Where The Pieces Lie

Posted on 26th April 2020

April's Artist of the Month is Wheel.

I accidentally came across Wheel while listening to a few other bands, and a suggestion came up for a song off their latest album, Moving Backwards. Trying to find more information about the band initially proved awkward, as the band's website was inactive (it's back now). Thankfully, after a bit of searching across various website, provided me with their Twitter and Instagram handles. From there I discovered a few more bits of info.

The band hail from Finland, although vocalist James Lascelles is from the UK. Moving Backwards (2019) is their debut album, and was preceded with two EPs; The Path EP (2017) and The Divide EP (2018). They have since also released a combined CD with both EPs. They've been touring for some time, but mostly across Europe so far. With the state of the world and gigs at the moment, it might be a while before they head out for a more extensive tour, but hopefully they fit a few UK shows into their itinery.

The band have a sound that is very reminscent of Tool in places, but at the same time I can also hear influences of Porcupine Tree. However, those comparisons might mislead you, as the band have their own style, which builds on these influences, but gives something else in return. I've heard a few bands recently, some well known, that seem to have similar influences, but for me Wheel have something that is just that extra special, and given the right exposure, will forge their own identity.

The songs are a blend of rock, metal, progressive, hardcore, and maybe even a bit of grunge. They have the complexity of what you might expect of a modern progressive rock band, but it's underpinned by some solid bass and drums, allowing the guitars and vocals to weave their way into and around your mind. The song Wheel being a good example, as the bass and drums lay the foundations and settle you into a groove, when the guitar riffs start infiltrating the flow, and almost without you noticing, the bass and drums have been getting harder and more infectious. The vocals then appear seductively drawing you in, until they have you and then drag you raging through the chorus. 

Several of their songs clock in over 8 minutes, but while listening to them, you become so engrossed it's easy to think they finish far too soon. It's become acceptable now for the progressive rock/metal bands to clock in long songs, but I do remember the days when anything breaking a 5 minute barrier was frowned upon by the metal press. Wheel strike a good balance between the song lengths, with each song sounding as long as it should. It wouldn't surprise me if at some point they come out with a 20+ minute epic, along the lines of Dream Theatre.

If you only see Wheel as another band influenced by Tool, then I think you'd be doing both bands and yourself a disservice. Most bands start with their influences, but those with talent and substance, quickly evolve their own personality. Judging from the early EPs to the debut album, Wheel are doing exactly that. Personally I can't wait to hear what comes next. I'm also hoping I get to see them live at some point.

Favourite songs: Wheel, Farewell, The Path

Check them out at wheel.band

File Under: music
NO COMMENTS


If I Knew What I Know Now

Posted on 30th March 2020

March Spotlight is Vice Squad.

For those who remember the days of Punk during the 70s, may well remember the band coming to prominence from 1979, when they formed, through the early 80s. They were a frequent addition to John Peel's playlists during those years, and it's how I first became aware of them. The early singles Last Rockers, Resurrection and Stand Strong were firm favourites. Then in 1983 singer Beki Bondage, left the band (to form Ligotage and later Beki And The Bombshells), and while a new singer, Lia, was signed up, the band only continued for a couple more years.

During the mid/late 80s and 90s, Beki continue to gain a small amount of success with her bands, and featured in several of the music magazines (mostly rock) that were also gaining success, such as Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. I even met Beki at a few Marquee gigs around this time, and it was always a pleasure to see her as she always seemed really positive about the music she was making.

Then in 1997 Beki relauched Vice Squad with members of The Bombshells, performing with a more "old school" punk than they had been as Beki and The Bombshells. Since the relaunch, they have now released 9 albums, and their latest planned for a 1st May 2020 launch date. Singles and EPs have been forthcoming from the band at a frequent rate, and it's also great to hear some of these older songs re-recorded for B-sides, with a fresh fire. 

While they're still a punk band at their core, their sound has a more edgy rock feel to it. The band provide a tight and solid backing to Beki blistering vocals. I have yet to see them play live, and I sadly missed out seeing them in 2019 due to other commitments, but hopefully I will in the not too distant future. I can imagine their live shows are an intense frenzy from start to finish, with everyone dripping with sweat on the way out.  

I used to love the raw angst of the band in the early 80s, and I'm pleased to hear a lot of that frustration and defiance still continuing today. Recent album Cardboard Country, tackles subjects such as tabloids, reality TV, and the wealth and class injustices we still see today. The Angry Youth (pun intended) of 40 years ago, is still angry and rightly so. 

The new album, Battle Of Britain is due out soon, and if the recent single releases are anything to go by, it's going to be another classic. I for one am looking forward to hearing it.

