Surfing around on the underground on a Friday evening before seven and the spectrum of disinterest follows you as people flee to avoid even a casual glance.
There is something unnatural in the close confines that draws this behaviour, happily exacerbated by the frequent travellers.
Londoners have mastered the art of individuality in motion, to be the island in a sea of familiarity. There is hostile element lurking in the attitude. One could call it a brio of aggression tailored with just the right essence of disregard.
The observer might feel this to be the aura of the disinfranchised, the spectrum of unengaged in a learned defenisive stance. I, however, feel this response is an act, a show or display, like a badly fashioned peacock with an alcohol issue. Londoners preening themselves to the call of the distanced, the unresponsive and the indignant, a badge of honour with a million closely confined standard bearers.
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 have discovered that I no longer like sitting in the back off cars on long trips. There are two parts to why this has happened.
Firstly it is a matter of a lack of control. Since learning to drive I don’t enjoy being a passenger much at all. When I sit in the front I can at least pretend I am affecting my destiny better and this pretence is lost when I sit in the back. It makes me a a little tense and irritable.
Secondly if the car has poor oscillation dampers (shock absorbers) and they are soft making the car wobble I get a little nauseous. It is probably because I am tense about the driving so my stomach is knotted.
A drive from San fransisco airport to a hotel in San Jose with a driver who insisted on accelerating rapidly and breaking hard was the first time I noticed a feeling of motion sickness that these two elements combined can make. It was not a good drive, the traffic was heavy, the car was old and smelled badly (it was not that clean which seems to be common in some cities) and I was travel weary. All of those were contributing factors but the primary two reasons were principal.
The only other time I have felt motion Sickness was in the back of a very cramped Mini in the 80s that had a strong smell of petrol which was making me sick.
Learning the triggers will likely help me in the future in combating the effect, but the fact that it exists at all is a new development.
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.
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.
So I am sat letting my brain decompress at high speed after the first ever DBIx::Class Hackathon in existence. Dbic is a project written in Perl which in very loose terms is a relational mapper for databases.(1)
On Saturday, 12th April 2014, we gathered at the unlikely location of a Community Centre in the town of Swindon. The participants hailed from Germany, Spain, Scotland and England and even far flung 'round the corner'. Jess 'castaway' Robinson was the organiser and her residency in Swindon the reason for the location, and she did a fine job of organising the first ever event.
We had assumed that only a handful of people would have the time to attend, especially for a fledgling event on a single day. To attract international attendees is a massive score, and fifteen hackers make a good gaggle to do work with.
My task today, with my co-conspirator Ian norton also of Shadowcat infamy, was to implement a new design for DBIx::Class on the web, a simple enough plan as the site was already built. Or so I thought. Ribasushi had other plans, he wanted a number of issues addressed and had a task list for me to follow. A number of issues had already been covered, quite excellently, by the site's principal designer. Ian Norton and I decided we would tackle some of the others to a good enough level to get the new site launched.
I don't want to go into the full extent of the 13 tasks we covered from Ribasushi, nor do I want to raise the frustrations at Javascipt libraries we were unfamiliar with and image redesigns that Ian and I deemed necessary to the site. I do want to apologise to my fellow attendees for the occasional language and outbursts and for taking their images and stealing their souls.
Part of what I wanted to achieve was a fresh look to the initiative and to spur along community involvement. I think we achieved that and I would like to mention once again that DPetrov and the amazing people like Micheala, Amalia and Miheala at Evozon have been so supportive. I also should mention that it was the ubiquitous SawyerX who first pestered me about this some time ago, it took us some time, but here it is.
We did however miss that the site had been made into a templated system (oops) by the ever reliable Dpetrov. We also introduced a couple of new features (yeah i mean bugs) that will be worked on.
