Debugging rst2pdf and pygments

I create my slide decks from ReStructuredText, which is a text markup format. Working this way makes it easy to add into source control, fast to work with, and also accessible since I don't use a mouse or other pointing device so traditional slide deck creation programs are kind of difficult. Text-based wins every time for me. While working on a new slide template, I ran into some difficulties and had to figure out how to inspect what was going on. I seem to struggle with this every time so I am writing my troubleshooting guide here for when I need it next. Continue reading

The Microphone Is Your Friend

This post is an adaptation from an email I sent to a friend who is doing their first few conference talks. I was asked to share more widely so here it is

The microphone is your friend, honestly :) Even if you think you can be heard, there are some definite benefits to using a mic if it's available:

  • you actually can be heard
  • even people with less-than-excellent hearing can hear you
  • the video recording can hear you as well
  • you now have the option to employ some vocal variety: exclaiming, pausing, stage whisper ... it all adds interest and colour to what you are saying

There are a few different types of mic and each one has its own quirks! Continue reading

So You're Thinking Of Submitting A Talk

I've been a conference speaker for a lot of years now, which doesn't make me an expert but it does mean that people ask me for advice pretty regularly! With the Call for Papers open for PHP North West at the moment (awesome conference, first weekend in October, CfP at http://conference.phpnw.org.uk/phpnw15/call-papers/), I've taken this question a few times. Here's my advice in a nutshell:

  • Think about what's interesting that you could share with other developers. The key here is that the people listening should go away with something useful, rather than just the impression that you're awesome
  • Write it down. You don't need to write the talk before you submit - just a title and an abstract will do. The abstract should be one paragraph, maximum 200-250 words
  • A great abstract says why this topic is vital, what cool things will be covered, who should come and what they will learn. I'm paraphrasing but those are the basics!
  • Submit your abstract to http://helpmeabstract.com/ to get feedback from some lovely volunteers who will help you (bookmark the gist and keep revisiting it, the system doesn't notify you or anything ... yet. Pretty sure you can submit patches while procrastinating on a slide deck though)
  • Did you get this far without submitting? That's normal :) Remember that your community needs new voices. Each of us is ahead of *someone* on the path, you absolutely don't need to be the expert to have something to offer to the rest of us. So please, submit :)

Tips for Addressing a Virtual Audience

As a conference speaker, I've read the books on how to be a good conference speaker, and coached quite a few people to raise their skills in this area too. However recently I've been meeting more virtual audiences, both delivering virtual training and doing virtual events such as DayCamp4Developers, and I thought I'd share my take on what works well in a setting where people can see your slides, and hear your voice ... and nothing more. Continue reading

Talking about ZCE at PHPNW March

If you're interested in becoming a Zend Certified Engineer and are local enough to make it to the next PHP North West User Group meeting on Tuesday, 5th March in Manchester (UK), then come along! I'll be giving a talk and welcoming questions and discussion around becoming ZCE, why you might bother, what is involved, some tips for the exam itself, and pointers to resources to help you (yes the slides will be online afterwards, check the "resources" section on my site on Wednesday ish).

The details are on the Upcoming page for the event, see you on Tuesday 5th!

Learning to Speak

I don't mean learning to talk, I mean learning to address an audience, coherently and without dying of fright (actually I think I have clinically proven that it isn't possible to actually stop living as a result of fright). There are a couple of things that I'm involved with that may help you, if you're looking to improve your successes in this area.

DayCamp4Developers

This is a virtual conference, held a few times each year. I've spoken at some of the previous events and been really impressed by how smoothly something quite intangible can run! The next event is on Friday 22nd March and is about public speaking - but aimed specifically at developers. If you want to speak at a user group or conference, or be able to get through presentations at work without stress, then this session will give you some good pointers. The speakers are three excellent conference presenters - and me :) I love this format, what else are you doing on a Friday (especially for Europe, where this doesn't start until our afternoon)? You can register and find out more about the event here http://daycamp4developers.com/. Did I mention that tickets are $40? You can also sign up to get the recordings if the date/time doesn't work out for you.

WeAreAllAweso.me

There's been lots of fuss lately about women speakers at conferences, or the lack of them. The low percentage of women in technology and a missing tendency to put ourselves forward for things means that this isn't going to change any time soon. However if you've been thinking about speaking, then you should know about an online group WeAreAllAwesome which is a meeting point for women speakers to brainstorm ideas for topics, put abstracts together, and share experiences on how to give a good talk. Our office hours are 6-7pm UK time on Tuesdays, and I'm one of the mentors in that project, so if you might speak or just want to join in chatter with women who do, then you know where to find us :) Continue reading

Speaking at OSCON 2012

In July, I'm speaking at OSCON. Actually I have a few interesting speaking engagements coming up, and I haven't got around to adding upcoming dates to my blog yet but I'll be at phpDay in Verona next week with a talk on API Design and DPC in Amsterdam in June with a tutorial on Web Services and a talk on what OAuth is actually for.

OSCON is special because I have always wanted to go and never imagined it would actually happen. Every year I read the list of sessions from the year before, and decide that I absolutely must submit to the call for papers, regardless of how small I think my chances of being accepted are! I've submitted a couple of times in the past, excluding last year because I was newly freelance (OSCON does not cover any speaker expenses at all, they just give you a conference pass. That's kind of hard going for those of us self-funding halfway across the world, and last year, I just couldn't do it. This year I still can't really justify it but I'm going anyway!) Continue reading

Speaking at Leeds PHP

On Monday 19th March I'll be speaking at PHP Leeds. The topic is all things git and github; as an open source project lead I see lots of very capable programmers taking their first steps with github. In this session we'll talk about how you can use these tools to contribute to open source (or your own projects, of course), covering both "what to click in the web interface" and "what to type at the command line" for git and github respectively. Come along if you want to know more about git, open source, or github!

Thoughts on Running an Open Source Project

I spoke in the unconference at PHPUK last week, on running an open source project. I thought I would collect together my thoughts into one place before I lose the scratty piece of paper I wrote them down on. I'm not sure I'm the right person to be giving advice exactly, but these are the things that, having been project lead on joind.in for a while, I think are important.
Continue reading