The Fifth Element (of YAPC)
This year I attended my fifth YAPC and, as usual, I’ve decided to reflect a bit on the venue, the talks, and the general mood. Since I just did a (roughly) half-post in my date module series, I figured I’d go ahead and do another (roughly) half-post this week instead of waiting for next week.
This year we were back in Orlando, exactly where we were 2 years ago, which is not ideal. We were also (again) in Orlando, in June, which is never ideal. Talk about hot. And humid. Still, I have a good friend about an hour and a half away from Orlando, so at least I got to spend a couple of days with him. So not a total loss.
We were even in the same hotel, which was both good and bad. It was familiar, at least, and the conference rooms were decent. The main downside last time around was the terrible bandwidth, and I’m happy to say that this year that was not a problem: I didn’t lose connectivity a single time this year, whereas two years ago I was practically tethered to my phone the whole time. Electricity was still a precious resource: I was constantly staking out one of the few plugs to be found and hoarding it for dear life. The biggest disappointment was the food though: it was barely adequate last year, and seems to have gotten worse in the interim. One day for lunch we went down to the hotel restaurant, were thoroughly unimpressed with the buffet, and decided we’d just go ahead and order off the menu. But the manager came out and told us that we were not allowed to do that. So essentially we were forced to eat the buffet—which turned out to be exactly as disappointing as it looked—and paid just as much as a real entree for it. Of course, the day I left for the airport, I finally got to eat a “real entree,” and it actually wasn’t much better. So I suppose I wasn’t missing as much as I thought I was.
It seems like we ended up with the same venue so close together because previous attempts at a different venue kept falling through. And I do want to stress that I am constantly awe-stricken by the amount of work it must take to put on a conference like this and have as much go right as constantly does. But I also was hoping to hear more details about some of the challenges that caused this year to be delayed, repeated, and midly misscheduled—at least I sincerely hope it wasn’t intentional that I didn’t get to spend Father’s Day with my kids this year. But I don’t know for sure, because it wasn’t really addressed in any of the talks (or, if it was, I must have missed it). Again, I don’t say this to be critical of the fine folks at The Perl Foundation, who I know are working their asses off every year to make this all work out. I’m just pointing out that transparency goes a long way in making everyone feel better about what’s going on behind the scenes. We’re programmers: we like knowing how the sausage is made, even when it’s not pretty.
But enough whinging: there was a lot to be really happy about this year. The return of The Damian, for instance, who hasn’t been at a YAPC since I started attending six years ago.1 I absolutely love hearing Damian talk—he’s one of my favorite presenters—and I actually got to meet him in person this year. And he remembered me from our online collaborations,2 and was exceedingly gracious and outgoing. He even thanked me,3 which of course I felt was rather backwards.
Another highlight was the amazing breadth and depth of Perl 6 info: this being the first YAPC::NA since Christmas,4 perhaps that was to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t much appreciated as well. People are using it, people are talking about it, people are presenting on it ... I’m not ready to switch all my projects over to it, but I have to say this is the most positive I’ve felt about our new sister language since I first read the Apocalypses.
We also had another magnificent Bad Movie BOF, with David Adler (dha++) providing another raft of excellent choices, including the mystifying Rollergator, a terrifying (and not in a good way) mishmash of baby purple talking alligators, rollerblading women in bikinis, Martin Sheen’s brother, a carnival, and female ninjas. On skateboards. I think there may have also been a plot in there somewhere, but don’t quote me on that. There was plenty of shouting at the screen, plenty of popcorn and alcohol, and good times were had by all.
There wasn’t an official game night, but thanks to fellow Californian Brent Laabs, we had an impromptu gaming session anyway, where we played something called “Camel Up” (brought by Brent), and then something called I believe “Zendo,” provided by some of the Grant Street guys. Both were fun, although the camel one I found a bit hard to work out the strategy of it.
But, as always, the best part is getting to hang out with those folks you only get to see once a year or so, and I did plenty of that. Long talks about esoteric subjects, commiserating over obscure bugs in our Perl code, catching up on the final dispositions of former coworkers (and former workplaces), musing over wild ideas for future modules or YAPC talks that we may or may not ever write ... these are the reasons for going to YAPC, as far as I’m concerned. And, since those were my goals: mission accomplished.
Thanks again to all the organizers, all the speakers, and all the attendees. It was a blast.
1 I missed Madison, which explains why I’ve only been to 5 YAPCs in 6 years.
4 Meaning Perl 6.Christmas, the first official P6 release.