What we mostly achieved is a fresh start, a good deal of faffing with new technologies and ideas, a nice hack with food and drink (soft drinks for most of the day and one or two people who were not driving had a can of ale later). We also spurred on a lot of feedback from the community, a raft of bug reports/enhancements and suggestions and a think a kick in the right direction for the site.
It is a testament to castaway and riba that we achieved so much. Guys it was a great day, well worth the effort, next year maybe two days so that we can have slightly shorter days and a slightly longer evening rest without total fall over :)
(1) However if you ask Ribasushi, Castaway or mst they will tell you that it really isn't and almost, well maybe if you want to call it that which it isn't really.
So I classify myself as a mostly busy manager. I say mostly as some days I get the doldrums and life seems to drag and my brain plays distraction techniques with social media and the ever changing world about us. However, like most managers, I don't do nine to five and some mornings I get up at six just to clear the email backlog.(1)
So when I discover that I have inadvertently stepped in mud and smeared that across the carpet below my desk, and then as it dried walked it into the carpet in the room, it is obvious it needs cleaning up. At this point I am betting a vast number of managers would decide to pass this job to the office cleaner. Or, if you are in a small office like ours, that poor sap whose job description included doing the cleaning.
Well, I could have done that. Some would say should have done that. In fact the person responsible(2) for general office state at Castle Shadowcat even offered to hoover and clean. I declined. I made the mess. It is a Monday morning. They are busy with weekend emails and regular duties, we are all busy. But I made the mess.
I am a firm believer that you should take responsibility for your actions. I am also firmly of the belief that no job is too menial for the person running the company. No task that an employee is asked to do should be outside of you attempting to do it. In fact you need to be willing to support your staff, not control them.
I cleaned my desk area, I hoovered the room where I had walked and I also cleaned the room next door because I had the hoover out and it just seemed sensible. I also got onto my hands and knees in my casual suit and wiped the floor mats and seat-legs clean where the mud had stuck to hard surfaces.
My feeling is that my staff don't think less of me for this. I think they respect the fact that I am willing to do this type of work as well. We are never above anyone. We should not climb to the top of the ladder, we should learn how to be lifted.
So I classify myself as a mostly busy manager. I say mostly as some days I get the doldrums and life seems to drag and my brain plays distraction techniques with social media and the ever changing world about us. However, like most managers, I don't do nine to five and some mornings I get up at six just to clear the email backlog.
(1) This is especially true on a Monday.
(2) Responsible only because they were generally employed to help with those things, not because they must do it diligently and all the time.
Spring has sprung though I can barely believe it. Though as I walked along the Brighton seafront, with a bracing chill wind in my face and a red sunset at my heels, it did feel a little more spring-like.
I was in Brighton to attend my second, though really my first FLOSSUK.(1) I have had the fortune to be asked to speak on the current state of the Perl world in regards to developers, culture, environment and practices. At the same time I was to have a peek at some of the more modern tools.
Sunset in Brighton
FLOSS Spring is an event that, in popular mythology, is mostly attended by systems administrators. I feel this is a historical precedent, or maybe just a popular perception, that doesn't match the character of either the attendees or the phenomena. The talks, people and passion maybe all about modern techniques in DevOps, and a significant percentage are systems people. However they are also interested in languages, projects, development as well as systems. One of the best features is born from the fact that this conference is language agnostic. If it is open, it is wanted. And most likely respected, accepted, loved and discussed.(2)
Though a large number of the attendees may work in system engineering, they are also closely connected to development and deployment. This is perhaps the reason for the eponymous DevOps association. What we actually have is a broad sector of senior system managers, network architectural engineers, developers, system administrators and project managers. This is a great environment for cross-pollinating ideas, techniques, software solutions and problem solving.
Is that Pascal from Tangled?
The Shadowcat Team arrived a day early on the Tuesday to provide a last minute tutorial after one of the trainers dropped out due to unforseen circumstances. Ian Norton and Tom Bloor gave an introduction to Perl event, a variant on the presentation Ian has given on an number of occasions. This was attended by five students, one of whom specifically swapped to be on the Perl event and seemed most keen. There was a general buzz in the room and it was good to see our latest 'minion' hold his own teaching others.
