The Italian Perl Workshop

Pisa Cathedral Wall.jpgI spent a very pleasant few days in Pisa, Italy, last week. I’d been invited to speak at the Fourth Italian Perl Workshop. The workshop was a great success. In fact calling it a “workshop” is selling it short. It’s more of a mini-conference:

“2 days of conference, 2 simultaneous tracks, more than 30 talks, 120 attendees, 20 sponsors and many international guests”

The whole event ran very smoothly thanks to a great team lead by Gianni Ceccarelli, Francesco Nitido, and Enrico Sorcinelli. I’ll echo the compliments of one attendee “Complimenti sinceri agli organizzatori! Bravissimi! Tutto perfetto!

I gave short talk on Gofer on the Thursday, and then two 40 minutes talks on Friday: Perl Myths, and Devel::NYTProf. I hope to upload screencasts and slides next week. The talks were all recorded on video so I imagine they’ll be uploaded at some point. I’ll add links here to them when they are.

The majority of the sessions were in Italian so, since my Italian is practically non-existant, I had plenty of time to work.

Or at least try to. The one disappointment of the trip for me was the apparent poor quality of the Italian internet. Using mtr I’d regularly see over 20% packet loss within telecomitalia.it and interbusiness.it from my hotel room. Occasionally over 50%. It got much better at night, so I’d do more work then. At the conference venue the Italian academic network (garr.net) also regularly had over 20% packet loss at its link to the internet. All this was, of course, outside the control of the organisers.

The “corridoor track” at perl conferences is always good. I had a chance to talk to Rafel Garcia-Suarez (and meet his lovely wife and new baby son), Matt S Trout, Hakim Cassimally, Michel Rodriguez, Marcus Ramberg, and many others.

I had opted to take a very early fight so I’d have a day being a tourist in Pisa before the conference started. The weather was beautiful and I had a lovely time strolling though the streets of this ancient city.

Pisa Knights Square.jpg

I didn’t take my camera with me, but I did take my iPhone so I was able to capture a few snaps as I strolled around and climbed the tower. (Yes, it really does lean in a disconcerting “it must be about to fall down” way. All the more dramatic when you’re up close and can appreciate the massive scale of the tower.)

Pisa View over Cathedral.jpg

Hey, my own TV channel!

It felt strange when I first set up this blog. What would I write about? Who would care?

For several years now I’ve been giving talks at conferences and workshops. I’d generally upload a PDF of the slides somewhere, or at least email them to anyone that asked. I’ve now added a special page on the blog where I can list all the talks I’ve given. That now acts as a single location to find all my talks and links to slides any related materials. (It’s currently a work-in progress. I’ll be filling it in from time to time. Any major updates will be accompanied by a blog post.)

Slides, no matter how good, miss much of the real event. No ad-libs, no questions and answers. When writing slides I’m always caught between the desire write little, so the audience can pay attention to what I’m saying, and to write lots, so people reading the slides later still get a reasonably full picture.

There’s also the problem of notes. I often use ‘presenter notes’ on the slides to give extra information. Both to myself, if I may need it while presenting, and also for links to data sources and credits for images used. I’ve uploaded some talks to slideshare.net but I have to include a separate version with notes (which is useful for download and print, but almost unreadable in their viewer.

I tried making a video of a talk on a camcorder. The results weren’t great. Grainy, noisy, hard to read, and massive video files.

Then I decided to try using screencasting software. I bought a great wireless USB microphone and the amazing ScreenFlow screencasting software. Now I can to capture everything in fine detail and edit it easily afterwards.

Great. Now what? I needed somewhere to host the (very large) videos. I looked around and tried a few, like vimeo, but wasn’t happy with the results. Vimo, for example, transcode to quite a low resolution and don’t let viewers download the original.

Eventually I found the wonder that is blip.tv. A whole laundry list of great features. If you produce videos of any kind, give them a look.

So, now I have my own TV channel.

Strange world!

Leonard Cohen Live

If you enjoy his music and can possibly get a ticket for one of his world tour dates, do. Now. Stop reading and go buy them now.

I crossed the country to see the concert in Dublin on Friday night. I’m struggling against the urge to write a stream of superlatives. Others can do that better than I.

Got your tickets yet?

Irish Open Source Technology Conference – June 18th-20th

I’ll be speaking at the Irish Open Source Technology Conference this year. It’s on at Dublin’s CineWorld Complex, from June 18th for three days. They’re running a 2-for-1 offer on tickets at the moment.

I’ll be speaking about something Perl’ish, naturally.

The “Perl Myths” presentation I gave at IWTC earlier this year turned out to be a hit. (At least, it was after the event. There were less than ten people in the room at the time, including me! Perl clearly isn’t a hot topic among Irish web developers.)

My blog post, with embedded slides and video, has topped 7400 hits, plus another 3000 or so views on slideshare.

I’m upgrading my methods for this next talk. I’ve bought a great wireless USB microphone and the amazing
ScreenFlow screencasting software to capture everything in detail.

So I’m going all high-tech. No more “camcorder perched on a chair at the back” for me!

It’ll be a good trial run for OSCON where I’m speaking in July.

Boundaries of Discourse

Back in my first blog post, entitled “This is not me…” I said:

So I have a blog, yet I know not what I’ll use it for, nor what parts of my self I’ll choose to log.

You’re welcome to join me on this meandering journey. Though the map is not the territory.

Until recently the journey hadn’t meandered far from technical topics. Some chocolate, a mention of Cubs and Toastmasters. All safe topics. All likely to be expanded on in future, especially the chocolate!

