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The Birmingham.pm FAQ
Posted by Barbie on 28th May 2008

GENERAL

Is the answer to this question in the FAQ?

Possibly. If not either send the question to the mailing list, or email Barbie.

THE GROUP

When was Birmingham.pm formed?

In July 2000 Barbie and Mike Bissett attended a Perl Mongers BOF session at OSCON in Monterey, California, USA. It inspired both to create Birmingham.pm. The group was registered at some point during August 2000, and we held our first meeting in September 2000.

Who is the leader of Birmingham.pm?

Since its inception, Birmingham.pm has been led by Barbie. As co-founder (with Mike), Barbie has helped to lay the foundations for the group, which have been built on thanks to the efforts of our current membership.

Where was the first meeting?

Our first meeting was at The Hogshead, Newhall Street, Birmingham. In attendance were Barbie, Mike and Mike's girlfriend. After that first meeting we began to rope in friends and colleagues, who occasionally had a passing interest in Perl, and some who didn't. Over the course of a year, we settled down to a small group of Perl programmers and web developers. These days we're mostly programmers who have an interest in Perl.

So what are all the meetings?

We hold a social meeting monthly, then a technical meeting for 10 months of the year (Feb-Nov), and an Annual General Meeting (AGM) in January.

Our first social meeting was held on the second Wednesday of the month, and we have continued to hold it on the second Wednesday ever since.

After attempting a couple of technical meetings in 2003, these proved popular so we started to hold them every other month. However, we started getting more and more offers of talks, so we were able to hold them every month between February and November. In order to give ourselves a little bit of breathing space, we tend to hold the technical meetings on the last Wednesday of the month, which is usually the fourth Wednesday of the month, although on occasions it ends up being the fifth Wednesday.

In January, on the fourth Wednesday, we hold our AGM. Since our incorporation in February 2006, we must now hold an AGM every year. As we don't normally hold a technical meeting in January, the AGM fell naturally in a slot where we can prepare for the coming year.

We occasionally move the dates for meetings when there are other special events happening, such as the YAPC::Europe or YAPC::NA Perl Conferences, but we endeavour to provide plenty of warning for these changes both on the mailing list and on the website.

Where do you eat at meetings?

For our social meetings, we have settled at The Dragon Inn once again, which used to be O'Neills, on Hurst Street near the Arcadian. The pub is part of the Weatherspoons chain, providing a good selection of food, beer and even offers free Wifi.

For our technical meetings, The Victoria does serve food, but only until 7.30pm. On busy theatre days, they may even stop about 7pm. As such it's worth getting there early, or phoning through your order to one of the guys already there. They also offer free WiFi to customers, just ask at the bar for details.

For our December social, we traditionally hold a Christmas Social, where we vote on the choice of venue and cuisine. This has led us to take in a variety of restaurants, with varying degrees of success, from Cathay, The Big Wok (for 3 years!), The Maharaja and on to the rather wonderful White Horse in Harborne for 2007. We were hoping to repeat the success for December 2008, but it appears that they've stopped doing food at the moment. Fingers crossed they do a Christmas special.

At other times we occasionally take trips to Balti restaurants, The Big Wok and typically during the summer we visit somewhere slightly outside the city centre with a beer garden. For 2008 we visited The Garden House on the Hagley Road, not too far from Five Ways. Watch out for announcements of a curry night sometime soon, and hopefully even a summer barbeque ... assuming we ever have a decent weekend during the summer!

If you have suggestions for restaurants or pubs to visit, please feel free to post them on the mailing list.

If I turn up for a meeting how will I recognise you?

At times we have a 6" stuffed penguin (Tux) or a stuffed camel (Amelia or Nicks). Or you could always have a look at the members page and see if you can spot any of us. There is also the chance we will have laptops out, hacking away. Failing that you could also take potluck and guess the group, then ask whether they are Birmingham Perl Mongers!

What was Deco?