The conference started in earnest on the Wednesday. The keynote speech on the changes to the UK Government website was enlightening, especially if you deal with site design and delivery. The approaches, changes and entire revolution of ideas was fascinating to learn.
I also really liked the talk by Jans Mens on Ansible, unfortunately it quickly lost me and I think I managed to confuse his section on Roles with the ideas of Roles from Computer Languages, with particular reference to how they are used in Moose and Perl6.
I enjoyed Simon Riggs' talk on PostgresSQL. Postgres seems to be a fast-moving database system. I know a lot of effort has been expended on noSQL of recent years but Postgres has some real power and features (being able to run eighty-five million request an hour on a low powered laptop being just the thin edge of a large wedge) and a yearly development cycle that keeps a high momentum.
The Thursday started with an almost UK Open Source conference tradition. Bytemark, once again, supplied a personalised conference gift in the shape of a mug. This had a unique message, conference branding and your own name.
A Bytemark Mug, guess which one is mine
The first talk I heard was given by Bernd Erk on OpenNebula. OpenNebula is a datacentre virtualisation system, however think more that it creates ‘private clouds not public clouds’. OpenNebula however is all about small clouds for internal company usage. A highlight is that it works with a range of open tools to manage configuration, replication and reporting.
Chris Jones, gave an interesting talk about OpenStack. The latest move in OpenStack is called TripleO. The short, and mostly true version of this, is to be running a cloud with VMs and attached storage using OpenStack on OpenStack. Hence why they are calling this Triple-O, OpenStack On OpenStack you see, almost alliterative. The idea is to use thesame tool to deploy as the tool that is being deployed, as many of the components to do this are already available inside that tool (and now I get lost in recursion).
Conceptually they see it as a cloud on top of a cloud. This is not strictly true, but it helps as a conceptual model to understand what is actually happening. It gives them the name of undercloud - the abstracted management layer that sits on the hardware; and the overcloud which is the client facing open stack implementation.
The second talk of the day given by Bernd Erk was a quite interesting discussion on the roadmap for Icinga2. Icinga is a fork of the ever-popular Nagios and is compatible with the modules from the Nagios eco-system. It was good to hear Bernd talk with a lot of enthusiasm for the current state of network monitoring and cloud based PaaS.
Matt S. Trout, of Shadowcat infamy, gave a talk on Prolog and Devops Logique - as always Matt gave a wander through the recesses of his mind, the history of computing and system approaches, with various conversations concerning configuration of servers.
mst in full flow
On his journey Matt assessed the manner in which a number of other languages have implemented or addressed some of the issues he is facing. This approach allows him to evaluate and understand the argument in a much broader manner. The end goal seems to be to handle dependencies and to manage them well on a system perhaps utilising the Perl scripting language.
David Griffith gave one of the best talks of the day on Test Frameworks and the issues they have encountered and overcome at Durham University. It was strange to listen to a talk that was both complimentary on the achievements yet also modest and reflective. David was speaking about the cultural changes in remote workers and cloud systems, which nicely closed the event for me as we started with a keynote that emphasised a revolution in the culture of a department.
Audience settled in
The event itself was closed by Kimball Johnson who presented Josette from O'Reilly with flowers as this is her last conference as an O'Reilly representative. This was a deep sadness for most of us at the conference. Josette has been a great treasure to this event and many other open source communities and she will be greatly missed as O’Reilly’s voice in the UK and European community.
Kimball Johnson closes the event
Kimball then presented awards for the best talk, best lightning talk and several honourable mentions. I was greatly honoured, and proud, to receive the award for best lightning talk and an honourable mention for my longer talk. The best prize however was simply being at the event and enjoying the talks and the people.
A few other thoughts have to be conveyed before I close this piece.
