Report on the Israeli Perl Workshop 2012

Well, I've got a lot of stuff I'd like to blog about in the various blogs of mine, and so I'm starting with this report on the Israeli Perl Workshop of 2012, which had taken place in 28 February, 2012. Moreover, April Fools' Day is approaching, and I had an idea for a Perl-related April Fools' gag, but after telling it to RJBS (the current Perl pumpking), he and I agreed that it would hit too many nerves. (PerlJam on IRC said he liked it, though). Maybe I'll publish it on 2 April with a big disclaimer on top, just for kicks.

Anyway, here is the report. I had originally posted it to the Perl in Israel mailing list for review, but did not get any reviews, so it may not be too letter-perfect, but I guess that's life.

This is my report about the Israeli Perl Workshop of 2012 . It was a fun and educational event, and I'm glad I was able to attend it. For better or for worse, all the talks I attended were in Room 1, but I was still able to hear the ends of a few talks in Room 2 (because the corresponding talks in Room 1 ended before them).

I set up an alarm the night before in order to wake up early in time for the event, and ended up waking up some time before it (and even the alarm time was much earlier than what I was used to). Then I made some preparations, ate breakfast, and caught the appropriate bus. After I walked from the bus station to Shenkar, it took me some time to find the place, because it wasn't the same entrance as our normal rooms, and the signs were confusing. What I needed to do was to take the stairs down to the yard, and then go to the organisation room, but it was hard to find.

There I got my name sticker, the schedule, and some swag from I'd like to thank for sponsoring the Israeli Perl Workshop 2012 (as well as having a presence there and giving some swag and chocolates), and they are looking for software developers with Perl experience to relocate to Amsterdam, so please consider working for them.

In the yard, I met a few people including Florian Ragwitz (a.k.a "FLORA" on CPAN or "rafl" on IRC - he has many cool modules there, including quite a few XS ones), who was one of the workshop's visitors from Germany. Despite being German, his English accent sounded English to us. Later on we discussed accents in English and he noted that the accents of some Israelis he met sounded like French to him (while ours seemed less so). This is strange, because Israelis can distinguish between a French accent in English and an Israeli Hebrew accent in English.

Anyway, Florian told me that he is planning on reviewing and pulling my Test::Aggregate GitHub pull request Real Soon Now™, a fact which has brought me some relief, because I've tried to contact him on IRC and ask him if he remembers.

For better or for worse, all the talks that I preferred to hear took place in room #1 (while sometimes visiting Room #2) to hear the ends of talks. I still would be happy to hear many of the talks that took place in Room #2 in the normal Tel Aviv Perl Mongers meetings, or alternatively, those talks in room #1 which lacked enough time to be conveyed satisfactorily.

The first talk in the day was Ran Eilam's talk about "Syntactic Sugar causes Cancer of the Semicolon", which had to be trimmed towards the end, because the introduction may have taken too long. The talk was interesting starting from an example of ptr->val being sugar in the C programming language for (*ptr).val and continuing to further examples. Ran raised the issue of whether syntactic sugar was important or not, which turns out to not be a straightforward question. He then demonstrated some modules for syntactic sugar on CPAN.

I hope Ran can give a rerun of it on one of the mongers' meetings with more time allocated for that.

After that I attended the talk of Stefan Hornburg ("racke", known as HORNBURG on CPAN) who was another visitor from Germany, about Template::Flute which is a designer's friendly template system. In this template, one uses an HTML file with standard HTML attributes for designating the fields that needs to be replaced, and then an XML specification file that specifies how to process the HTML (and in addition one uses Perl to give it data). As a result the designers can manipulate the HTML with their own tools, while still allowing the programmers to populate it with data.

This seems like an interesting and potentially useful tool, but it's less expressive than template systems such as Template Toolkit. After the talk, another attendee whom we talked in private questioned the need for both the HTML file and the XML specification, but I didn't find a way to avoid it given the constraints that the HTML will be valid HTML 4/XHTML 1.

The next talk about Time Management in Software Projects was cancelled because the presenter did not come (due to lack of time management as we joked then). I was able to catch a glimpse of the end of Dotan Dimet's "Perl and JavaScript: bioinformatics in a browser window" talk, but I don't remember a lot of it except for a small amount of demonstration.

