Wednesday, July 26, 2006

OSCON: Day One part 5

Audrey's Jifty talk left us in great spirits, and also made us feel better about our existing Perl codebase. After a coffee break we wandered around the exhibit for a while. I made the mistake of standing directly behind the Shopzilla table, and almost immediately a fellow I didn't know came up and called me by name. This was a bit disorienting until I remembered that I was wearing a convention badge with my name on it. I answered a few of his questions and tried to talk up the experience of being a Shopzilla developer, but I didn't feel very convincing.

After that came the Perl lightning talks. These are a series of short presentations where individuals talk about interesting hacks or ideas relating to Perl. Audrey kicked it off by showing us a tool called ppencode. If you're not a Perl hacker it would have been pretty uninteresting, but the audience was roaring with laughter at her obscure jokes about the syntax of dynamic programming languages. Her slides were pretty slick too. Nice animation.

Another interesting presentation was for a tool called 'Ack' for searching source code trees. I had written a bash function at work for this purpose, so I'm glad to see there is a more robust tool for the job that also happens to use Perl regexes. Best of all, there is a thbbbt command-line argument! Get it? ack -tbbbbt!!!

There was more than one presenter who talked about Perl::Critic. The second was longer but more thorough. This module is basically like the old unix tool 'lint' for the Perl language, using standards from Damian Conway's Perl Best Practices.

Another presentation dealt with an innovative method of sending email that allows users to communicate without having to deal with spam filters.

After that was a talk about XML processing, specifically ad-hoc searches through XML content. Their solution was to create an extensible version of GNU Awk. Seems clever, but I don't use awk much, nor do I do much XML munging.

Next was a "Perl Success Story" from Colin Meyer of whitepages.com. As he said at the beginning of the presentation, we already know that Perl is appropriate for enterprise development. He went on to show us how his application works, what it's made up of, and how much traffic they get. It was meant to be impressive, but the funny part was that our site gets much more traffic (we get in a day what they get in a month), the codebase is an order of magnitude larger and is also written in Perl. The Shopzilla contingent definitely giggled a bit over this fact.

The next presentation was from Chris Nandor, who is an old friend of David's. He showed us a small Perl hack he developed to assist his scoring of baseball games, using a fancy layout tool to render a view of the game. I can't say I really found this too interesting, since I'm not into baseball, although the way he modeled his API was pretty clever, plus he had a method called play_ball. Perl is among the more humorous of languages, and the lightning talks definitely demonstrated that.

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