80s era favourites; Stand Strong Stand Proud, Out Of Reach, Gutterchild
latest favourites; When You Were 17, You Can't Buy Back The Dead, Ignored To Death, If I Knew What I Know Now

Check out Vice Squad if you're still a punk at heart.

NO COMMENTS


Under the Oak Tree...

Posted on 29th February 2020

So for the February spotlight, I'm going to look at a band called Cellar Darling.

The band are from Switzerland, and grew out of a band called Eluveitie, which has been around since 2002, mixing folk, symphonic metal, rock and death metal. Think All About Eve combined with Killswitch Engage, singing in a language you've never heard before, and you'll be close. All three members of Cellar Darling were in Eluveitie. but left in 2016 to form Cellar Darling.

There are some elements of Cellar Darling that will be familiar to fans of Eluveitie, but Cellar Darling have a much more accessible style, taking just the folk rock and symphonic rock elements with them. Anna, vocalist, flautist, synths and Hurdy-Gurdy player, brings the folk style, while guitarist/bassist Ivo and drummer Merlin bring the symphonic style to the band. For me Cellar Darling bring a cleaner style to the genre than some other bands, and without meaning to be detrimental, they have a refreshingly simpler sound. As a consequence, they breath life into songs and stories, where other bands often sound like they're trying too hard.

Their first album, This Is the Sound, was released in 2017. It manages to conjure an almost medievel landscape though the words and music, and maybe because I know where the come from, they evoke visions of Alpine escapades through forests and over mountain trails, somewhere around Switzerland, Austria and Southern Germany. It's a wonderful mix of ethereal folk, driving rock rythmns, together with some atomspheric synth sounds. As a debut album, it certainly packs a punch and sets the table for a successor.

That follow-up came in 2019 in the form of The Spell, a concept album, which portrays some very Grimms Fairy Tale style storying telling, with contemporary themes, and poignant lyrics. Once again that driving rock soundscape underpins a very classical influenced vocal. The folk elements are deliciously woven throughout the album, with flute, hurdy-gurdy and acoustic guitar all making appearances. In the song Death, there features a middle section apart from the rest of the song, and I can't help be reminded of the song Black Sabbath by (obviously) Black Sabbath. Both pieces are haunting, atmospheric and sinister, and although the two bands are quite different, they both capture that dramatic feeling, drawing you into the story and taking you to another world. Burn also has that undercurrent of early 70s Sabbath influence too, but again woven intricately with many other influences too.

All in all, they are a fine addition to the Symphonic Rock genre, which they seem most often attributed, but they are so much more than that too. I look forward to them touring the UK, as I can imagine they are quite something to see live. Favourite songs currently are Black Moon and Death. If you want to find out more, head over to
https://www.cellardarling.com/ and check them out.

File Under: music
NO COMMENTS


Sea Of Faces

Posted on 31st January 2020

So what is this monthly blog post idea I had. Well, over the years I've happened upon some wonderful music, and some amazing musicians and songwriters. Some have gone on to great things, others have left their mark, but not necessarily found their audience. It has always frustrates me that record labels turn their back on some of these great bands and artists, until they are a "success". Social Media has really helped over the last 10 years or so, but I thought it might be nice to highlight some really interesting bands and artists that I come across. Some might have been around for a while, some are fairly new, a few are either on hiatus or have split, but all are still worthy of spreading the word, as someone else may discover and enjoy it as much as I have.

 


So who is first up?

I very recently came across this band while looking through bandcamp. The band are Code Ascending, who have been performing since around 2015, releasing two EPs, and more recently an album. They are 3-piece hailing from Crawley, West Sussex, where a certain other band started as a 3-piece, and went on to major world wide success.

The first EP, What I Choose To Forget, was released in April 2016, and showcases a band that are slightly rough around the edges, which personally I love, but still have at their core a very focused sound and identity. The second EP, Pre-emption, released in March 2017, takes a step forward in the production, and brings more of the band's character to life. With their first album, Dark Taxa released in December 2019, comes a much more polished production with an audible step up in song-writing, and some wonderfully brooding soundscapes.

The band remind me to a degree, of some of the indepentdent bands I picked up on during the early to mid 90s. In particular, some elements of Prolapse, Thrum, and Ride are in there, but overall Code Ascending have brought ahard driving background to their songs, thanks largely to a great bass sound and some solid drum work, with some delightful riffs and solos weaving between them. The vocals fit the music perfectly, and in many ways are a subtle accompaniment to the music, rather than necessarily being the focal point. All this belies their ambient and showgazing tags, as there is so much more to them that this. Not quiet sure what tags I would include though, as they are the kind of band that touches on the fringes of several genres, without establishing themselves in any particular one.

