Taken from a serice station on the Motorway. I had a glorious 40 minute drive through Cumbria with red skies abounding. ‘I looked into the sky, and it was red and the whole of my life was in it’, to paraphrase Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea)
This specific post was created using WordPress for Android on a mobile phone. This explains but not excuses any incorrect or unusual typography, brevity or formatting.
I read a recent article that I shared on Socia Media about just turning up. The main thrust of this is that you need to do something each day in order to move forward. The article was in particular reference to lethargy, which can also be depression or demotivation.
It was a little coincidental as I also attended a Social Media workshop (I know, it sounds like a waste of time, but the presenters were very good and I learned a great deal). In that workshop they also stressed the need for doing something each day. There reference was business connections and interaction.
However, the main principles seem to be the same.
1. By making a targetted list we can have achievements and they give a value to what we are doing.
2. It need not be a major accomplishments. In fact it is better to break tasks into small chunks to give little victories that are doable no matter what the circumstances. It is easier to find 10 minutes, or motivate for a 10 minute task, than an hour.
3. You must do something every day. This is psycholoigically benificial as it gives a sense of value as you consistently achieve. It also allows you to keep momentum and pace.
4. Don’t restrict what is a task and what isn’t a task. Almost every chore you need to do, every small thing that gives a benefit in some way to someone, is a task. So you may only benefit by getting it done, such as introducing two of your contacts to each other to benefit them. The importance is in achieving, and there is no bad side to getting people connected, at the very least you have helped someone. That has real value.
So I have decided that I should try this approach. I will be making a task list of lots of tiny tasks that I should repeat regularly and then making a chart of what gets done.
I realised my life is filled with too many variables, small children being the biggest factor, to assign strict time slots to specific tasks. Better to have a large list of potential tasks and then find the most appropriate one by circumstance. If I keep a record of which tasks are done I can ensure the frequency of occurance is appropriate for each task.
One of the tasks was making sure I write as regularly as I can, not just blogs. But a little piece of writing each day if possible.
This was one of them, it took two sessions on two days. But it is marked as done
This specific post was created using WordPress for Android on a mobile phone. This explains but not excuses any incorrect or unusual typography, brevity or formatting.
Let's face it CPAN Testers is an absolutely ace service. We have to agree to that right, and I know you will all instantly feel like following this link and making a donation to keep this service alive and well. I have said on a number of occasions over the years that we need just twenty companies or individuals to give a minimum £25 a month to keep these people alive and evolving. We haven't reached that target yet, so I keep having to say it.
However there is another group of people who keep this service alive and they are a large group. They are the Smokers. Smoke testing and the CPAN Testers Smokers are the essential component in the service. This wonderful band of folks check the modules that are uploaded to the 'Pan against almost every conceivable environment. They are real stars and amongst them there are some that have achieved superstar status.
They do this for almost no recognition and over the years have achieved no badge of office or sign of membership. Well I thought that needed to change so I have created one. I present to the world the Smokers badge. It comes in many varieties, just a few potentials are shown below. Over the next year I will be creating physical representations of these to show allegiance and have as badges. If you 'Smoke the Onion' or know someone who does then get their name on my list as I will be making physical tokens. Look out for stickers and badges at events in the future, and hold proud these people and the great work they do for us and the community. If you want a copy of the badge to use on your website or in your own media then let me know and I will send you a version.
This image is based on the re-made image that JJ created for the Perl Onion on his sites and is used by the Perl Foundation in association with the word Perl to make their Trademark. This particular version was redesigned from the ground up with the text incorporated as curves, it is not to be confused with the Perl Foundation's Logo and no attempt is made to make any 'unfair' association. It is the intention to release the logo under a Creative Commons Licence (Share Alike, Non-Commercial, Non-Derivative (CC-SA-NC-ND)).
 The Puns don't get any better people. Hopes there are some 'Dwarf fans out there.
 Someone is probably going to complain about the use of smokers, smoking and the inference one can obtain to an odorous and unhealthy habit from the use of positive language is inappropriate. In fact it was probably me, in this comment.
In March there will be the launch of a new initiative on the White Cross Industrial Estate, the Lancaster 'Space' the home of the Lancaster and Morecambe Makers (LAMM). They will be having an official Launch on the 27th March with special guests from Lancashire County Council and an open invitation to all local businesses. On Saturday 28th march they will hold a public open day for all interested people to come and look at the 'Space' and hear about their plans.
The Lancaster and Morecambe Makers are a group of local ‘technically minded’ and ‘craft-orientated’ people from Lancaster and Morecambe who wish to integrate their passion for open technology, collaboration and shared learning, within the wider community and educational environments. Shadowcat Systems is closely connected to the 'Space' as it will be sponsoring a Laser Cutter at the location, being a trade member and five of the Lancaster staff are already members of LAMM.
The Logo for LAMM
LAMM are keen to focus on integrating the community and educational aspects of a Makerspace with the broader areas of companies, trade and industry. Their belief, and aim, is to foster an open environment for innovation, creation and commerce to broaden the community and create a sustainable environment that integrates business.
They will be launching the space with some incredible hardware, a 3D printer built by two of the members, an A2 Laser Cutter owned and sponsored by Shadowcat Systems and a range of electronic parts that will form the basis of a number of projects.
The 'Space' and the LAMM are a Membership organisation. They invite individuals and trades to apply for a membership. Membership will allow them open access to the 'Space' and hardware at a generously discounted rate. LAMM will also be announcing day and weekend rates for businesses and individuals who need occasional access and open days for everyone else.
The roadmap created for the organisation will see them increasing the number of machines and capabilities over the coming months and years and you can be an essential part of that.
Find LAMM on:
Mailing List: http://bit.ly/lammlist
Their website will launch soon at: http://bit.ly/lammweb
In October we 'soft' launched a trial version of our new subsciption based monitoring solution, ShadowNMS, today we open the service to pre-orders before the official launch of the full service on Monday 12th January.
ShadowNMS is based upon the open source network monitoring system, OpenNMS, one of the most powerful and mature monitoring systems available. ShadowNMS implements OpenNMS in manner intended to be more accessible and friendly. We have a vision of taking a complex specialised skill, that is the generally in the domain of network gurus, and making it accessible to a wider audience.
