Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thanking the Perl Community for an Awesome YAPC

My first time at YAPC::NA was too incredible for words. That said, because this is a blog, I'm going to have to put it in words anyway.

So, about a month ago, I didn't even know that I was even going to YAPC.  I was just talking to raiph++ in an IRC back channel, when he asked me if I was going to the conference.  I said that it would be fun, but I didn't really have money to go.  Being unemployed means lots of free time for hacking, but not so much free money for going places.

Well, raiph told diakopter++, who asked if I could be willing to go, if he found funds.  I responded, "Of course, if you think it's possible."  I soon went to sleep, and twelve hours later, I had a plane ticket to Austin in my inbox courtesy of The Perl Foundation.   So just like Peter Rabbitson's case, the Perl community eagerly gave me a chance to attend.  So thank you to all 440 attendees, and all of the sponsors for your own personal contribution to my attendance.  Even though I'm new, you all gave a me a chance to participate in the community, and for that I am grateful.

And what a community it is.  I've long known that Perl programmers were a little strange.  Naturally, I fit right in.

The conference itself had quite a fun and informative series of talks.  More often than not, I had two or more that I wanted to attend at the same time.  For the most part, I stuck to the Perl 6 "track", where most of my work has been so far.  After all, it's not often that so many of the European contingent make a trip to our humble continent, so I was eager to spend time with them.

No one warned me that jnthn++ has a tendency to spring wild new features on us at YAPCs.  Reversible grammars, seriously?!  I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one.  The announcement of MoarVM was equally exciting, as it offers us a chance to start fresh with everything we learned about Perl 6 and virtual machines in the last five years.

So I have to say diakopter++ once again.  Besides introducing Moar in his talk, Matthew Wilson was constantly busy behind the scenes, making sure that everything ran smoothly the entire conference.  I think the man must be buying tuits on the black market.

YAPC also helped immensely in my hunt for a job.  The job fair brought me several contacts, and the talks helped me learn which skills I'll really need to learn in those jobs.  Person-to-person contact offers so much more in truly understanding the state of the language, and of what projects are of the greatest use right now.

Truly, Perl's community is it's greatest strength. 

It's the community that keeps Perl vital.  After seeing YAPC for myself, the whole "Perl is Dead" meme seems entirely baseless.  Conference attendance was up 19% over last year, which was the previous record high.  Perl feels like a growing language, with lots of experiments in how to revitalize the now 25-year-old syntax with p2, moe, and Perl 6.

The community keeps Perl relevant.  While it may not be the sole alternative to bash scripts like it once was, it is used for enterprise and homebrew projects alike, from the stock exchange to the surface of Mars.  Projects like DBIx, Moose, and Dancer provide modern frameworks to acomplish more with less work.

The community keeps Perl open.  No one seemed to be afraid to say what they felt, on or anything else, but everyone remained civil.  Hallway++ is a great social hack to get everyone to feel comfortable talking to each other.  So when I found myself sitting across from TimToady, instead of being intimidated as a newbie, I had a great conversation with him about supervolcanoes and nonverbal Japanese language.

And the community really wants all of the projects to succeed.  I spent a lot of time at non-profit and political events in the past, where we were all theoretically working for a common cause.  And yet scheming, conflict, and political maneuvering were inevitable.  But in Perl, where we actually have multiple implementations and modules competing for mindshare and tuits, people cheer for everything to succeed.  No one fights each other or rages against $language_of_the_week stealing our users, for the real enemy is the lack of tuits.

I overheard this at dinner last night, from a fellow first-time attendee:
"I'm just happy that the two of you liked my work." -- vanstyn
Although he was talking about DBIx, I think that captures the spirit of conference as a whole.  All of us here -- from the n00bs to the pumpkings -- want to share our work and make something useful for others.  It's not an organization where we wait for pronouncements from on high, but one where users create endless variations and share them.  Not an organization so much as a family.

During TimToady's epistle/speech to the community, he said something like:
"We have faith, hope, and love, but the most awesome of these is love." -- Larry Wall
A line like this might seem a bit hokey out of context, but it was actually moving when I heard it.  We have faith that we can use Perl to solve our problems.  We have hope that Perl 5 and 6 will continue to get better. And we love Perl, unconditionally, despite all of her flaws.  And as Wil Wheaton says about us geeks, we just want to love our special thing the best we can, and go the extra mile to share it with others.

I just want to say that I love the Perl community right back.  You went out of your way to include me and all the other newcomers.  You all gave me all a chance to learn, play, and code with you -- and to be part of your community -- and I am so glad you did.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! That kind of enthusiasm is exactly what the community needs. Keep it up! Oh, and see you next year ;)