In my previous post however, Introversion, I stretched the envelope further by sharing some more personal insight into my self. That was an interesting experience. Feeling my way up to the boundary of what I was comfortable for me to blog about at this time.

If you have a blog you must make choices about what to say, and what not to say. Just as in real-life conversations. Only with a blog you don’t know who the audience are. How do you, bloggers, make those choices? Where do you draw the line?

I guess the answers must relate to the bigger question of Why Blog? I don’t have an answer to that question yet. I think I mainly blog to share. To give insight into my life, thoughts and experiences in the hope that it may be useful to others. I also blog to log. To create a record to look back on.

After some further though I added a postscript to that Introversion post:


Postscript: I paused a day or so before posting the above, wondering if it was wise. Wondering, especially, if it was likely to be misunderstood. Now, after a couple more days, I think it’s worth adding a little postscript.

I approach my self and my life (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual) with the same curiosity and interest with which I approach my work. The engineer part of me wants to know how it works. How I work. How the pieces of my life fit together.

… let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others,
[this] is really the very best thing that a man (or women) can do, and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living …”
Socrates.


Introversion

I recently came across a thoughtful piece by Joe Kissell on Instant Messaging for Introverts.

A common misconception about the word “introvert” is that it means someone who’s shy, withdrawn, afraid of crowds, or lacking in social skills.

If you’re an introvert, like myself, I think you’ll find it interesting and helpful. I certainly did.

If you’re not an introvert then I’d still recommend it. It gives some valuable insight that may improve your understanding of, and communication with, the introverts in your life.

I took the quick Kiersey Temperament Sorter test at keirsey.com that Joe links to. I’m always a little skeptical of these kinds of tests that depend on answers to difficult to answer questions. Anyway, it labeled me an “Artisan, Composer“, for what it’s worth. The description seemed a good fit, mostly.

That’s an ISFP Myers-Briggs type. My wife thinks I’m probably an ISTP. Being my wife, and a psychotherapist, she might be right.

I find the Enneagram more interesting as a personal personality type indicator, partly because it acknowledges a range of personality development, from health to unhealthy. As well as gifts and aptitudes, we all have some unhelpful thought patterns, areas we’d like to improve, issues we struggle with. Most personality measures gloss over these.

“If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enneagramm certainly has its critics, but I recognize my self in the description of my type. My fears and my desires, my angels and my devils.

My type may, at best …

Level 1: Become visionaries, broadly comprehending the world while penetrating it profoundly. Open-minded, take things in whole, in their true context. Make pioneering discoveries and find entirely new ways of doing and perceiving things.

or, at worst …

Level 9: Seeking oblivion, they may commit suicide or have a psychotic break with reality. Deranged, explosively self-destructive, with schizophrenic overtones. Generally corresponds to the Schizoid Avoidant and Schizotypal personality disorders.

I’m not close to either of those extremes. But I recognize both of them.

“By enhancing one’s self awareness with the help of the Enneagram, one can exercise more choice about one’s functioning rather than engaging in patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior in an automatic, habitual, unconscious way”

Go find your self!

Postscript: I paused a day or so before posting the above, wondering if it was wise. Wondering, especially, if it was likely to be misunderstood. Now, after a couple more days, I think it’s worth adding a little postscript.

I approach my self and my life (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual) with the same curiosity and interest with which I approach my work. The engineer part of me wants to know how it works. How I work. How the pieces of my life fit together.

… to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others, [this] is really the very best thing that a man (or women) can do, and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living …”
Socrates.

The Limerick Open Source Meetup

I moved to the west coast of Ireland about six years ago. Being a hermit by nature it wasn’t until late last year that I made any real effort to connect with other techie-type people in the area.

It really started with BarCamp Galway then OpenCoffee Limerick and Blogger Coffee Limerick. Along the way I came across meetup.com and created The Limerick Open Source Meetup. That’s not really taken off yet, but I remain hopeful.

In fact our first meetup is tonight, prompted by Anton Manering joining recently.

Chocolate, and more chocolate

For some reason I feel moved to tell you that I have 5 different bars of chocolate in my desk draw:

  • 70% Irish handmade dark couverture by Ó Conaill
  • 66% Caraibe Grand Cru by Valrhona
  • 75% Equador Grandi Cru by Baratti & Milano
  • 68% Dark Fruit and Nut by Divine
  • 70% Irish Exotic Chilli by Wildes

Too much information?

Toastmasters and Cubs – 10 minutes with a tough audience

 I’ve been a member of Shannon Toastmasters for several years now.

Toastmasters is an amazing organization: “220,000 members in 11,300 clubs in 90 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills”. It works, it really does, and I’m especially blessed to have a wonderfully friendly club nearby. I’d recommend it highly to anyone – especially if you need to do any kind of presentations.

So anyway, toastmasters has helped me improve my skills in various ways over these last few years. Tonight I discovered it helped me with the local Cub Scouts.

I’ve just started helping out. Tonight I was asked to teach the Recovery Position to a series of groups of 6 or so lively 8-11 year olds. Thrown in at the deep-end!

I had about 10 minutes with each group to try to get the basics across in a way that would make an impact and stay with them. I got them to rotate being the unconscious person and the helper, and dramatised the point that by doing it the right way even the smallest of them could roll over the heaviest of adults.

It only dawned on me afterwards that it was a little like the Table Topics game we play at the start of every Toastmaster meeting: Convey a message with a clear structure and impact in a short space of time.