The underlying principles that have guided our development:
If you have a service (we call services benchmarks as we can measure them) that you rely on, or a device that carries essential services, you need to monitor it;
Local installation of a solution may be time-consuming or impossible so the product should work 'in the cloud';
Not everyone is an expert, or has the time to learn to be one, yet everyone should be given easy to understand advice and a product they can understand;
The minimum response should be 'is this available' we call this the 'HeartBeat';
Not everyone understands what they need to monitor and what is an acceptable response to a query so there needs to be an expertly configured metrical range of operation, the performance range - the range gives us our 'performance values' that we pre-configure the system to understand and to report on when they are exceeded;
The product should be accessible from almost any device, with a familiar user experience to increase familiarity and ease of use;
The user experience should be easy and getting devices configured trivial. Our minimum user input is an IP address then ShadowNMS will discover for itself all the services (we call them Benchmarks) that are available for you to choose to monitor;
There should be the option to customise for those with more complex needs or a greater number of benchmarks or devices to monitor;
But the biggest principle is simplicity of use and clean design.
With the final point in mind let's take a look at a few screenshots.
The opening screen lets you see at a glance if everything is functioning and respective numbers of devices in each status band.
If you open a device list you see the names of all the devices in that status group (blurred on purpose).
This is the alert centre. The default view for our alert centre is every alert across all devices, it shoes a historical view of the issues for analysis.
If you select a device then you will see a snapshot of the benchmarks (services) and our 'Heartbeat' which shows system status. We like to let the system reveal information in layers, each stage is a simple representation but more information can be revealed if required. You might notice that our alert centre has also changed, it now only shows the alerts for the selected device. You can close this view by hitting an [X} in the top corner.
Clicking on any benchmark graph will drill into that service to show more detailed status information.
You can see the last hour...
...all the way back to 7 days in the past with the flick of a finger.
We have tried to include help at every stage to make using the system as easy as possible.
We appreciate that people are busy, they are mobile and they crave reassurance, ShadowNMS has been designed to accommodate these three essential elements. But we have a lot of power underneath the self-discovering system and simplicity of interface. This allows us to build a custom response for those people who require it.
ShadowNMS is a new system built upon a stable core that has been under development for over a decade. Our goal is to provide you with ease of use and flexibility of product with minimum overhead. We are constantly adding new features to the system and are working closely with our 'development partners' to add new features to the system. This is the start of a service that we will grow and improve. We already feel that it is a strong service product and have great plans for the future.
ShadowNMS will launch as a managed service but we are also seeking product partners for further development. We offer three types of product partnership:
A supply partner is a reseller of the ShadowNMS platform, this can be either selling under the ShadowNMS name or a 'white box' version with their own branding. A Supply partner will act as the first level of customer interaction but the whole of the underlying technology will be managed and maintained by ShadowNMS and will develop at the same pace and with the same features.
A Systems Partner is a customer who has taken our highest (Premium) level of service. This is a Partner who is working closely with our internal team to integrate our offering into their systems and to whom we supply a complete, customised, monitoring service. Since this will be based upon the existing ShadowNMS service it will benefit from future development.
Service Partners will have an existing product that would benefit from integrating advanced monitoring such that ShadowNMS can supply. We will work closely to ensure the smooth integration of ShadowNMS with your existing system and develop a custom approach. Development will rely on a close understanding of the existing product and will be a custom solution, however our aim is to integrate any development of features or enhancements across all our partnerships.
 Our soft launch was aimed at testing the system outside of the development environment with a number of 'guest' users and businesses. This helped us to shake out issues and get valued feedback on our process.
Once again it is my pleasure to compose a post detailing the events that have happened here at Castle Shadowcat in the previous year. 2014 was a year of great changes and some upheavals for Shadowcat and we have had both smooth sailings and a bit of a stormy passage along with an expansion of our range of services.
There will be more of this in 2015 and in the initial weeks we will be making some super announcements so it isn't the place for me to dwell too much on what the expansion of range is. Instead I will give you a snapshot of our year with the appropriate links to the news items that give more details.
Talks, Cats and Staff
We started the year in fine fettle by giving the first of two local Engineering society talks. We visited the chaps at the Kendal Engineering society with Tom, Ian and myself. Ian and I both gave presentations and a fun evening was had despite the flutterings of snow and biting Lake District weather.
In March we visited FLOSS UK's Springtime Conference. In previous years we have been content to send Matt along to speak on a Systems Administration Topic, this year we diverged a lot. I gave two talks on Perl, an introduction to how Perl has changed and a Lightning Talk in the style of a poem. Matt spoke on Dev Ops Logique and gave a fast lightning talk on development environments, while Ian and Tom did a whole workshop on Beginning Perl.
We were also honoured to receive the prize for best Lightning Talk and a special award for notable presentation for both of my talks.
March proved to be a popular month for new images as our, almost in-house and very well-trained and talented, artist Jack Knight of Knight Time Creations completed two new cats who we have called Moggles and Evil Cat.
We also had a student team run an assessment of a product we had developed as a demonstration of technological process in March and they completed a market research assessment.
In March we took on our newest full time member of the Lancaster Shadowcat team when Kimball Johnson joined us to help with a major client project
Hacks, Workshops and Growth
April came rushing along and brought with it even more workshops. We parcelled Matt up and sent him to present at the Dutch Perl Workshop. Shadowcat was also a major part of the first ever DBIx::Class Hackathon. We were sponsors, we helped to organise and we attended this world first event. Ian, Tom, Ribasushi and I all attended along with Jess Robinson.
The magnificent Jess 'Castaway' Robinson was, in fact, the chief organiser and force of creation and the event went really well, we are hoping she repeats this in 2015.
In May we took the bold decision to employ another intern after the very successful employment of Tom. This time we decided to use the University of Huddersfield's 'year in industry' programme to employ Errietta Kostala for a year at the Castle. She has been with us for a third of a year and has made a stunning addition to the team, breathing new life into the workflow and reminding us all that we are getting old.
In June Matt and I were proud to attend the Yet Another Perl Conference::North America where they both gave keynote presentations. For the second year in a row I opened the event on the first day with a talk about the Death and Life of Perl. Matt gave a talk on the present of Perl and also presented about Devops.
In 2014 the Shadowcat staff were a familiar face at the newly created Lancaster Social. This thrice yearly event is organised by a group of local business and community members to further promote integration between business and community. However the Shadowcat team were not just attendees. I was one of the original creators of the event and did the first presentation at the very first meeting. Ian, Claire and Tom have helped to organise and staff the event from its inception and along with the White Cross Industrial Estate have acted as hosts.