I'm really hoping that they get to make it to the midlands for some gigs in the not too distant future, as I have no doubt they must be formidable live. In fact, I really hope they get interest from promoters to take them up and down the country, as I have no doubt that they could easily take their sound from small clubs to major arenas, given the chance. 

Favourite songs so far have been, Blink, Black Ink Ocean, and By My Side, but the rest are no slouches either. This band will be on my playlists for a long time to come.

For more information see their bandcamp pages: codeascending.bandcamp.com

File Under: music
NO COMMENTS


Reanimator

Posted on 30th January 2020

So it's been a while since I posted, and there are several reasons for that. Mostly the fact I have been busy with real life, including family and work, and haven't had the time, inclination and/or ideas to put thoughts down in this blog. However, I'm going to try and change that this year, and start a series of blog posts with themes, that I can pick up in parts over the course of the year. The aim being to post at least once a month.

This month you'll get this post, which is mostly an apology, but I have another that I have planned as the beginning of a regular once a month post. 

As you can probably tell if you've read my blog posts, my main interests are music, gaming, Perl and exploring. I've done precious little of that last one over the past few years, but hopefully that will change. Perl is still my focus at work, but my OpenSource projects have largely taken a notable backseat. That is something that will be definitely changing this year, with maybe even the occasional blog post, as I want to update a lot of the code that has been sitting around on my old laptop, waiting to be released. 

I'll take an aside here, briefly, as back in 2015 I bought a new Linux laptop, but sadly I dropped it, and damaged the screen. At the same time, work gave me a brand new laptop, so the impetus to get the personal laptop sorted fell by the way side. And by the time I thought to get it fixed, it had just passed it's warranty. I couldn't use the work laptop for my OpenSource projects, so they got put off, with minor fixes here and there, by using my webserver as a dev box. It kind of works, but not ideal for how I was used to editing, commiting and deploying to test environments. So they have languished a bit. Ok a lot! 

However, Gaming and Music have both had somewhat of a resurgence in my interest these last few years. 

Music never really went away, but my gig attendance had dropped off during the earlier part of the decade. That kind of changed when a lot of the bands I hadn't seen in a long time, or had never seen, all happened to start touring. This year I have several already booked throughout the year, so expect the odd review now and then too.

My gaming exposure, aside from board games and mobile gaming, has seen a lot more of me watching and enjoying the current retro gaming community. Many of the games I've never heard of, and those I have, I haven't played since the 80s, so it's been wonderful to see that era of gaming, a time that saw me get more into programming, come to life again. I'll never be a streamer, but I'll quite happily watch the fun of someone else playing those games now. The retro gaming community that I've discovered, also happens to have some of the loveliest people around. It's the kind of gaming community I wish I had been a part of back in the 80s ... even though there wasn't really one like there is now.

With the lack of writing over the last few years, I've been out of practice with blog writing, so you'll have to forgive my rambling for a while. I might get there one day!

Any road up, expect some music posts, Perl posts and maybe other rambling, notes and rantings. 

File Under: games / life / music / perl / rant
NO COMMENTS


Fly By Night

Posted on 31st July 2017

In the summer of 2015, there was an art project in and around Birmingham called The Big Hoot. It consisted of 90 large owls (The Big Hoot) and 108 little owls (The Little Hoot), sponsored by various businesses, communities, schools and artists, in aid of the Birmingham Children's Hospital (and two other charities), and was run by Wild In Art

The owls were mostly in open areas, so could be seen 24/7. However, some, particularly the little owls, were indoors. It did mean you had to choose carefully when you went hunting for the owls, as not all the places were open at weekends, even Saturdays, which is when the majority of people had time to take their kids out and about. With so many owls to find, and spread over quite a wide area (including Rainforest at Twycross Zoo), it wasn't a hunt you would be able to do in one day, which meant you could plan trips to different areas of the West Midlands to "collect" a small parliment of owls at a time.

Ethne and I downloaded the app, planned out several weekends worth of bus, car and walking trips, and went hunting. Mostly we used the bus and walked, particularly around Brum city centre, but you really did need a car to reach those owls a bit further afield. It was great fun, and although we got to see all the big owls, sadly we missed out on the small owls in Sutton Coldfield, as they were taken away before the end of the event for the big owls, as we hadn't been aware of the different deadlines for the little and big owls. 