One of the major highlights of the week was the 'Spaceship' that was built, created and manned by the chaps at the London HackSpace. They brought this wonderful experience to the conference dinner and teams of happy victims were led into the event over the course of the night. I think I would quickly run out of synonyms if I tried to write a range of superlatives on the brilliance of this experience. The spaceship looks amazing, the various effects, screens, buttons and stories have a lot of thought and care gone into them. The LHS crew both run the simulation and act out the varying storylines with the crew and even dress for the occasion.(3)
I would like to thank the conference organisers, and especially Kimball Johnson, for inviting me to talk at the Spring Conference and for asking me to write on my experience which you can read in the UKUUG newsletter and on their website.
(1) Though the term might be thoroughly soaked if they live in the UK.
(2) For that fact alone we should be shouting to all the other language groups and saying come one and all, attend, mix and learn, be a part of an open forum not a closed view.
(3) For a better description of crew see willing participants, attendees or as they are also known, victims.
This week I will be talking at FLOSS UK’s Spring Conference in Brighton. I hope to interest the crowd a little on the stance about Perl’s apparent moribundity and recent developments/attitudes in the Perlverse.
It has led me to think a little about the Open Source world itself. How we can have the notion of freely available source code? How we can have communities linked by a common desire to create tools and platforms that cut across their diverse environments, history, philosophy and belief? And for the purpose of this piece, how you can have companies that are active participants or exist solely by the use of, but not contribution to, community software?
Open Source is a community phenomena. The reach of this community can be global but its existence is dependent on, and evolved out of, social not corporate forces.
This has led me to think, where do you place yourself on a spectrum that stretches from the extremes of freedom of speech, expression, movement and usage to the control of a product/service by the restriction of imitation even to the level of concept.
For the spectrum is that vast. The various licences of Open Source and freedoms in the community have bred an environment where those viewpoints can be expressed against the same technology. Think UNIX/Linux/GNULinux.
On the one end of the spectrum would be Richard Stallman, well regarded as a founding force in the FSF movement and close association with GNULinux. Richard is no stranger to controversy and courting extreme reactions to his hard-line stances on freedom of speech and fighting corporate restrictions on ownership. An academic with a thorough understanding of rights, transference of property and ownership, of liberty and the distribution via community licences, copyright (copyleft) and patents
The other end of this Open Source mini-spectrum is über-famous Tim Cook, Apple CEO who promotes overwhelming control asserted from the ownership of property. Tim is a seemingly decent person but his company builds strongly protected software on top of open source languages and platforms then dominates and restricts others who even dare to challenge its mind realms. Apple are so far from the argument they almost don’t belong on this scale, however OSX is Net BSD and iOS is written in Objective-C, placing them in our OS world.
Somewhere in the middle (though to the right of centre in a manner similar to the Republican National Party, UK Conservatives and the Tony Blair Philosophy) sits the burgeoning Facebook and Google eco-systems. A heady mixture of open source homage and corporate profiteering. These giants are able to show great promise to do good by building their containment walls in the far distance. Their willingness to embrace disruptive technology is matched only by their rapaciousness to own it all. They are the modern day children to the East India Tea Company bringing liberation and expansion to the masses by the extension of their dominions.
So Riddle me this:
Where do you stand?
Why do you stand there?
Answers in the comments or by email/social media to me. I am really curious to hear from you all.
 Though some distance to this philosophy must be made about Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook does match his thinking in many ways and yet differs in others. I see the differences between the culture of their developoers and the oscillation of the founder. Zuck is familiar for having contrary reports blasted over news spreads about his life. The Zuck doesn’t quite hold any sense in the examination between what he says he believes and what he does. The most telling recent example is his revelation that he fears for internet privacy. He worries for privacy from the NSA and he spoke to Obama about it in a personal phone call, he's happy to tell us this so we can feel reassured about how seriously he takes it.