It doesn't end there as Shadowcat has sponsored the Social on several occasions and provides technical help and hosting for the online activities. We will continue our close association with the social in 2015.
Mozfest and Google Summer of Code
In October we saw Shadowcat staffers attend two very different events on almost opposite sides of the globe. Errietta was an attendee, speaker and programming participant at the annual Mozfest held in London. Errietta presented a paper that she co-authored on the importance of online community building using tools such as Instant Relay Communication. Meanwhile at the same time I attended the 10th annual mentors conference for the Google Summer of Code in San Jose as part of my role with the 2014 GSoC on behalf of the Perl Foundation.
The London Perl Workshop
The London Perl Workshop has become a staple event and a pearl in the Shadowcat oyster for many years. This was the eighth time that I was the chief overseer of the event and this year also saw the highest attendance of Shadowcat staff with eight of us making an appearance. The event was titled Perl and the Internet of Things and was once again the largest Perl workshop in the world (unconfirmed but based on over two hundred and fifty attendees).
As always the whole of the staff helped to make the event a reality, we organised, marshalled, attended, presented and ran a whole host of small tasks from promotion to website to sponsor negotiation. It is a great day but one that always sees us working from circa five in the morning until past eight in the evening. 2015 will see some changes as we hope to evolve the event, but more of that will be revealed during this year.
There was a huge bonus to the efforts of the team and and a personal recognition for me at this year's event. the local (UK) Perl mongers awarded me with the first, and currently, only Silver Camel for all my work in the Perl community, especially the UK community, without committing a single line of code. I felt truly speechless and am still awed by the gesture (even if I slope off to polish my shiny camel every now and again while muttering 'my precious').
...to the Future
The future's in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change
(Scorpions, Winds of Change)
2014 was a very busy year at Castle Shadowcat and we have learned a great deal and adapted to a number of changes. We will start 2015 at a fast pace as we make some decisive steps and as with 2014 engage with a broad range of community events both local and global. We at the Castle are excited and maybe even a little nervous of the changes that the future inevitably holds, but as always we will face it with the verve that accompanies so much of what we do.
On behalf of the entire Shadowcat team I would like to extend a huge thanks to all of our staff and alumni, to our friends, community and mostly to our partners for such an eventful and rewarding year.
'Oh this was the night' of the last Lancaster Social of 2014. I started to write my feelings just after the event but didn't publish them until now. why you might ask. Well I wanted to finish the year with the rest of the organisers and plan 2015, so I left this post until we had our festive meeting and organisation session for 2015. I thought I would share them on the Shadowcat Blog as we are involved as both individuals and an organisation so this seems the best place for this post.
The Lancaster Social was a new venture that originated in a conversation late in 2013 at the end of the then Tweet-Ups. It was decided that they had fulfilled a role and it was time to develop or evolve and from that the Lancaster Social was born.
The idea of the Lancaster Social is to gather together as many people into a physical space who might only ever otherwise interact socially in either an online context or not at all. The (rather noble) ambition was to extend it into as many areas of the social spectrum as possible.
I thought I might, since I have been involved with the core mechanics of the event from the start, reflect a little on what I thought we got right and what we can do to make this a better event. Before I do so I would love to say that I am grateful for the work that all the organisers have put into the Lancaster Social and to the generous hosts who gave us room to meet in. I have listed those that I could at the end of the article.
So I think this splits into two nicely defined sections, the things we liked and the things we could have done better or maybe need to try next. I dislike listing things as 'wrong'. This is a social interaction and an experiment, we cannot really do wrong there were just elements we tried. The organisers are also open to suggestions and to try different ways of running or hosting the event, so if there are elements people want to see added, changed or removed they are keen to discuss this in an open forum.
So let's start with the things that I think we like.
What did we like?
One of the guiding principles, I think one of my major inputs, is the idea that there is no (or at least significantly low) barrier to entry. Without wandering too far from the point into a discussion of how there is a collective understanding that professional events cost, and the higher the cost the greater the end value, we chose to have no charge for registering on the website or attending an event.
I like that we were able to keep the events free to attend, and I hope that this didn't make people think they had less value because of that. The organisers have decided to open up the event to sponsorship to allow future events to have more on offer while still being free to attend.
In 2015 the organisers are set to re-use some of these venues but may also add or change one venue to try and find the best mix for the attendees.
Organisers are committed
The event organisers run the Lancaster Social as volunteers. There is no profit or exchange of goods or services for the hard work put in. They deserve a heartfelt thanks for managing to put in the time and effort to make this event successful.
The Social operates under an open ethos that allows for anyone to contribute their time to helping out. If you would like to help on further events then you should contact the organisers. We as a group are keen to involve people in both the social events and the shape they take. We try to take the best suggestions from people and incorporate them. We have done trials of ideas in the meetings to see how they work with the format. So please feel free to approach us with an idea.
Website is accessible
There is a 'free to market yourself on' website that also contains details about the socials, ethos and organisation. A lot of work has been undertaken by Sharon Jackson and Shadowcat Systems to bring this site to everyone. You can register yourself or your business on the site for no cost.
When we run an event Sharon is usually sat at a table ready to sign people up to make it easy for people to join.
Presentations were all fun
Each of the socials had a presenter who gave some more insight on a particular topic. I spoke about using Magisto for making small and fun movies; Sharon Jackson gave an entertaining presentation on mobile file sharing and Jane Binion gave an insight into using LinkedIn professionally.
There was also a Q&A session at each event which helped answer people's questions.
We felt that this format:
20 minute presentation slot
Closing speech and call to action
Gave the best balance for everyone. It is a relaxed evening, the networking periods give enough time for people to make new connections; the presentation and Q&A are purposefully short, 20 minutes including any audience participation, to keep them light and easily digestible; and the opening and closing statements are quick and simple. The whole evening is meant to be relaxed and we only use the rigour of this format to ensure that the evening has pace and presents value.
What can we do better?
Not enough promotion
The organising team for Lancaster Social did a great job of getting the events running smoothly and consistently. That said I am not sure that they managed to hit enough of a promotional swing. I wish I had the answers for what needs to be done and I am sure there will be even more discussion about this topic.
At the end of our year we decided that we would make sure we reach out to the previous attendees as well as trying to find new people, the momentum of pushing out the news to new people should be matched with attempting to get a consistent audience as well.
