Speaking at OggCamp

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be speaking at OggCamp this year. This is an event that I've attended both previous years, and one that I always seem to get a lot out of. It's an open source, anything goes, unconference kind of event. Except that this year there is also a scheduled track of talks alongside the usual unconference content.

I love oggcamp for the sheer randomness of what I learn there. I've variously seen talks on home automation, mapping, operating systems, politics ... the list is pretty long. This year, it's in Surrey, on the same weekend as the final deadlines for my book so I figured I'd have to give it a miss. But when I got an invite to speak on the scheduled track, I realised this was the omen I needed, and accepted at once!

I'll be giving a talk entitled "Open Source Your Career" - a talk which brings up an aspect of open source that we often don't discuss; the personal rewards that an individual can gain from being involved in open source. If you thought it was all about altruism, think again. I'll be bringing anecdotes, from my own career and others', about how the best way to fast-track your professional growth. See you in Surrey :)

The Worst Way To Find Women Speakers

I am a female speaker, and a software developer, which puts me in a fairly small minority at the events I usually attend (I'm a PHP consultant based in the UK, to give you an idea of what kind of events those are). Recently I've been asked my opinion more than once on the issue of women speakers being in a minority at technical events, and I've also been the "token" women speaker at a technical event.

The worst thing you can do is find some random, underqualified person who represents the demographic you want to include, and put them on the stage. Although gender is often the issue we hear most about, the same applies to anyone who isn't a young, white male; it's just that gender is easier to see and talk about than either age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything else, and also since I'm a young, white female, it's the only aspect I can comment on.Women are in such a minority that they are, almost by definition, representative (see http://xkcd.com/385). Anyone who sees your randomly-selected woman speak will simply go away thinking that women aren't really good at speaking. Continue reading

PHP North West 2011

We might still be in the thick of the summer conference season, but there's an event coming up this autumn which has me very excited: PHP North West 2011.

This is a regional PHP conference based in Manchester, UK, and I've been involved with it since it began (I'm surprised to find this is our fourth edition, it still feels like a shiny new adventure!). This year the dates are 8th and 9th of October and with an added tutorial day on the Friday, it is bigger (and of course better) than ever. In case you missed the announcements, here are the main things you need to know:

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Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

I received "Confessions of a Public Speaker" as a gift this winter (you know who you are, thankyou!), and it's been on my bookshelf waiting for me to have a reason to sit still long enough to read it. A series of long flights presented exactly that opportunity so I brought the book along to read, which was perfect as I was travelling to give a tutorial at the PHP Community Conference in Nashville.

My first observation was that although I thought this would be a pretty serious book, I was laughing! Not just smiling, but actually giggling on a fairly small plane of people doing the short hop over to Amsterdam. I saw a few people trying to read the cover to figure out what this great comedic tome would be :)

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PDF Presenter

Recently I've switched how I prepare and deliver presentations, using LaTeX to mark up the content and producing PDF slides from that. Which is great but I miss having some of the during-presentation functionality of LibreOffice such as a timer and being able to see what's on the next slide. Happily for me, there's a PDF Presenter Console on github and it does what I need!

Getting the thing installed was a bit of a puzzle as it has many dependencies (and that's just the compiler) but I now have it working like a dream on both my laptop and my netbook. I discovered that it didn't work with my presenter mouse but with a bit of help from a friend, I have a patch for that and now when I'm presenting I see something like this:

You can set which screen show this, and which shows just the main slide, and you can also set what duration the countdown timer should start from. One really key feature is that the timer doesn't start counting until you advance from the first slide ... unlike in open office where I usually put up the title slide during the break before my talk, then have to stop and start the presentation to reset the clock so I've got some vague idea of my running time!

So in true open source form, there's a tool out there already (thanks Jakob, and thanks for responding to my emails!), and I was able to adapt it to my use case, or rather Kevin was able to! I would love to have the presenter console packaged so I could recommend it for more users, but for now I have a great open source solution enabling me to do what I'm good at - delivering content.

Slide Markup with LaTeX: First Steps

Since starting to create (a large number of) presentations using LaTeX, I've been impressed at how easy this is to pick up and also how quick it is to work with marked up content rather than dragging objects around in Impress or equivalent. With that in mind, I thought I'd outline the very basics of the markup (with probably more snippets to follow as I discover them).

Start at the very beginning

First of all, LaTeX templates are fussy things, start with someone else's outline (for example the one Dave posted, which I use), or one you made earlier. There is some preamble and then the main contents of the presentation go between the \begin{document} and \end{document} bits.

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Summer PHP Conferences

Conference season approaches and in May I'm on a trip to take in two of the most high-profile events in the PHP conference calendar: DPC in Amsterdam (19-21 May) and php|tek in Chicago (24-27 May). The two events have historically been a few weeks apart and I've always complained at having all the fun for the year in such a short space of time - but this year the events are literally back-to-back, there are a small number of speakers attending both and we're pretty much all on the same flight from Amsterdam to Chicago!

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Creating Presentations with LaTeX

This spring/summer, I'm giving quite a few talks at conferences, and I have a number of my own clients that I'm writing new training materials for. That's a lot of content in total and so, inspired by Dave's article about LaTeX and powerdot (and with some help from Dave himself!), I've started to write my own presentations this way too.

Getting started was a struggle, I've never really used anything like it before and if there's one thing LaTeX doesn't do well, it's error messages! The blog post I linked above has a sample presentation in it and I used that as my starting point. The source code goes in a file with a ".tex" suffix, e.g. presentation.tex. I then installed the texlive-latex-extra, latexmk, vim-latexsuite, latex-fonts-recommended and texlive-fonts-extra packages from aptitude, and generated a PDF by running:

latexmk -f -pdfps presentation.tex

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