My YAPC::Russia 2009 (May Perl 2) trip
I'm only a year late with this post; I wrote it in the airport in Moscow on the way home, then it never made it onto the blog. I need to published it before the next YAPC Russia, which is June 12-14 in Kiev this year.
This might be the only YAPC::Russia 2009 report you read, if only because I was the only presenter in english and maybe the only one writing about it in english. While everyone else's english got better over the conference, I think my Russian got worse.
The best reason to go to a conference is to meet new people, to see new places, and, oh, sometimes to see new code. The more interactions that we can get between the different parts of the physical world the better. If you always go to the same conference, you might be limiting the people you can meet.
Andrew Shitov, Ruslan Zakirov, and Niam Shafiev did a lot of work to get me to Moscow and take care of me while I was there. I hadn't met them before my trip, but they still did quite a bit to help. I like that Perl people can go to many places in the world and instantly have a group of people to hang out with. Curiously, standing in line at passport control coming into Moscow, I saw Chris Dibona in line in front of me. I didn't get to catch up to him at the baggage claim, but I did email him to confirm that he actually was in town. We didn't get a chance to meet up though. That's okay, because there is plenty to do in Moscow, even if your are jetlagged.
Curiously, right around the corner from the entrance to Red Square is a genuine American diner. My hosts didn't quite grok my fascination with the Starlite Diner, but it's something that I miss from New York and can't get in Chicago. Not only that, they had the Giro D'Italia on the TV and I needed my sports fix. It's authentic American diner food too.
DeepText sponsored my Mastering Perl class and everyone got to attend for free. Even though I presented in English, there were about 60 people in the class. The Russians seem to have a sane schedule, like starting a conference at 10am. I don't know who ever told other conferences that programmers want to start any earlier, but that just has to stop.
Russia can be a difficult trip, even before you start. You can't just go to Russia; someone has to invite you. You get the official invitation with the right government stamps then take that to a Russian consulate to get a visa. Surprisingly, there isn't a Russian consulate in Chicago, even though Houston gets one? In the end, a friend turned me on to Travisa. You give them your documents, they get your visa for you. Travisa is worth the money because they take care of all the hassle and most of it happens through FedEx.
However, my trip to Moscow was definitely worth the work. I thought that the locals must be boasting when they talk about Moscow's subways, but not only are they amazingly efficient but also very beautiful even in my very poor photography. I would have liked to take more pictures, but if you're standing still you're messing up the system.
The US subways have nothing on this.
Since the visas are expensive, a YAPC::EU in Moscow probably won't happen any time soon. Several people mentioned trying a YAPC in Ukraine, which requires no visa and has cheaper flights. I really want to go to Kiev, so I'm hoping that they put in a bid for 2011 (like they did for 2010). Apparently Ukraine has really good sushi because people kept ordering "ukranian sushi" at the favored lunch restaurant. Maybe other places have bacon-wrapped sushi. Do other places have green beer every day, though?
There were many interesting talks, but I only really understood some of the pictures. If I closed my eyes, the talks were "русски русски русски CPAN русски русски русски Perl русски русски ". There was enough code that I was able to see some new modules and get the basic idea. Most of the talks were understandable from the code on the slides, and I adjusted my own slides for "Making My Own CPAN" to be mostly pictures, using text very sparingly and mostly only for things such as file paths.
At the end of the day, they played this curious game which translated as "interactive session". I think it's a tradition, and everyone was really into it. People shouted out things that they thought might happen in Perl, but probably not. The idea was to come up with a long list to seed the upcoming game
- collect a list of probable events
- pare the list to a reasonable number
- randomly partition the set
- assign each set to a group
The conference split into teams, and each team got one partition whose events would together represent an unlikely situation if only through the combination of their probabilities. Each teams then had to construct the story that would incorporate each event.
For instance, I suggested these events that I thought have about even odds:
- Programming Perl gets a 4th Edition
- Moose is core in Perl 5.12
- Adam Kennedy releases his 400th distribution
People thought that Adam releasing his 400th module was actually quite likely, so it didn't make it into the final list.
The set of events my team got were:
- Russian companies start promoting Perl
- Perl is taught in Russian elementary schools
- Someone writes a Perl CMS that doesn't need developer support to use
- CPAN becomes simple and understandable
I forget the story that we invented since I merely contributed and most of the discussion was in Russian, but it was an interesting exercise. I at first concocted a story of wild, Terminator-like computer world dominance and Russian programming prodigies from Siberia, but the goal was to come up with something more thoughtful. If you wanted those things to come true, what would you have to do to make them happen?
Besides that, Ruslan took a look at my MyCPAN code and suggested several helpful changes and even submitted patches after I returned from my trip.