Message needs to be simpler
I like the ethos of the Social, as said I was part of the original discussions about it. However I think too much emphasis, or at least words, are used on it. The message needs to be simpler and maybe the ethics moved to a page of their own. This may help with the promotion.
I think that this may be my single biggest problem, I am often too wordy and passionate about principles. However there is also nothing wrong with having a strong, but still malleable and debatable, central sense of ethics.
Need more advocacy in different social groups - not just business
The socials have managed to hit a lot of the business communities and been represented by them, however I do not think that enough of the other community groups were involved. I am not sure if this is a message issue or if there needs to be more advocacy targeted directly at them.
We are part of a larger social mix at the start of 2015, with the inter-networking event with ESTA and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. Hopefully we can spread our message at that point.
Needs more commitment from attendees, increase participation reward
I also feel that there should be some reward for increased participation. I don't mean an exalted position or financial gain, just some notice. This may answer the issue of returning participation. Some of the people only attend one event, and while it was known this would happen how that is addressed isn't so clear.
There is already a movement to increase awareness that businesses should feel free to bring their banners, advertisements, business cards etc., and if they want to so can other groups. This is about a social sharing of who you are and what you do.
Organisers need slightly more cohesive communication strategy
This ties into the line about promotion, the website and participation. I guess it is tautology to say it again but I am mostly trying to say there should probably be a process document that shows this strategy so that what works can be kept/repeated and what doesn't can be changed/dropped.
Again at our first year end we spoke about the need for shared, living, documentation so that we can make this effort more cohesive.
List of names to keep in touch
There is no one resource of attendees and organisers that is available (by choice) so that people can try and contact someone they briefly met or heard and it was requested by a couple of different people so it may be a good idea to have a register of interest that is separate to a huge page all to yourself.
I know there are a number of ways that most of us can be reached these days but it can be confusing if we use different identities, or nicknames, across different social systems. I would imagine that a voluntary list with:
Organisation (if relevant)
Facebook Page (if relevant)
would suffice. This could probably fit on a single line and be organised alphabetically (by either first name or surname) to make it easy for people to scan.
There have been a number of people who have made the Lancaster Social's happen. I am not able to recall every single one, and I have listed many below. But whoever they are I send my heartfelt thanks. There is a big thanks to all the hosts, White Cross Business Park, Lancaster and Morecambe College and Atkinsons: The Priory Hall.
So the first year for the Lancaster Social ends and we are now looking forward to 2015. We have already planned the shape of the year and the talks and focus we wish to take in our quest to involve, connect and share knowledge amongst the communities in the Lancaster, Morecambe and district.
 Oh, this is the night, it's a beautiful night, And we call it bella notte , Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes , On this lovely bella notte.
 Okay we could have done lots of things wrong if we tried, I meant generally we were testing the waters in a moderate and sensible manner not asking people to skydive on a badger.
 A whole host of caveats come with this as I am one of the organisers so can generally speak for them, I am not claiming this to be a definitive assessment. The other organisers will have their own thoughts and feelings as well.
 Or should that be that the organisers should be committed?
There seems to be an interesting shift of late in the 'public' message being pumped out by some of the larger, loosely termed, internet companies. This shift in focus feels very reminiscent of a similar battle in the late 1980s early 90s between what was then tech companies, at that time the battle was mostly played out between the then twin forces of strength, at the time, Microsoft and IBM.(1) Back then the battle ground was over the tools one used in an office environment and the pitched war was between Word perfect, already flagging due to its age and rigidity, IBM with its Lotus suite and the might of Microsoft Office Suite. We all know the outcome, Microsoft won by a mixture of flexibility, distribution of it's operating system(a) and public perception control.
This new war seeks to go a little deeper and is not just your office software suite, it is your whole ecosystem and maybe the entire of your internet environment. Computers are ubiquitous to business, I personally cannot conceive of how anyone can exist without one. Even our submissions to authorities, that painful process that we victims of the revenue mill share, is all conducted electronically. As we move further into the realms of an interconnected world with smart homes and the 'Internet of Things' the use of computers will become closely tied to our whole 'life' experience. The new battleground is your whole experience and the big players know that this is a fractured landscape with a consumer focus on personal preference and individuality of experience.
To control this whole battle ground the competing armies need to control all the various elements in the environment. The rise of mobile computing with sophisticated roaming devices of increasing complexity for reduced size has blurred the field, we are rarely offline and when we are the connected world is still working and processing our presence (or lack of). To conduct this war the combatants need our compliance, we are the troops, or in this war we are increasingly just a resource as it is not our corporeal form but the by-products of our interaction and purchasing potential, that make up their vast armies.
The strategies used by the mega-corporations may seem unusual, and often they seem reactionary and directionless, but taken as a whole campaign they are not. Let's examine some of the players and what I think is the battle, these are by no means all the people fighting, but they represent some of the most visible movers. We are going to examine this against a simplified understanding that the only way to make money in business is to;
a) sell more or have more consumers;
b) increase costs;
c) sell more services to existing services.
Quite obviously by doing all three we become vastly more profitable.
Starts as a social media site that attracts millions (now apparently billions) of followers. They succeed in presenting a shared environment for the exchange of social data and collaboration. The first elements of real business come with advertisements and games, there are also promoted posts and the hidden, very profitable, data collection and analysis.
Using a small number of capital investors Facebook grows to a large size. After collecting enough users to become a world-changing force Facebook goes commercial and starts to develop plans to utilise those users. So we start with more advertising and data collection, this alienates users so the strength of that is pulled back and more control to change/block it is formed. This is all irrelevant as the data either anonymously or not is still collected, processed and controlled. We have even seen that Facebook is moving towards controlling data delivery by creating tools to search, categorise and verify the news data for delivery.(c) Without the conspiracy theories that could easily be applied to this it is still a filter to experience and understanding, and filters by their nature restrict. It is also a clear land grab on the services Google has perfected.
However Facebook is still seen as a sink of time to many businesses. The first approach to combat this negative perception by Facebook was to promote the use of their services to promote your business. This was obviously an added attraction that was never part of the original conception. The mere fact that it is individuals who own business pages and groups, not the businesses themselves at the start was evidence of this. There is also the controversial insistence on 'real' names and 'real' people have ownership of accounts. This was mirrored in many ways by Google with their Google+ services. Both of these are counter-intuitive in dealing with people before we even consider the business implications. A business would be better served by using its own name for any services to detach it from any one individual, the ownership status and connected account makes this impossible and makes the whole situation confused.