The app was a great help, as in some cases some of the owls weren't in obvious locations, and the location map helped to show where we were in relation to the owl we were looking for. The rewards were mostly discounts for things we weren't interested in, but some we did get to enjoy. In particular many thanks to Best Western Premier Moor Hall Hotel and Spa, who gave Ethne and I each an owl shaped shortbread biscuit for finding the Love Owl. Definitely our favourite reward. That was the end of one particularly long day and we took the time to have a lovely cup of tea (for me) and a hot chocolate (for Ethne) as well.

Each owl had a QR code on the base to use with the app to mark the owl you'd found, and potentially unlock an applicable reward. It was a handy way to quickly check off the owls as you found them, but did mean you need the app and a mobile device that could recognise QR codes. As such, we did see several people resorting to pen and the Trail Map to tick them off.

Ethne and I didn't have one particular favourite, as there were far too many great owls on display. However, if I could have afforded it, I would have loved to have bid on Ozzy's Owl or Dr Whoot. Either would have looked great in our garden :) In the end, the auction of the owls raised £508,035 for three charities, the bulk going to Birmingham Children's Hospital, with £15,000 going to Edward's Trust and £7,800 going to Birchfield Harriers.

Despite the disappointment of not getting to see all the little owls, it was a great opportunity to travel to parts of Birmingham, and further afield, that we might not otherwise have done. It also meant Ethne and I both got to travel the full route of the No. 11 bus round the Birmingham Outer Circle for the very first time.

Below are our collection of photos of the owls, selfies and some extra scenic photos we took along the way. 

File Under: art / birmingham
NO COMMENTS


Run With The Wolf

Posted on 31st July 2017

Over the last 2 years since The Big Hoot, numerous art sculpture projects with animal statues placed in open spaces around cities have really taken off. This year, Ethne and I have hunted Hares, Bears and now Wolves. 

The Wolves In Wolves project has placed 30 wolves around Wolverhampton, one of which being a mobile wolf and moved to a different location each week. If we'd followed the routed detailed in the map, we would have walked roughly 4.5 miles. However, due to taking an outer then inner circle route, and a bit of back tracking too, we ended up walking 10 miles! It was a great day out, and we have to thank @wolvesinwolves and a couple of City Centre Ambassadors for pointing us in the directions for a couple of wolves. 

One disappointment was not being able to see Old Gold, the Wolverhampton Wanders FC wolf, up close as he was in the gift shop, which wasn't open when we walked the trail. However, the biggest disappointment was seeing the damage done to Flame (in honour of the West Midlands Fire Service) outside the Express & Star offices. It is really such a shame to see vandalisim like this, when these works of art are there to help raise money for charity, and to be enjoyed by everyone. As we walked around a man told us that Flame was hopefully going to be repaired, so I hope he is restored soon and left alone this time.

There were several wolves we thought were our favourite, until we saw the next one! Having said that, the one that really touched me when we saw it was Support Life. A very thought provoking design. All the designs were superb, and there wasn't one we didn't like, so congratulations to all the artists and designers who put all the effort into making the wolves.

One thing that was great about the project for us was that the exhibition of the little wolves, design by various schools, were all collected within the Wolverhampton Art Gallery in the centre of the city. 70 fantastic designs all in one room, together with the first two large wolves, saved a lot of walking and hunting. In another art project the location of little versions of the animals has proved far too time consuming and has distracted from the fun of hunting them.

Ethne and I had fun taking selfies (thank you to everyone who liked us on Instagram) of all the large wolves, as well as enjoying a good trek around the city. My pedometer told us we'd walked 10 miles back forth around the city, and while we could have taken some short cuts, I think we got to see more of the city on our route. We met quite a few people on the hunt for the wolves, with lots of young children eagerly hugging the statues.

It's a great day out, so if you're stuck for something to do with the kids during the summer, and fancy a day ambling around Wolverhampton (you really don't need to take as long as we did!), Wolves In Wolves is heartily recommended. There is also an extra mini-game for kids to play as they find each wolf, as several have a gold star with a letter on the plinth placque. Unscramble all the letters and you could win a prize of a mini wolf.

If you get stuck looking for Claude, the mobile wolf, check out the WolvesInWolves Pop-Up shop in the Mander Centre, or find a City Centre Ambassador to give you a hint. Apparrently he's usually close to the city centre, so you won't have to walk too far to find him. 

