Five Years of The Swiss Perl Workshop
July 04, 2018 ( Prev / Next )

It’s five years since I arrived in Switzerland, and rather than writing an obvious blog post on my time in the country I thought I would do this instead. The Perl programming language brought me to Switzerland, so it feels rather appropriate.

A Short History

2018 will see the fifth Swiss Perl Workshop (SPW), an event that has run every year since 2013, with a return to where it started in the country’s de facto capital city of Bern. If you’re wondering about the off-by-one error in the previous sentence then read on to find the answer.

The Swiss Perl Workshop came about after Roman asked around at YAPC in Frankfurt in 2012 and found a suitable volunteer, Matthias, to help. Roman says it was fun, hearing either “there is no need for another Perl workshop, in Switzerland” or “cool I will go there”. Yet to find someone who would help organise it was tricky.

We thought it would be nice to recap the previous five years’ worth of workshops, and give you something to look forward to at this years’ event. Of course if you want to come along then please register, and even better perhaps you would like to give a talk? Thanks to our generous hosts this year, Gewerblich-Industrielle Berufsschule Bern, attendance is free.


I have no memory of this workshop, with good reason1, but from all evidence SPW hit the ground running with a keynote from Damian Conway and good attendance from Swiss and non-Swiss Perl (and non-Perl) programmers.

The workshop was a single day event back in 2013, but was expanded to two days for the next year and then three days in 2016. The venue for the first SPW was Universität Bern.

I couldn’t find many reports on the workshop online, it seems we were not concerned with blogging, recording, photographing, and social media-ing as much back then; but I did find a short post by Dirk2, who would join the organising team of SPW from 2015.


In 2014 The Swiss Perl Workshop expanded to two days, and found a venue at The Flörli in Olten to allow multiple tracks and actual workshops; with its charming rooms and garden, the venue gave a beautiful atmosphere for some coding in the hot summer. Friends of the organisers kindly volunteered to keep the attendees fed and watered.

The schedule expanded on the previous year, to two rooms with tutorials. brian d foy managed to attend the workshop and give a keynote and tutorial thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, he later blogged about attending the workshop.

2014 was the first time I attended a perl workshop, and I dove in by giving a talk about the company I was working with and their stack. My very first talk at my very first Perl workshop was scheduled as the very first thing3. No pressure. Actually it went down well and I have given a talk or two at every workshop I have attended, Swiss or otherwise, since then.


In August 2015 the third Swiss Perl Workshop again took place in Olten and the workshop expanded even more. With a Perl 6 hackathon taking place the venue was booked for three whole days, lots of talks were submitted and the number of attendees was over fifty.

The core Perl 6 contributors had a very successful hackathon: finishing the “Great List Refactoring”, squashing many bugs, and made Perl 6 mostly ready for the big “Christmas” release later in the year.

A highlight was a Q&A with Larry Wall, but we also learned how Perl is used in the research of medieval Armenian scriptures from Tara Andrews. Jonathan Worthington held an introductory workshop for Perl 6, talked about its excellent support for concurrent programming along with the not so easy parts of Unicode.


In 2016 SPW sort of took a break, but sort of didn’t. The SPW organisers teamed up with The Austrian Perl Workshop organisers to create The Alpine Perl Workshop. So this year explains the of-by-one error, maybe we should call this the fourth and a half SPW?

The workshop took place in Innsbruck, Austria. brian d foy returned to give a couple of keynotes, and we had Perl Pumpking Sawyer X on hand to talk about the latest version of Perl and other things. Domm’s blog post covers the talks given at the workshop, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

This year I made an effort to record the talks, with help from Nicholas, and eventually uploaded them to YouTube. I then blogged about the process for future reference / others to learn from. I’ve since learned a bit more about recording talks, and hopefully that will result in much improved recordings in the future.


In 2017 SPW visited the sleepy alpine village of Villars-sur-Ollon. Actually the village wasn’t so sleepy given that the quadrennial Ollon-Villars hill climb event was taking place the same weekend as the workshop. Fortunately the interruptions were minor, and reduced to a mere background hum. With there being no hackathon this year the workshop went back to being a two day event.

The strong SPW and Perl 6 link continued as we were lucky enough to have Damian Conway return to give not two but three talks on Perl 6. Jonathan Worthington announced and demonstrated Cro, a set of libraries for building reactive distributed systems in Perl 6. Liz recapped the previous two and a half years’ worth of Perl 6 Weekly newsletters. Sue Spence gave a talk comparing Go and Perl 6. And Cal grappled with high precision math in Perl 6.

On the Perl 5 and more general side of things we had talks covering modernising legacy code, profiling with Devel::NYTprof, scanning your web app for vulnerabilities, working with Redis, working with Perl and Java, fighting network abuse with Perl, and Wendy covered the changing image of Perl.

You can read more reports of the workshop weekend on the Humanstate blog as well as from Steve Mynott. You can also find a few recordings of the talks on YouTube.


In a couple of months time, as of writing, the fifth SPW will take place in Bern. If previous years are anything to go by then you should expect a friendly atmosphere, a range of presentations, an interesting venue, and well attended pre/post workshop events.

We have already confirmed Curtis “Ovid” Poe as keynote speaker, another well known and respected member of the Perl community, who will no doubt be telling us the latest news of his MMORPG Tau Station along with other useful Perl tips.

We’re still waiting for the usual rush of last minute talk submissions, but we anticipate subjects ranging from working with older style Perl 5 to shiny new modern Perl 5, we expect the strong link with Perl6 to continue, hardware hacking, photography, security, APIs, frameworks, new modules, and much much more. Given the trend of recent years you can expect a large number of talks to be exclusive to SPW. We’re even expecting one or two special guests…

Of course we have to thank the sponsors of this year’s and previous year’s workshops, along with all the speakers and organisers, who make it possible for this event to take place.

Thanks to Roman, Boris, and Konrad, for their input on filling in some history and providing an outline for 2014 and 2015.

  1. I didn’t arrive in Switzerland until the end of July :) 

  2. English version 

  3. Well OK, after brian d foy’s keynote 

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