April 10, 2007 - Perl Events, Great and Small

There are so many Perl events around the world now that I thought I'd take a shot at categorizing how they all relate to one another. I thought this might help people thinking about attending something for the first time, people thinking about presenting something and also people thinking about organizing an event.

For people thinking about becoming more involved in the Perl community, this presents a sort of ladder of involvement. You can start small at a Perl Mongers meeting with almost no cost to yourself in dollars or time. If you like what you see, there are several more steps you can take before you ante up and fly to someplace like Vienna or Houston for the full YAPC experience.

There are a ton of brilliant people out there using Perl and I'll bet nearly all of them have something interesting to say about how they use Perl. But presenting is a skill and it can be tough to learn because you need to stand in front of people while you are learning. That's a very public learning curve and you can't write automated tests for it. Public speaking can be really hard, that's why there are organizations like Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie.

But Perl has an organizational structure to help you too. You can start by giving a small presentation at your local Perl Mongers group to people you probably know. As you work out the kinks, work up to a Workshop, then maybe a YAPC. In a few years you could find yourself traveling to other PM groups or presenting at OSCON.

There is also heavy demand for the prominent speakers in the Perl community. This strucure helps the community because it nurtures new people as they work on their presentation skills, especially when they already have the technical knowledge. You never know who could be the next Randal, brian, MJD, or Damian, but they might come from your PM group. OK, there won't be another Damian, but you get the idea.

And we always need organizers too. You say everything has been done in the Perl community and you don't know how to help out? Besides, you're not sure your Perl-foo is good enough to send in a patch for the DBI module? Well, there is no better way to support the Perl community than to host an event that brings together people who do want to do those things.

Hosting these events is just as time-consuming and important as putting things on CPAN. And as with speaking, there is a nice way to work your way up the ladder. I'm sure hosting YAPC would be a lot less intimidating if you already had a hackathon or workshop under your belt.

Read on for the types of Perl events out there and let me know if you have any additional input. In the future, I'd also like to add some details on how and when groups like TPF and YEF get involved in these events.

Perl Mongers Meetings

Perl Mongers meetings are the foundation of Perl knowledge sharing and networking.

  • Usually free, sometimes they pass a hat for donations.
  • Usually have local speakers.
  • Sometimes bring in prominent speakers for special talks.
  • Low barrier to attending and presenting.
  • Great for demoing a talk or getting your feet wet presenting.
  • Great for networking at the local level.
  • Often monthly.
  • Fairly easy to organize.
  • Size varies from a few people to tens of people.

Hackathons

This newer addition to the organized event list brings people together to share physical space while working on projects. This often allows people who usually work separately to hash some things out in person.

  • Low cost, usually paying your own room and some food. Sponsors cover some cost.
  • Many locals plus some folks travel.
  • Will usually have several prominent Perl coders present.
  • Low barrier for attending and contributing.
  • Great chance to learn about active projects and get involved by talking to some folks in person.
  • More organization since it is for several days and there are venue details.
  • Size in the 20's or 30's.

Workshops

A workshop is a fully organized and scheduled event, but is compact and often takes place over a weekend.

  • Some cost for attendance, typically very low.
  • Draws from the surrounding region (could be a large region) with some folks traveling from further away.
  • Have a mix of local presenters and prominent Perl trainers/presenters.
  • Usually one or two days.
  • Full schedule of talks, possibly two tracks.
  • Size varies from high 10s (80-ish) to over 100.
  • Great chance to learn about Perl and meet Perl people in a small setting.
  • Much more organization because you have speaker/talk details, venue details, and attendee details. More people means more issues to deal with. More money means higher stakes for mistakes.

YAPCs (OSDC)

Yet Another Perl Conferences are at the top of the Perl public event ladder on the grassroots side and they are the largest Perl events outside OSCON. Recent YAPCs from around the world have routinely drawn 400 attendees (YAPC::NA, EU, Asia, Brazil, etc.). Some YAPCs have morphed into Open Source Developer Conferences that have talks on other languages.

  • Attendance fee, but still very low cost for a full conference.
  • Draws from the larger region (country/continent) and world-wide.
  • Mostly experienced presenters with some new presenters.
  • For presenters, full conference-style presenting. Usually large rooms with possibility of a large audience. Often large screen display with PA system.
  • Usually 3 days, with training and hackathons sometimes added on.
  • Attendance varies from 150 to 400 or more.
  • Full schedule of talks, keynotes, lightning talks, BOFs. Sometimes as many as 4 tracks.
  • Extra features such as job fairs, special conference dinners, etc.
  • Great chance to soak in pure Perl talk for 3 days.
  • Oranization is full-blown. Takes 6 months to a year to fully organize. Many details to arrange for. Usually takes a full team like the local Perl Mongers group to support it. Large budget with many sponsors.

Tags:

  • Conferences
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