Tuesday at OSCON

by Ann Barcomb

Related link: http://www.oreillynet.com/oscon2004/

After only four hours of sleep, I was naturally a little tired Tuesday

First I attended the tutorial on 'RT Developer Training' by Jesse Vincent and
Robert Spier. I was interested in the subject because I recently spent six
months convincing my now-former employer to use RT in place of emails for
bug and request tracking. After they decided to use it, I spent two months
twisting it to their specifications in my spare time, and was pleased that I
was able to handle all the requirements without even touching the code. However,
because I didn't have to amend the overlay code, I wanted to hear how to best
do that.

At one point Jesse named some of the ways in RT was being used which differed
greatly from what he originally expected with writing it. In particular, he
cited a project in Germany to assist troubled teens which uses RT to track
interaction and has built in special features such as sending an automatic
message to all staff members whenever a transaction mentioning suicide is

I was so tired by midday that I skipped lunch and accepted Allison Randal's
offer to let me take a nap in her room. This refreshed me somewhat.

Rocco Caputo's POE tutorial was next. As with the RT talk, I was familiar
with the introductory section. Having not had the opportunity to use POE
for some time, I was interested in how it is progressing. POE is still an
innovative solution for time-slicing, and from the sound of things, it has
only gotten easier to use.

Several of us wandered down the pier for dinner. I got back just in time
for Larry Wall's talk on screensavers. In his usual fashion, he drew seemingly
unrelated threads in to a tale about Perl and its hackers.

My favorite part of the talk was when he described diving. He saw a school
of cuttlefish swimming and changing colours in unison. For no obvious reason
they split in to two groups, each with its own colour scheme. He made the
parallel between this and some open source projects, noting that for all he
knew, the squid may have split over the colour choice, and, if so, they wouldn't
have been the first group to do so.

Larry was followed by Paul Graham, who gave a talk about what makes a great
hacker and what the best environment is for innovation. Most of us appreciate
talks about ourselves (although I do not profess to be a great hacker), so this
look at the mindset of the hacker was fairly well received. I can't imagine
that anyone--hacker or not--likes to work in a cubicle, however.

Next David Adler presented the White Camel awards. Earlier he had asked me
to hold up his laptop to display pictures of the two absent recipients, and
the idea of presenting it as if it were a famous awards ceremony by wearing
formal clothing. David had a tie, and I put on a gown. In the end we spent
more time getting dressed than on stage, but that was the intention. I displayed
the pictures of Dave Cross and Jon Orwant, and I understand the camera technicians
were able to zoom in on the laptop to display the pictures on the larger screens.

Because Jon Orwant was not present, the infamous and amusing internet quiz show
was canceled. Damian Conway filled in with his 'Life, the Universe, and
Everything' talk. It was the second time I saw the talk, but it was still
funny. At least one attendee vowed on IRC to switch to Perl simply for larger
doses of Damian. If you have never seen this talk, do not pass up a future
opportunity to learn about Perl, the game of Life and Klingon programming.

I left with the intention of going to bed early. I just managed to make it to
bed by midnight, in part because I stopped to purchase an extension cable. I
think this valuable piece of equipment will become a part of my standard
conference kit.