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2017/07/06

Working Through Limitations: The Perl Conference 2017 Day 3

A Delorean with a Perl-powered center column and the cutest little Flux Capacitor on the dashboard. Oh, the wonders you can see at a developer conference.
"A man's got to know his limitations."

That's a line from Dirty Harry Callahan in Magnum Force, but it really described my planning for the Perl Conference. Once the calendar was up, I went in, first and foremost thinking "What are skills I need to learn?"

One crucial skill is version control. It's difficult to add to my main workflow, as I develop in production. (I live in fear.) But I'm increasingly adding it to my side projects. It is especially part of the process for maintaining the site for Purdue Perl Mongers, as well as aspects of HackLafayette, but beyond certain basics, I just didn't know much about how to use Git and version control to improve my projects. I learned how CPAN Testers tests your code on many platforms after you upload to CPAN, and how Travis-CL and Appveyor test against Linux, macOS and Windows after pushing to GitHub, but how track changes, align issues with branches, etc., are all new to me. So, I started Wednesday with Genehack and Logs Are Magic: Why Git Workflows and Commit Structure Should Matter To You. (Slides) I fully expect to crib ideas and aliases from this talk for some time to come.



There was a talk at a local software group featuring a project leader from Amazon on the technology involved with Alexa, which involved a lot of how this works, going from speech-to-text to tokenization and identifying of crucial keywords -- "Alexa, have Domino's order me a Pizza" ultimately boiling down to "Domino's" and "Pizza" -- and proceeding from there. It gave a sense of how Amazon is taking several hard problems and turning them into consumer tools.

What came very late in the talk is how to interface my systems with Amazon's "Talking Donkey", and I had a few conversations where we talked about starting the day with "Alexa, what's fresh hell is this?" and getting back a list of systems that broke overnight, but I lacked a strong idea of what is needed to make my systems interact with the Alexa system.

And an Echo.

But, thankfully, Jason Terry's Amazon, Alexa and Perl talk covered this, albeit more in the "Turn my smart lights on" sense than in the "Tell me what my work systems are doing" sense. Still, very much something I had been interested in.



But, as I implied, Amazon does a lot of heavy lifting with Alexa, getting it down to GETs and and POSTs against your API. If you're running this from home, where you have a consistent wired connection, this works. But, if you're running this, for example, in your car, you need it to be small, easy, and self-contained. Chris Prather decided to MAKE New Friends with a Raspberry Pi 3. This was a case of Conference-Driven Development, and he didn't have it ready to demonstrate at this time.



I've been trying to move my lab to the New Hotness over time, and because I will have to tie things back to existing systems, I have avoided learning too much in order to make it work. Joel Berger presented Vue.js, Mojolicious, and PostgreSQL chat in less than 50 lines. I've heard good things about Vue.js, which I heard from the project head was the parts he needed from Angular without the stuff he didn't use. (RFC Podcast) I use jQuery and Template and not much more, so the "only what you need" aspect sounds good to me. I fully expect to bug Joel on Twitter and IRC about this and other things I need to do with Mojolicious  over the coming months. (Slides)



But, of course, not every talk needs to speak directly to my short-term needs. Stevan Little has been trying to add an object system to the Perl 5 for quite some time, and in Hold My Beer and Watch This, he talks about Moxie, his latest attempt.



OK, the Moxie talk was in the same room as the Mojolicious talk and this next one. I could have gone to one of the others, but I decided against. Oh well. I would put "do more object-oriented development" as a thing to learn, so I was glad to hear it.

The last full talk was The Variable Crimes We Commit Against JavaScript by Julka Grodel. I would say that I code Javascript half as much as I code Perl, but twice as much as I code in other languages. I knew certain parts, like how let gives lexical scoping like Perl's my. I had heard about let from my JS Twitter list, as well as from Matt Trout's talk, but there were certainly things I didn't know.

And, actually, things I still don't. I had technical difficulties with my laptop, and if I could've worked it out that day, I would've tried to set up a lightning talk. Alas, not only did it not work -- in the end, I swapped out the WiFi, and I think if I switched back, it'd be sane again -- I missed a lot of her talk about arrow functions, which piqued the interest of Perl's functional programming guru, Mark Jason Dominus. (In a not-surprising addition to my limitations, I still haven't gotten to the end of Higher Order Perl.) Anyway, I believe that, after I finish this post, I will go back and watch this again.



After this, there were Lightning Talks, interspersed with ads for various Perl Mongers groups, and urges for you to start a Perl Mongers group. I am likely going to do another post, with these talks from all three days, but to end this one, I'll show off one where M. Allan Noah talks about the SANE Project and how he reverse engineers scanner output to allow him to support scanners without vendor input.



Lack of documentation is a limitation, but knowing the limitation does not mean you have to stop, and lack of documentation will not stop him. We should all draw inspiration from that.

Now that I'm two weeks past the end, most of the talks are up, and I would like to commend the organizers. Conference organization is hard, and this venue made it harder. The US Patent and Trademark Office is a great place, but there are aspects that they as a venue wanted secured and I would've preferred to be more open, but it was a beautiful venue and I be glad to return.

But, the thing I'd like to commend them most on is the high quality and fast turnaround on talk videos. The audio is good, the video is clear and well-lit, and the slides take precedence over the speaker in framing. It's everything I want in a conference video.