March 13, 2008

PyCon: Plus ça Change ... *

As is my habit when I am teaching, I arrived in plenty of time (midday today), thinking I would probably be able to help with something or other. Turns out only Drew Moore got here before me (arriving on Tuesday, a luxury I did not have given that I am spending two days at the sprints once PyCon is over).

By 2 pm David Goodger, the chairman, and Doug Napoleone (who has done such sterling work on the PyCon-tech software that pretty much runs the whole deal) had arrived, so we shot the breeze over a few beers and I discovered that the kiloPythonista was a reality—awesome! The organizers (among whom I am no longer counted, except possibly in an emeritus sense) have done a truly magnificent job putting this deal together, and are to be congratulated.

In any gathering of 1,000 people there will be glitches. There are already rumblings about parking (though you can park for $6 a day within a few blocks if you still have the use of your legs). Another issue is that the hotel has apparently realized (after the deal was mentioned on the web) that they might be well advised not to let people to join Priority Club and get complimentary Internet service in their rooms, given that they are trying to share two T-1s among all the hotel guests. Which is pretty ironic, given that PyCon is giving away access to a 45 Mbps pipe downstairs all week. Perhaps we should offer to let them try our bandwidth after we've gone (the minimum term was a month), and see how their customers like free access to a fat pipe. Fat chance, I suspect, since the hotel is a conventional business and not really yet in touch with the long tail.

This conference is going to be huge, in every sense of the word. I have already met several people who are attending their first PyCon, and a large number of old hands who realize that there's a lot of fun to be had just meeting up with people you haven't seen since last year and finding out what they've been up to. As I said to's Evelyn Mitchell in the bar last night, coming to PyCon is a bit like coming home.

Some people are wondering whether this increase in size is somehow going to spoil PyCon, and make it less than it has been in the past. I don't believe we need to worry. Despite Guido's rather pedestrian view of the Python community (expressed in an interview I did with him to be published in the conference edition of Python Magazine), I believe it is special. It's special because it collectively works to be different, and welcoming to newcomers (which is essential if the community is to thrive and grow—without that, PyCon would not be the special event that it is), and outgoing, and engaging. As geek communities go, Pythonistas are actually pretty extrovert.

Anyway, it's late and I need to get my beauty sleep, but I just want to record my goals for this year's PyCon. First, I want to forge new relationships on a business and personal level, and reinforce old ones. Secondly I want to ensure that the Python community as a whole knows about Holden Web's Python classes (which are currently being rather ineptly advertised), and understands that we are open for business. Then I want to learn some great new things (including, I hope, how to use Twisted), to teach fifty newcomers the delights of Python, to scope out the PyCon-Tech software with a view to refactoring and migration to the Django trunk, and make a start on a SQL Server back end for Django. Oh, and I am also looking for ideas for more Random Hits articles for Python Magazine too.

Large ambitions, but it's a large conference this year. As Chris McAvoy, whose enthusiasm is largely responsible for bringing PyCon to Chicago, has just written in his blog, hooray for PyCon!

* "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" — "the more it changes, the more it's the same thing", usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same" (Jean-Baptiste Aphonse Karr, Les Guêpes, January 1849)

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