Perl Activities

Aside from my music interests, I have another life away from the family. Perl. I've been coding Perl since 1999, when I switched from being a C programmer. Since then I have found myself getting involved in more and more Perl projects and the Perl community in general. It's been great fun and I've learnt alot too. I've met some interesting and entertaining people, who are often full of great ideas and have provided a seemingly endless source of inspiration. If you've not discovered Perl, then I suggest you buy a book. There are plenty to choose from, although the O'Reilly ones are perhaps best engineered to work up from Learning Perl through Programming Perl to Advanced Perl and beyond.

If you've arrived here because you already know some of my Perl projects here is a current list of what I'm involved with.

Birmingham Perl Mongers

I started the Birmingham Perl Mongers user group with Mike Bissett in September 2000, after we return from OSCON that year and were frustrated that there was nothing happening in Birmingham. The group grew steadily over the years and is now the second largest Perl Monger group in the UK. In February 2006 the group became a not-for-profit limited company, as a precursor to our hosting the 2006 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference. The conference was a success and has led us to be able to build the group further and contribute back to the Perl community.

We hold social meetings once a month throughout the year, usually on the second Wednesday of the month, where you can feel free to drop in and talk about anything. It doesn't have to be Perl related, but if you have a burning question, there are several experienced Perl programmers on hand to help you out. We also hold regular technical meetings, usually on the fourth Wednesday of the month, except during January and December. Starting in 2006, we began a trend of a World Tour, where we visited several other UK Perl Monger groups. For 2007 the World Tour has expanded to include Linux User groups (LUGs) and has altered to be a speaking tour, with a few of the regular Birmingham Perl Monger speakers presenting a range of subjects relating to Perl.

CPAN Testing

From October 2003 to December 2004 I was a regular CPAN Tester, testing CPAN distributions with ActivePerl 5.6.1 on a Windows 2000 Professional platform. I got involved with the CPAN Testers as there was a growing demand to know whether a particular distribution could be installed and tested on particular platforms, but the reports for the Windows OS were sadly lacking. Posting over 7000 reports I managed to add a notable amount of background for distributions during that time.

However, I made the choice to stop testing and like my musical career, took on more of a behind the scenes role. This began as a co-developer of the CPAN-YACSmoke distribution, and included submitting patches to CPANPLUS and the CPAN Testers website. I now monitor posts, both by authors and reporters, to ensure the distributions are uploaded correctly and that the reports include all the relavent information. To help promote CPAN Testing, I regularly speak at Perl conferences and encourage people to get involved.


When I began CPAN Testing, CPANPLUS was the standard way to do it. However, in late 2004 Jos rewrote the core modules. As a consequence, the CPAN Testing script got dropped as he didn't have enough time to rewrite it for the new API. CPAN Testing stalled slightly as testers began looking for alternative methods to test with the new API. Out of that Robert Rothenberg wrote the first release of CPAN-YACSmoke, which I quickly lept on and expanded to encompass all the important aspects of CPAN Testing. The module has since grown further, and is currently undergoing a major overhaul to better support the ways CPAN Testing has developed over the last 18 months.

If you'd like to get involved, a major help would be to write test scripts for the current version, as we'd like to ensure the functionality of the current version doesn't change as we develop all the new features we plan to add to the distribution.

CPAN Testers Statistics

As I was speaking about CPAN Testing at various events, I kept wanting to use statistics, which proved very difficult to gather. The CPAN Testers database was very basic at the time and didn't include enough information, particularly regarding the individual tester activity. I sent patches to Leon, which did get implement to include the perl version and platform, but it still wasn't enough for me to gather the stats I wanted, so I wrote a script to get all the information I needed. After a couple of months I quickly realised the benefit of making this information public. And so the website was launched.

The CPAN Testers Statistics site has grown, not just in terms of data, but also in content, with suggestions for new features coming all the time. If there are any statistics you'd like to see, please shout and I'll see how easy they are to implement.

CPAN Author

After founding the Birmingham Perl Mongers in 2000, I always felt like a fish out of water as I didn't have any distributions on CPAN to my name. After much scratching of head and pondering, I finally thought of a distribution that didn't exist on CPAN and would be worthy of being there. It was Calendar-List, which although was created for someone on a technical bulletin board, also proved useful in some website presentations. Since then I now have 23 distributions attributed to my PAUSE ID, BARBIE, on CPAN. If you find any problems with them, please use the RT system and I'll try and get to them as soon as possible.


