Lullaby of London

Posted on 21st December 2013

The 2013 London Perl Workshop Conference Survey results are now online.

Although percentage wise the submissions are up, the actual number of respondents are just slightly lower than previous years. Though it has to be said I'm still pleased to get roughly a third of attendees submitting survey responses. It might not give a completely accurate picture of the event, but hopefully we still get a decent flavour of it.

Two questions, which I plan to pay closer attention to in future surveys are; 'How do you rate your Perl knowledge?' and 'How long have you been programming in Perl?' Originally the age question usually gave some indication of how long someone had been using Perl, but from experience, I now know that doesn't work. As such, these two questions hopefully give us a better idea of the level of knowledge and experience of attendees. Perhaps unsurprisingly London.pm had a lot of attendees who have been around the Perl community for many years, particularly as it was the first non-US Perl Monger group. However, we do still see a notable number of people who are relatively new to Perl. It will be interesting to see whether these numbers change over the years, as although the community doesn't appear to be growing radically, it is still attracting first-time attendees.

Looking at the list of suggested topics, I was intrigued to see "Testing" in there. Apart from my own talk and Daniel Perrett's, there wasn't anything specifically about testing. I don't know if its because the older hands are more weary of giving test talks, or whether everyone thinks everything has been said, but I do think it's a topic that worth repeating. We regularly have new attendees who have never seen these talks before, so hopefully we'll see some more submitted at future workshops and YAPCs. There was also a lot of interest in practical uses of web frameworks. Although Andrew Solomon held a Dancer tutorial, seeing how to solve specific problems with web applications would be valuable to many. Having said that, the diverse range of subjects that was on offer at the workshop, was equally as interesting. I just hope Mark and Ian are so inundated with talks next year, we have an even greater choice from the schedule.

Thank you to Mark and Ian from organising another great Perl event, and thanks to all the speakers for making it worth attending. Also to all the attendees, especially those who took the time to respond to the survey, and for all the talk evaluations. I know the speakers appreciate the evaluations, as I've had a few thank yous already :)

Enjoy the results.

File Under: community / london / opensource / survey / workshop
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The Great Gates of Kiev

Posted on 27th October 2013

I've now uploaded the survey results for YAPC::Europe 2013 and The Pittsburgh Perl Workshop 2013. Both had only a third of attendees respond, which for PPW is still 20 out of 54, and 122 out of 333 for YAPC::Europe.

YAPC::Europe

In previous years we have had higher percentages of response at YAPC::Europe, but that is possibly because I was in attendance and promoted the surveys during lightning talks, and encouraged other speakers to remind people about them. It may also be the fact that there is a newer crowd coming to YAPCs, and the fact we had 44 out of the 122 respondees saying that this was their first YAPC, who have never experienced the surveys. While definitely encouraging to see newer attendees, it would be great to see more of their feedback to help improve the conferences each year. Like YAPC::NA 2013, we have reintroduced the gender question. This time around I didn't get the negative reaction, but this may also be due to the fact I've had more feedback about approaching the subject this time around. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were rather more male respondees, but I am also very encouraged to see that 8 respondees were female. While its difficult to know the exact numbers at the event, I'd like to think that we have been able to welcome more women to the event, and hopefully will see this number increase in the future.

Looking at the locations where attendees were travelling from to attend YAPC::Europe in Kiev, it is interesting to see a much more diverse spread. Once upon a time the UK was often the highest number, even eclipsing the host country. This year, it seems many more from across the whole of Europe took advantage of the conference. Again I think this is very encouraging. If Perl is to grow and reach newer (and younger) audiences, it needs to be of interest to a large number of people, particular from many different locations. While the UK (particularly London, thanks to Dave Cross) was perhaps the start of European Perl community, YAPC::Europe is now capable of being hosted in just about any major European city and see several hundred people attend. It will be interesting to see if Sofia next year, has a similar evenly spread of locations.

