The Perl Conference 5: Wrap-up

by Simon Cozens


And it was yet another action-packed day. "Yet another" might be a significant phrase for the day, since Yet Another Society's Kevin Lenzo appeared on stage with Larry Wall, Damian Conway, and Nat Torkington after the day's keynote speech, and Kevin announced that the Perl Mongers and Perlmonks were to be merged into YAS. This, combined with Larry's blessing and Damian Conway's funding for another year, establishes YAS firmly as the central location for those wishing to fund Perl and other open source languages.


The rest of the day saw two real Perl tracks: Damian Conway, and everyone else. "The Conway Channel" was a three-hour presentation of all the modules that Damian had created so far during his indenture--from the sublime (Filter::Simple, NEXT) to the ridiculous (Acme::Bleach). Damian continued after lunch, with a talk on the skin-crawling horror of SelfGOL. Thankfully, I was spared the worst of the presentation by having to deliver my own talk about my mail filtering module, Mail::Audit. I got into Damian's class to see him explaining how to create a loop by having a string of code perform a regular expression substitution on itself and then reevaluate itself. The use of y=[====y=]== to test whether an input had matched square brackets was particularly unpleasant.


His next talk described the mechanics of how Perl's OO system despatches methods, and how you can change it with modules like his NEXT. Finally came the lightning talks. This year as ever, we had an excellent mix of the serious, the thought-provoking, and the merely insane. Jukka Juslin told us how to use Perl and graphing modules to make it easy to detect network intrusions; Yves Steyt told us how Perl manages Europe's air-traffic control; Michel Rodriguez told us we need to get our own back on Java for inflicting us with XML; Carlos Ramirez told us about his perldoc.com. Schuyler Erle, a fellow O'Reilly Networker, told us why "pseudohashes must die"--a little redundant considering that Larry had already pronounced them dead in Perl 6 and they had been deprecated in Perl 5, but it was still and entertaining talk. Then came the first of Damian's talks: "I Am The Very Model of a Poster to CLPM", or "Everything I Needed To Know About The Perl Community I Learned In Kindergarten". Enough said.


Jeff Pinyan braved the wrath of his peers by proudly demonstrating his use of Powerpoint, then went on to tell us how to write loops in Perl, and Nat Torkington reminded us of people in the Perl community doing hard work without necessarily taking the big lights.


After the break came my absolute favourite talk of the whole conference, by Jon Bjornstad. Jon's friend is a quadriplegic who cannot speak by herself. Jon wrote her a Perl/Tk application that she can use by moving a mouse pointer with her head; she can select letters and words and put them together into a sentence, with speech software producing the sentence for her. Jon's application also allows her to look at pictures and read books on the screen. I could not imagine a better example of Perl used to improve the quality of life.


Autrijus Tang told us about the use of BBSes in China and how Perl is helping to build up the BBS network while restoring privacy to its users. Scott Penrose gave two short talks on two modules he'd written, and Charles Engelke, a self-confessed manager, told us how Perl got him coding again. Dave Cross reminded us--jokingly, I hope--that if we get more people programming Perl, we get more stupid people programming Perl. Geoffery Avery advocated the deprecation of h2xs in favour of a module of his own devising, and once again Damian Conway stole the show with a Shakespearean dialogue with Brian Ingerson on the provenance of Inline::Files.


And suddenly it was over. I think it's a good sign that a conference leaves you wanting more, and certainly if it makes you feel more inspired about Perl rather than less. The Perl Conference 5 and the Open Source Convention 2001 certainly fired me up on so many levels; there's a lot of important work to be done on Perl 6, and there are so many people around me doing great and interesting things. I think the highlights for me were Larry's State of the Onion since it gave us so many new directions; the perl5-porters party, as it's always enjoyable to see the Perl community at play as well as at work; Mark-Jason's tutorials, which proved to me there's always more to learn about Perl, and finally, Jon Bjornstad's lightning talk, which for me summed up what Perl was about: not just improving things on a technical level, but on a deeply personal level as well.


I had an excellent time at TPC, and I'm looking forward to the next conference, as well as to getting the time to play with the ideas I've picked up from here. But now, it's time for me to continue my tour of the U.S., heading on to New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. Until I get back to the U.K., happy hacking!