Facebook has started the integration of shops and merchant services culminating in the recent announcement of business tools and a more business-orientated Facebook. This is taking their business from the consumer to the company.
Starts as a search engine and data filter, it controls the flow of data and classifies it using a ranking system then upsells a method to advertise using a priority system with a variable scale of cost. This is a hugely successful as a business endeavour as it almost creates the whole field of data collection and classification for profit.
Even in the days of the 'do no evil' tagline(d), now abandoned, Google was a commercial venture who existed to make a profit and its focus was aimed more at business than the individual. The tools that were given to us for free seek to fill its massive data warehouses with searchable statistical material that massively empowers their main profit stream.
However there has always been an attempt to grab the consumer, and this is not as most people think an over-reaction to the forces of social media. Google was well aware of the need to control and use the non-commercial space and this has powered its delivery of services for many years. Mail, Docs, Maps, Plus, Drive, Images, Search all of these tools start their main life in the non-commercial world but Google's endgame has always been to integrate an experience. They realised far earlier than some of the other competition that people want to use the same tools at home as they do at work. It is a lesson learned from Microsoft who gave away an Office suite (Microsoft Works) and an Operating System at either no cost or vastly reduced (OEM for the Operating system and Office Suite) cost to both commercial and to non-commercial users to encourage using their operating system. To my mind this is why Android was offered at almost no cost to the end consumer and pushed so strongly to the hardware manufacturers who would prove to cause the majority of the obstacles and issues.
In our World War Twitter is an island chain not connected to any continent. Self-governed and remote, owing no allegiance to any of the other competitors. It is a fast moving place with the chance for rapid evolution however all it has are bodies to throw over the wall, there are few other tools to submit to this current fight. How it changes that will be interesting to watch.
Apple and Microsoft (throw in Sony and Samsung etc.)
These are the big names in the hardware world who also act large in software. Microsoft has always encouraged an open hardware environment whereas Apple have always seemed to be a hardware dongle for the software.
The dominance in hardware sales and profits from Apple cannot be ignored. They are the super rich(e) with the manpower and resources to dominate and they have a fanatical following who willing throw themselves at the enemy in a frenzied rage. Some of their issue is that level of perfection, in the war for business it is not just hearts and minds but convenience and cost and there are signs that the shift in their appeal is losing pace in some sectors.(f) Apple does not fare well in this, they have only recently felt the need to make their software import the formats of others, but the reverse is rarely true. That shouldn't dismiss them, this is a long and harsh fight and their resources and strength will hold them in good standing. Their innovation is in perfecting what exists to such a degree that it is almost unrecognisable from the thing that inspired it. Added to this a lead in the market share for purchase of applications and services, and the associated purchase of goods, will further the advance of Apple Pay as a default choice for online payments and further increase their dominance.
Microsoft is a great sprawling octopus with arms into every area of our lives. It may have lost a lot of ground in the last decade and look punch-drunk and confused but it still controls the business space. They do not hold the mindshare anymore and are the butt of most people's immediate ridicule. It almost seems easy to categorise them as the public demon of technology demon and they have not been dealing with the cool aid but to dismiss them is a fallacy. Microsoft has a good sense for business and a long tradition of succeeding in lengthy fights.
For these companies their strength seems to be in providing the basic environment in which we conduct our daily lives and to control then the field as we further integrate our at work/at home experience.
The issue is that mobile devices let the field change beneath them, Android is ubiquitous and Apple, even with their reassuring brand identity, are playing catch up to the emerging mobile business field. They are seen too much as a consumer device. Microsoft seek to control by offering their strongest weapon, Office Suite, across the broad spectrum and to purchase more of the business services with Sales and CRM software that integrates into your whole corporate stage. Apple seek to dominate by mindshare and loyalty (hearts and minds). Meanwhile Google and Facebook pull more users into their fold and seek to control the biggest weapon, mass resources in the form of data.
Fringe Players in a Data War
The control of Data and the usage of your data in experience is where the real war is being fought. Amazon have entered the fray with low price technological offerings that are high quality, they do not need to make much profit from the sale of the hardware as the real focus is the consumer experience/purchases and data retention. The same is true of the Hudl from Tesco and to some degree the Chromebooks from Google.
Amazon's, and to some extent Tesco's, only focus is the consumer retention, growth and sales. They can only increase their profits by gaining more people and selling more things. Offering a more expensive sale is redundant in a world that values bargains, especially since bargains or under-cutting the competition has been their primary business focus. However, they must make the move into control of the purchase managers and buyers in business as this will increase their long-term power. For the present they are on the fringes of the Data War, seeking to control just one aspect, sales, and to hold it tightly. They are well ahead of the field in that they are the purveyors of the items, or control the purchase, how they will be affected by the increasing march of Apple and Google financial services and the inevitable Microsoft and Facebook offers will prove as an interesting aside to our main conflict.
Business is the Goal
But the control of the Business ecosystem is the real prize for all of these companies. For the vast majority of individuals the software, hardware and day-to-day experience they deal in work affects the choices they make as an individual consumer. We want a single unified experience and it is the goal of the modern internet giants to provide that experience. This extends to the control of the physical environment in both the home and at business and the places between.
Businesses also provide a longer term experience for the combatants. People are often fickle and their loyalties, no matter how keenly held, can be won and sometimes bought. However companies are slow to change as the surrounding costs are too great to suffer. Holding the businesses gives you a base for launching further efforts, it is how Microsoft and Apple have weathered so well despite their reticence over the Search Engine and Social Media marketplaces that have become dominant forces. Businesses are also more likely to adopt whole environmental ecosystems as the benefits of a single service provider in regards to compatibility, payments and expansion are easier to understand.
Socially we have merged the two worlds of business and home, we use social media at work and answer our work emails at home. There is no one location and each person has varying levels of interaction. But we are all mass-data producers and controlling that data allows for the tailored delivery of product to consumers and that is where the combatants seek to hold strength. It is how they will tailor specific services and give the illusion of individual experience that holds our fascination and encourages us to give up more of our personal information.
In the end more data can be collected, stored and analysed but it is far from infinite, it's just vast in size and growing exponentially. We may be a vast resource but we are also a finite resource and that data is useless without context and control. It isn't just what data you hold, it is where and how you can use it and how others will use it on your behalf that is the next battlefront.
 Apple was a strong force at the same time but not quite so dominant a force in the particular battle.
