This past week I finally attended my first YAPC. While previously I’d attended the excellent Surge conference hosted by OmniTI as a commuter, and the brand-spanking-new DCBPW by the DC and Baltimore Perl Mongers, this was my first full-immersion conference with flying out of town and everything, and it was quite an experience.

My work sponsored myself and two coworkers to attend the three-day conference. They were going to send us to the two-day workshops beforehand but unfortunately they sold out before the long process of travel paperwork completed. Still, I think we got a very worthwhile event.

As with most conferences, there was a lot of value in simply being around other people who are passionate about Perl. If I’ve got one big regret about this past week, it’s that I didn’t spend more time talking to those people. It’s not for their lack of trying, however. Everyone I did meet was very friendly and willing to talk, and more than once we were told by conference organizers to simply introduce ourselves to others. I’m unfortunately far too quiet for my own good, even among such good company. While the Linode-sponsored beer garden certainly helped me feel more comfortable with expressing myself, I mostly wound up expressing myself through dance.

One of the big topics throughout the days, however, wasn’t even just about Perl programming, but Perl culture, and expanding that culture through diversification. Michael Schwern (@schwern) gave the keynote on Wednesday morning, and impressively dove straight into waters which have been churning and sinking many ships for a couple of years now: women and minorities in a culture dominated by white males: the “geek” culture. Still, he brought it up in a non-combative, humorous way that still got everyone talking, and I think that’s the whole point. As he said, he wasn’t going to solve the diversity problem in 50 minutes at the start of YAPC::NA, but it was quite awesome to see everyone get into the topic and discuss it throughout the conference with as much weight as how we were going to solve the next big computational problems in Perl.

Speaking of the next big problems… For me, my latest issues have been focused around web development, and I’m mentioning that almost purely so I can segue into my favorite scheduled talk of the conference: Glen Hinkle (@tempire)’s Introduction to Mojolicious. For a long while now, any time I’ve wanted to throw anything onto the web, I’ve reached straight for Sinatra, because it’s so fast to install, quick to write in, and so easy to deploy to Heroku. Now, I’m feeling like the rewrite I started of my own blog may be scrapped and redone in Mojo. So, while many talks captured my interests, nothing quite changed my whole attitude on a topic like the Mojo Intro.

Oh, yeah, and Damian Conway’s recorded talk on Regexp::Debugger? Ho-lee crap. Rocked my socks off.

So, in all, it was a great experience, and one I hope to repeat at future YAPCs. While I’m hoping to attend one abroad one day, for now I fear I will just have to stay local. If YAPC::NA proved anything to me, though, it’s that there’s a wealth of value even in that.