A few meetings took place at The Sunflower Lounge on Smallbrook Queensway near New Street Station. At one Steve noticed that they were serving a drink called Deco, that included a small measure of Absinthe. Since then some of the members have taken a great liking for the drink, although Deco is no longer sold (to quote JJ "It rocked, but unfortunately was withdrawn from sale due to binge drinking concerns..."), and often take great delight in finding a bottle of Absinthe on the shelf of European bars whenever we travel abroad.

Do you have a kitty?

After several visits to London.pm, and seeing how well the kitty works there, as of the May Tech Meeting 2008, we are starting to encourage the use of the kitty. As we hold both social and technical meetings at pubs, it is not unlikely that you will be drinking at some point during the evening. The aim of the kitty is to ensure that those who don't drink a lot or can't afford a big round, don't feel out of pocket. You need only put in what you expect to drink. Typically people put in a tenner, and those staying towards the end of the night occasionally top it up if they plan to drink more. If you're only planning to have a few orange juices, just put in a few quid.

The first few people at the venue should procure an empty, dry pint glass for keeping money in. As they arrive people are then requested to add a note (usually a tenner) to the kitty, and then when people go to the bar they just take the kitty. This saves the tedious nature of buying small rounds, and worrying if you get to the end of the night and feel you should have bought more people drinks.

COMMUNICATION

How do I subscribe to the mailing list?

See the mailing list page.

I missed some posts, are there any archives?

Publically no. Privately more than likely. We have a policy on the list that all posts are made only to list members. We would ask that you do not publically publish any extract from posts by other people. Some time ago there was a company that took exception to posts made by some of our members. Due to the hot headedness of the company involved they had misread the posts and began threatening the individuals with lawsuits and the like. Although the situation was quickly resolved, to prevent any similar incident happening again, the list is considered private.

Do you have an IRC channel?

No.

You may be lucky to find some of us on the London.pm IRC channel (#london.pm on irc.perl.org), but mostly we use email or meet in person.

PROJECTS

What is The Open Guide To Birmingham?

The Open Guide To Birmingham, also known as The Birmingham OpenGuide, is part of a network of city guides which are public wikis, allowing the user to add content and update the site with recommendations and information about landmarks, pubs, restaurants and the like for others to discover. It has been hosted on Birmingham.pm servers for several years, although is currently offline due to a server crash. We hope to have the site back online as soon as possible.

How are you invloved with CPAN Testers?

For several years Barbie has been a member of the CPAN Testers development team, working on the toolchain, such as CPAN::YACsmoke, and helping to promote the efforts of the testers. JJ is now also a CPAN Tester. If you want to get involved, please have a chat with them at one of the meetings. Birmingham.pm currently fund the cost of a server to host the CPAN Testers family of websites, which include the Reports, Statistics and Wiki sites, together with their own CPAN and BACKPAN mirrors.

What was The Birmingham.pm Conference Video?

In 2006 Birmingham.pm hosted the 2006 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference. In order to start the run up to the conference in style, when it was finally announced that we had won the bid at the 2005 event in Braga, we showed a video that we had made, directed by Steve. It was much enjoyed by all those who saw it.

I hear you have other videos, what are they?

During 2007 Barbie videoed several conference events, including many of the lightning talks. These, together with some of the talks, have been put online at The Conference Videos site. The site is hosted on the Birmingham.pm server.

In addition you can also now download The Birmingham.pm Conference Video from the site too.

What other projects are you involved with?

Members of Birmingham Perl Mongers are involved in a variety of Open Source projects. While these are not funded or hosted by Birmingham Perl Mongers, they are projects which we feel contribute to the Perl community.

If you are a member of Birmingham Perl Mongers, and would like us to list your Open Source project, please send us details, and if appropriate we'll add it to the list.

THE WORLD TOUR

What's the World Tour?

In early 2006 Birmingham Perl Mongers took to the road to promote the 2006 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference, which we hosted at the end of August 2006. We took it upon ourselves to visit several Perl Monger groups around the UK, which proved extremely popular with several groups asking us to come back again, while others asked us to visit them too next time. In 2007 we visited both Perl Monger and Linux user groups, this time presenting at each group's technical meeting. For 2008 we followed on the success of the 2007 tour and have been presenting at technical meetings, although occasionally we have also included social meetings too.

