Perl on CeBIT

CeBIT was way more successful than I expected. Thanks to Renee Baecker, the main organizer and the other people who were at the stand during the week we made a lot of contacts with individual developers and companies using Perl. We also talked to quite a number of people who have heard about Perl but never tried it and some people who never heard about it.

It was both very hard to be there standing 8-9 hours and almost constantly talking to people every day but it was also a lot of fun.

Originally we were requested to always have two people at the stand but it turned out that there were times when even 7 of the [dist://Perl::Staff] members could not handle the number of visitors at the same time. We were lucky as our stand was part of the Open Source Lounge of 15 projects slightly out of the main stream of people. On one hand that meant many people walking along the main alleys missed it but on the other hand those who came by had more space and time to talk to us.

It was very heart warming to see people coming to the booth with no or even negative view on Perl and leaving with a feeling that they saw some really cool things they want to try now.

So what were we showing?

To people with now real Perl knowledge or people who used Perl 10 years ago we showed some modern Perl code such as [dist://Moose], [dist://MooseX::Declare] and some related stuff. We showed them Padre so they can see you can write large desktop applications in Perl. We were also showing Catalyst, especially to PHP programmers but also to others who were web developers.

On one of the days there were two Foswiki developers and they showed their wiki to the people interested in that. I think OTRS got a bit less attention on our stand but they had their own booth very they made a lot of business contacts.

The strategy was simple. Some of us were standing in the alley and as people walked by we gave them a flyer and then started to talk to them. Obviously there were many who were not interested, we just let them go. I was the only presenter who did not speak German my strategy was to first ask them if they speak English. With many people it was clear that they don't know English well enough for a conversation or just prefer German. That gave me a chance to direct them closer to the booth to talk to "one of our other representative, who speaks German". So in fact I was acting a lot as the "catch man". I think it worked out quite well. When they were OK speaking English or even preferred that language then I kept the conversation going on. I asked what are they using Perl for, or if they did not know or have not used Perl I asked what other languages are they using and what kind of things are they using. That usually gave me an opportunity to ask if they would like to see some modern technologies in Perl. Most of them were interested so we stepped to one of the computers we set up (we had 2 sometimes 3 computers on our booth, which was high enough so we did not have to bend over to view the screens or type). There I showed them Padre, some code in Padre. Sometimes I showed a few pages from the Moose documentation and some small examples in Catalyst.

There were several people who were interested in Perl 6. For them I opened the web-page of my Perl 6 training slides and showed a few pages just to get them impressed by some of the nice features of the language.

Others, as I saw started by asking if the visitor "Knew Perl?" and from that point some kind of a conversation evolved in German that I could not follow anyway but that will be described by the other presenters. (Renee and Sewi have already written. All the reflections will be linked from the TPF wiki page related to Perl on CeBIT)

Some Improvements

There were a lot of things we could improve in our presentation. First of all none of us knew all the things we wanted to show and we did not have ready made pages to show them. So I'd like to have several slide-shows that we can load on all the computers we are using for presentation and that each one of us can use to present various technologies. After all I don't need to be an expert in Catalyst in order to give a short introduction and show a few examples, assuming they were already prepared and I went over the slides with someone who is an expert.

Same with the Perl 6 examples. Others kept referring people to me to show Perl 6 examples but we could have put together a few slides with interesting examples that we can flip though pointing out the nice features. Within the slides we could even have instructions - show the Rakudo web site now, or in other cases to show the web page of the CPAN Testers.

This of course needs more preparation and even some time before the event starts to show the slides to each other but it pays off as it will make the presentation smoother.

Even that does not mean there won't be questions that need some more thinking on how to answer. There can also be cases when the knowledge of the presenter ends and there are still questions but then we can find the other presenter who has deeper knowledge in that subject or refer the person to the community channels where can get more information. After all, a large part of what we would like to achieve is that our visitors will start learning more about these subjects and start to participate in our communities.


Some pictures from the Perl stand on CeBIT.