YAPC::NA 2012 - The Survey Results
Many thanks to the 165 respondents, who made up 37% of the attendees. Although the responses only feature a third of the attendees, they do appear to cover a complete mix of experience, and present a good cross-section of attendees. As has been observed in previous years the average age of the attendees is getting older. That's not to say we aren't bringing new people into the community and the conference circuit, but it seems that Perl is a language people are getting into enough to attend events like this from their late twenties. In 2012, YAPC::NA had it's biggest attendance so far, so Perl is definitely growing its community. Hopefully events like YAPC are encouraging more and more people to learn more about Perl and the community. Looking at the demographics of the respondents, it's not too surprising to see the popular job roles and industries listed. However, it is encouraging to see Perl is being used in many different industries.
The level of Perl knowledge of the respondents leans towards the more experienced, but there are still a healthy number of lesser experienced attendees, that make the 101 courses and talks a worthwhile addition to the schedule. The experience of attendees is also highlighted by the previous attendances at YAPCs and Workshops. One aspect that we have always tried to encouraged, is to introduce newcomers to the community, and keep them coming back to the various Perl events. Although location plays a big part for many first time attendees, we do seem to be encouraging some to get more involved.
With regards to promotion, JT's blog posts and general high profile advertising of YAPC::NA 2012, seems to have paid off. Aside from hosting the biggest attended YAPC::NA, several people got to hear of the event via the various posts. It was an ambitious task to post every day, but he managed it. While an event doesn't necessarily need a post every day, I would encourage future event organisers to regularly engage with their potential attendees. For some its way to see progress, and be reassured that an event is still happening, but for many others its a way for them to hear about your event. MST regularly tells people to promote their latest project, and in the same way a technical event is exactly the same. Promotion does work.
I always enjoy reading the suggested topics for future YAPCs, and again the respondents came up with some great ideas. One idea I picked up on, was "How to use CPAN modules". Having attended several talks about particular modules, there is perhaps a natural emphasis on how the module works, and why you might want to use it, but not necessarily how to use it. There always requests to hear real world examples of using modules or applications, so hopefully we can see more of those kinds of talks in the future. Perl is well known for providing the tools via CPAN, but we don't always talk about the success stories and how we used Perl/CPAN to get the job done.
Not too surprisingly the survey respondents rate the overall conference a success. Although there are some aspects that some felt didn't always work, many were beyond the control of the organisers. I'll be providing the full feedback to organisers in the coming weeks. I'll also be posting this to the future organisers, for them to digest and hopefully consider for their event, helping to make the whole conference experience better for everyone. I think the biggest positive from the event has been getting the videos online quickly after the event, as well being able to stream many of the talks live. This aspect for conference organisers can be a very expensive and/or time consuming task, so the more improvements we can make with this the better, as ultimately it helps yet again with the promotion of Perl, the community and events.
Thank you to all the attendees who took the time to respond to the survey, as well as all the talk evaluations, as it really does help to make these events better every year. If you plan to attend next year, and didn't respond to the survey this year, please think what you could have told us to make things even better. Even if you were happy with the event, positive encouragement is always welcome. These survey results are also used to encourage potential sponsors that the events are worthwhile, and that they will get a benefit from supporting the Perl community. Having an even higher level of response adds more weight to the message organisers are telling them.
Enjoy the results.