Yet Another YAPC::NA Report
Finally, I can sit down to write my report!
This was my first YAPC, and it was fantastic! For many years my knowledge of the Perl community has been through the PDL mailing list, through the many Perl blogs, and through occasional IRC. I attended few Chambana.pm meetings, but they were social and didn't really get me fired up for Perl. My first experience with a collection of Perl programmers would be joining Chicago.pm last fall, and my first Perl conference was DC/Baltimore Perl Workshop this spring. But wow, 400+ Perl programmers in one place!
I gave two talks at the conference: an introduction to the Perl Data Lanuage (PDL) and an introduction to my new plotting library called PDL::Graphics::Prima. Both were well attended and well recieved, and I have gotten a handful of follow-up email and irc discussions as a result of both talks. Building the PDL community was one reason I attended YAPC::NA and I get the impression that it's paying off.
A few weeks (or months?) before YAPC, I began noticing the many blog entries by JT mentioning sponsors, and mentioning that they were hiring. This piqued my curiosity. I am a postdoc, I just got my contract renewed for another year, and I aim to remain in academia. In other words, I'm not looking for a job. Still, I was curious about the job market for a Perl programmer who specializes in Big Data, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that such jobs exist. In the past, I had considered leaving academia so that I could program in Perl full-time (because I enjoy programming in Perl that much), but the prospects of leaving academia for a sysadmin job was not appealing. Data analysis jobs in industry exist, but many of them focus on SAS. It is helpful and sobering to know that I can get a real job doing data analysis with Perl instead of SAS.
In addition to talking with recruiters, I met lots of great Perl programmers. The most anticipated was meeting Maggie Xiong, a PDL programmer who wrote the impressive and much-needed PDL::Stats distribution. She is only the second person I have met face-to-face who can write code that utilizes PDL::PP. (I met Chris Marshall, PDL pumpking, in mid-April at the DCBPW, a surprise indeed since I didn't know he would be there!) Putting a face and a voice to a personality that I knew only through email and irc was a great experience.
To my surprise, I had the opportunity to speak with Larry Wall. I called an ad-hoc meeting of scientists "in the corner by the piano" at the end of the first day's lightning talks and Larry decided to join us. My goal had been to identify that handful of us who did science (as opposed to web development :-) so that we could find each other in the hallways through the rest of the week, and that mostly worked. Larry decided to join our group because he was interested in meeting Perlers interested in discussing Synopsis 9, and that mostly worked, too. Larry and I chatted for a bit about how he wanted to incorporate PDL ideas into Perl6, and I explained my concerns about doing it "right". I have since had a handful of ideas that I've been meaning to write down and email off to Larry. Now that I've written this report, maybe I'll be able to get around to doing that.
I come away with new perspectives (which I hope to explore with more blogs) and a lot of good intentions. I hope that I can convert this energy into practical results, whether those be modules on CPAN or workshops with Chicago.pm. The first of those good intentions is finally fulfilled: writing my YAPC::NA report.