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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.

Permanent Link

Birmingham Perl Mongers World Tour 2008
Posted by Barbie on 11th January 2008

Following our successful trips over the last 2 years, we're planning to do it all again. Birmingham Perl Mongers plan to venture around the British Isles, with hopefully one or two international destinations too. We have had interest from several UK Perl Monger groups and Linux User Groups, and have a few already lined up. This time around we are quite happy to come along to either a social or technical meeting, so please let us know if you would like us to visit you.

If you would like us to speak at a technical meeting or other event you are organising, please note time slots you would like us to fill. There are several members of Birmingham.pm who are willing to present, so we do have a range of subjects available.

Below is the current itinery, more dates will be added as soon as we know them ourselves. Once photos are available online, links will be updated so you can see all the gory details :)

Birmingham Perl Mongers
2008 World Tour
of Perl Monger & Linux user groups

Tue 29 Jan - MiltonKeynes.pm (photos)
Wed 13 Feb - Leicester LUG (photos)
Tue 19 Feb - Coventry LUG
Wed 27 Feb - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig) (photos)
Wed 26 Mar - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
Tue 8 Apr - Leicester LUG (photos)
Tue 15 Apr - Gloucester LUG (photos)
Wed 23 Apr - Wolves LUG (photos)
Wed 30 Apr - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig) (photos)
  Thu 15 May - Birmingham LUG
Wed 28 May - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
Mon 9 Jun - Rugby LUG
Wed 25 Jun - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
Wed 23 Jul - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
  Thu 7 Aug - London.pm (photos)
  Mon8 Sep - MiltonKeynes.pm (photos)
Wed 24 Sep - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig) (photos)
  Thu 9 Oct - London.pm

31 Mar-2 Apr - UKUUG Spring Conference - Birmingham, UK
13-15 Jun - YAPC::NA::2008 - Chicago, USA
19-20 Jul - LugRadio Live 2008 - Wolverhampton, UK
13-15 Aug - YAPC::Europe::2008 - Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Background

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, and proved extremely popular, with several groups asked to come back again, and others asking us to visit them too. In 2007 we visited both Perl Monger and Linux user groups, this time presenting at each groups technical meeting. For 2008 we hope to include several groups we never previous got to as well visiting some old friends.

Permanent Link

Becoming A Member of Birmingham.pm
Posted by Barbie on 7th January 2008

Now that Birmingham Perl Mongers have become a registered not-for-profit company, our membership policy has had to change. Prior to incorporation in 2006 anyone joining the mailing list or coming along to a meeting could consider themselves a member of the group. However, due to our incorporated status, we need to recognise membership in a more official capacity.

There are two official roles of membership, a Director (Board Member) and a Member. A Director is also a Member, but with additional responsibilities to ensure the correct running of the company and ensuring all company details are filed with the appropriate government departments in an appropriate timescale. All members have the reponsibility for ensuring that the company is run according to the company's Memorandum And Articles Of Association.

If you wish to become a paid-up member of Birmingham Perl Mongers, a fee is payable per annum; £25 for waged and £10 for unwaged. See one of the Directors at one of our meetings or read our Terms and Conditions of Membership for more details. The membership fee is used to help fund the group, such as paying for web hosting of the group website, paying for rooms (where necessary) to hold our technical meetings and paying for incidentals such as new bulbs or repairs to the company projector.

Permanent Link

Book Review Guidelines
Posted by Barbie on 25th July 2007

The following are adapted from guidelines from O'Reilly and Slashdot.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Be honest.
  • The length is up to you. Reviews can be short and sweet or long and detailed. Do what works best for you.

    Rule of thumb: any book worth reviewing should be worth at least 600 words; for technical books especially, a better range to start at is 800-1000 words. Less than that, and your readers might not get enough information to even know if they understand what the book is about, never mind whether it's any good. Remember, most readers will have less knowledge than you do in your area of expertise -- take some time to bring them at least slightly up to speed.

  • If you like something in a book, say what it is and why you like it. If you don't like something in the book, say what it is and say why you don't like it. Be as specific as you can--this information is important to other readers.
  • If something was omitted in the book say what it is and why it is important.
  • End the review with an overall summary.
  • Be as sober as you want to, and remember that funny writing is harder than funny writers make it look.
  • Have Fun!