A little aside on our day was riding the tram from Grand Central to The Crescent. The station announcements on the tannoy system was read by Ozzy Osbourne. It was quite a nice surprise to hear him. It also made me wonder whether Wolves In Wolves might have missed out a few wolves, celebrating well known people from the city and surrounding area. Aside from many sporting heroes, there's Slade, Judas Priest, Robert Plant, Meera Syal and Caitlin Moran (author of Made In Wolves). Perhaps we'll see some of those on a future public art trail the city puts on :)

File Under: art / ethne / walks / wolverhampton
NO COMMENTS


Let's Go Crazy

Posted on 31st May 2016

Last weekend saw me in Rubgy for the 9th QA Hackathon. This is a Perl event where the key developers for CPAN, PAUSE, MetaCPAN, CPAN Testers, Dist::Zilla, Test2 and many other Perl 5 and Perl 6 projects, get together to discuss problems, future plans and collaborate on code.

Although I was a co-organiser of the event, I really would like to thank my fellow co-organisers; Neil Bowers (NEILB) and JJ Allen (JONALLEN). Without these guys, organising this QA Hackathon would have been tough, as they really did all the hard work. Also many thanks to Wendy for keeping us fed with nibbles, keeping notes and generally making sure we all stayed focused. An event like this needs a team, and they are an awesome team.

My main aim for this event was to meet Doug Bell (PREACTION). Back last summer, the CPAN Testers server had some severe problems, which meant we had to switch to a new physical server. It was at this moment I realised that I couldn"t do this alone any more. Doug stepped up and started to take over the reins, and has done a great job since. However, I"d never met Doug, so this was going to the first opportunity to catch up in person. After only a few moments of saying hello, I knew we had found the right person to take over CPAN Testers. Doug has a lot of great ideas, and is more than capable of taking the project to the next level, which is where I wanted to see it grow to, but knew it needed fresh eyes to take it there. I feel immensely confident that I have left the keys in capable hands, and with the ideas Doug has already shown me, I expect bigger and better things for CPAN Testers' future. Please look after him :)

On the first day Oriol Soriano Vila (UREE) introduced himself to Doug and I. Oriol was suggested to the organisers by his employer, and after explaining what the event was about, Oriol was even more enthusiastic to attend. I'm glad he did, as he is another great asset to both CPAN Testers and Perl. Although we have referred to him as our "intern", Oriol has proved he was just one of the team. He has some great ideas, asked all the right questions and had results by the end of the hackathon too! You can read more on his own blog.

So once we got our introductions out of the way, we started looking at a high priority problem. One that had been reported in two different ways, but was in fact the same problem. The Summary RAG bars and the release database (as used by MetaCPAN). In turns out the problem was straightforward. After the server crash last year, The database scheme used to rebuild the new server was missing a new column in the release summary table, and thus wasn't getting updated. Once that was fixed, it was "simply" a matter of rebuilding the table. Sadly it took the whole weekend to rebuild, but once completed, we were able to start regenerating the release SQLite database. That took a week, but I"m pleased to say all is now updating and available again.

While that was rebuilding, I started to take a look at some other issues. After introducing Oriol to our family of websites, he registered for the wiki, and spotted a problem with the registration process. After some tinkering, I got that working again. I've no idea how long it's been a problem, but apologies to anyone affected.

In the introductions at the beginning of the event, Leo Lapworth (LLAP) mentioned that he was hoping to refine MetaCPAN"s use of Fastly, and was interested in helping anyone else who might be interested in using the service for their project. I got Leo to sit with me for a while and he gave me a good run through of what the service is, what it can do, and why we should use it for CPAN Testers. I didn"t take much convincing, and quickly opened an account and started to move the main family of websites to it. We have since seen a slight drop on hits to the server, but I expect that to improve as the static pages (the individual reports) are cached. Even the dynamic pages can benefit from their caching, as although many will change throughout the day, only a small portion are updated more than once an hour. Once we learn more about Fastly, expect to see some better response times for your page hits.

Talking with Christian Walde (MITHALDU), he wanted to help with the performance of the websites, particularly the Reports website. However, with the rebuilding ongoing, the server wasn't in the best place to really evaluate performance. He did happen to mention that the reports he was getting from the mailer were coming through as garbage. After some investigation, I discovered that the mailer had not been upgraded to use Sereal, which is now our serialiser of choice for the reports stored in the database. With that fixed, together with some further improvements and with all tests running, we put it live and waited. The following morning Christian report he had readable reports coming through again.

One aspect for testing the Reports site, and one that would have restricted Christian to evaluate the performance, is that apart from mine and Doug"s development machines, there is no stable installable full instance of the CPAN Testers Report site, including databases and cron scripts. As such, Doug has been working on providing exactly that. It has been on my TODO list for some time, as some of the bug reports and issue requests would have been quashed much more efficiently had others been able to fire up a working site and be able to send a pull request. You can read more about Doug"s progress on his blog, and hopefully this will encourage more people in the longer term to get involved with CPAN Testers development work.

