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One Decade Down: Conferences and Meetings

Part 9: From Web Frameworks to Keynotes and Organising

Sat Apr 2 20:34:15 2016


This is a bit of a story, a bit of a history, a bit of a documentary, and hopefully a lot of entertainment and theatre about Shadowcat Systems.

We are ten years old and to celebrate that fact I want to write ten unique little pieces about Shadowcat that hold as a memory of our first ten years and a celebration of that decade down. All of these pieces are scheduled to be released throughout the whole of our 10th year.

Conference Season

Shadowcat have been attending conferences, events, tech meetings and talks for as many years as we have been trading. A huge part of our community life revolves around the various meetings and events. In the murky past we used the term ‘Conference Season’ to depict a period of the year when we would be attending the various Perl related events, usually the YAPC::NA (Yet Another Perl Conference::North America) and the YAPC::EU which happen either side of the Western Summer break.

These days Conference Season starts in March and finishes is December and is punctuated by various meetings and events throughout. Some of the most important are still the YAPCs, but we are also heavily involved with the FLOSSUK events and of course have organised the London Perl Workshop since 2007. It would be impossible for us to attend every event and still maintain a healthy work/life balance. But we have a lot of interest in the many community events and like to keep an understanding of what happens in them.

Aside from the conferences, networking events, tech meetings, tech days, we are also active members in the local Perl community and help organise (we in fact started) the North-West England Perl Mongers group. Then there are the events connected to Lancaster and Morecambe Makers and other group interests.


When we attend a conference we always make sure that we participate as much as possible. This can take a variety of forms but is always going to be one or more of the following:

  • We write social media posts, or blogs about the event.
  • We attend the social meetings around the event and help to organise.
  • We indulge in debates and conversations in the Hallway Track.
  • We man community desks.
  • We help organise.
  • We will help set up or tear down.
  • We run Presentations and Workshops.

The last one needs more explanation. In the last ten years I have probably attended at least seventy events, and I have given a talk at over fifty percent of them. It is more for Matt who has spoken at every event he has attended in almost the whole of the last decade. This is probably down to a curious extrovert/introvert mix we have and also because we like to be a part of things.

Being speakers, or presenters, has some perks as we often do not pay for the conference ticket, on the flip side we do have to spend the time to write the talks, and in my case rehearse repeatedly. Some of the talks are available on our YouTube channel, some of the best talks are available on the YAPC::NA YouTube channel.

Presenting is always fraught for me as I am a nervous speaker. Thankfully I have attended the magnificent Damien Conway’s Presentation Training and the techniques I have learned help me to look and sound confident. I am always well rehearsed and practiced so come across as confident.

I recall in Vienna for a YAPC::EU Matt was giving a 50 minute presentation called Database Haters Anonymous. The day started badly as his laptop wouldn’t connect to the screen. Soon Matt was surrounded by a group of techs and helpers all confused by the lack of connectability. A solution was found using borrowed tech from the audience and Matt started his talk, 22 minutes late. He finished on time by delivering at high speed and in a manic manner that has evolved to be his trademark style.

My favourite talk that I gave was a five-minute Lightning Talk called Perl and CPAN (a parody/homage to Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham) which I gave at a YAPC::NA in Madison, Illinois. I also got my favourite top from there, an embroidered Perl Staff shirt.

Another great honour we have had doing presentations is when we were chosen for a Plenary or Keynote. I have the honour of opening two successive YAPC::NAs (Austin and Orlando) with a keynote talk. The first was a 25 year history of Perl and the second was all about how Perl is more alive than ever even after being declared demised. Matt has given a number of Keynote talks over a few years and been a guest speaker more times than I can recall.

The Events

It is going to be difficult to highlight the best, worst, or most interesting conferences and events we have attended. There have been many and what makes them memorable is very subjective. I have highlighted a few that stick to me at this point.

Web Frameworks

The very first presentation that Matt gave about Perl at an official event was the Web Frameworks night in London in November of 2005. Matt was talking about Catalyst and aside from me Dave Cross was in the audience. Dave was not -massively- impressed by Matt’s performance and wrote a good (if a little scathing) review.

As always the Perl community shot itself in the foot a bit. I know that Catalyst is a great framework and I know that Matt Trout knows a lot about Catalyst. Unfortunately he doesn’t know enough about how to sell Catalyst in a presentation.

Both Matt and I are enormously proud of the fact that Dave gave an honest review that actually helped s to understand how we could improve our presentations. Overall it was a great night and my first exposure to technical conferences

LUG Radio Live

I have included this as this was the first event we ever attended as a sponsor/exhibitor. The LUG Radio was a one off event and a forerunner of a number of spin-off events. It is still alive today as the OGGCamp

At LUG Radio Live I spent a deal of my time in the exhibitors room with a table and a slideshow discussing Perl and Catalyst while Matt mixed his time between presentations and being with me.


The Perl Mongers group is managed, supported and maintained by the wonderful folk at Evozon. They have quarterly technical/social meetings that are amongst the largest in the Perl community (100+ attendees and speakers). Matt and I have both had the honour of being guest speakers for the meetings. When I attended I gave three talks about community and the language (3 Big Ideas for Perl, Perl and CPAN, Social Structure and the Family Perl).

One of the most memorable parts about the evening is that I was a headline speaker and there were support speakers doing short talks and lightning talks. It was a great honour to be the guest as such an event, especially since I was so warmly welcomed by the technical community in Romania.

Over the years I have become much more integrated with the organisation and marketing of events and less with the presenting. It was a pleasure in 2015 to get back to presenting (I spoke about using OpenNMS for Business at OUCE2015). In the future I hope to bring a few more talks to conferences and perhaps revitalise a talk or two from the past and update them for the current time.

