Lightning Strikes Again at TPC

by Schuyler Erle

Without fail, the Perl Lightning Talks at TPC never fail to amaze and amuse, and this year's round were no exception. Conceived several years ago by Mark-Jason Dominus as a way of letting attendees air ideas and projects unworthy of a full-on conference session, the Lightning Talks are comprised of a rapid-fire series of presentations, each precisely five minutes, and not a second longer. They have in only a couple of years blossomed into one of the conference's most perennially popular events. Hosted this year by's Robert Spier, the talks covered a broad swath of topic including:

  • Dan Brian on the "New Opinion," which may be summarized as "For every opinion, there is someone who holds it." Using Google's SOAP interface and his own Lingua::LinkParser, Dan located and counted the Internet's most frequent references of the form "x sucks." The winner? "Life sucks."

  • Brian Ingerson's attempts to get his shell to allow him to specify a non-binary executable on the hashbang line, in order to permit /usr/bin/ingy, the interpreter for the hypothetical Ingy language, to be implemented in Perl. Ingy gave example code, and noted that probably only Damian Conway himself could implement Ingy.

  • Joe McMahon talked about how Perl's highly useful debugger is mired in its Perl 4 origins. He issued a call to action for developers to set about documenting and re-architecting the debugger for the future.

  • Casey West announced the existence of the Perl Documentation Project, and begged for contributions of docs and support.

  • Tim Bunce presented the latest improvements to the DBI, Perl's database interface. If you use the DBI, you will love what Tim and friends have added.

  • Chip Salzenburg raised doubts about Larry Wall's origins. How did a mild-mannered amateur programmer working for the government invent something with the awesome power of Perl? Is Larry like unto one of the archetypal wizards of Middle Earth, appearing mysteriously on the western shores to arm and fortify freedom-loving peoples against the forces of domination and control? Is he secretly leading a spiritual revolution of the faithful, a sort of Larry-Wall-Muad'Dib? Whatever his origins, he has certainly succeeded in teaching us at least one deep moral truth -- There's More Than One Way To Do It.

  • Allison Randal gave a reading of her Dr. Seuss inspired epic, "On Passing Perl V".

  • After the break, Matt Sergeant gave a talk entitled "101 Damnations" on the how and why of the fifty-plus modules in his CPAN directory. Matt cited great tools, a great community, and a deep and abiding laziness as the primary inspirations for his CPAN contributions.

  • Casey West (again) gave a shout-out to some of the people whose hard work has made Perl great, complete with portraits built with the South Park Studio. "Oh my god! He killed Larry, Damian, Nat, Jarkko, Elaine, Schwern, and dha! You bastard!"

  • Ken Williams announced the inception of the Perl Apprenticeship Site, intended to connect people who have cool ideas with people who want to learn how to work on them.

  • Tom Phoenix shared some of the Perl community's most colorful euphemisms. Not all Perl hackers like to sniff someone else's packets or put their socket in promiscuous mode, but doesn't everyone always eagerly anticipate the upcoming major release?

  • Adam "Ziggy" Turoff shared the top ten reasons you need an iMac. Anti-aliased fonts in your terminal window, anyone?

  • Pierre Denis presented Vx, a slick SOAP-driven integrated multimedia exchange program.

  • Graham Barr introduced the shiny new, intended to replace the aging site. It's attractive, it's functional, and it's becoming the best way to browse the CPAN. Check it out.

  • Michael Schwern took us on a trip down memory lane, by compiling Perl 1.0.14 right before our very eyes, in under five minutes. Wow.

  • Damian Conway took the stage to demonstrate the brand-new /usr/bin/ingy by running Ingy's sample code with it.

As cool as these presentations were, digital video stole the show at this year's Lightning Talks.

  • Rael Dornfest presented a set of dead-on parodies of the recent Apple "Switch" commercials, featuring the likes of Chris DiBona, Dave Ascher, Ken Williams (in his cinematic debut), Nat Torkington, and Sarah Burcham, who switches to Windows XP because of "that button thingy".

  • Infamous auteur Nat Torkington got in another screening of his screwball epic A Python Programmer Learns Perl From the Masters. (Warning: Not suitable for children or people who pride themselves on their good taste.) :-)

  • Leon Brocard introduced a fun promotional film about the Perl Foundation. Summary: Give TPF your money so that we can give you Perl 6.

By now, I'm guessing you're probably sorry you missed the Perl Lightning Talks, if you indeed had the misfortune of missing them. Don't worry, though, we'll be seeing them - and hopefully you - at next summer's Perl Conference 7.