Archive for February, 2008

Wii Success

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

For the first time since we bought the Wii I managed to beat Marty at Wii Tennis! I’m thrilled. Blogging – a new tool for gloating.

Perl Collocates: Google Suggest

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I am also interested in collocates of “Perl” that come from sources outside the Perl community. Google Suggest aims to make a best guess as to what should come next in a search and it doesn’t tailor these results based on my previous searches.

Google Suggest Results

I wasn’t surprised that people are searching the web looking for help on how to use various functions and data structures but I was really surprised that their highest search is “perl for windows”.

Perl Collocates: Preliminary Results

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Marty has started to analyse the blog data he retrieved from

At the minute we are just looking at the collocates for “Perl”. Unsurprisingly “use perl” came out at the top but given the data source we are going to ignore that.

  • Perl 6 – 9,455 collocated occurrences
  • Perl code – 6,392 collocated occurrences
  • Perl source – 6,301 collocated occurrences
  • Wall Perl – 5,650 collocated occurrences
  • Larry Perl – 4,109 collocated occurrences
  • Perl 5 – 3,852 collocated occurrences
  • Perl unfortunately – 2,936 collocated occurrences
  • Perl Mongers – 2,769 collocated occurrences
  • Perl bug – 2,736 collocated occurrences
  • Perl Foundation – 2,732 collocated occurrences
  • Perl TODO – 2,722 collocated occurrences
  • Perl journal – 2,469 collocated occurrences
  • Perl course – 2,355 collocated occurrences
  • Perl programmers – 2,123 collocated occurrences
  • best Perl – 1,859 collocated occurrences
  • Perl6 Synopsis – 1,451 collocated occurrences
  • Perl6 doc – 1,450 collocated occurrences
  • Perl Horrors -1,332 collocated occurrences
  • Perl community – 1,005 collocated occurrences

The results for “Perl community” are being skewed because nearly 60% of the occurrences are from acme’s blog. I have no idea what “Perl Horrors” refers to and Marty is postulating that the occurrences of Perl 5 are low because that’s what people usually mean when they refer to “Perl” on its own.

There is still lots to do before I have a sensible way to display the results and also before I can graph their development over time.

Cultural Differences: Flu

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I have had the flu for the past week or so. I stayed at home, slept a lot, kept warm and drank lots of fluids. Today I contacted my Japanese teacher as I wanted to have a lesson tomorrow. I am not completely better yet but I do feel much better than I did last week.

She can’t come and teach me tomorrow. She told me that in Japan flu is considered to be an infectious disease. I agree that it’s an infectious disease but what I didn’t realise was the impact of that statement. I’m not supposed to go out and, if I were working, I would need a doctor to say it was O.K. for me to go back to work. My teacher can’t come and see me yet because she knows that there is no way my flu is completely gone. She told me that under Japanese health law she is not allowed to put her other pupils at risk of catching an infectious disease, which could happen if she saw me.

She rang tonight as she was very concerned that I had not seen a doctor. In the U.K. we are encouraged not to see a doctor for something like the flu. You can easily buy decongestants and painkillers to help alleviate the symptoms and apart from that you stay at home, rest, drink fruit juice and wait to get better. In Japan you go and see a doctor as soon as you start to feel ill and again when you think you are better. I asked my teacher what exactly the doctor could do for flu and she said that they give medicine or maybe an injection. She told me that then people recover from flu within 8 to 10 days. I told her that people in the U.K. also recover from flu within a similar time frame.

At this stage in my flu I certainly won’t get a doctor to come and see me but it seems that I am going to be expected to stay at home by myself until I am completely better – which won’t be for a few days yet.

Perl Collocates: Finding Data

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I haven’t forgotten my earlier post where I stated that I wanted to find out what collocates of “Perl” were being used by the Perl community. Stray posted a comment asking me how I planned to define “community” in this context.

“How do you define the perl *community*? Those with the loudest voices? The self-aggrandising, self-publicising, sell-appointed spokespeople?”

At this stage I don’t plan to try to define the community and I am not just looking for those with the loudest voices. But they do need to have a voice as I want to analyse what they have written.

I have decided to start with the blog posts on Once I’ve done that I may take a look at the archives of some of the Perl mailing lists.


Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Snow beyond the glass
Frozen death defeats the ground
Fear that Spring is bound

Lightning Talks: Would I be brave enough to give one?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

I always thought that Perl conferences had lightning talks to encourage new speakers. I had a look at the description that MJD wrote when he was organising them and he mentions how they are a good place to start speaking. Geoff, who now runs most of them, also states that they are a “great choice for your first speaking experience”. But I’m not convinced that is true anymore.

In Vienna and Houston last year the lightning talks were held in the main hall in front of the whole conference. The only other speakers who were put under this much pressure were the keynote speakers – who were all experienced. Can you imagine having to give your first ever talk in a large room in front of 300 or so people?