Shadowcat will continue to take a strong participation at events of that I am certain.

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  • One Decade Down: Sponsorship Part 10: The Well Sponsored World


This is a bit of a story, a bit of a history, a bit of a documentary, and hopefully a lot of entertainment and theatre about Shadowcat Systems.

We are ten years old and to celebrate that fact I wrote ten unique little pieces about Shadowcat that hold as a memory of our first ten years and a celebration of that decade down. All of these pieces were released throughout the whole of our 10th year. This is the final piece of that celebratory story.

Sponsorship is…

There is a level of debate that. An be had about whether we need, or should encourage, sponsorship in open source, voluntary or civil sectors.[1] I like sponsorship, I like sponsors and I feel that you need to sponsor if you are in business. I think the act of sponsoring what are good ideas whether complimentary to your business activities or merely a remote, or passing, interest is a necessity.

For Shadowcat sponsorship is therefore just another way that you can contribute to your communities. Like submitting code, participating in conferences, giving up some funds, time or effort is a sponsorship. It makes most of the contribution given by the community a sponsorship or a patronage.[2]

Sponsorship is a cash and/or in-kind fee paid to a property (typically in sports, arts, entertainment or causes) in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that property.
Wikipedia: Commercial Sponsorship

patron (Noun). Pronunciation: /ˈpeɪtr(ə)n/
(1) A person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or cause: a celebrated patron of the arts
(1.1) A distinguished person who takes an honorary position in a charity: the Mental Health Foundation, of which Her Royal Highness is Patron
(2) A customer of a shop, restaurant, etc., especially a regular one:
Oxford Dictionaries

Sponsoring Our Community

Shadowcat has sponsored a number of technical community events, projects and infrastructure over the last decade. At one time we supplied a huge level of the infrastructure for a messaging system and still are strong contributors. A somewhat simplified list would include:

  • Hosted IRC Channels and networks (daemons)
  • Hosted projects
  • Sponsored server services and Domain Name Services
  • Sponsored Domain Names
  • Hosted mailing lists
  • Sponsored Hackathons (Perl QA, Dbic-a-thon)
  • Sponsored Conferences (YAPC::NA, YAPC::EU, LPW, GPW, YAPC::Brazil, etc.)

Local and Broader Communities

As a responsible local company we have also played our part in sponsorship of local, or regional activities along with the occasional national project. Many of these projects were sponsored via Kickstarter or other funding systems, one or two were direct sponsorship.

Amongst the Kickstarter projects we backed were: * Sherlock Holmes, The Empty House. This was a project to produce translations of the Empty House Book. This book, featuring articles by a number of famous writers and broadcasters, was created to raise funds for a campaign to save Arthur Conan Doyle’s house for the nation and history. Matt and I are big Holmes fans and it seemed like a great left-field sponsorship. As it was we were the largest sponsors and the Kickstarter produced 6 translations, Shadowcat have a Preface in 6 Languages which was an honour for me to write.[4] *Jack Knight’s first art exhibition. As part of our relationship with Knighttime Creations who produced all of our recent caricatures we backed Jack’s show at the Lancaster Museum. Jack is a talented creator and we are huge fans of his visual style so it was great to be able to back his first foray into exhibitions and to purchase some original artwork. * Jane Binnion’s The Heart of Sales. Long time Shadowcat friend and local Social Media expert Jane Binnion released her latest book via a Kickstarter project. We at Shadowcat were proud to back the book and to help Jane in the project.

Patrons Shadowcat have acted as Patrons on a number of the projects, either via Kickstarter or by direct funds. We have also been patrons by contributing time or expertise. Amongst the many events we have been a part of:

Shadowcat were major sponsors of the first Lancashire Women’s Conference. This was an open event with women-only speakers. The idea being to give women a greater chance to gain experience of presenting and interacting at events.

We sponsored the [2014 EMF Camp] (Electro-Magnetic Field) that brought over 1,000 attendees to camping in fields while sharing fast internet and full power. EMF is all about emergent hardware technologies and open systems.

We are involved with the efforts of Pear Trading, LESS, Lancaster ESTA in creating sustainable local economies and boosting local trade.

10 Years Over

So this is the final article in the celebration of our first 10 years. We have done, and been involved with, a lot of great projects, events and phenomena in the last decade and this is just a snapshot of them. I wish I could thank every single one of the great people we have been involved with personally over the last decade, they have been fantastic.

I hope that we will be able to do as much in our second decade as we have done in our first and I am glad I have at least 9 years before I have to do as long a series of articles.

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[1] There are many conflicting arguments in the area of sponsorship, one of the strongest I know of is that it does introduce an idea of preference or preferential treatment. In an Open system everyone has an equal footing but if we have sponsors they often require a return, or are offered some bonus to match their sponsorship. This also brings up the issue that if there is less need the sponsorship goes away, if you rely on that sponsorship this may leave you in a poor position.

The deeper psychological issue may be that sponsorship becomes brand identity. So that when people see the item being sponsored they automatically make an association with a company that is it s principal supplier. This is especially true in sports where most of the research and understanding of this comes from.

[2] Patronage is still such a strongly parochial word, these days it has slipped into being a patriarchal term linked to an older form of establishment. I use it to indicate that a company can be a patron, an individual who lends support and in many ways gains in the manner that a client or customer might. That way we are all patrons of open source either as contributors to the ecosystem or users.[3]

[3] The original Roman meaning of the word was linked to slavery as a Patron was typically the former owner, and now supporter, of a freed slave. Once a slave was released from ownership they were sponsored in their citizen status by their former owners.

[4] It is a pity I don’t understand the languages the Preface was translated into.