Throughout the weekend I worked on cleaning up some of the templates on the various websites, ensuring that sponsors were correctly attributed, and fixed several bugs in some of the associated distributions. Not all have been pushed to CPAN, but work is ongoing.

Having finally met, Doug and I went through all the website logins and social media accounts, and made sure he had all the keys. The handover process has been a longish one, but I didn"t want to overwhelm Doug, and wanted him to find his feet first. After this weekend, expect more posts and updates from him rather than me. Please look after him :)

I also joined in some for the discussions regarding the CPAN River and the naming of the QA Hackathon. Neil has written up both admirably, and while I didn"t contribute much, it was good to see a lot of healthy discussion on both subjects. Regarding the naming of the event, I do think it's a shame that the likes of Google have turn the word "Hackathon" into the concept of a competition event, which the QA Hackathon event is definitely not. Ours is about collaboration and planning for the future, with many of the key technical leads for the various toolchain and associated projects within Perl 5 and Perl 6. I don"t have a suitable name to suggest, but I would recommend ensuring the acronym could not be used negatively.

In the coming weeks, I hope to collate all the website tests I run prior to updating the CPAN Testers family websites, and handing over to Doug for his new development environment for CPAN Testers. This will hopefully enable easier access to anyone wanting to help fix problems on the websites and backends in the future. 

In short, my completed tasks during the hackathon were:

  • Fixed the registrations for the CPAN Testers Wiki.
  • Got CPAN Testers Reports running on the Fastly (http://fastly.com) service, allowing us to caching some of the pages, and reduce the load on the webserver when trying to recreate reasonably static pages. Also means the routing for anyone viewing the site outside of Europe is going to reduce page load times too.
  • Fixed some bugs in the Reports Mailer, refreshed the tests and test data, and tidied up the notifications.
  • Fixed the Reports Mailer for sending individual reports, due to the DB storage now using Sereal. Note this had no effect on the summary reports.
  • Fixed a long running bug with the Summary panel (and release summary table), which turns out has also been affecting MetaCPAN.
  • Continued to hand over the final keys to Doug Bell (PREACTION), who is now carrying the torch for CPAN Testers.
  • Fixed a few bugs in other distributions, a couple related to CPAN Testers.
  • Cleaned up some of the CPAN Testers family website templates.
  • Joined discussions for The Perl River, the (re)naming of the QAH and the future of CPAN Testers.

It was a very productive event, and for CPAN Testers, I'm pleased it gave Doug and I a chance to knowledge share, and ensure he has everything he needs to not only keep the project going, but help develop new ideas to solve some of the big data problems that CPAN Testers sometimes throws up. Over the past 6 months or so, I have been taking a back seat, for various reasons, and in the coming months you will hear much less from me regarding CPAN Testers. Occasionally, I may pitch in to discussions to help give some background to decisions that were made, to give some context to why we wrote code a certain way, or designed a DB table the way we did, but this is now Doug's project, he will be the main point of contact now.

During the wrap at the end of the event, where we got to say a little piece about what we achieved, Chris Williams (BINGOS) made announcement to say thank you to me for 10 years of CPAN Testers. After taking on the challenge to grow CPAN Testers, and make it more interesting for people to get involved, I think I've achieved that. The project is well respected throughout the Perl community, and I've had some kind words from people in the wider OpenSource community too, and with over 68 million test reports in the database, I think I can safely say that has been a success. I wish Doug all the best taking it to the next level, and hope he gains as much knowledge and experience (if not more) from the project as I've done. Thanks to everyone who has support the project, me and all those that came before.

The QA Hackathon would not have been possible without the Sponsors. No matter what they have contributed, we owe them all our thanks for enabling the participants the time and ability to work together for the benefit of all. Thank you to FastMail, ActiveState, ZipRecruiter, Strato, SureVoIP, CV-Library, OpusVL, thinkproject!, MongoDB, Infinity, Dreamhost, Campus Explorer, Perl 6, Perl Careers, Evozon, Booking, Eligo, Oetiker+Partner, CAPSiDE, Perl Services, Procura, Constructor.io, Robbie Bow, Ron Savage, Charlie Gonzalez, and Justin Cook.

File Under: hackathon / opensource / perl / qa / rugby
NO COMMENTS


Crash Course in Brain Surgery

Posted on 22nd March 2015

A Year of CPAN Uploads

On Thursday, 19th March 2015 I uploaded my 366th consecutive release to CPAN. To most that may well be "meh, whatever!", but for me it has been an exhausting yet fulfilling exercise. The last 60 days though, were undoubtably the hardest to achieve.