 This sounds a little dramatic but the use of computer systems has become so ingrained with our everyday lives that almost every experience can be traced to it. Even the rugged explorer in a get away from it all walk in the wilderness would carry at least a map that would have been prepared using computers to verify detail, most of them would likely be using a electronic GPS.
 There is an element of truth in the vague accusation that can be bandied about vague, and directionless, marketing and strategy by big companies who release expensive products and then disband them, or make vast acquisitions to mothball the product. To answer this we might imagine that any good commander will tell you that combat is a fluid environment forces change and swift adaption to a shifting landscape. However, there are a number of answers that make good tactical sense. The removal of competing products; acquisition of staff hires by take-over; ownership of emergent ideas and patents etc.
 I did quibble about using the term Orwellian as it has become so over-used it has started to descend into a meaningless cliché. However most of that over-use is in respect to the camera-obsessed societies that we have created and not to the deeper ideas of population control via information that I am referring to here.
 One of the major contributing factors that isn't discussed in depth in this article is the need for these companies to utilise the large developer teams that they have internally. There is too much discussion about how and why these teams exist and the opportunities, threats and forces they direct and that act upon them for this piece.
 It would be incorrect to say that Google created this model, they just capitalised on it in a creative manner with enough pressure to gain a vast market share.
 We have already seen the birth of the control of transportation with WiFi on public transport, to the purchase of transport routes (Google in San Fransisco) to the creation of robotic transportation. Will the Google car work more efficiently if you are fully plugged in to a Google Environment. Our connected lives see the car arriving to pick you up as the phone detects you logging off your office computer, at home the environment will be primed for your arrival to the moment. The benefits to this are efficientcy, once again Orwell would likely marvel at the way we willingly give up ourselves, we build the room and number it.
 For Apple the rise of Social Media has been a pleasant boost as their devout followers are also ardent evangelists.
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;
Fourteen lightning talks;
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.
Right, how to explain this: the idea is that you get a lot of people who love tinkering, exploring and creating using all sorts of methods and leave them in a field for three days and see what happens? Or, mad scientists, engineers, beer drinkers and general public collide with electronics and toys? Never allow drunken people access to Russian Military surplus supplies and a soldering iron?
The conference badge had a whole programmable system and sensors
Yep, that's basically it. Add in some beer and food. Don't forget that there are masses of organisation of power, internet and wifi (they had a faster connection to a field than most companies in the centre of a UK city enjoy), speakers, workshops, camps, people, vehicles, toilets, water, lights and enough medical support for an event involving 1,200+ people and power tools, lasers and flying vehicles and you have Electromagnetc Field 2014. Or EMF2014 for short.
There was also a film being made, not a small film, documentary or short, I mean a fully fledged film with teams devoted to ariel photography and special effects (with some pro gear and industry attendees). Oh, did I tell you that the conference badges had wifi, radio communication, built in lights, tetris and snake and are fully programable?
Also there were former government ministers (Tom Watson) and heads of technology speaking. Oh, and lasers, you can never have enough lasers. There was also Milliways (the eponymous Restraunt at the End of the Universe); robot butlers, electronic barmen, a robotic drinks dispenser, satellite tracking, pedal powered Star Wars, Pacman played on a weather balloon and 3D printers galore...
Wait, does this sounds like chaotic, anarchic, explorative and informative fun? Well if it doesn't it should do, because it was.
This was all in a field. Yes, a field, on a farm, in the middle of nowhere.
I never thought I would be playing an original arcade version of Outrun, on an original arcade machine, in a tent, in a field, on a haybale. It sounds surreal, it was awesome.
This exciting ramble is a collection of my thoughts from the event and some of the things we did. Don't expect clarity or for me to mention all the people, there were too many and they were quite brilliant. I will not do the event justice, it was too crazy and individual to ever capture the whole essence - competing dance music and sampled noise with holographic face masks anyone? - but I can mention some of the things that made it special for me, and for my family.
The Retro Games tent was a big hit with everyone I spoke to.
The Bloke from the BBC
The first day, the Friday, we were pitching our tent when along walked a bloke from the BBC. He was a reporter for the technology section of the Auntie's website and he was doing a piece on the number of families attending the EMF event.
We, of course, had brought along a pair of toddlers as we thought they'd get a kick out of being here, it would be a family thing as well as a Shadowcat thing and we wouldn't need to negotiate care or non-attendance.
This was mostly the information that I gave, that we would have not attended, or only one of us would have attended, had it not been for the care to provide child-facilities, events aimed at kids and a promise of a safer environment for the children.
He was happy, we consented to a picture and to use our names and I was most happy when our tale and picture appeared on the BBC website on the day following the event.
Look Ma! We wuz on the Bee Bee Cee :)
And since I was speaking of Childcare. The wonderful people over at UCL (University of Central London) sponsored a creche for this year's event. This was, I believe, in response to the organisers desires to make the festival open and friendly to families. The logistics were maintained by the Nipperbout who did a really smashing job. They allowed parents to place their children in a safe environment in two hour blocks. The children were looked after, entertained and kept happy.
I should point out that the staff at Nipperbout were exceedingly well-trained, friendly and helpful. This should be a must at big events and I think the nursery deserves it level 1 OFSTED rating.
There were also a number of workshops specifically aimed at children, including soldering and lightsaber construction. We went along to both of these and the kids loved it (though daddy did most of the soldering). Afterwards there was a massive lightsaber fight which foolishly I joined and was visciously ganged up on by all the children.
This would not have been possible without the generous support from the sponsor who gave us the childcare. I know it is a lower priority but I do hope that the same can be repeated in two years time.
Windy old Days
One element that can never be fully planned for is the vagaries of the British weather. To the weather this year we had a few casualties in our village and Leigh and I lost a tent.
It was impressively gusty on the Friday afternoon. So gusty that it took the large canvas tent our village was using and lifted it into the air. Our tent suffered fatal damage to the poles and outer skin. We patched it for the weekend but it had to be put out of its misery in tear down. There were a couple of other smaller tents that suffered the same fate as ours.
Rather worrying was that Claire was hit by the spars of the tent as it took off. Thankfully the damage was not severe and her arm took a lot of the force lessening the impact to her head. She was lucky to have only bruises and a severe headache, it could have been so much worse. It resulted in a swift camp rearrangement in our village and a re-imagining of our porch to accommodate a workshop and strengthening of the broken tent spars with aluminium from a shattered gazebo.
