There are so many sessions here that I could go to. I could easily have chosen an entirely different set or two and still been happy with where I went. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep coming to these things.

Today I went to a two Perl sessions, an explanation of Perl 6 and an overview of starting the transition in our programming from Perl 5 to Perl 6. (In case you didn’t know, Perl is being overhauled, rewritten from the ground up.) Whew.

Some of the changes are explained elsewhere and elsewhere, but here’s one thing that really caught my attention: Perl’s getting a switch, one of the neatest implementations I’ve seen. It won’t be called switch, it’s given. I could give you code examples and walk you through it, but I think I’ll just point you to the appropriate Exegesis page. This will be nice.

When I took that horrible Java class a couple years back (you know, the one where I learned the entire term’s content on my own in the first two weeks and sat bored for the rest of the term and swore off programming classes because there’s no way they’ll go fast enough for me), the textbook we used wasn’t too keen on switches. I think they’re a very useful construct, thankyouverymuch.

A point that Damian and Larry kept trying to get across is that Perl 6 is being designed to make it easy to write natural, cleaner, DWIMier code. Having worked through the Apocalypses (Larry’s revelations about the language design) and the Exegeses (Damian’s explanations of the Apocalypses), I’ve been excited about some of the changes, though a bit leary of what it may entail. I’ve figured all along that Perl 6 would be like learning a whole new language, and in a lot of cases that will be true, but I don’t think the transition will be that dramatic or painful. Especially since it’s possible to start doing some of the cool stuff now, thanks to clever CPAN modules.

One thing that will be dramatic is the regular expression syntax. Man oh man, are they doing a job on that. Apocalypse 5 is all about regex, and is absolutely dizzying. It took me a long, long time to work through it all. Damian’s comment: “The regex syntax had become so complicated that the only thing we could do was set it free . . . then hunt it down and kill it.” Then, “To hell with the rest of the world who’s followed Perl 5 regex syntax. they will follow again.” Heh.

(Ooh, that reminds me, I have an article to write that involves regular expressions. Maybe I can get to that sometime soonish.)

Then this evening I went to “Whose Code Is It, Anyway,” sort of a “Whose Line” for geeks. Perl geeks, I think mostly. Hilarious.

Something I forgot to mention earlier: Larry Lessig does a kick-ass job with his slides. I’ve been paying close attention to how people use slides in their presentations, and I’ve found that what I like the most is something that I do not do: many carefully planned slides, each wiith a single point to be made. Go through the slides quickly. Some of Lessig’s slides had only one word or image. He kept coming back to a refrain of four to six slides, with little riffs on his theme. Mark-Jason Dominus and Damian Conway do the same sort of thing, although they might slowly build a slide that has more than one bullet point on it. Geoffrey Young’s the same. They use color or highlighting to call attention to a particular bit of code, fading to grey the parts we shouldn’t focus on. In contrast, Matt Sergeant does what I do, and in fact has a public speaking style very similar to mine: not quite so many slides, black text on white background (maybe with a border), bulleted points. Part of that is the tool he wrote and uses, AxPoint, which creates PDFs from an XML source document. The tool was written, though, for how he uses slides in his presenting. I think that the slides really influence the presentation style, so in any future training session or presentations that I do, I’m going to start playing around with different techniques.

Damn. This may mean that I have to learn to use PowerPoint. Nah. I’ll do it with XHTML.

This is not to say that Matt Sergeant’s presentation (“Why SOAP Sucks, Why SOAP Rocks”, similar to the presentation of the same title from last year) was boring. I liked it, I learned something, it gave me food for thought, and I was glad to finally see Matt. Just a point of comparison.

OK, one more session, I went to the rescheduled Jabber session, which made me happy since I’m leaving Friday before the convention ends so would have been unable to attend this session in its original time slot. Turns out that iChat, the chat client that Apple’s shipping with Jaguar, uses the Jabber protocol for local area network connections. Rendezvous for discovery, Jabber for communication. Apple hasn’t publicized this or made any official acknowledgement, but there it is. I doubt that iChat will support Jabber networks at first (I can’t imagine the politics with their work with AOL), but there is hope.

it still seems that almost every conversation I get into here is with someone who works in higher education. What’s up with that? I should ask O’Reilly what the percentage really is. So lots of higher ed, lots of Macs. No wonder I’m liking it here.