Of course many of the speakers who give lightning talks are very experienced. How would you feel if you were giving your first talk ever and had to speak after 8 other people who had obviously been speaking for years and on top of that were witty, original and funny? Lightning talks have become stand-up comedy. The ones people rave about tend to be the ones that were most entertaining. I imagine that for most people it would be easier to speak for 20 minutes on something technical rather than try to give a five minute talk that is entertaining enough to keep the audience laughing with them throughout it.

I asked Marty recently if he would give a lightning talk at a conference and he said, “I have nothing funny to say”. And I think the expectation is now that lightning talks are there not to teach you something but to entertain you. There was a really good non-funny lightning talk at YAPC::NA last year but it seemed to be out of place. When Paul started talking about his elderly parents I wanted to laugh because that’s all I had been doing for the rest of the talks. It is hard to change pace and recognise that the person on the stage isn’t telling a joke but sharing a technical solution to a serious personal problem.

The lightning talks are not scheduled against anything else at YAPC conferences because so many people want to go to them. We all want to be entertained and I think we should keep these but I would like to see an appropriate forum for inexperienced speakers to talk about technical things.

When We Touch

Friday, February 1st, 2008

I’m still thinking about Schwern’s post and the following line:

Touch is powerful, but complicated and we usually don’t employ it

The first part I agree with, touch is indeed powerful. I agree less with the second part, as touch is not always complicated. It’s the third part that surprises me. We use touch all the time when we communicate face-to-face. How often we touch and what is considered appropriate touching is cultural.

A few examples. People may touch when they meet. In the West we shake hands, hug or kiss. People touch at the end of conversations – again they may shake hands or maybe pat each other on the back. People touch during conversations by lightly touching someone’s arm or leg.

As I said the degree of permissible touching depends on where you came from. It was really funny for me to watch Marty’s Dad touch an elderly Japanese man on the train. Marty’s Dad was thanking the man for moving over and giving him a seat. He touched the man without even thinking about it. The Japanese man looked as if someone had just groped him. So there is no doubt that what touching means is open to debate but it still happens all the time.

My Japanese friends have been shocked when I have told them that I have been kissed on the cheek in the office by a business associate. For them that seems overly sexual. To me it’s just a greeting from a colleague and completely sexless.

I was wondering if Schwern was writing about touching in a specific context – that of geeks communicating with geeks. But that still doesn’t make sense to me. I am considered by many to be a geek and Schwern touches me when we chat face-to-face. So maybe it’s just another one of the things we do during face-to-face communication that we aren’t quite aware of. But we shouldn’t discount it, as touch is something that helps us connect with the people we are talking to in a way that can’t easily be replicated when communicating remotely.

Smells A Bit Odd…

Friday, February 1st, 2008

I was reading the most recent post on geek2geek. In it Schwern discusses face-to-face communication and suggests that video communication is almost as effective. There was quite a bit in the post that I didn’t agree with but for now I’m going to focus on just one aspect of it.

Once those are accounted for, what’s left? Smell? Touch is powerful, but complicated and we usually don’t employ it.

Why is smell such an overlooked sense? Schwern discounts it as quickly as it takes to type it but it is important and does have an impact on face-to-face communication. Most people are aware that body language plays an important part in how we communicate with each other. They are aware but that doesn’t mean that they consciously understand the body language. The sense of smell is similar. For some people, like me, it’s really important, yet some other people are not aware at all that smell can affect how they are feeling.

We use the sense of smell to gather information about the environment around us. This includes information about the person we are talking to. We all have our own unique smell (though some researchers think that identical twins smell the same) and we can recognise our parents, siblings and friends by their smell. We can actually smell fear and apparently we can also smell happiness.

People differ by how important each sense is to them. NLP practitioners believe you can tell how important each sense is by the metaphors that people use when they are speaking. For example people who rely more on their sight use phrases like “you brightened up my day”. And using phrases like “code smell” at least suggests that geeks are aware of smell in some way.

The sense of smell has been important to me since the first time I realised that I felt safe in my parent’s bedroom because it smelt like my mother. Or how happy I can feel in a friend’s apartment because it smells of someone I care about. I know that I can feel dislike towards a person who smells of stale alcohol because it triggers childhood memories I would rather forget. I also know that I can be influenced or distracted by a man who smells really good.

I can also tell when Marty is sick by how he smells. Maybe you are wondering why that would have an effect on how we communicate? When someone is feeling unwell they are much more likely to be short-tempered. Being able to tell that he isn’t quite himself means that I am much more understanding if he snaps at me. I also know that he is much more likely to get annoyed if I am not clear in what I am saying to him – and there are so many times when I don’t make myself clear when I am talking.

But even if we are not aware of how a sense effects us when we are communicating removing it will take away from the experience.