YAPC::NA - Training Courses

There are training courses taking place before and after YAPC::NA in Orlando that require a separate registration.  For the first time the conference organizers have decided to use Crowdtilt to help them decide which training course should run.  The possible course are:

Introductory Training

Effective Testing – Curtis “Ovid” Poe
Introduction to Moose – Dave Rolsky
Perl for Programmers – John “genehack” Anderson
Zero to Perl – Jay Hannah

Advanced Training

Advanced Moose – Shawn Moore
Agile Companies Go Pop! – Curtis “Ovid” Poe

The introductory training courses will take place on the Saturday and Sunday before the conference and the advanced training will take place on the Thursday and Friday after.

5000 Steps

I spoke at LinuxCon last week on “Understanding Volunteers”.  As always I felt terrible before I was speaking and oddly I still felt rather glum after I finished.  It was difficult speaking in front of a mostly Japanese audience.  I was incredibly worried that no-one would understand anything I was saying and very aware of cultural differences.  Like most of the talks I saw I ended up finishing early which left extra time for questions.  I was asked two questions but one of those was “what questions do you get asked at other conferences?”.

I ended up walking an extra 5,000 steps that day though, just in pacing around in circles before I had to talk.

I did learn some things by giving the talk.  I now have a much better idea of how the research I have read on the motivations of people who work in Open Source can be applied to the community.  And I got to have a couple of conversations regarding the concept that Japanese people are not good at trusting strangers and that they don’t necessarily want to work in an open environment.  (These were not my ideas, but the ideas of some people doing post-graduate research on this area.)

Next month I will be speaking at YAPC::NA on Working with Volunteers.  I’m already nervous about this and I’m really hoping that I don’t have to wait until the last day of the conference to speak.

Gluten-Free Food at LinuxCon, Tokyo

I was really surprised that there were gluten-free bento boxes at LinuxCon.  I had selected this option when registering but getting gluten-free food in Japan can be difficult.  The bento box I received on the first day was incredibly good, good enough that I’ve looked up the company it came from so I can buy from them in the future.  There was a problem with box labels on the second day but the conference organisers went out of their way to fix that for me.  And on the third day one of the conference staff, when they couldn’t find me in the lunch room,  brought my lunch to me as I was sitting outside the room I was going to speak in.  A conference lunch that made me want to say “wow”.

First Thoughts on LinuxCon, Tokyo 2014

I spent the past three days at LinuxCon in Tokyo.  It’s been a while since I attended a non-Perl conference and this was the first LinuxCon I have attended.  It was different than I was expecting.  To begin with it had fewer attendees.  I am always surprised by how big tech events can be in Japan.  The last Perl conference I attended, YAPC::Asia, had over 1000 attendees.  This conference looked as if it had less than 500 people and I had expected it to be much bigger, as I thought that Linux was very popular in Japan, given the large sponsorship it has from companies such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC.

The attendees were mostly male, like most conferences I attend, but there were a lot of people in formal business attire and it felt more like the commercial conferences I have attended than the grass-roots ones.  For example the conference badges listed the companies that people belonged to and not their nicknames or IRC handles.  I attended a number of community talks and I was surprised by how few members of the audience actually contributed to an Open Source project.  The community talks were also not well attended, but then there were six tracks so it is possible that nothing other than the keynotes was well attended.

There was no swag bags for attendees, but I am rarely keen on those.  The t-shirts that were given out were the usual ones designed for men, though there had been an option for women’s t-shirts when signing up, and I was confused by the size.  Usually men’s t-shirts in Asia fit me better than US ones but it turned out that these t-shirts are US sizes.  It did come in handy as a blanket during the opening keynotes as the air conditioning made the room much too cold and made me wish that I had thought to wear a jacket.

The conference was mainly in English and I was expecting it to be either bilingual or mostly in Japanese.  I had attempted to translate my slides into Japanese, so these could be in Japanese and English, but I didn’t see any other slides like that.  The Japanese speakers I saw were speaking in English and every question I heard asked was also in English.  The keynotes did have simultaneous translation though, which I thought was a good thing.  I’m still confused by the lack of Japanese at the conference as the majority of the attendees were local.

I found it hard attending a conference where I knew so few people.  Marty was there with some people from his work, but apart from that there was only one other person that I knew.  I don’t like large groups of people so found it really hard to speak to anyone.  I did speak to a number of the speakers after their talks, but apart from that I didn’t speak to many people.  I didn’t attend any of the evening events.  I didn’t want to attend the speakers and sponsors event on my own and by the end of the conference I was too drained to attend the main evening event for all attendees.

I am glad that I went, as I did get to learn some interesting things about community and Japanese culture, and I got to meet some other people who are involved in community leadership.

Writing Exercise

This week’s creative writing task:

Imagine two different venues for writing – one that seems most suited to you, and one that you would find bizarre or too difficult. Write a paragraph describing two writers at work, one in each of the venues.

