featured on the Shutterstock YAPC::NA blog post! This was also pretty big for Hugmeir as it was his very first talk. Thanks everyone!

Bingo \o/


The conference itself is filled with small pleasures, and one of them is the YAPC Bingo. Every attendant gets a card filled with stuff to do during the conference. Every time you do one of them, you cross it on the card. This year the only one I missed was the Bad Movie BOF, which I heard was great and fun as usual. This was a very tough choice for me as I really enjoy watching crappy movies. Besides, David Adler is an amazing bad movie connoisseur and a fun guy to hang out with in general, but when so many things are going on, you eventually get caught up in them. Also, since I don't see many of these people throughout the year, I just couldn't bear to let go of the hanging out and chatting.

Also, Sawyer managed to reach out to first-time attendants, finding tons of seasoned volunteers to help them with whatever Perl help they needed for their projects, provided they showed their YAPC Bingo cards with at least one full row/column/diagonal line completed.


That's it! I'm pretty sure I missed a lot of highlights, so make sure to blog about them if you can, or just let people know the stuff you liked in the comments below. A huge THANK YOU is in order to master chief Todd Rinaldo and the great Austin Perl Mongers for organizing such an incredible conference.
 
And now I can't wait for YAPC::EU, YAPC::Asia, YAPC::Brazil..... see you out there!

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