Questions To Ask

  • How dated is the book now? How gracefully do you expect the content to age? If reviewing an updated / revised book (and you have access to the previous edition), in what ways do the revisions add to or detract from the book?
  • What level of experience is needed to actually use the information in the book? Who will find it most useful? Is there an existing, canonical book which already covers the same ground, or other ones not yet well-known covering the same ground?
  • Is the title accurate? (i.e. Does <cite>Introduction to BingoWidgets For Novices</cite> serve as an adequate explanation of BingoWidgets to the average reader with no experience? Some books have flatter titles than they deserve, and some books' title overreach.
  • Is the book readable as well as technically accurate? Is the language stilted, or natural? Are examples easy to follow?
  • Is the depth appropriate?
  • If the book is illustrated, are the illustrations appropriate and well executed?
  • Do any extras come with the book, like a CD-ROM of additional information or code samples? Does the author or publisher maintain a website or at least an online errata page?
  • What's missing from the book? Would it benefit from illustrations, a better index, a final chapter on practical applications, a lay-flat binding, a manacle so it's never forgotten?
  • What is a Relational Database Applications Framework Management System Defrobnobdicator, and what does one eat? Don't jump straight with acronyms, jargon and buzzwords without at least stopping to say what they mean (if appropriate).
  • What hardware and software does the author assume readers will be dealing with? (If this book is about software; what operating systems are dealt with?) If it's about hacking into a proprietary video game console, will it work only with certain production runs' output?) Don't assume that everyone is running Microsoft Windows on an Intel-based desktop computer, or Debian GNU/Linux on a solar-powered home-brewed wristwatch.
  • If the book is about software, under what license or type of license is the software released?

Background

  • For any book, make a point of explaining why you're reviewing it, your background in the topic or genre, and where else people might want to look if they are interested in the basic area the book addresses.
  • Did you like previous works from the same author / publisher / series?
  • Do you have a pressing workplace need for a certain type of computer system, and did the book help you to implement it?
  • Explaining your expectations going in will help ground your review; an OS X book "for newbies" could be perceived very differently by an OS X expert than by a genuine newbie, so don't praise or pan a book without specifying your context.

Review Submission

  • Please send your review to reviews@birmingham.pm.org or me directly. Reviews are prefered in completely plain text or POD, although if you really must I will accept DOC/RTF and HTML formats.
  • Readability and flow are important. Strive for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation in your review, but don't torture yourself over minutia. (Please run your review through a spellchecker before submtting, though.) Be extra-careful with the name of the author and the title of the book. Write conversationally but seriously, as you might in a topical letter to an acquaintance or coworker who's asked you for book suggestions.

Further Guides

Permanent Link

Birmingham Perl Mongers World Tour 2007
Posted by Barbie on 21st March 2007

Over the next 6 months, Birmingham Perl Mongers plan to venture around the British Isles, plus this time around we've managed to include at least one international destination. At the moment, although several UK Perl Monger groups have stated an interest in having us along, the confirmed bookings so far are actually Linux User Groups. Whereas last year we attended mostly social meetings, this year we aim to attend and speak at mostly technical meetings. If you would like us to come along to your group meeting, please feel free to get in touch, and we'll see what we can arrange.

Below is the itinery we've established so far, more dates will be added as soon as we know them ourselves. Once photos are available online, I'll add links so you can see all the gory details :)

Birmingham Perl Mongers
2007 World Tour
of Perl Monger & Linux user groups

Mon 12 Feb - Vienna.pm (photos)
Tue 20 Mar - Gloucestershire LUG (photos)
Wed 28 Mar - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig) (photos)
Mon 2 Apr - MiltonKeynes.pm (photos)
Thu 19 Apr - Birmingham LUG
Wed 25 Apr - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig) (photos)
Tue 1 May - Malvern LUG (photos)
Wed 23 May - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
Tue 6 Jun - Wolverhampton LUG
Wed 20 Jun - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
Wed 25 Jul - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)
Wed 22 Aug - Birmingham.pm (hometown gig)

26-28 Jun - YAPC::NA::2007 - Houston, USA
7-8 Jul - LugRadio Live 2007 - Wolverhampton, UK
28-30 Aug - YAPC::Europe::2007 - Vienna, Austria

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