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Report on the Debian pkg-perl group presence at YAPC::EU 2007



	   Debian pkg-perl group presence at YAPC::EU 2007
	   ===============================================

Ok, so here is where I tell you about what we did at the YAPC::EU (Yet
Another Perl Conference in Europe), and held during August 28-30 in
the Univerity of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna,
Austria.

I'm sending copy of this report so it reaches the different people I
mention along, even if not directly. 

First, apologies for the delay
------------------------------

Before anything else, I must seriously apologize for the delay in
sending this report. Yes, I never _promised_ such a report, but days
before departing to Vienna, I found Dirk Eddelbuettel's report on UseR
[1], which proved quite interesting to me... And although I wanted to
provide such service both to the groups I'm directly involved in
Debian and to the nice and interesting people I met at YAPC, real life
had different plans for me - I had a spike of real-life chores as soon
as I got back, together with some personal bumps, which topped last
week with a (minor after all, thankfully) health episode that had me
four days in bed out of stress. 

Since returning from YAPC, almost paradoxically, I've practically not
done any work on the pkg-perl group, and I've resigned from my
organization position at DebConf. I'm sorry, I know several people
have even tried to talk to me regarding what we started back
then. Anyway, I hope to be back on track by now...

Introduction
------------

Back in March, I submitted a talk [2] for YAPC::EU (Yet Another Perl
Conference Europe) about the Debian pkg-perl team's work. Much to my
surprise, the talk was accepted. I submitted a paper [3], and later
complemented it with its full presentation [4].

I was not the only member of the Debian pkg-perl group in the
conference - I met Daniel Ruoso (group founder), Jeremiah Foster
(active member) and Bogdan Lucaciu (who recently started working with
us as well). And being Debian a social project, finding fellow
Debianers all over the world is always an important boost to our
working together.

But not only for Debian - Being a social project above all else is
also of paramount importance to the YAPC. In fact, this year's
conference topic was precisely "Social Perl" - And no, it was not just
two words that hung over us, it was quite a constant topic.

The talk I presented, and how it was received
---------------------------------------------

The conference I presented [3,4] describes basically how the Debian
pkg-perl group integrates a large amount of the CPAN modules in our
distribution, which tools we use for our packaging, etc. I won't go
into detail here, as the links are available. I was amazed to see this
topic was really interesting for the YAPC attendees - I expected them
to be quite happy with just distributing their modules via CPAN and
not integrating in the distributions, or not going the extra mile to
do it! We (as I was not alone - Daniel, Jeremiah, Bogdan and me, as
"the Debianers") did, however, have time to talk over several ideas
with several key people.

Among the people I remember talking with (and I'm sorry, I'll probably
forget some of you - it's been a month already, and... Well, my head
is not the finest one available ;-) ), Gabor Szabo was mostly
interested not only in working as we are doing it now, on a
module-per-module basis, but also in going to something bigger,
broader, and including things such as handling "bundles" (the CPAN
equivalent of our virtual packages - Groups of independent but related
modules that among them all provide a given abstraction or
functionality). 

When talking with Jos Boumans, I basically had to eat my own words: I
understood that the CPANPLUS project, which he started, had been
basically abandoned and its ideas integrated back in the main CPAN
module. He corrected me, and pointed me that CPANPLUS will be the main
CPAN infrastructure starting with Perl 5.10 (due Real Soon Now). This
has major implications for our group, specially for dh-make-perl, as
we are probably duplicating work by now - Via the CPANPLUS Dist::Deb
[5] infrastructure, Jos is (will be? With which periodicity? Sorry, we
have to regain contact...) creating a repository of unofficial .deb
packages out of the whole CPAN. We shortly talked over about how it
should be presented so as not to clash (or even better: To properly
integrate cooperatively!) with Debian's official, human-inspected
packages. 

I talked also briefly with Guillaume Rousse, from Mandriva, where we
exchanged some points of view on how CPAN is handled in our
distributions; we showed off bits of our work to each other... But
left the conversation sadly a bit too early to conclude
anything. Anyway, both during my presentation and during the talk I
had with Gillaume, I realised we also need to somehow coordinate our
work not only between Debian and each of the large repositories of
structured software (CPAN, CTAN, CRAN, PEAR, Gems, etc.), but we could
also find a very interesting synnergy if people coming from the
different Free Software distributions tackled this same problem from
their different areas of experience. I'd really like to continue
working on this line with people from other distributions.