But how can it be a World Tour if you only travel round England?

Well we did go to Edinburgh and Belfast in 2006.

Ok, so how can it be a World Tour if you only travel round the UK?

The name came from the fact that Barbie is a fan of Billy Connolly, who has made four TV series for the BBC entitled 'The World Tour of Scotland', 'The World Tour of England, Ireland and Wales', 'The World Tour of Australia' and 'The World Tour of New Zealand'. In each he only tours a small section of the world. We thought it would be a nice bit of British humour to continue the idea.

However, we do also include conferences in the tour, so with YAPC::NA and YAPC::Europe being outside of the UK, it's sort of a World Tour. Sort of ;)

Can you come to our user group?

Probably. If you're in the UK, then chances are fairly good. If you're slightly further afield, then we will probably need to put a bit of planning in, but we would certainly be delighted to visit any user groups that would be willing to invite us. Whether we come to just say hello at a social, or you'd like us to present one of our many talks to your group (note it doesn't have to be a Perl or Linux group, we're happy to visit everyone), drop Barbie an email and we'll see what we can arrange.

THE COMPANY

What's this about a limited company?

In February 2006, Birmingham.pm became a not-for-profit limited company. The reason for this was to provide the group and members with some protection, and more importantly a professional image, while organising the YAPC::Europe 2006 Perl Conference. Three of the organisers became officers of the company, with others electing to become members of the company.

Who is on the board?

After the inaugauration, the board now holds an AGM every January, with the board being elected as follows:

  • 2009: Barbie (Director), Alan Stanger (Director), Brian McCauley (Secretary)
  • 2008: Barbie (Director), Alan Stanger (Director), Brian McCauley (Secretary)
  • 2007: Barbie (Director), Brian McCauley (Director), Steve Pitchford (Secretary)
  • 2006: Barbie (Director), Brian McCauley (Director), Steve Pitchford (Secretary)

So how do I become a member?

Having read the Terms & Conditions of Membership, you can download and complete a membership form, or ask Barbie for one at a regular meeting. Then present the form together with your membership fee to a member of the board.

How can I become a board member?

Having registered as a member, you will be eligible to stand as an elected member of the board. Usually the board is re-elected each January, however, we are always interested in meeting anyone willing to help us out and contribute to the group. If we feel you would be a valuable addition to the board, we can call an Emergency General Meeting (EGM), and propose that the members vote to have you instated as an elected board member.

So what do I get for my membership fee?

Hopefully a membership card, and the grateful thanks of the other members for helping to cover the group's running costs.

What running costs?

The group, as a limited company, must now provide annual returns and pay fees. In addition we now have a server, hosted by Bytemark, that runs our main website and a few smaller projects. We are also investigating registering our own domain to provide us with more control over the mailing addresses we use.

But didn't you raise a lot of money at YAPC::Europe 2006?

We did, and many thanks to all the sponsors and attendees who helped us make for a very successful conference. However, the surplus funds we amassed initially came under government scrutiny and we had to submit our accounts before we knew exactly how much we would be left with. Thankfully the Inland Revenue have looked very favourably on us, and we do not have to pay any tax, thanks to our non-profit status and low turnover.

We have now provided a donation to Vienna.pm, which helped them fund the 2007 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference, and have made a sizeable donation to The Perl Foundation. Our original plan was to host a Perl Workshop in Birmingham, but for numerous reasons this didn't happen, as a consequence, following a successful QA Hackathon in Oslo in 2008, we set about planning and organising the 2009 QA Hackathon. The Hackathon took place in Birmingham from 28th-30th March 2009, and was considered a great success.

We have discussed some plans for what we can do with the remaining funds, and we're always happy to hear of proposals for interesting projects. Stay tuned for more updates as they are announced.

OTHER STUFF

Why is Barbie called Barbie?

It's a long story.

If you buy him a drink at a meeting, he might consider telling you.

JJ - "be warned, I've been buying him drinks for the last 6 years, and I'm still none the wiser!"

How do I ask a question?

Join the mailing list and post your question there, come along to a meeting and ask away, or for updates to this page, or any other page on the website, you can email Barbie.

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