Last week I took a couple of days off work to attend the Perl Conference in Rīga, which this year used a new and spiffy-sounding name: PerlCon. For what it’s worth, I like the sound of this name. And it makes it easier to track than the TPCiX variations we’ve been using in recent years.

I haven’t been attending these conferences for long (I attended my first only in 2016), but I’ve been doing it enough that there are people that I am happy to call my friends, and faces I recognise that I am happy to get to see again.

And on top of that, I still find that attending conferences like these reminds me of what I’ve written about before: that I’m part of a community, and that by participating in it we are all richer.

Larry’s absence

It was a pity that Larry and Gloria Wall couldn’t attend this year. We were received on the first day by a video announcement that said he had decided to stay to take care of his health. In his message, he regretted not being able to come, but said he was happy to feel the Perl sisters were old enough to not need him as much as before.

I heard it mentioned that this was akin to Guido van Rossum’s announcement to the Python community that he was stepping down as BDFL. I think this is an exaggeration. It did, however, make me think we should probably prepare for one such announcement in the future.

Regardless, I hope his health improves, and we can see both of them again soon!

The keynotes

Back to the conference, of all the ones I’ve attended, I think the keynotes this year were possibly the best ones. Not only because they were good, but because they were all good. I have a hard time thinking which one is my favourite.

First, Sawyer X gave a talk on the recent changes in Perl 5, and more importantly, on his vision for a possible future.1 The changes he dared to imagine are profound, but I think they would be very welcome. We’ll see if and how the community decides to translate them into a reality.

The following day, Liz Mattijsen gave a keynote on Perl6 myths. Considering she was asked to prepare this keynote on really short notice, I was expecting this one to be of relatively low-stakes. Instead, after talking about some myths (some true, some false), she proceeded to give a firm boost to the Perl 6 naming debate, which keeps surfacing every so often. This seems particularly startling since in the past she’s been strongly on the “no need for a name change” camp.

This time, however, it seems like the community is much better prepared to have this conversation, and I’ll be looking forward to see what comes out (if only because it feels like this might give us a resolution!).2

And finally, after all this, Jonathan Worthington gave an in-depth talk on concurrency in Perl 6, and proceeded to blow everyone’s mind with a sneak peek to one of the first commercial deployments of Perl 6 and a nifty new feature in the Comma IDE to visualise the flow of asynchronous code. Really wonderful stuff.

Some more highlights

  • Tadeusz Sośnierz gave a good talk on talk on Moose and how it sometimes helps us make bad design decisions when building our classes.

    This is something I’ve thought about myself recently as well, but it is good to see it presented in such a systematic way. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of it.

  • Hauke Dämpfling presented his WebPerl project which seems very exciting, even if I have no immediate use case for it. I’m sure crazier people than myself will come up with interesting things.

  • Jonathan Worthington also gave a performance update on Perl6 which really floored me. He gives a detailed explanation of all the work the Perl 6 compiler does to optimise your code, and it really is impressive.

    After hearing him go on for 30 minutes, you realise he still hasn’t got to the actual execution of the program. And even then, Perl 6 boots as fast as Perl 5 with Moose (doing considerably more) and beats Ruby and Python at some tasks. A really impressive progress report. I want to see more!

  • Carl Mäsak gave a talk on his work exploring macros for Perl 6 which was both a lot of fun and a tour de force over all sorts of topics (including an intermission with smart online jokes).

  • And I too gave a talk about game development in Perl 5, mostly motivated by a project I’ve been playing around with recently, and about which I expect to write more in the future.3

    For the time being, you can find the slides online.

There are some other talks I couldn’t see, but I intend to watch some of them on the videos online as time goes by. If any of them catch my eye, I’ll add them to this list.

The next year the conference will be in Amsterdam. I can’t wait!

  1. This was actually similar to the talk he gave at the recent conference in Pittsburgh

  2. As an aside, I do feel like I’ve had a (tiny!) role to play: it’s hard to imagine the current state of affairs without Zoffix’s public campaign for the name “Raku”. And that seems to have been motivated by Larry Wall’s public statement that he was fine with there being an alias for the language.

    That statement came as a response to a question during the Amsterdam conference in 2017. And I was the one to ask the question.

    Of course, if I had any role to play it was only to catalise something that had existed in the community long before I joined it. And my asking it was in turn motivated by other people posting several blog posts about the issue soon before the conference.

    I guess this all goes to show you that things never happen in a vaccum. That, too, is part of what it means to live in a community. 

  3. Actually, that’s the project I mentioned at the beginning of my previous post as well. The cat is out of the bag!