Damian Conway is a small-ish man from Australia who knows a thing or two about Aikido and Perl. He also wins praise for his presentation skills, which is what persuaded me to make the trek to Pittsburgh yesterday; getting to meet the Pittsburgh Perl Mongers was sweet icing.

Damian is arguing for the reduction in amount of work (using the amount of typing as a proxy) required to code something. This has been called Huffman'izing Perl (but I'll believe it when we can drop the final semi-colon at the end of a line and not just at the end of a block), and yields things like say() instead of print(), where say has an implicit "\n" at the end of it. One easy gain is to make default the most common usage, another not-so-easy gain is to code so that you can handle varied inputs and auto-detect the correct usage from context. Of course, the end-goal of libraries or modules is to enable the programmer to code faster, so we should always evaluate our perl modules in that light.

Damian's presentations supposedly have a ratio of 20 to 1 for the hours of preparation with respect to the hour length of the presentation. Given this, I wanted to see what he spent his time preparing. From seeing this one presentation, he did three main things:

  1. Visual Entertainment
    1. Changing content-density (number of characters per screen) across slideshow
    2. Different fonts for different emphasis or cultural tie-in (e.g. "70'"s in a 70's font)
    3. Gimp photos into your own art.
  2. Non-slide Entertainment
    1. He demo'ed some Aikido to bring home a point
    2. He's talking about what's on the screen, not saying it.
    3. He switches back and forth from the slideshow to vi to show points in action.
  3. Storyline weaving threads together
    1. Choose a rich metaphor to tie in points and make them more memorable. The danger of this is over-extending, or beating a dead donkey. ;)
    2. Use counterpoint to contrast your presentation with "the wrong way".
    3. Keep coming back to your main point through different arguments or cultural tie-ins to show it in a different light while re-emphasizing.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Perl Mongers are a great bunch. Robert Blackwell emailed me Tom Moertel's contact information at 12:45pm, I talked with Tom Moertel at 12:50pm, drove to CMU, arrived at 4:30pm, parked in the "Free on Saturdays" parking at CMU, and walked to Hemingway's (tiny barestaurant), where I met up with Tom and Chris Winters. It couldn't have been any easier. Thanks, Robert, Tom, and Chris!

As an aside, since we had a guest from Down Under, the discussion turned to sink draining and the propensity of filled water to turn in one direction. I think we were all shown up by the smart guy in the room who waited a couple minutes for us to sputter about it not being the Coriolis effect and then talked about the propensity of steam bubbles to emanate from the same part of the bottom of a pan regardless of where the heat was applied. Although the pan looks uniform to human eyes, it's not uniform. The discrepancies in production create a point more conducive to steam creation than any other section. Likewise, sinks are not uniform, water flow into a sink will create eddies in the water that will determine how the water flows out. So, it's the local hidden-to-the-human-eye forces that create the phenomena we see, i.e. "magic" internal workings, which is what Damian was talking about. It was only hours later on the way home that I finally got it.