This week there should have been the yearly Perl Conference aka YAPC::NA, but thanks to Corona we instead had the Perl Conference in the Cloud. The upside to this was that I could attend, as usually I don't travel to North America for one conference.
The team went through a lot of work to prepare the needed infrastructure, and though I personally don't like Zoom and Slack that much, I can fully understand (and support) the decision to use these tools, as they provided a very usable environment to run a virtual conference. Of course in the long run I'd prefer if we'd have some open-source tools (like jitsi or Matrix), as Zoom and Slack don't have the best track record regarding privacy and security. I know a few people who did not attend because of the choose tech.
The biggest news of the conference was with no doubt the announcement of Perl 7 during Sawyer X's keynote (Video). I think this is a very good idea, and fits very well with last years renaming of Perl 6 to Raku. While there are without doubt some technical details that still need to be discussed / solved by p5p (p7p? p\d+p? p_p?), I hope this will bring a bit of fresh air to Perl and maybe even a few new devs.
As usual, Damian Conway blew our mind with his keynote on a simple matter of programming (nothing simple, I must say) and his Perl refactoring tools, proofing again that not only Perl can parse Perl (well, technically the 450+ line regex is Perl..). I especially like that we now have a word for a bad variable name: Cacogram. Here's the video
Usually the hallway track is one of my favorite parts of a conference. This year was no difference! Using a chat channel (Slack..) enabled quite a few interesting and funny discussions, and now that we have a "paper" trail of the chats we might actually be able to turn some of them into actual code / results etc. Apparently there were also a few BOFs, which I did not attend. I also liked the two extra Slack channels for discussing the current talks, which caused me a bit of stress as there also was a zoom chat going on at the same time (and some IRC as well..)
Downside of a remote conference
The biggest downside of a remote conference is that one (well, at least me) is less committed to actually attend. On the second day, I "left" between my talk and Damian's keynote to attend a friends birthday party (which I would have skipped if I was at a "proper" conference). And because of work I had to do on Friday, I was to tired to attend that day. Luckily one of the big upsides of a remote conference is that all talks are automatically recorded, so we can (re-) watch them on youtube
I did a talk on writing a good Dockerfile for Perl apps (Video) and a lightning talk on Net::Matrix::Webhook. I found it very strange to give a talk via Zoom, as there was zero audience feedback. At one time I wondered if my internet was even working at all, because I was (literally) talking to a wall. I did a few talks using jitsi earlier, but with much less attendees, which I could watch in the "gallery view". In the end people were paying attention, as I got some questions directly after the talk, and in some chats later.
Sometimes during the conference somebody had the idea to allow all zoom attendees to turn on their mics after the talk, for some virtual applause. This was a good idea, and should be remembered for future remote conferences.
There won't be an European Perl Conference this year, and nobody knows what will happen next year (due to Corona and/or dwindling Perl orga resources), but I do hope we will have some f2f events again. There is already a German Perl Workshop scheduled on 24th to 26th March in Leipzig, so there's at least that!
Quite a few people commented that they liked the virtual conference even more than a regular one, mostly (I think) because they could not attend a proper conference due to cost and/or time issues. And while I'd rather have a virtual conference than none, I prefer a real-life one.
As usually, a big thank-you to all the orgas, speakers, sponsors and attendees!