Of those that responded, it does seem that we had more people in the advanced realm. Particularly seeing as we had 56 people respond with more than 10 years experience of Perl. Back when we started the surveys, it would likely have been only a handful of people who attended who could have said that they had been programming Perl for more than 10 years. Thankfully though, it isn't just us old hands, as those only programming in Perl for a few years or less, are still making it worthwhile for speakers to come back each year and promote their projects big and small to a new audience.

One comment in the feedback however, described the Perl community as hermetic. I'm not entirely convinced that's true, but it is quite likely that some find it difficult to introduce themselves and get involved with projects. Having said that, there are plenty of attendees who have only been coming to YAPCs, or been involved with the Perl community, for a short while, who have made an impact, and are now valued contributors. So I guess it may just be down to having the right personality to just get stuck in and introduce yourself. This is one area of the Perl community that Yaakov Sloman is keen to break down barriers for, even perceived ones. We do need more Yaakov's at these events to not just break the ice, but shatter it, so we all see the benefit of getting know each other better.

And talking of getting to know others better, it was a shame I didn't get to meet the 15 CPAN Testers who responded. We have had group photos in the past, and I'd like to do more when I next attend a YAPC, but I think it would also be very worthwhile if the Catalyst, Dancer, Padre and many other projects could find the time to do some group shots while at YAPCs. At YAPC::NA it is a bit of a tradition for all those who contribute to #perl on IRC to have a large group photo, but it's never encouraged others to do the same. Perhaps this is also a way for people to get to know project contributors better, as new attendees will have a better idea of who to look out for, rather than trying to figure out who fits an IRC nick or PAUSEID.

The suggest topics for future talks were quite diverse, and "Web Development Web Frameworks Testing" is definitely an interesting suggestion, particularly as we are seeing more and more web frameworks written in Perl now, and we are after all very well known for our testing culture. One question I'm planning to include next years surveys, also looks at some of these topics and attempts to find out what primary interests people have. Again, this might help guide future speakers towards subjects that are of interest to their target audience.

Pittsburgh Perl Workshop

Workshops, by their very nature, are much smaller events, but with Pittsburgh being the home of the very first YAPC::NA, it is well established to host a workshop, and it would seem attracted some high profile speakers too. Possibly as a consequence, at least one attendee felt some of the talks were a little too advanced for them. At a smaller technical event it is much harder to try and please everyone, and with fewer tracks there often is less diversity. Having said that, I hope that the attendee didn't feel too overwhelmed, and got something out of the event in other talks.

From the feedback it would seem that more knowledgeable Perl developers were in attendance, so understandable that more talks might lean towards more advanced subjects, but as mentioned for YAPCs, speakers shouldn't feel afraid of beginner style introductions or howtos for their project, that could appeal to all levels of interest.

Overall I think the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop went down very well.

What's Next?

I now have to compile the more detailed personal feedback for these and the YAPC::NA organisers, so expect to see some further documentation updates in the near future. In addition, I want to work more on the raw data downloads. While it's interesting to see the data as currently presented, others may have other ideas to interrogate the raw data for further interesting analysis. I also still need to put the current code base on CPAN/GitHub and add the features to integrate with Act better.

The next survey will be for the London Perl Workshop at the end of November. If you are planning a workshop, YAPC or other technical event that you'd to have a survey for, please let me know and I'll set you up. It typically takes me a weekend to set up an instance, so please provide as much advanced warning as possible.

File Under: community / conference / perl / survey / workshop / yapc
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The Reasons Why

Posted on 25th March 2012

For those that follow the conference surveys, you'll be pleased to hear that I have now put the results of both the Israeli Perl Workshop and the German Perl Workshop online. These are the first events this year to take advantage of the surveys, although several more are to come.

This marks the second survey for the German Perl Workshop and notes some small differences, while it was the first for the Israeli Perl Workshop. I hope the future organisers can make use of the results and that they allow me to continue the surveys with these workshops next year, and for the years to come.

Although the Israeli Perl Workshop was in English this year, Gabor and I are hoping to be able to provide the survey in Hebrew next year. The German Perl Workshop marked the first survey not in English last year, and it helped to start building up a language pack, which can be used to plugin to the survey software. I plan to formalise this during the year, so that other events, using languages other than English, can still take advantage of the surveys.