In March 2001 I joined a web development company within the education market. Meeting some wonderful people, such as Lynsey, Mel, Greg and Ben, I was asked to look at re-engineering one of their flagship products for LEA Intranets. The resulting codebase, codenamed Mephisto, was deployed to several clients and was very successfully. However, in December 2002 the company effectively folded, and 5 of the employees set themselves up in business, taking the code and client base with them. As such Mephisto is still being used and has been developed much further than I envisaged at the start.

However, I still didn't feel I had done the best job I could, so set about starting the design again from scratch, to see whether I could do it better this time around. After all you are expected to discard the prototype :) I started the project by totally revising the database schema, as the original design fixated too much on being able to generate an XML data file of the structure and content of the websites. The original design decision for using XML had been out of my hands, and wasn't a good decision IMO. The new DB schema was much simpler and allowed for better handling of indexing to improve the speed performance of data retrieval.

The first version of Labyrinth was launched for my son's website. It was enough for a simple site, but I had bigger demands. Over the last few years the core code has been developed and enhanced several times to the point now where the core code usually only features minor tweaks these days. The plugins however I have much more fun with. The system is more than just a CMS, although that is the core part of what it does. I still have more plans for it and at some point I do plan to OpenSource it. However, it's worth remembering that Labyrinth is not a web or CMS framework, like Catalyst or Jifty, but a complete product. My whole intention for Labyrinth was to have a website in a box, that you could essentially wrap a CSS file around it and have a fresh new site. It's worked rather well as it now powers all of the following sites:

The Open Guide To Birmingham

I am the administrator for The Open Guide to Birmingham, a community driven website used to advertise interesting places, pubs, restaurants and the like to visit in and around Birmingham. It forms part of the worldwide OpenGuides network and is hopefully a useful resource for visitors and residents alike.


I was the lead organiser or project manager for the YAPC::Europe::2006 Perl Conference in Birmingham. Attended by over 200 developers, with 3 days of talks and tutorials covering a wide range of subjects regarding Perl. The event was held at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham and feature many international sponsors giving their support to this now established major Perl community event in the anual conference calendar.

Public Speaking

I am now a recognised technical speaker at several internationally attended technical conferences and user groups. I regularly tour the UK, travelling to regional Perl and Linux user groups, giving presentations and introducing others to Perl. Since 2004 I have also attended major international conferences and given presentations on various aspects of Perl, most notably in relation to testing. Now I get approached by other technological institutions and communities and I am currently scheduling more events for both. If you'd like me to come and speak at your event, please get in touch and let me know what kind of talk you'd like me to present. You can have a look through my existing talks to see the kind of things I usually talk about, but if there is anything specific not included that you think I could help with, please let me know.

Perl Community Ligger

Perl Monger user groups I am a member of:

Midland LUG Ligger

Aside from my Perl affliations, I am also a member of several UK Linux User Groups (LUGs)

Conference Ligger

The following are a collection of the conferences, seminars and workshops I have attended and/or spoken (*) at:

  • YAPC::Europe::2007 - Vienna, Austria *
  • GUADEC 2007 - Birmingham, England, UK
  • LUGRadio Live 2007 - Wolverhampton, England, UK *
  • YAPC::NA::2007 - Houston, TX, USA *
  • OpenAdvantage Open Source Showcase - Birmingham, England, UK *
  • London Perl Workshop 2006 - London, England, UK *
  • BrumCon 2006 - Birmingham, England, UK *
  • EuroFoo - Brussels, Belgium
  • YAPC::Europe::2006 - Birmingham, England, UK *
  • LUGRadio Live 2006 - Wolverhampton, England, UK *
  • YAPC::NA::2006 - Chicago, IL, USA *
  • BelFOSS - Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
  • YAPC::Europe::2005 - Braga, Portugal *
  • Perl 5 Day - London, England, UK
  • YAPC::NA::2005 - Toronto, Canada *
  • UKUUG Winter Conference 2005 - Birmingham, England, UK
  • London Perl Workshop 2004 - London, England, UK *
  • BrumCon 2004 - Birmingham, England, UK
  • YAPC::Europe::2004 - Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK *
  • YAPC::Europe::2003 - Paris, France
  • YAPC::Europe::2002 - Munich, Germany
  • YAPC::Europe::2001 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • YAPC::Europe::2000 - London, England, UK
  • OSCON 2000 - Monterey, CA, USA

Some Rights Reserved Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Barbie and included in the Memories Of A Roadie website and any related pages, including the website's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons by Attribution Non-Commercial License. If you wish to use material for commercial puposes, please contact me for further assistance regarding commercial licensing.