Let's Have a Distributed Perl Hackathon

Q. What is a hackathon?

A. In the Perl world, it's a meeting, generally of one day's or a weekend's length, where Perl hackers come together in one physical location (primarily) to work collectively on projects which will improve Perl, CPAN and the Perl ecosystem.

Q. What is a "distributed" hackathon? Is it something like a "distributed" source code control system?

A. In a way. A distributed hackathon, like a distributed source code control system, is designed from the outset to be clonable. In the Perl community, we've had many hackathons over the past eight years, but they generally haven't been planned to be clonable, i.e., easily reproducible in different locations at later points in time. They've been planned as events in one geographic location that when they're over, they're over. They aren't intended to be reproduced elsewhere.

Q. What would it mean for a hackathon to be "clonable"?

A. It would mean that the hackathon was (a) simple enough to organize and (b) conceptually easy enough to grasp that Perlmonger groups in different cities and countries could, with modest effort, throw together events that would share the same thematic focus.

These local hackathons might take place in different cities on the same day, but more likely they would be spread out over a period of several months.

There focus would be on getting local Perl programmers together rather than having people fly in from other cities or countries.

They would be run on a budget as close to $0 as possible. That way, the focus can be on hacking, not on fundraising. The logistics should be simple enough that you can JFDI.

They would be judged a success if they got as few as four local Perl programmers to work collectively for one Saturday afternoon. What one city's Perl hackers didn't finish on a given Saturday could be turned over to the Perl hackers gathering in another city the following week.

Q. So, you're talking about events that are modest in their individual scale, but could add up to something big when spread over time and space?

A. Exactly.

Q. But you said these local hackathons should "share the same thematic focus." What would that be?

Here's one possibility: In the Perl 5 source code there is one document which is Perl's "to do" list. You can view it at http://perl5.git.perl.org/perl.git/blob/HEAD:/Porting/todo.pod. This list holds some items that are very complex, but many others that require only basic Perl knowledge. If Perl hackers in, say, St. Louis worked on a few of those items one week, people in Portland could pick up on them the following week, people in London the next week, people in São Paulo the next, and so forth.

Q. It sounds like you could organize one of these local hackathons without having any big names or subject matter experts present?

A. That's correct. You can generally find subject matter experts online via IRC. They don't have to be in the same room with you. But you *do* want to be in the same room with other local Perl enthusiasts. That's what makes it fun.

For our curious definition of "fun."

Q. Curious indeed! Where do I start?

A. Talk to your local Perlmongers about it and take it from there. Remember, this is meant to be distributed, not centrally organized.

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