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24 June 2013 @ 05:48 pm
I've been volunteering, on and off, as a DreamWidth developer for about eighteen months - ever since I saw a post saying how easy DW was to volunteer for compared to other Open Source projects. I had the advantage, of course, of having programmed in Perl before, and some experience finding my way around other people's code bases. On the other hand, I've never worked on a project with a large team, let alone one that expected to put comparatively polished pieces of code out into an actual live production environment (academia, with a few notable exceptions, very much takes the view that code development ends at the point where you upload a prototype and say "feel free to use it if you're interested" or even, "it worked once, on my machine, which totally means it counts as a scientific result". User support generally ends somewhere around that point as well.)

Since DreamWidth takes its volunteers very seriously, they offered to pay (at least in part) for any volunteer who had submitted a patch in the last year, to go to a Perl Programming tech conference in Texas. YAPC::NA, to be precise. In a piece of classic programmer humour, that stands for "Yet Another Perl Conference: North America" - which is not a joke that is worth explaining.

For various reasons, to do with the cost of flights, I arrived a day before the conference so seized the opportunity to go to a pre-conference workshop, Git for Ages 4 and Up. I'm half tempted to try explaining what Git is and why it is interesting because, from my point of view, the workshop was definitely the highlight of the conference. But discretion has proved the better part of valour. I'll just note that Git joins the Gimp on the list of really useful software that I wish someone had put more thought into naming. I am now trying to persuade my boss that we should use it at work. He's a bit dubious but has agreed that I can switch to it if I can persuade our user it's a good idea. I also now know what tinker toys are.

YAPC itself was full of interesting bits and pieces. There was an interesting talk on "Roles" - not Roles as used in agent organisational programming, but as an alternative to inheritance in object oriented programming. I also now know what you can do with the "Services" menu item that appears in the File Menu for every Mac application.

The Perl community was in the throws of a distinctly tedious brouhaha over whether or not the conference needed a Code of Conduct. A rather surprising parade of perfectly intelligent people were pitching various kinds of tantrum at the concept that there might be *gasp* a minimum standard of behaviour at a tech conference and that *swoon* maybe some public procedures for handling complaints might be a good idea and even *shock horror* the suggestion that attendees avoid doing things that might make other people feel unsafe and unwelcome. Most of these otherwise apparently sane and sensible people seemed to be of the opinion that the moment you had a Code of Conduct you would be summarily ejected from the conference by a swarm of jack-booted feminazis if you had the temerity to so much as swear. The fact that these people frequently expressed these opinions in more than colourful language and yet the jackbooted feminazis conspicuously failed to materialise did not seem to make much difference to the discussion. That said, apart from the vocal minority behaving like a toddler who has been told they have to share their toys, everyone seemed very friendly and welcoming.

I was really impressed by the time-keeping at the conference. Few of the sessions were moderated and yet, invariably, talks ended on time. The "Lightening Talk" sessions were moderated and talks were limited to 5 minutes with a whistle at the 4 minute mark and a gong at the 5 minute mark. Only two of those over-ran, one of which was summarily clapped off stage once the gong went. The second was a eulogy and the audience had the politeness to wait that one out. I got a minor role in one of the lightning talks where the speaker wanted to persuade folk to attend a contradance event that evening. She wanted dancers to demonstrate the style (and to prove that you didn't need much experience to participate). Both [personal profile] afuna and I got dragged into this.

In the evenings we often hung out in each other's hotel rooms. To be honest, these were more suites than rooms, with separate living areas and kitchenettes. DreamWidth took us out for a meal one evening and, on another, [personal profile] sarah persuaded us all to go and watch the largest urban bat population leaving its day time quarters and heading out into Austin to hunt.

Video of bats heading out to hunt, with a bonus video of one crawling over my feet, having just crawled over [personal profile] allen's feet.

We also had an opportunity to visit DreamWidth's servers. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the server company but we had a group photo outside:

We did get to go in and look at the actual machines which are hosting and running everyone's journals. We also got T-shirts.

There are also, you will note, an awful lot of short women working for DreamWidth. [personal profile] afuna is shorter than I am which is a particularly rare occurrence. You'll also notice my hair is braided, and possibly that my nails are painted. [personal profile] zarhooie was handing out beauty styling in return for bug fixes. I think I'm in almost permanent bug debt now.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/100433.html.
a_cubeda_cubed on June 25th, 2013 07:03 am (UTC)
You may get a request from me to interview you for one of my current projects, on the incentives for involvement in FLOSS projects.
louisedennislouisedennis on June 25th, 2013 08:26 am (UTC)
I'm happy to talk to you, but you might do better to go to the source. misskat (on DreamWidth) handles community management and has a talk she gives to tech conferences on the care and feeding of volunteers. denise and mark (the CEOs, also their account names on DreamWidth) are also, naturally, very concerned about managing a good volunteer community and might well be prepared to make time to talk to you.