What our conference can learn from theirs
-----------------------------------------

Of course, I cannot just talk technical here. I know that many of the
Debian Developers know me mostly because of my involvement as a
DebConf organizer for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 editions. And no, I
cannot seem to be able to go to a Free Software conference without
trying to learn how to make our other conferences better.

YAPC was very, very interesting. The organization team [6] made a
great job, and it should be known :)

There were several little touches of personalization which are common
although different in our techie conferences - For example, just as we
in DebConf have the CIA bots announcing arrivals and event starts (of
course, a 3-day-long conference is _way_ different from a 2-week-long
one), they had a very nice welcoming projection screen [7] which few
people expected (and I saw surprised quite a few), which was used
during the rest of the conference as a live announcement board. I do
feel we need such a facility for DebConf, a central (physical, not
wikiesque) place where relevant information just appears and lingers
until it is consumed or goes away.

YAPC is a very community-based conference, much closer to DebConf than
to your average large-scale expo. Of course, it is much more loosely
knit. We at DebConf are practically a family already, we all know each
other, and although there are always many, many newcomers, we have a
100- or 200- people strong core with even strong affective ties
meeting over and over. I'd esstimate this core to be closer to 30- to
60- people, with the rest of the (also ~400) attendees being mostly
first-timers. 

YAPC is not a unique occurrence around the world, as DebConf is - YAPC
happens at least three times a year, in different continents. And
boundaries _are_ visible - AFAICT, I was the only attendee currently
living in Latin America (although there was a number of US, Canada and
East Asian attendees). The bulk was from the UK (last year YAPC::EU
was held at Brimingham, at a great success as I've heard), Germany and
Austria. Oh, and if I'm not mistaken, Geoffrey Avery said to have
attended already 14 YAPCs. _WOW_.

Some months ago, we discussed in DebConf lists how to have a better
leverage on the sponsorship contacts we got. On one hand, we found it
obvious that, starting on DebConf 8, we would start having defined
sponsorship levels (i.e. copper/silver/gold/platinum, or
stable/testing/unstable/experimental, or minor/normal/grave/critical,
or whatever is determined by the Powers that Be(tm). In addition to
this (which is done by basically every other conference in the world),
I think YAPC did the very right thing by including a paragraph on the
sponsors in their printed proceedings, not just their logos as we have
done over the years. I'll reproduce here some of them, just to show a
bit. No, I'm not doing it in any order or paid in any way by any of
them (except by what they already gave YAPC, of course):

At their "XXL" category:

    nfotex IT DL GmbH is an Austrian company working mostly on
    telecommunication projects. We are specialized in billing systems,
    asyncronous mediation services and realtime monitoring and
    statistics. 
    Our projects are 80% done in Perl for faster development / testing
    / deployment and a shorter reaction time to marketing
    requests. Parts that need to be more speedy are written in C and
    we also provide Java inverfaces to our software and services. We
    are longitme supporters of the Perl community.

    Travel and hotel for Larry & Gloria Wall.
    http://www.nfotex.com/

As "Other sponsors":

    Radio Ö1:
    Free from commercial advertising and with an emphasis on cultural
    subjects and information, this program stands out in terms of
    reach. With a 7 percent market share in the age group 35+
    (Radiotest, 2006) OE1 is one of Europe's most successful stations
    of its kind. All in all, Oesterreich 1, with a daily reach of 8,7
    percent, is heard by more than 640 000 listeners per day. A well
    balanced melange of speech and music, top competance in news
    reporting and a large number of broadcasts from cultural events
    are securing the channel's success also for the time to come.

    The website features background information on various programs,
    detailed information on the contents of each program, discussion
    boards, etc. And all of this is running on Perl (Catalyst,
    DBIx::Class, Template::Toolkit, etc.)

    A key feature is MP3 download of selected programs. Currently,
    registered users can dounload approx 30 hours of content per week,
    coming from 42 different programs

    Goodies for the auction
    http://oe1.orf.at

    United Chocolates:
    The United Chocolates Shops in 1010, Stephansplatz 11 and
    Kärtnerstr. 29 are selling sweets from all over the world and of
    course products from Austria like the famous "Wiener Sacher Torte"
    (340g - EUR12,50) or "Mozartkugeln" (15 pcs - EUR2,90 - best price
    in town).

