Things I learned at PerlKohaCon 2023

I've spend the last week in Helsinki, Finland, attending PerlKohaCon 2023, hosted by the National Library of Finland and organized by Andreii aka nugged and his team.

This was the first time we had a combined European Perl Conference and KohaCon. For those that don't know Koha (which is unfortunately true for a lot of Perl devs), it's a fully featured, scalable & open source library management system written in Perl.

Some aspects of KohaCon where "ported" to the Perl Conference part (e.g. free attendance as compared the usual fee of €100+ for PerlCon), while we introduced the Koha crowd to features like Lighting Talks. Generally it took some time (and two social events followed by more hanging-out-in-bars) for the two groups to mingle, but at the end of the event I had the feeling that the mixing / unification of the two communities started to happen.

For me (professionally) this event was perfect, as we started to work with Koha a few years ago, and meeting the core devs and other community members makes working with (and on!) Koha much easier.

The only downside was the rather small number of attendees, at least from the Perl contingent (I never attended a KohaCon before, so I don't know how many people usually attend those). I guess the low number was caused by factors like the slightly remote location of Helsinki and the rather late announcement of the conference and the schedule. Maybe the fact that this event was a joint Perl-and-Koha-event also scared some people off?

Things I learned (and other notes)

  • According to Kelly and Jessie people actually prefer video content over written one. (I don't, which probably explains all the white hair in my beard (or the other way around?))
  • Providing "Attractive Code Hunks" increases the chance of your patches to be merged
  • There is an effort to rebuild Ukrainian libraries and help them to use Koha: ULRI - Ukrainian Libraries Restoration Initiative
  • This was the first PerlCon where an actual ambassador gave a speech: Olga Dibrova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in the Republic of Finland (what a title)
  • Don't submit three talks and assume not all will be picked
  • German and Maori seem to use similar pronounciations, which makes it easy for me to correctly say "Koha"
  • Drinks are expensive in Helsinki (~€9)
  • Even all all-vegan buffet will be cleaned by a crowd of Perl (and Koha) devs.
  • The Finns seem to suffer from a Category Mismatch regarding "Longdrink". In Finland, Longdrink references a specific drink instead of the whole category of long-drinks. (As if there was one brand of beer called "Beer"). I had a few of them, anyway :-)
  • Live Demos and restrictive WLANs don't mix well
  • But other Live Demos work all to well (and might rickroll you..)
  • Doing a talk on Ansible AND attending one help to finally understand how it all works.
  • But Rex still seems like the solution that better matches by brain. And you don't have to "program in YAML"!
  • Nobody knows what Life actually is, but we're still looking for it everywhere.
  • Sea cruises are a lot of fun, especially when accompanied by Perl and Koha friends and some Original Longdrinks
  • It took me some time (and asking a native speaker) to figure out that all the milk options where lactose free (but just different kinds of milk)
  • There's a mastodon bot that posts items from various museums catalogues called ExhibitExplorer - very nice idea, let's see if I can find some APIs of Viennese museums
  • Taking notes during talks helps writing up the "Things I learned" section, and slacking on taking notes results in a rather short list (see: this post..)
  • I learned how to sign off Koha patches and improved my skill at submitting patches - all hail Katrin Fischer and her infinite patience!
  • I got to show off my mediocre vim & bash skills
  • Oodi is an amazing library / community centre, which employs robots to transport boxes of books around
  • I learned the Finnish way to prepare ketchup at Hesburger (involving lots of very small packets of salt, pepper and some chili mix)
  • When showing Final Scenes of Disaster Movies in Finnish, it would be better to provide surtitles instead of subtitles (so add them to the top of the screen where people from the back can read them)
  • New (first) favorite Finnish band: The Cleaning Women - great outfits, cool instruments and quite a show!
  • My vinyl-hunting-skill are still up-to-date, as I managed to procure their latest vinyl on Friday.

My talks

I did three talks:

There are video recordings available, but you have to find them in the full day recordings; the organizers will provide stand alone videos later)


As always: A big Thank-you to the orgas, speakers, sponsors and attendees!