Beijing Perl Workshop 2008 Summary

Saturday morning we got up a little later than we should have, so we skipped the breakfast at the hotel and headed out with subway directions in hand with hopes of grabbing food along the way and also not getting lost. This seemed likely to be more successful than trying to explain to a cabbie where we wanted to go, give a lack of Chinese language or address. Turns out this was a good idea. We grab some food from a street vendor that was cooked bread with a fried egg, some lettuce, and some mystery sauce, all of which was pretty tasty. The subway system proved pretty easy to navigate as well; consider it took me less time to find the conference building than it did to find my hotel in Toronto a couple years ago. (Maybe my subway skills have improved since moving out of Florida, where you can’t actually dig underground without hitting sand and water?)

Once we arrived at the conference, I signed in and got a nice little Perl China t-shirt. I say little because this has to be the smallest XXL shirt I have ever seen (it would make a Bangladeshi proud). We’ll see if I can squeeze in, if not there might be a free shirt available soon… There were two rooms at the conference, with two talks running simultaneously. In the room where my talk was originally scheduled (I had been bumped to the afternoon to accommodate another speaker), there was a presentation on using Sequoia with EnterpriseDB. In Chinese. Hard to follow, but kind of interesting. Of the rest of the talks that followed (most with some reference to Perl and Postgres), I think my favorite was Jesse Vincent’s “Everything But the Secret Sauce” talk, which I would seriously recommend any Perl programmer read through those slides and investigate the tools he’s laid out. (Not sure where the specific slides are, but there are some versions available via the google).

Toward the end of the day was my talk “The Essential postgresql.conf”, which is a talk based on some work by Greg Smith and I, which we gave a version of at a BWPUG meeting a few months ago. The basic idea behind the talk is that while there are close to 200 parameters in the postgresql.conf, most people really only need to know about 20 of those to get proper performance. I also add in some up front information about how the postgresql.conf works, and some gotchas about managing your conf file. I think for the most part people were able to follow along, there was some nodding in the crowd as I went through the list which seemed like a good sign. One problem I had was that the microphone we had kept cutting out on me, which through me off a little (it had actually caused trouble all day, giving other static, or feedback, or just dieing), but I think folks were happy. I’ve put the slides on slideshare, which should be pretty handy for those who need to follow-up.

After the conference, we went out for dinner with the other speakers and organizers for a Chinese Hot Pot dinner. The cab ride from the conference center to the restaurant was honestly quite frightening; our cab driver was not constraint by silly things like lanes; several times he used shoulders, on ramps, and sometimes even drove into opposing traffic to zing us on through the city. (I know Robert the 3rd is thinking “you have to earn your boost somehow”). It’s good that we can laugh about it now, but in the future I think I will try to avoid cabs with racing grip steering wheels and drivers with formula 1 jackets one (honest!). Anyway, the dinner itself consists of a big table with a large, hot, pot in the middle, with boiling water into which you hold your food to cook it, community style. Interestingly, the place was apparently owned by Muslims (we found a nice plaque on the wall extolling the virtues of Allah), so I think the meat consisted of beef and lamb, but no pork. The food was good, the company was good, and the conversation good as well (guess what, the folks in Beijing can’t find good perl programmers either). We also talked a bit about the PostgreSQL community within China, which is growing well, though the language barrier has prevented a lot of interaction with the larger community. There is interest to forming some regional user groups, but right now they seem pretty happy coordinating on a more national level, and also working with the strong ties they have in the Perl community. We should definitely expect to see more conferences and other activities going forward though.

All said it was a nice conference and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to come and meet a bunch of enthusiastic postgres folks, and hope to work with them more in the future. As we have focused mostly on open source and tech so far, we hope to spend the next couple of days sight seeing, which I’m sure will be awesome as well. We have had to deal with some dodgey internet at times, but expect photos to go up on line sometime soon. Thanks again to everyone involved for an awesome event.