The organisation of camping at EMF is into loose villages. You basically ally yourselves with a group of likeminded friends, or local group members, and pick out a plot to camp on.
We camped with the Pennine Alliance that was H4cks0r of the Roses, this was made up of a mixture of Leeds to Lancaster people with a prominent bunch on Manchestarians.
Villages could be composed of any type of group, from any social, political, ethical, biological or cultural definition. They were all included and all welcomed.
== Smiths of Iron and Wood
Among the many displays, workshops and talks there were some traditional crafts on display. The blacksmiths were extremely popular.
There were people doing smithery!
Ian Norton and Claire Jackson (of Shadowcat infamy) were also running workshops in wood turning. I could hardly avoid this opportunity, not only are they colleagues of mine but they were using the large porch of my tent to do the workshop ;)
I took my turn at making a bowl and I was pleasantly surprised at the end effect as it seems really good. There was no surprise in the uality of the tutoring, advice and help from the two workshop presenters though as they were quite super.
This is me actually making a wooden bowl.
In his introduction Jonty mentioned that they had over-provisioned talk tents and under-provisioned workshop areas. This was not by an error of management but by dint of massive enthusiasm on the part of attendees.
The workshop cfp opened after, I believe, the talks cfp. The natural feeling is that more people would be willing to present a small talk on a subject as opposed to dragging a mass ofg equipment and spending copious man-hours on performing workshops. This was a under-estimation of the huge enthusisam of the attendees. My personal thoughts are that those who attended in 2012 were so impressed by workshops that they went away and got involved in doing something similar. Coupled to that is the growing number of projects, people and things that are prevalant on the maker scene, add the two together and you get this phenomena.
As with so many things this is a learning experience. the volunteer team of EMF will collate what was right, what needed attention and what needs to be changed and make a better event in 2016. This event far exceeded 2012, in numbers (1200 vs 500) and in scope. I expect the 2016 event to also grow, perhpahs not in people but certainly in ambition.
There are not enough thanks, superlatives and adulations on their awesomeness, or bows and applauds that can be awarded to the whole of the volunteer team. There were a lot of people who put a huge amount of effort, before, during, after and continuing onwards to this event. The organisers, website maintainers, promotion, sound, lighting, video streaming, technology management, wifi and wired connection, radio management, construction, tear down, cleaning, security, parking, maintenance, power, water, first aid, reception, information, badge design-making-coding-distribution - the list of elements to do and people needed to do it is immense.
There were electronic minions who lit up at night, my kids loved them
There is likely/hopefully a list somewhere of who did what and when they did it. If there isn't I am not making a call for it (who needs the extra work). The people who did, know what they did and when they did it. I would like to thank them all.
If you place 1200+ people in a field for three days and leave them to it there are always going to be a number of issues. There are the natural issues regarding biology such as the requirements for sustenance, drink and the evacuation of such. They you must manage the movement of so many people, where they collect and how they are controlled.
To those issues I know the organisers have discussed, answered and made notes of how to manage at a future event. There is a steep learning curve to an event management, even more so as you add people and elements that increase the complexity and present issues that are hard to foresee.
Then there are the issues of exterior forces, organisations or individuals who do not perform as expected.
If I were to make a complaint it would be facile. The issues I saw in organisation are already known, have been dealt with or noted for the future, adding any comment here would be irrelevant. It was simply true that most of the issues that can be dealt with by the organisers were small and out of their control at the time, and they will likely never occur again.
Aside from that there are the many difficult to plan for issues that will occur.
Naturally there are going to be conflicts, issues and people who desire something that others wish to restrict them from. Some will want to party until dawn, others to gain a restful night after a hard day indulging in workshops or presentations. There are also people who have vastly different ideologies, beliefs or doctrines who will come into conflict because they are automatically opposed.
The on-site pub with its robot arms
At many other festivals my gut, throw a figure at a wall and it will probably stick, is that you will have 5% issues to 95% everything being excellent. There will always be a 1 in 20 chance of a conflict it seems, of encountering someone you cannot get on with or whose bahaviour riles you. At EMF camp I wouldn't have even made that a 1 in 50.
Of course this could be that so many like minded people are less likely to come into conflict and that any conflict that does arise will be small and of no real consequence. While that is a factor I am still going to say and feel that this was a great place filled with excellent people who were, for the vast part, great to hang around.
I could carry on rambling about EMF for some considerable time. There was a lot that went on and a lot that I saw. But some form of summary is needed.
EMF was eclectic and surreal. It was perhaps a fringe event that felt like someone had given Wilf Lunn, Magnus Pike and Jhonny Ball LSD and let them loose on a rave. It was amazing, I cannot wait for 2016.
...oh damn I forgot to mention the lockpickers...
 Ah such small elements of fame and fabulousness doth abide, a fifteen minutes tweeted in a second. Interesting aside, in the digital age do we get just a few seconds of fame, no longer allotted our quarter of an hour in the limelight? Just means more fame for the Fame Monsters atop the field.
 A four year old can do a lot of damage with a foam saber and a malicious intent.
 Pun unavoidable.
 An entirely subjective ramble based on nothing more than personal experience and general hearsay. It is intended only to highlight how pleasant it felt as if people were more accommodating than the general societal levels.
‘Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,’
(Alfred, Lord Tenyson, Ulysses)
It has been a few weeks since I got back, well in body and mostly in spirit, from the yearly North American [Yet Another Perl Conference][yapc] held this year in the wonderful city of Orlando, Florida. the jet lag still lingered for a long while, a sad fact that this seems to take longer to shrug off as each year passes and age takes its toil, I struggled with catching up on missed work and so have left my usual blog post a little later.
On the subject of Plenary Sessions
Once again I was asked to open the conference a task that I always am honoured to undertake despite my crippling nervousness and lack of faith in my abilities. My talk this year which is now available on You Tube and shown below, was Perl is Awesome: the Death and Life of Perl. When I wrote the talk I didn't realise that others would be fillowing a similar theme and in fact there was a synchronicity in the keynotes that wasn't planned but maybe we just all tuned into a collective zeitgeist in the community.
‘Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;’
(Alfred, Lord Tenyson, Ulysses)
In my talk I spoke about how we seemed to have died, and I chose to blame Slashdot for pulling the trigger, a fanciful statement with some basis in truth. The [resulting response][slashdot] was a self-fulfilling prophecy, once again we ran gleefully to Irony Corner with the denizens of the /. helping greatly. Thankfully they didn't watch my video otherwise they may have not responded so beautifully, it was apt and somewhat reassuring.