I have managed to describe a place where it would be difficult to write as I know that noisy places stop me from being able to do most tasks.  But I have not been able to describe a place where I could write.  I never find it easy to write.  As part of this course I am trying to write something everyday, which is why there are more blog posts than usual, but I fear that I’m going to end up writing nothing other than a series of posts explaining that I have nothing to say…

I will write something tomorrow that will look like an answer to the task, but it really will be a piece of fictional creative writing.

Return to the Gym

I made it to the gym today.  It felt great.  Not because my workout was fantastic, it really wasn’t, but because I actually made it through the doors of the gym.  I find it incredibly hard to get back to an exercise routine after the thyroid sluggishness of the winter.  I’ve been talking about going back for weeks but today I actually did it.  My local gym is beautiful and it’s been renovated yet again since my last visit.  It’s one of the things that scares me about going, that it will have changed in some crazy way that I won’t understand.  But it all made sense apart from the advert for “Kendama Fitness“.

Kendama Fitness

Kendama Fitness



Great Gift

My favourite type of sushi is “aburi hotate”(炙りホタテ), scallops cooked with a flame.   Scallops are expensive and having the sushi chef use a blow torch adds a 100 円 (about $1) a plate to the cost.  I used to eat these these about once a week but now I get to eat them every other day thanks to one of my favourite Christmas gifts. I love my blowtorch.  Not only do I get to eat one of my favourite things, I get to have fun making them.

Blowtorched Sushi!

Blowtorched Sushi!


Early Wake-up Call

When I first moved to Japan earthquakes didn’t bother me much.  There were many of them and they didn’t really do anything apart from make everything shake.  But that all changed with the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.  Now I’m very aware of the horror a quake can cause.  This morning shortly after 5am we experienced the strongest quake to shake Tokyo since 2011.  And it really wasn’t pleasant.  I think part of the problem is that I feel trapped when the building starts to shake.  There isn’t anywhere you can go as you certainly shouldn’t try to leave.  But when the building is jolted and swaying it feels unnatural to stay inside.  I want out.  The other issue is the uncertainty.  You can’t easily tell anything much other than the fact the earthquake is big. The earthquake this morning had a magnitude of 6.2 and was felt at either a weak 5 or a 4 in this area.  So, it was certainly big enough to to make me feel slightly panicked.

The earthquake got us out of bed when the emergency alarm system started.  The local government disaster administration wireless broadcast is tested everyday at 5pm, but it is tested with music.  This morning, when they used words, we had no idea what was being said.  It echoed and distorted off the buildings.  For all I know it was saying “we come in peace” but since we couldn’t understand it we turned on the T.V. and listened to the announcements.  The T.V. presenter looked nervous but things quickly calmed down and thankfully there was no tsunami warning.

I mostly enjoy living in Japan but I now have nightmares about earthquakes.

Greenery Day

It’s Golden Week in Japan – the name given to a group of national holidays that occur close together.  Today was Greenery Day.  I think it’s a day when you are supposed to spend time with nature, but the closest I got to anything green today was on my lunch plate.  We did consider going out but the horrible thing about national holidays in Japan is that the whole country goes out for the day.  Tomorrow I’ll at least brave the crowds at the supermarket as we’ve run out of green thing to eat.

Conference Preparation

I’ve been working on my talk for LinuxCon Japan by rereading a number of papers on the topic of motivation in Free and Open Source (F/OSS).  I was able to recall a lot of the information I had read before but I realised that today I was memorizing odd details about the papers.  And then I remembered why – it was because of a question I was asked after giving a talk on a related subject at another tech conference.

“Your talk was interesting but how much of this is relevant to men?”

Now there was a question I was not expecting.  There are always more men at the conferences I speak at than there are women.  And when I say more I mean that at that particular conference about 95% of the attendees were male and I was the only female speaker.  It was a few years ago and the question has stayed with me.  I replied by saying that the research I was referring to was carried out on members of various F/OSS communities, and the majority of those respondents were male.  The person who asked the question said I should have mentioned that in my talk.  Really?  I don’t recall any of the other speakers saying that their material was relevant to men.  I’m sure that the person asking the question didn’t mean to upset me but it was just another thing that highlighted the fact that I was different from the other speakers at the conference.

The paper I was reading this morning stated that 97.5% of the respondents were male – so the question could be, “how much of this is relevant to women”.

Online Courses

Recently I received an email from the Open University about a free online course.  It seems that they have created their own version of Coursera called FutureLearn.  I’ve started the Start Writing Fiction course as I’d considered signing up for a courses like this in the past.  The software is slow and some aspects of the course are overly simplistic but the writing exercises have been interesting and I think I’ll keep going and see how it works out.  I do love this trend to offer free education.