The talk about Zero to CPAN was eventually given by Sawyer instead of by Erez Schatz. It was a nice one, and I've learned about the CPAN-Changes module there (after Florian mentioned it, though). Sawyer covered the way to get to a working CPAN-like distribution from scratch using tools such as module-starter and explained what every file in the CPAN module hierarchy does, and demonstrated some test-driven-development. I knew most of it already, but it was still a fun talk.

Amir Friedman's talk about software configuration management (SCM) came next, and he discussed some open-source solutions for the various parts of SCM, which include version control, release management, task management, and project management. He recommended Gitflow (which we had a talk about on the Tel Aviv mongers mailing list) for version control and release management, and a different solution called Jenkins for issue tracking (if I remember correctly). I then asked what he thought of integrated "all-in-one" solutions for SCM, and he said that those were pricey and he did not have any significant experience with them.

The lunch break came next and I overheard a talk between two other people about teaching English to speakers of non-English languages. One of them said that he once worked with some Spanish Electrical Engineers and that they were "completely isolated" from the rest of the world because they didn't read the literature in English. Then we discussed whether it was economical to teach English to hundreds of millions of speakers of Spanish, or whether we should expect most things to be translated. It was compared to the "give a man a fish" vs. "teach a man to fish". We also discussed the fact that Dutchmen tended to have very good English, and one of the other people commented that it was true, but that they still tended to prefer using software with Dutch localisation.

I've also talked with Sawyer about his upcoming " MUST DIE!" talk. He said that he needs to become mentally energised for that talk because he feels strongly about it and wants to convey the energy. He passed an anecdote from a conference in Europe, in which he had given a talk about Dancer, and said he was so emotional then that people said "You must see him" and rushed to see his other talk. Moreover, afterwards, when asked who were the two best presenters in the conference, they said "[Someone very famous] and that Dancer guy".

The presenting was indeed energetic and emotional, but kinda fell below my expectations due to the yard talk that preceded it. It was still pretty informative. Dotan Dimet later took the stage for the rebuttal of " - the only web development framework you'll ever need" which was less emotional but still interesting. I was not convinced that's HTML generation routines were a good way to do output HTML (I never really liked them), so I may have been more convinced by Sawyer.

Ynon Perek's talk about "Implementing Perl (Moose) Design Patterns" came next, which was interesting, but again lacked adequate time to cover everything, and I hope will be given with less time constraints. One anecdote from there was that Ynon said there where three primary ways for polymorphism in Perl: Inheritance ("is-a"), Roles/Traits ("does-a") and Containment/Delegation ("has-a") and that he could no longer recommend inheritance (but did not get to explain why not from what I recall).

In any case, I was surprised at Ynon's implementation of the Factory pattern, and don't remember the implementation given by him.

Next came Tamir Lousky's talk about generating vector graphics with Perl and SVG. Its slides contained a lot of very nice eye candy. The introduction to SVG and generating it was quite rudimentary, and did not cover the full potential of SVG. The demonstration and explanation of the module for generating random trees using SVG was interesting.

David Tabachnikov's next gave an interesting talk called "Scaling Up". He contrasted optimisation (which makes your code run faster with the existing resources) to vertical scaling (= buying faster computers) to Horizontal scaling (= buying more hardware). He also noted that there's some speed difference between the various SQL databases, but he did not encounter a situation where it would have made too much difference.

The last feature of the evening were the lightning talks. I recall a talk by Florian Ragwitz about Google Code-In and Google Summer-of-Code. I also recall Gabor's talk about surviving in an uncooperative workplace. He said that if the workplace does not practise best practices such as using version control systems or writing automated tests, one can create their own small island of sanity where they make use of that on their own, and gradually convince the rest of the organisation that it's beneficial.

After the lightning talks, some people went to a local restaurant for dinner, but I decided against it because I was too tired from waking up early. As a result, I found someone who drove up north to drive me home, and got home.

In the schedule I noticed that one could go to a certain URL at O'Reilly and receive a free E-book of their choice. I used this opportunity to get the book Beautiful Code , which I have started reading.

The day was exhausting but very fun, and I enjoyed all the talks I attended. I'd like to thank the organisers of the event and most notably Gabor Szabo and Sawyer X, Shenkar college for providing the venue, for the sponsorship, O'Reilly for the free book presents, the foreign guests who came to present and to attend, and all the other presenters, who volunteered to give talks.

I hope we can repeat this the next year.

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About Shlomi Fish

user-pic An Israeli software developer, essayist, and writer, and an enthusiast of open/free software and cultural works. I've been working with Perl since 1996.