The other keynotes were however much more fascinating, and not I feel just to me but to the audience as well. Larry spoke about the progress made in Perl 6 and there were vaguest rumours that snow was seen and a distant 'ho ho ho' was coming closer.
Seperately, and shamefully not a keynote so that the room could have been bigger, we had a wonderful trawl into the current state of Perl 5 in Ricardo Signes' talk on 5.20.
‘mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when’
(Alfred, Lord Tenyson, Ulysses)
Matt's State of the Velociraptor the talk this year included the discussion on how we have started to change, how we have come to grow and how, in many respects, old warhorses, perhaps like him, may have had their day. In trying to control the vast forces of strong opinion we run into the phenomena of 'they who shout loud may shout last but also shout longer'. This allusion is by way of saying that like the conferences having a formal Statement of Conduct so do our channels of communication require a code and moderators to uphold it. So the existing irc.perl.org is changing, maturing, evolving, whatever you wish to describe it, it is doing.
The middle keynote was one of the joys of the conference, Hugo Award winning, former-Perl Programmer, CPAN Author and all around lovely chap Charlie Stross gave a talk to the conference. Charlie, sorry for the casual name dropping but I drank beer with the man, gave us a great talk from YAPC::NA::2034 that was also from the Railway Societies 1914 conference. He spoke deeply about how technologies grow and change, how they peak and exist and how Perl may in fact bfreach the peak of this wave and as it does it will sail on into the sunrise of a new age.
But the best was still to come...
The final two keynotes of the conference were from SawyerX and John Anderson (damnitstevan). Sawyer gave a rousing talk of his journey into Perl and why he loves the community, this was an expression of the ‘Life of Perl’ I wanted to portray in my talk but was done with so much more panache and style by Sawyer.
But even Sawyer was to be topped...
The final Keynote, or should we just call them Plenary Sessions as that is what they were, was from John Anderson. John talked about the YAPCs themselves and about the community. He spoke on how we had come to be where we are and how we have to change to go on. John, like Charlie, sees that we can survive but what is an old way of doing things must go, the old must pass on to the young, the journey has taken us this far and no more.
John's great passion is for the community and for the people that exist within it, and he feels we can grow this strong central core into something much more. Perhaps then we need to be the Yet Another Polyglot Conference. Mature language communities, like Perl, are made up of people who have more than one language under their skin, it is also made stronger by inclusiveness and diversity.
One of the strengths of the Perl community is our ability to look at, embrace and celebrate what is good in other languages and other cultures. Sometimes we also denigrate to excess what we do not admire. But it is an aspect of our critical and creative selves, and it is an aspect that as Matt said, can be moderated, we can be a reasonable person and have reasonable principles that we share.
So it is time for us to change, to grow with our maturity and to evolve into something new.
‘One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’
(Alfred, Lord Tenyson, Ulysses)
 Again perhaps age is to play a factor in this, or maybe it is just that the kids, work and friends all piled on their needs as well. And the phrase a little later now encompases at least a fortnight, perhaps a dislocation to time is a function of my advancing years ;). And by a little later I meant a couple of months ;)
 Okay a little part of me just went squee. Alright it was a big part of me.
 This became the hashtag of the conference. John’s life was made much more complex by Stevan, his boss, changing jobs before the event. Stevan couldn’t make the YAPC as he was busy moving and was sad to miss us, so we helped him in his mourning by blaming any issue on him.
 As I said in my talk, I hate this guy, he is far funnier than I am.
 During his keynote John Anderson used this poem and I thought that it wonderfully matched the whole nature not only of his Plrenary but the others as well. So I have used it here. Personally I agree with Stevan who said ‘that’s why John’s a doctor and I am not’. #damnitstevan
On Saturday, 26th April 2014, the Shadowcat crew made a mini-trip to the Newcastle Maker Faire. In truth Tom and Mark were making a brief pilgrimage to have a jolly time and help out on the Manchester MakeSpace's table and Kimball was there for the whole weekend on a planned annual visit.
The Maker Faire in Newcastle is the UK's largest Maker event. Held in Newcastle's Life centre in the centre of the city next to the station and within sniffing distance of the river. It attracts a large following from the many Maker groups in the UK along with the engineering and science departments of a number of Universities, societies, clubs, associations and other interested creatives.
The first thing you recognise about the Maker Faire - it's generally crazy and these people are eccentrics.
The second thing you notice - they want to include everyone in the crazy so there is stuff for all ages and levels of knowledge and competence.
The third thing - even the recluses (how few they are) and shy (a lot less few) want to engage with you and show their craziness as this is a comfortable and safe environment for them, they come out of their shell.(1)
Needless to say Tom was fully in his environment and I went from slightly lost and bemused, an initial state i have most of the time, to fully engaged in less than an hour. One of the most fun parts was the mornings wander around the stalls talking to a lot of very interesting people who were happy to share their passion. The problem was there wasn't enough time to talk to all of them. But in about two hours I had made an LED lantern, been digitally plotted and drawn by a mobile phone that controlled a drawing robot and been the subject of a click challenge (which Tom beat me at).
The afternoon went even more sideways to what I imagined. I started by trying to help man the Manchester maker's display. Then I did a little soldering (a newish skill for me), and was instantly conscripted into showing the general public how to solder and make Maker badges as well. So from neophyte to instructor in one easy 'you did it so show it' step.
I could probably go on enthusing about the event at some length and I especially want to give focus to some of the people/projects I saw at the event. For that reason I am running a series of companion pieces on my personal blog at www.markekating.me.uk so you will see some bits about the faire there.
For now, sit back and enjoy the videos I made that do not even begin to highlight enough of the fun, weird, awesome and general crazy:
(1) So I am using the third person a lot, however it is just a product of writing not to separate myself from the crazy eccentrics, I'm generally considered well past the eccentric stage myself, and dotty-enthusiastic-bungler-geek is an epithet I likely mirror.
...is married to Leigh and has two sons called Benjamin Connor and Elliott James, they all live in Lancaster, UK with a cat called Darwin and several tropical fish. He stumbled sideways into the magnificent world of Perl by way of linguistics, literature, a publishing company and an undefined close association with Matt Trout. He is a neophyte evangelist of modern Perl and an advocate of Enlightenment thinking.