Thanks to all the organisers and the survey participants for taking the time to respond to the questions. It is very much appreciated.

File Under: conference / opensource / perl / survey / workshop
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London Calling

Posted on 7th February 2012

London Perl Workshop 2011 Survey - Results Now Online

London Perl Workshop 2011 Survey Results

I'm please to say that the survey results from the London Perl Workshop 2011 are now online. Slightly delayed due to Christmas and my new job, but worth the wait I think. This is the first time we've had a survey for the London Perl Workshop, so I was interested to see how the results differed from YAPCs. The attendees for the workshop differ from YAPCs, as although around 40% of attendees are well know within the Perl community and have attended YAPCs, most of the sttendees, like attendees for many other workshops around the world, don't have the resources or availability to attend a 3-5 day conference event. However, a one-day event, and especially a free event, makes a workshop much more accessible.

It was a shame that we only had 27% of attendees responding, but having said that while my personal aim is always to achieve more than 50% response, 27% is still a great response. As I've said previously, anything more than 10% is a good result. However, now we've done one, hopefully we can encourage more to respond this year :)

The demographic responses interestingly followed what we often see for YAPCs. I guess that may be because most of the respondees are YAPC attendees, but we still had several responses from those who have only attended London Perl Workshops, or for whom this was their first major event. The balance of Perl knowledge, although slightly weighted towards the more experience developeres, was also very pleasing to see with several beginners attending the event. Every year we have been looking to encourage newcomers to these events, as well as into the Perl community. After all, those learning Perl now are the Perl community's future. It was also great to see people being nominated or recommended to attend by colleagues and managers. The promotion of these events is obviously having the right effect.

I was intrigued to see that of all the respondees, 65 of them weren't speakers, with 30 willing to consider being a speaker in the future. Again this is something we should be encouraging, as newer speakers often have a different perspective on a subject, and can bring something new and fresh to the event. It was also encouraging that primary motivations for attending are to get together and meet other Perl developers. Events like The London Perl Workshop are a great way to introduce yourself to other developers you may have spoken to online, or are collaborating with on projects. They are a great way to promote your project, or get to know more about other projects.

In response to the question "What aspects of the conference do you feel gave value for money?", I was actually quite surprised to see comments along the lines of "Since it was free, I do not understand what "gave value for money" means." For those attendees who wondered that, how much did it cost you to attend the event? If you think your answer would be "nothing", consider the question beyond the attendance fee. How did you get there, did you walk, get the train, drive? What about your time, what would you have done that Saturday if you hadn't have gone to the event? Just because the event had no attendance fee, doesn't mean it cost you nothing to attend. Also think about what value it has given you in terms of enhancing your knowledge. Did you see talks or meet people that have inspired you, or given you a better understanding of something you were working on. There are lots of ways "value" can be interpreted beyond any monetary value.

It took a lot of people a lot of time and energy to put event like the London Perl Workshop on, not just Mark and his minions, but also the speakers and the sponsors. From their perspective it is good to know their efforts were appreciated. Thanks you to all those who did respond, and of those that didn't, hopefully we can encourage you to contribute your thoughts this year :)

File Under: london / perl / survey / workshop
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How Soon Is Now?

Posted on 27th November 2011

The YAPC Conference Surveys site has now been updated with the results of the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop and the German Perl Workshop.

The site has also been update to provide a tabbed display of the different types of event, to make it a little easier to find results. Over the next month or so I am looking to get more of the past data online, as well as the feedback that I normally send to just the organisers. I have lots of data waiting in the wings, and its only been my lack of free time that has prevented me from finishing off the sanity checks.

There are also plans for the future surveys, and as previously mentioned, the German Perl Workshop has given me the push to work with other languages. There is still some work to be done, but the first non-english language survey did seem to go very well. Perhaps understandably there are translations that I missed, so my next step is monitor (particularly for the results pages) London Perl Workshop what was missing, and provide Max (if he doesn't mind of course ;)) with the additional text for translation. I will then use this as a basis for all future workshops, which I will then provide via a git repo for anyone wishing to use the surveys in other languages. Note that for the short term the survey results will be presented in the same language the survey was presented, although in the longer term I would like to be able to allow switching the text (at least the questions) to english or other available languages.

