My First Perl Conference

What a dull title. Anyway. This was intended to just be an account of my experience at TPCiG, but quickly developed into an tl;dr life story. Sorry about that, everyone. Sorry.

I had dreamed of attending YAPC/TPC ever since I discovered what an amazing community surrounded Perl. This year, I realised that dream.

I have been to London Perl Workshop every year since I started writing Perl (2014), and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time. However, zooming from talk to talk, and invariably leaving early to catch my train meant that the social aspect remained largely unexplored. Every year I told myself that next year I would arrange to stay over, so that I could actually attend the social and meet some people properly. Every year I couldn't manage to justify the ludicrous prices of London hotels... While it is amazing that LPW is free to attend, it isn't actually free to attend. I vaguely interacted with a handful of people during coffee breaks (for this, read: 'hovered awkwardly in their general vicinity and muttered "Wow, they wrote that module..." to myself'), but as a tiny, shy woman who looks like she's barely out of college, this was pretty much all I could ever manage. It was a good intro, but I wanted more.

I have also been on the mailing list for bloody ages (not sure exactly how long, probably ~4 years), but had never attended a meeting (basically, I'm a bit shit at making things happen for myself). Anyway, the point is that I knew the name Barbie since he's leader of the Birmingham Perl Mongers, and has obviously done a ton of stuff for Perl and its community. So, when I received the social reminder e-mail from him, including a "We're Recruiting!", I sent my CV over almost immediately. This is how I managed to somehow land a job at GoDaddy, with the (in)famous Barbie as my manager.

Combining being acquainted with a legend in the community, and the conference being in the country just next door, I finally bit the bullet and bought a ticket. Knowing I'd have Barbie with me to introduce me to all the other big Perl names made the decision easier! He insisted that not everyone would know him. I did not believe him.

Flying was actually cheaper (and a LOT faster) then getting the train, so we flew up on Tuesday afternoon, checked into our hotel and went straight out again to check out the venue. We then went to find people were hanging out in the nearby curry house, namely Wendy, Liz and and Curtis 'Ovid' Poe. As we entered the establishment, came the cry, "BARBIE!!!". Yep, I knew he was famous. I hadn't met Curtis before, but I was dead proud to be able to say "Oh! Tau Station!". We had a nice dinner, drinks and chat until it was time to go back to the venue for the pre-conf. I was very excited to receive my goodie-bag and t-shirt because that's the kind of person I am.


I did my best to talk to people like humans are supposed to, but I was very nervous. I hope I didn't seem rude, if I did, I promise it was just shyness. After that we went to a bar for more drinks and watched/listened to a really nice open mic set they had going on.


Day one

We headed out to the venue via Greggs for coffee and sausage baps. I was extremely nervous but tried not to show it! I We found seats in the main theatre for the welcome. Then came the first talk of the week, 'Discourse Without Drama'. To say that I was blown away by this talk is an understatement. Ruth hit the nail on the head on so many issues with which I strongly relate, and perfectly articulated many of the feelings I've had. I had a definite lump in my throat several times because I was so moved by her words. I hadn't expected to be so emotional, especially this early in the conference!

Next was 'When Diff Is Not Enough' which was very entertaining and certainly encouraged me to try out some new tools.

I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this point so I chilled out for a while fiddling with a project idea on my laptop, then went to How To Join CPAN Pull Request Challenge. I still think I'm a way off participating in something like this, but it was very encouraging anyway. Hid in a corner again for a while until lunch was served - and very nice it was too!

After the Lightning Talks Barbie and I went back to the hotel to drop off our things, then headed out once again to the conference dinner. The building was incredible, obviously a converted church. I didn't take any photos but I'm sure there are plenty about. I sat with Barbie and my ex-colleague Steve. The dinner was a buffet with various tasty things, including haggis fritters. This was my first taste of haggis! It was basically fine. The mustard mayonnaise was the best part though. There was also a CHEESE MOUNTAIN which was pretty amazing to see. This is not my photo - I'm not sure who took it, sorry - credit to that person!


Barbie called me a bad influence despite the fact that he was the one who came back from the bar with FOUR drinks, but he's a big idiot so what can you do? Then we played 'Hanabi' which I'd brought with me just in case, which lots of people seemed to be interested in. I did a spectacularly poor job of explaining the rules, but I think we all had fun anyway. I also took this photo because I am definitely a professional grown-ass woman with a sophisticated sense of humour.


Day two

I attended Git Tips & Tricks which was hugely relevant, and taught me an absolute ton of stuff. I shall definitely be spending a lot of time with Tina's document!

Next up was How to Become CPAN Contributor?. I'd actually seen Mohammad do this talk before at LPW but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to see it again. He is a very inspiring and entertaining speaker and is obviously doing a huge amount for Perl. Do go and see him talk if you can, he is brilliant.

I went to see Regexp Mini Tutorial: Assertions, but unfortunately I got lost in the technical stuff pretty early on because I'm not very good. I will have to go through the slides/video when it becomes available and quiz Barbie.

I managed to force up some guts (not literally) and approached Ruth to tell her how much I enjoyed her talk, and how thankful I was that someone was talking about these issues I feel so strongly about. It was a pretty huge deal, so I got emotional again, but she was totally understanding and gave me a big hug.

After lunch I had a fight with Cygwin instead of going to a talk. I fear there may be a horrible photo of this that may surface at some point...

Next was Let Them Learn Perl on the Job?. I'd have liked to attend Andrew's tutorials as well, but I didn't realise that these would be earlier on in the week. Something to keep in mind for next year, I guess... Or it was suggested that I should try to get him to run them again at LPW!

