I attended London Perl Workshop for the first time this year: London is quite easy and inexpensive to reach from the Venice, Italy area where I live, so it made a lot of sense to me to go there for a few reasons: the list of talks was impressive; I wanted to give a lightning talk about the Italian Perl Community; I was keen to to know if they were doing better than we did at the Italian Perl Workshop. :-)
The workshop was held on Saturday, so I decided to stay the entire week-end: even though I visited London a lot of times in the past, there's always something to see and do there. The event took place at the New Cavendish Campus of the University of Westminster, which is a quite central location, just opposite the British Telecom tower (one of London skyline's main fixtures) and conveniently near Great Portland Street tube station. Once I got there, I realized what the organizers already stated: the organization was quite basic. The was no real registration process, but just a list where to tick your name and a girl giving out badges - which is more than enough, anyway. There was no wi-fi access (there were networks, but they belonged to University of Westminster and required login credentials we didn't have), but since I didn't even bring my laptop to the UK it was hardly a problem. And, hey, attending the workshop was free of charge.
The conference was split in four tracks, and therefore in four rooms: the biggest one was quite nice, holding approximately 250 people and with quite comfortable seats; also the second one was big enough, while the other two were actually classrooms and therefore smaller. This was actually fine, as one of these last 2 was used for 3-hours tutorials (so it was far from being full) and the other one was for supposedly more specialist talks, even though it was very full at times.
The workshop kicked off with a talk about London.pm given out by its historical leader, Dave Cross: that was very fun and entertaining! Next I followed an introduction to 10 CPAN modules by Leon Brocard, and I found there are really some modules which would be useful for me and of which I didn't know about (I've always been sure of that, CPAN is so huge...). The two talks by Matt Trout I listened to were among my favourites: he's very passionate in his explanation, no matter whether he speaks about something useful (see DBIx::Class+Postgres) or about something which is almost just a mental exercise (such see Acme::Yorkshire).
Mike Whitaker give out two talks about Moose, one basic and one intermediate: it was really nice to hear some details about such a great object oriented framework - Mike get ready, we'll try to bring you to Italy for our workshop. :-) Andy Wardley's talk was about Badger, a toolkit which can be seen as sort of "lightweight Moose" and upon which Andy built many modules which abstract a lot of functionality provided by Perl and by other modules; also Template Toolkit 3, a product of Andy himself, is Badger-based and should be soon on CPAN (I can't wait, I'm an avid TT2 user). Hakim Cassimally's Functional Pearls was the greatest last talk a workshop could have had: if you've never heard about programmable semicolons, well take a look. One of the lightning talks was pure genius: David Leadbeater created a Wikipedia summary system which had a method of querying it using DNS TEXT records (think about caching for free...)!!
All in all, the workshop was great. As you might have already guessed, the mean level was quite high, with some impressive peaks. Even though there were 4 tracks, there was not a basic one to speak of, which makes the workshop very interesting for Perl programmers but, of course, a little less appealing for folks trying to learn the language. After all this food for thought, there was a need for food for the body (not to mention beer), and here came a big surprise: the workshop organization reserved an entire pub and food and beers were served free of charge for all the evening! Speaking with Mark Keating, one of the organization leaders, it turned out he wanted people to finally associate free software with free beer, not the opposite as we've always learned. What a great idea!!!