The London Perl Workshop is still running, and has another 2 weeks to run. If you attended the LPW this year, and haven't completed the main survey or the talk evaluations, please take the time, as it really does help the organisers and speakers to make the events better and better.

If you're interested in running a survey for your event next year, please get in touch (barbie@cpan.org) and let me know in plenty of time, particularly if you'd like to run the survey in a non-english language.

File Under: community / conference / survey / workshop
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Die Mensch-Maschine

Posted on 10th November 2011

German Perl Workshop 2011 - Speaker Evaluations

I have now sent out all the talk evaluations from this year's German Perl Workshop or more correctly Der 13. Deutsche Perl-Workshop. If you were a speaker and haven't received an email, please check your spam folders first, and let me know (barbie at cpan . org) if you don't find it. The mail will have come from barbie at birmingham . pm . org.

My thanks to all the organisers of GPW2011 and everyone who took the time to respond to the evaluations. From previous experience the speakers have very much appreciated your feedback. I would also like to extend extra special thanks to Max Maischein aka "Corion", who took the time to translate all the questions, templates and emails into German for me.

The results of the main survey will be published soon on the YAPC Conference Surveys site.

This is the first survey that I have undertaken in a non-English language, and for the most part it has been very successful. While there have been some slight problems due to byte vs character lengths (I'll save my 'why-oh-why did we ever start with ASCII and not UTF-8' rant for another day), the work Max has done to provide all the translations has started me on a path to be able to accommodate other languages.

At the moment the plan is to create a GitHub repository of all the necessary files, with language branches containing the appropriate translations. Then should anyone wish to request a survey instance in the future in a non-English language, their first step will then be to provide the necessary translations for me. It currently takes roughly a day to set-up an instance, so drop-in replacements for these files will ease the set-up process. It will also mean that as time goes on and questions get added, refined or deleted, we can replicate these changes across all languages.

I'd like to see the survey site get more use in the future, and although I'm happy to run the survey sites, with the support of Birmingham Perl Mongers, the longer term goal has always been to allow others to create their own instances. With the official release of Labyrinth this year, much of the tool set is now Open Source. I still need to release the Survey Plugin for Labyrinth and the additional command-line tools used, but getting the language translations moving will be a big step forward. Hopefully I'll have more news in the new year.

File Under: conference / labyrinth / opensource / survey / workshop / yapc
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Questions & Answers

Posted on 9th May 2011

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a Survey Plugin for Labyrinth. The plugin is used within the YAPC Conference Survey system, which has now been running for several YAPC events over the last 5 years. I had promised to try and release the complete survey site last year, but with it being a Labyrinth based site setup, I didn't want to release it without releasing Labyrinth first. Now that's done I can concentrate on getting the Survey Plugin and the complete survey system on CPAN.

This year I will be running the YAPC::NA and YAPC::Europe surveys as per usual. However, this year I am delighted to say I have also been asked to handle the survey for the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop too. Hopefully if all goes to plan, this will provide the test bed for many other workshops to provide surveys.

The Conference Surveys themselves started in 2006, and have provided some very interesting feedback for organisers. While event organisers and myself never expect to get 100% response from all attendees, the levels that we do get is absolutely phenomenal. With this kind of success, I would be very interested to see whether the same Survey system can be used by other non-Perl events. There is certainly nothing that prevents a non-Perl (or even a non-tech) event from using the system. Last year I did have a query from a non-Perl event, but the system wasn't ready for a stand-alone release, and I wasn't able to set anything up. However, this year, with a CPAN release coming soon, I am more hopeful that others might be able to use the system.

If you are an organiser for an event where you think a survey would be useful for feedback, please do get in touch. If I cannot host an instance for you, once I get a full release on CPAN, I can provide help and advice for getting your own hosting instance running.

File Under: conference / labyrinth / perl / survey / workshop / yapc
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