    Have a look into your goodie bag.

    Happylab:
    This was the place for our orga meetings in winter &
    spring. Thanks for the Heizöl which kept us warm!
    http://www.innoc.at

Why did I bother in re-typing it all? (yes, no OCR was harmed to get
this done?) Because I think this is important: It shows first of all
the attendees (and I'd suggest the YAPC guys to publish the
proceedings online as well - it's part of what will remain from your
great conference after all!) who is interested in pouring money in the
project, and very important, _why_. Many of the companies that gave
money to YAPC are, as expected, deeply involved or owe nontrivial
parts of their operation to the Perl development - why not make it
more visible? Even more, why not make attendees interested in getting
closer to them? 

And this brings me to another point that could be interesting for
Debconf, although I know our focus is quite different, but still is an
idea worth working on: The second day of YAPC, the common area became
crowded with booths from sponsors, for a job fair. If we did this for
DebConf, it could both be an interesting opportunity for sponsors
(which means, we could get more sponsors looking for talented people),
as well as for our people looking to change or broaden their
horizons. Yes, it makes the conference a little bit more
commercial-oriented in the end, and that's something we have tried to
avoid - but I think it should be weighed in...

Oh, and finally: I do have one small complain. Small, because in the
end it was my fault (for not finding out earlier), but I don't want
just to forget it: I had previously attended two other YAPCs (long
time ago - Montreal 2001 and Munich 2002). Both times, we got a
weighty proceedings book with complete articles. It was a very good
read on the way back, and I refered to it every now and then for a
good time. Complete proceedings are always good. I expected such a
book this time as well. But no, we only got the program with the
abstracts - A 55 A5 page long booklet (not _too_ short after all, as
it had all of the abstracts). Now, I _did_ prepare my 10-page-long
article once the talk was accepted, expecting to have it printed (of
course, those of us working at universities really appreciate such
formalities, as they really count for our activity reports ;-) )
Technical conferences usually have great proceedings volumes. I hold
dearly the 2005-2007 DebConf proceedings volumes, and I do hope to
continue having them on my hands for future editions. And I do hope
next YAPCs reintroduce them... I don't think in the end it saved _so_
much budget or logistics, but it _did_ substract a deal of academic
rigor from the conference itself :(

On the Debienna user group
--------------------------

The last full day I was in Vienna was a Thursday. And on Thursday
nights, the Debienna group [8] have their weekly meeting, the
DebiennaTreff [9]. The group is a very interesting one, much more
active than what I've seen in many places (of course, I am mostly
familiar with LUGs in Mexico and, slightly less so, in Latin
America). The Debienna group have an established meeting place at the
beautiful and interesting Museumsquartiers. From what I understood,
every week around 10 Debianers meet, have a technical session, and
just hang out - This time, we talked a bit about how testing suites
are implemented in several languages. It was interesting, and it was a
good time. I was very happy to be able to meet the group.

Several people from the Debienna group were involved in the YAPC
organization. Of course, this last evening, the YAPC organizers were
too busy partying and relaxing on their own to be bothered with
Debianities ;-)

Anyway... YAPC was a great conference; I had the chance to learn quite
a bit, to show off our work, and to learn what is going on around
there. I do hope to attend to future YAPC conferences, and of course,
to pick up and advance the work we have been doing at the pkg-perl
group as I've mentioned in this report. 

--

[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2007/08/msg00663.html

[2] http://vienna.yapceurope.org/ye2007/talk/513

[3] http://people.debian.org/~gwolf/integrating_perl_in_distro.pdf

[4] http://people.debian.org/~gwolf/integrating_perl_in_distro_-_presentation.pdf

[5] http://search.cpan.org/~kane/CPANPLUS-Dist-Deb-0.08/lib/CPANPLUS/Dist/Deb.pm

[6] http://flickr.com/photos/gunnarwolf/1342490851/

[7] http://flickr.com/photos/gunnarwolf/1342492359/

[8] http://debienna.at

[9] http://debienna.at/DebiennaTreff

-- 
Gunnar Wolf - gwolf@gwolf.org - (+52-55)5623-0154 / 1451-2244
PGP key 1024D/8BB527AF 2001-10-23
Fingerprint: 0C79 D2D1 2C4E 9CE4 5973  F800 D80E F35A 8BB5 27AF

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