Beginners and Conferences

I've had many ideas for introduce Perl conference beginners into the community. Dom also had some ideas in How to make Perl conferences beginner friendly. Steal what you like, share what works!

Most notably, Domm had the idea of talk topics (or even outlines) that a beginner could claim (or be assigned). I certainly think this would help. I hate coming up with topics and love it when the organizers assign me one.

But, I've done other things too. I think the conference should be much more than talks and the spaces between talks. I'd like to see more small group activities.

  • The organizers had Game Night with board games. That works. :) David Adler has run "Bad Movies Nights", and the movies have been really bad. Shared trauma bonds, natch.

  • Steal the "Conferences for Beginners" talk I gave in Rīga. I had already stolen it from Jim Brandt's Conference for Beginners.

  • At one conference, I recruited a bunch of big names to volunteer to have lunch with four people who signed up on a piece of butcher paper I had put in the main area. Although I didn't enforce or check the rules, I specified that people had to be first time conference goers.

  • Hands on workshops where attendees work together give people a way to interact with each other without coming up with the topics on their own. My "Become a CPAN Author" workshop takes people step-by-step through PAUSE accounts, creating a module, importing it to GitHub, and uploading to CPAN. But people also fork the repos of the other people in the workshop, make a change, send a pull request, and so on. If it's a good day, some people can see their new modules show up on MetaCPAN. These show up in Acme::USERNAME::MyFirstModule if they've followed my suggestion.

  • I forget where, but I remember a small conference making a list of lightning talks and generating a list of participants. The trick was you literally pulled your talk title out of the hat when you got on stage. You had 30 seconds to think and then had to give a 5 minute talk. IT was more for sport than excellence and was great fun. The only talk title I remember is "How Java is like your underwear". I think Marty Pauley got that one.

  • I've had this idea that I've never tried. I'd like to make some sort of social media game that has prizes and awards. A tagged tweet with the most retweets gets an award. A person you retweets the tagged tweets the most gets an award. The person with the most selfies with conference attendees gets an award. And so on. In the space between talks, the latest stats are show (a small Mojo app that monitors twitter). Or it could be Facebook. Whatever. It's permission to interact with people in a semi-controlled way could be fun. And twitter blows up.

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About brian d foy

user-pic I'm the author of Mastering Perl, and the co-author of Learning Perl (6th Edition), Intermediate Perl, Programming Perl (4th Edition) and Effective Perl Programming (2nd Edition).