The opening Keynote on Thursday was a discussion of the Wikimedia/Wikia project, which was overall not too bad. The highlight of the talk was the relaying the Parable of the Vegan, which was quite hilarious. Sadly, I don’t think the talk was quite as good as it could have been — too much time was spent teaching the purpose of Wikipedia and the structure of the wiki community, which I think was generally common knowledge amongst the audience. Once questions were asked, it became generally more interesting.
After morning tea were the absolutely fantastic Perl talks of Paul Fenwick, the first was “The Art of Klingon Programming”, which made a hugely insightful analogy between the Perl programming language and Klingon culture, and used this to inspire his talk about libautodie, a library that makes Perl behave sanely in the face of supposedly fatal errors. It’s pretty damn cool, and cleans up one of my least favourite things about Perl (though quite a few still remain), Paul’s second talk of the day was on new features in Perl 5.10, which were interesting. Perl 5.10 has added a swtich-alike block, which I think is a model that other languages should adopt — instead of the C-style ‘break-or-fallthrough’ method (which introduces many stupid bugs for newbies), Perl adopts the ‘continue’ keyword to allow a fallthrough, or no statement to break — this is pretty damn clever, if I do say so myself.
This was followed by a talk entitled 7 Things Lawyers Don’t Understand About Software — delivered by a UTAS Law PhD student, who presented some very interesting arguments about the likeness of software and mathematics, and related this to the unpatentability of mathematics. His research appears interesting and I urge you to check it out.
After Lunch was Donna’s The Joy of Inkscape tutorial, the point of which was to have people tinker with inscape for two hours, with occasional supervision from experts. Sadly, the room (which holds 40 with tables) overflowed, and hence the tutorial didn’t appear to function entirely as planned. I don’t think this affected the ability of people with seats to enjoy the tutorial though, which is nice.
Following Afternoon tea, I relaxed for a while (indeed skipping a talk), and finished up at Hugh Blemings’ talk on learning Free Software Hacking from Clever People — this talk was a disappointment — from casual observation, people in the audience provided more useful input than the speaker, and the speaker was mostly inaudible (partially due to his tone of voice not agreeing with the room acoustics).
Thursday Evening involved me and various TUCS people running the Unprofessional Delegates Networking Session at the Uni Bar — this was a massive success for us (we turned a profit!!!) and we were happy to provide an opportunity for the non-professional delegates to socialise whilst the professionals enjoyed their pissup at a brewery. Never underestimate the power of meat and quanitity burger to attract and feed people. I should direct many thanks to the business staff at the TUU and the Uni Bar, who opened their facilities at 3 days notice, for what was effectively a break-even prospect. Hopefully TUCS can do more work with them in the future.