Since I have to do a trip report anyway...
It was cheap, I increased my knowledge, people were friendly and helpful, I got to observe a celeb or three. The imperfections in the conference and my approach to it were mostly minor.
It was really cheap. $85 for three days of seminars with lunch, coffee and afternoon cookies. The hotel was $65 per night with a little fridge, a microwave, a swimming pool, a hot tub, free breakfast, free wireless access (bring your own NIC) and as many people as we could fit in the room. (we did 4)
A clever co-worker raises the possibility that I might have learned more by locking myself in a room for 4 days with the camel. However, it is nice to be able to ask questions of a person. I've read through the camel a few times. I did not know there was a difference between \1 and $1 inside a regular expression, before dropping in on Abigail's excellent session.
I also learned a few tricks about conferences in general. I didn't miss a goodie bag or even pre-printed notes for the presentations. The listserv had some useful info, did a good job of getting people friendly before the conference started and (once I started diverting it to its own folder) wasn't too distracting. The lightning talks were great and a great novelty. Many people got a lot of useful info into 6 minutes.
Probably the most useful thing I learned was that it takes merlyn about 35 hours of instruction to cover the material in Learning Perl about 24 hours to cover the material in Learning Perl Objects, References & Modules and that it takes him about a day to prepare an hour of instruction. I won't be doing a free course for our volunteers this summer, but at least I have an idea of how long it takes to get people a little proficient with Perl
I was surprised at how friendly folks were. The whole thing felt a lot more like a fan con than Comdex There wasn't a breakfast where I didn't have a decent conversation with a new person. I've been to less friendly conferences run by organizations with the word community in their name.
My big beef was that many of the presenters had bad unreadable slides with huge indigestible chunks of info. Your average bat has better vision than me but if I have 20/70 vision and can't see stuff when I'm sitting on the floor 4 feet away from the screen the odds are good that folks with normal vision won't see the slides in the back of a the room, You'd think if somebody had been presenting for decades, they might take a trip to the back of the room to check if their slides were readable.
My personal regret was that I didn't spend any time on the Kwiki before tonight.