I also attended I'm a Republican, Honest! which was very entertaining. Dave is one of the very few Perl people I sort of already knew, having spoken to him a little bit at LPWs. He also did some training course for my previous company, which I am absolutely not still bitter about having been excluded from. Ho bloody hum. Anyway, Dave's project is really interesting, despite me not giving a flying sausage-on-a-fork about the royals. Check out his project and just generally stalk him a bit because he's a really cool guy, guy.

Final main talk of the day was In Conversation With... which was really excellent. Curtis did a fantastic job with the interview and a lot of really important points were discussed. Gloria is utterly brilliant and super inspiring. Can't wait to give that one a rewatch when the video is available.

After the lightning talks, I had a nice chat with Ruth again which was really lovely... Didn't cry this time!

Then I went to find the games night, but discovered that it was a table of board games and no people playing them! Big shame, as I love board games and was looking forward to playing some with other Perl geeks as I find they're a great way to bond with people. So, I went out to meet my friend who lives in Glasgow as an extra bonus. We went for pizza and had a really great time catching up. Just as we were thinking of leaving, Barbs let me know that there were a bunch of people in a cocktail bar playing Fluxx, and HECK if that isn't a call I'd respond to I don't know what is. My friend knew the bar so he walked me there and then we said our goodbyes.

Had far too much fun chatting, drinking and playing (it was DRINKING Fluxx for cryin' out loud), until they kicked us out. Then we wobbled back to the hotel. I had ANOTHER cry because booze and situation, but Barbs looked after me because he's an excellent.

Day three

Woke up about 9:30 which meant I had half an hour to sort my life out and get out of the hotel! This meant I had to skip my shower and be a mess for the last day, but I found a Frijj milkshake on the way to the venue which is my special weapon against the-morning-after-cocktails.

Obviously I missed the first talks because booze happened, I was very disappointed in myself for missing You’re Not Wanted Here! (How design decisions can make your application discriminatory) as I really wanted to attend, but I'll have to play catch-up on that one. Another really important conversation that needs to be had. I am assured that it went very well and was well-received though.

Yet another very important conversation was tackled in Developers, Engineers and the Downward Spiral, and I was really impressed to see so many people getting involved in the discussion. There are some utterly horrifying statistics surrounding suicide, and I'm so encouraged to see it being talked about so openly.

I went out for lunch with Ruth for a bit of a change of scenery and another nice chat. We had noodles!

Next up was Reading CPAN / Finding Modules which was very useful, and Max is an excellent speaker.

Last one was The Future of Perl 5 and 6, most of which I just about followed, but reminded me that I should probably go and learn some Perl one of these days.

We had to leave before the end of the lightning talks to be in time for our flight back to Birmingham which was a shame, another thing to keep in mind for next time. Would have been a lot nicer to be able to hang around for a bit afterwards, and at least says goodbyes properly. Then again, I was extremely tired :)

On the way through duty-free, a lady offered us a taste of some fancy vodka. Despite still being fairly hungover, I accepted, and blimey-crikey it was divine. That's Mum's Christmas present sorted.

The journey home was event-free and I pretty much passed out as soon as I got home.

To sum up, it was a rollercoaster of an experience. There were a few strange incidents that took me out and screamed "you don't belong here!" in my face. Nothing malicious, just ignorance, which is precisely why it's so important we have conversations about it. Seriously lads, it's 2018 - women exist! Don't act so surprised.

I do need to add evidence of this because it amused me far more than is reasonable.


Finally, some thank yous!

I'd like to thank the organisers for making the event possible. I can't imagine the amount of work that must go into setting up an event like this, and I recognise that these people must have given up a huge amount of time and energy to make it happen. I saw a LOT of people working tirelessly to keep everything running smoothly and I hope they know how much it is appreciated.

I'd like to thank every single person who was kind enough to come over and talk to me, and especially those who made me feel welcome and like I belonged there.

I'd like to thank Ruth for her kindness, inspiration and for being the person to say the extremely important things that she does. She is an incredible person and I am honoured to know her.

Finally, I'd like to thank Barbie, my mentor and my friend, for believing in me, encouraging me, and being generally awesome.


I went to see Regexp Mini Tutorial: Assertions, but unfortunately I got lost in the technical stuff pretty early on because I'm not very good. I will have to go through the slides/video when it becomes available and quiz Barbie.

Unfortunately, you'll have a long wait. Abigail is the only person who refuses to tick the "I'm happy for you to record my talk box", so it won't be available online.

Sam, I consider myself so fortunate that you had the courage to come talk to me about the keynote. Thank you for doing that, for affirming me, and for the time we spent together at the conference. I treasure every minute of it, and value your friendship. It was a pleasure meeting you.

A very interesting take on the event.

Thanks Sam for the feedback! I thought I had screwed up my talk because I only showed half of what I wanted to show ;-)
Good to hear it was still useful.

Excellent blog, thanks!

I now know I did not hug you enough, and did not chat with you enough. I thought you were damn butch and now I see you just were posing. Well done... And it was very nice meeting you and playing Fluxx against you.

If you want, I can send you the file "Need a piece of paper - It is free - It can be very useful.odt". I had fun looking from afar how people reacted to the thing. Hehe.

I was not able to make it over for the conference, so I'm enjoying people's recaps. It's great to see yours and hear the experiences of someone new to this - keeps me from getting jaded. :-)

Maybe we'll meet next year. In any case, congratulations, you've joined a pretty great group of people.

Some of us actually care about their privacy. I rather not have any images (moving or still) of me floating around on the internet.

I didn't write my reaction to provoke a thanks by you. Just wanted to let you know that I saw you, like who you are, hugged you, and did not notice you needed more hugs, and maybe needed some more introductions to the people I know well, but you had Barbie doing that already. Butch as hell, just like me, and still soft inside. :-)

Leave a comment

About Sam

user-pic Working on it.