When I started this escapade, I did it without realising it. It was several days before I noticed that I had been commiting changes every day, just after the QA Hackahon in Lyon. What made it worse was that I then discovered that I had missed a day, and could have had a 3 day head-start beyond the 9 days I already had in hand. Just one day behind me was Neil Bowers, and the pair of us set about trying to reach 100 consecuive days. It took a while for us to get into the flow, but once we did, we were happily committing each day.

Both of us created our own automated upload scripts, to help us maintain the daily uploads. This was partly to ensure we didn't forget, but also allowed us to be away for a day or two and still know that we would be able to upload something. In my case I had worried I would miss out when I went on holiday to Cornwall, but thankfully the apartment had wifi installed, and I was able to manage my releases and commits every morning before we left to explore for the day.

I mostly worked at weekends and stocked up on releases, sometimes with around 10 days prepared in advance. Most of the changes centred around bug fixes, documentaion updates and test suite updates, but after a short while, we both started looking at our CPANTS ratings and other metrics around what makes a good packaged release. We both created quests on QuestHub, and ticked off the achievements as we went. There were plenty of new features along the way too, as well as some new modules and distributions, as we both wanted to avoid making only minor tweaks, just for the sake of releasing something. I even adopted around 10 distributions from others, who had either moved on to other things or sadly passed away, and brought them all up to date.

Sadly, Neil wasn't able to sustain the momentum, and had to bail out after 111 consecutive uploads. Thankfully, I still had plenty of fixes and updates to work through, so I was hopeful I could keep going for a little while longer at least.

One major change that happened during 2014, was to the CPANTS analysis code. Kenichi Ishigaki updated the META file evaluations to employ a stricter rendition of the META Specification, which meant the license field in most of my distributions on CPAN now failed. As a consequence this gave me around 80 distributions that needed a release. On top of this, I committed myself to releasing 12 new distribuions, one each month, for a year, beginning March 2014. Although I've now completed the release of the 12 distributions, I have yet to complete all the blog posts, so that quest is still incomplete.

I made a lot of changes to Labyrinth (my website management framework) and the various ISBN scrapers I had written, so these formed the bedrock of my releases. Without these I probably wouldn't have been able to make 100 consecutive releases, and definitely not for a full year. But here I am 366+ days later and still have releases yet to do. Most of the releases from me in the future will centre around Labyrinth and CPAN Testers, but as both require quite in depth work, it's unlikely you'll see such a frequent release schedule. I expect I'll be able to get at least one released a week, to maintain and extend my current 157 week stretch, but sustaining a daily release is going to be a struggle.

Having set the bar, Mohammad S Anwar (MANWAR) and Michal Špaček (SKIM) have now entered the race, and Mohammad has said he wants to beat my record. Both are just over 200 days behind, and judging from my experience, they are going to find it tricky once they hit around 250, unless they have plenty of plans for releases by then. After 100, I had high hopes of reaching 200, however I wasn't so sure I would make 300. After 300, it really was much tougher to think of what to release. Occasionally, I would be working on a test suite and bug fixes would suggest themselves, but mostly it was about working through the CPAN Testers reports. Although, I do have to thank the various book sites too, for updating their sites, which in turn meant I had several updates I could make to the scrapers.

I note that Mohammad and Michal both are sharing releases against the Map-Tube variants, which may keep them going for a while, but eventually they do need to think about other distributions. Both have plenty of other distributions in their repetoire, so it's entirely possible for them both to overtake me, but I suspect it will be a good while before anyone else attempts to tackle this particular escapade. I wish then both well on their respective journies, but at least I am safe in the knowledge I was the first to break 1 year of daily consecutive CPAN uploads. Don't think I'll be trying it again though :)

File Under: cpan / opensource / perl
NO COMMENTS


Wondering What Everyone Knows

Posted on 26th September 2014

The YAPC::Europe 2014 survey results are now online.

YAPC::Europe Survey

Although we appear to have had an increased response this year, 42% up from 36%, there were only 74 actual responses, down from 122 last year. Sadly it was a smaller audience in total, and perhaps that's partly due to the previously core attendees not wishing to travel further. However, that said, as we are attempting to increase attendance at conferences, it was hoped that more first time attendees from South Eastern Europe would attend. Unfortunately, it would seem the opposite was the case, with only 4 responses from people who came from Bulgaria itself. I am willing to accept that many of the non-respondees are non-native English speakers, and found it difficult to complete the survey, but that would be true across a lot of Europe too. Those responding were not just the usual attendees either, there were many first and second time attendees there too.