Which basically means that to the Zuck personal is not private. If you have a conversation with someone feel free to use it in an anecdote to the whole planet, it is only a third party that is at fault for doing the same thing. Apply this behaviour to his company and you will see it almost precisely matches Facebook's policies and their business model. But it doesn't match many aspects of their developer's culture.
The topic I spoke about was easy video making using applications. I spent about ten minutes on this and maybe fifteen minutes in a Q&A section. As part of this presentation I did a lightning tour of the Magisto application and made a video for everyone in less than a minute (though the uploading and return took 20 mins due to wifi speeds).
The upshot is that I created a video on the night, it took maybe five minutes to take the footage, 1 minute to demo and use the application. So using Magisto I made the following in 6 minutes.
If anyone who was there and doesn't want this video displaying them on the internet (please let me know what time code you appear at - screen grab would be most helpful - and I will edit you out).
The Quorum has been a great ride and an enormous success for me. I have loved almost every moment; learned and grown as a person; made friends and business contacts that will I know turn into long term relationships and generally been able to step away from Shadowcat and think deeply. Most of my thinking has been about the culture, the direction and the strengths of the company and the wonderful staff that are part of it.
The initiative has also led to some excellent, and often greatly inspiring, Masterclasses. These are lectures, events, where a speaker will engage about their life and what they have come to learn and I wrote several blog posts based upon them.
The first of these was from Mark Freel a professor at both Lancaster and the University of Ottawa. Mark spoke about [innovation for companies][innovate] and the importance of being innovative, but also innovating well. He also mentioned the [goals that businesses must develop][goal] and gave a great account of the Brew Dog brand.
The Masterclass given by Paul McGee famed for being The SUMO Guy (Shut Up Move On) was one that has made positive impacts on both my life and my thinking. The articles I wrote for that were gushing as I both stated that ['I Love You Sugar Baby'][sumo1] and the [7 Steps I Think About Every Day][sumo2]. Paul is a great speaker and I am looking forward to a point when i can see him again.
Pete Goss gave a wonderful account of his experiences running several yachting challenges. His lecture was both exciting and humbling and made me reflect on the fact that it is the 'team that make you the leader'. His meditations on life, leadership, teamwork and overcoming great odds was inspiring and can relate to everyday existence.
Pete Goss: An Exceptional Cornish Sailor
There were other lectures that I could not attend, or did not write about. One that stands out was Kirsty Henshaw who spoke about her business and personal challenges. She also gave positive example that you can face almost absolute disaster and yet bounce back from it.
The Forum was so much more than this though. Kim, Laura, Ian and Richard created a programme of events and material that supported a journey. This was a challenge to face and a lot of time was spent in thinking, learning and listening to other people. The manner in which we became supportive was amazing and that we also developed peer learning. We came to understand each others challenges and approaches which gave fresh insight to ourselves and our businesses.
We also had a great opportunity to forge links with other departments and staff at the university and to see the resources and opportunities available by involving ourselves with them. This was one of the first elements that attracted me to the initiative and so I am especially happy to have been able to do that.
So this is a bit of gushing praise for the experience and the people. I am sad that it is over and yet I know that we will continue as a group in one form or another as there are strong links already forged between us all. I really want to thank/praise the University, the staff, Boost Lancashire and especially Kim and Laura for all the hard work made to make this a great thing to attend.
So this is not farewell, just au revoir.
[innovate]: http://shadow.cat/blog/mark-keating/2013/innovation/ "How we need to innovate and how we see it"
[goal]: http://shadow.cat/blog/mark-keating/2013/business-goals/ "The Goals of Business"
[sumo1]: http://shadow.cat/blog/mark-keating/2013/sumo/ "I Love you Sugar Baby, all about Paul Mcgee and his ace presentation"
[sumo2]: http://shadow.cat/blog/mark-keating/2013/7-steps/ "applying SUMO to my daily life"
...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.