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Just Enough Keynotes to Perform

A few thoughts and feelings on YAPCNA

Tue Jul 15 11:40:00 2014

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‘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.[1]

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 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[2], 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)[3]. 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.[4]

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)[5]


[1] 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 ;)

[2] Okay a little part of me just went squee. Alright it was a big part of me.

[3] 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.

[4] As I said in my talk, I hate this guy, he is far funnier than I am.

[5] 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