I think part of this lack of reponse from previous years, is also down to the lack of promotion of the surveys. As I'm not able to attend in person at the moment, I have to hope that the organisers advertise the surveys, but it would be nice to have the speakers themselves mention them too. It is obvious that several speakers value the feedback they get, both publicly and privately, so it would be nice to see that encouraged after each talk. My hope is that the knock-on effect is that respondees also complete the main survey too.

Looking at both the demographics and the questions around Perl knowledge and experience, it would still seem we have an attendance that is on a upward curve for all aspects. Although attendance is perhaps getting older and wiser, that's not necessarily true of Perl programmers in general, particularly outside the traditional group of people who get involved in the community. It would be great to see how we can change that in the future. After all, Perl's future relies on those coming to the language in their teens and early twenties. If you're interested in helping, reading Daisuke Maki's post about what do you want your YAPC to be?, is very worthwhile. YAPC::Asia has helped to change attitudes, but that has only happened because the organisers set themselves goals of what they want to achieve. With YAPC::Europe, we haven't had this, partly due to the organisers changing each year, but also because there doesn't appear to be any long term goals.

From the responses of this year's attendees, we can see that we have a lot of people who are involved with the community in several ways. However, what about those who aren't involved. Is it just this conference is their first exposure to the Perl community, did those people not respond to the survey, or is it that they weren't there? YAPC::Asia's decision to be inclusive to other languages and technologies has been a benefit, not just to Perl, but to the whole OpenSource community in Japan. Couldn't we do the same in Europe or North America?

This year the conference schedule was largely handled by a small remote group of interested volunteers, who stepped up when Marian asked for help. I believed it worked, and if the same group, perhaps with input from next year's local organisers for what they would like, this might be a step to help improve the schedule. Using the same team for YAPC::Asia has worked, so why not elsewhere. It is always difficult to get to know about good speakers, particularly if the speakers was previously unknown to schedule organisers. The missing speakers are not too surprising, but it is always nice to see some unexpected suggestions, and it is useful for schedule organisers to get these hints so that they can try and reduce clashes. I would also encourage attendees to make use of the star system in Act, as this too can be used by the schedule organisers to identify popular talks, and ensure that in future they are in appropriately sized rooms.

I would also suggest that speakers and organisers take note of the topic suggestions. These are subjects people are asking to hear, and if they are returning attendees, may well be your future attendees at your next talk. The beginner track is also a great one, and would be worth looking at for the future. I know it was attempted for several years, but seems to have died off, which is a shame. Those new to Perl wanting to get more involved, can and want to learn a lot from the rest of us. It's why they come. It would be great to have them return to their bosses afterwards full of ideas, which may then enable them and/or their colleagues to return in the future.

Talk Evaluations

In an organisers mailing list, it was asked whether the talk evaluation surveys should be partly public, and exposed to the organisers. For anyone worried about that, I have said no. One reason being that I don't think that the results can or should be compared. Every attendee has a different opinion and a different scale to anyone else. We also have a wide variety of attendees to talks. Trying to compare a talk with 100 attendees to one with 10 doesn't make any sense. My second reason is that I think speakers or respondees should not be publicly compared. In private, one bad review could be taken into consideration and either disregarded, or help the speaker improve next time. Making that public is likely to have two effects; firstly a request from speakers to not be part of the evaluations, and secondly judgements made against the speaker for past work, when they have learnt and improved. They deserve our support, not rejection.

I have also been asked about providing talk evaluations for the video streams. Initially I was against this, partly because of a couple of people launching a torrent of abuse at me for not doing them already! However, a couple of people who have been more rational have asked about doing them. As such, I've started to look at what is involved. I expect these talk evaluations to be different, if only because the listener is not in the room, and the rapport and presentation will have a different feel during the stream. I may look to introduce this for YAPC::NA 2015, if I can get the rest of my plans for the surveys implemented, together with the changes to Act in time.

Future Surveys

I have several plans to write about the future of the surveys, and I'll be writing a few more blog posts about them in the months to come. If you have suggestions for improvements, please let me know. The software is now on CPAN and GitHub, so you are welcome to contribute changes, to help move things along. If you would like your event, workshop or conference, to have a survey, please get in touch and I'll see what I can set up for you.

File Under: conference / survey / yapc
NO COMMENTS


Page 2 >>

Some Rights Reserved Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Barbie and included in the Memories Of A Roadie website and any related pages, including the website's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons by Attribution Non-Commercial License. If you wish to use material for commercial puposes, please contact me for further assistance regarding commercial licensing.