February 25, 2009

Free Python Training

Free training worth $1,195? Yes, it's true, though naturally this offer isn't just for anyone. But if you want to learn Python for nothing and you are (or can be) close to Washington DC next week, this could be your chance.

I'd like to spread Python even further throughout the open source world, and Holden Web is running a three-day Introduction to Python class with open places next week (Tuesday March 3 to Thursday March 5). If you are a contributor to an existing open source project then please contact me to confirm your place.

That's it. The only requirement is that you must have already made public contributions to some open source project. My decision on who gets free places is final and I reserve the right to accept or refuse any application. The number of free places is limited. If you need accommodation that will be your responsibility. To thank you for your open source work Holden Web will even provide your course notes, and a free lunch each day of class.

Pythonistas: if there's anyone in the open source world you'd like to learn Python, please let them know about this possibly one-time-only offer.

If anyone would like to buy a place on the class, of course, we'll be happy to accommodate you there too! Just click the handy dandy buy now button on the courses page to get started!

February 24, 2009

How Marketing Sucks (pt. 117)

I came across this interesting (but sadly totally predictable) little snippet in a marketing blog (which, to be fair, did point out that this technique is appalling) today. Apparently Jenny lives in Brooklyn, NY.

But wait, there's more, she also lives in Pensacola, FL:

Make user geolocation possible and marketers will use it to add false appeal to advertising claims by pretending to have local consumers using their products. No wonder that marketers are held in such high esteem.

The web used to be a place of wonder. Now, sadly, much of it is about as interesting as commercial television. I wonder if a lobotomy would help (me, that is)?

Would You Buy Training on eBay?

We have spare places on next week's Introduction to Python class, and given that our costs are covered I am thinking of offering the remaining places with a fairly low reserve on eBay. Is this a good idea?

February 21, 2009

Last Day For PyCon Early Bird Pricing!

Remember that today (Saturday February 21) is the last day you can register for PyCon at early bird prices. Even at the full rates it's a bargain, but for sheer value the early bird pricing is perhaps the best value technical conference in North America.

So go do it now. Not only is PyCon excellent technically, the Python community is one of the most friendly and welcoming crowds around. Come and find out what all the fuss is about!

February 17, 2009

Sell the Sizzle, Not the Sausage

I was pushed into thinking about open source adoption by another thoughtful Seth Godin blog post today. Seth points out that decisions are not always made in the way we'd like to think they are. We know that open source makes sense, but people still refuse to adopt it for what we in the open source world tend to consider irrational reasons. But of course a) people aren't always rational, and b) even when they are, they have motivations we may be unaware of, or (more likely) paying insufficient attention to.

This brings up a point that's commonly known in the commercial sales world and almost completely ignored by the open source community. We focus way too much on the wonderful feature set of our "products", and nowhere near enough on the needs of our "customers". So when you visit python.org for your first introduction to the language, you learn
Python is a dynamic object-oriented programming language that can be used for many kinds of software development. It offers strong support for integration with other languages and tools, comes with extensive standard libraries, and can be learned in a few days. Many Python programmers report substantial productivity gains and feel the language encourages the development of higher quality, more maintainable code.
The potential adopter isn't bothered about the features of open source software, they need to know the benefits. In other words, what's in it for them? A first-cut rework might read
Python lets you get more programming done faster, and helps you integrate your systems more effectively. You can train your existing programmers to use Python and see almost immediate gains in productivity and lower expenditures on maintenance.
Now I don't claim to be a marketing professional, but even I can see that this addresses the problems of the user more directly than the current text. A lot of open source people see the word "marketing" and shriek because they perceive it as being intimately connected with the world of proprietary products and commercial licensing. Which it is, but it doesn't have to be. There's no reason at all why open source and free software shouldn't take a page from the proprietary book and start marketing itself more aggressively.

In fact I like that blurb so much it's going straight into the Holden Web Python training page! I just know that someone properly trained in marketing could do much, much better. If the goal is to get more people to adopt Python, what's wrong with using the best techniques from the proprietary world and bending them to our own ends?

February 15, 2009

Help Publicize PyCon

It's going to be difficult to get PyCon to exceed last year's numbers given the parlous state of the economy. One way you can help is to make yourself a part of its publicity campaign. The organizers have just come up with some great badges. Put them on your blog, use them in your email sigs, add them to your web sites, and most of all don't forget to actually link them to the PyCon site!

February 13, 2009

Impress Me ...

Dear Lazy Web:

I've created a presentation for PyCon and I want to publish it as a PDF. Open Office seems like the best bet (yes, I created in it PowerPoint, but I did have my reasons, honest).

Unfortunately I can't seem to find a way to get Impress to produce a PDF containing only the notes pages (each slide with its notes underneath); it insists on putting all the slides in before it starts on the notes pages. This is probably just some UI aspect that I am unfamiliar with and can't find. But it would be really nice to know how to do this.

So, PowerPoint slides to PDF, what's my best path without involving more proprietary software?


February 12, 2009

Seven Year Itch?

Today is the seventh anniversary of this blog. I don't know how many people were blogging back then, but there sure are a hell of a lot more now!

Gmail Labels Google Alerts as Spam

I wondered a while ago why I wasn't seeing my Google alerts, and discovered today that's because Gmail is throwing them away as spam. I don't remember ever doing anything that might have triggered such behavior. Left hand, meet right hand ...

Blogger UI Mistake?

From the Blogger help database here's a list of keyboard shortcuts:
  • control + b = Bold
  • control + i = Italic
  • control + l = Blockquote (when in HTML-mode only)
  • control + z = Undo
  • control + y = Redo
  • control + shift + a = Link
  • control + shift + p = Preview
  • control + d = Save as Draft
  • control + p = Publish Post
  • control + s = Autosave and keep editing
  • control + g = Indic transliteration
I can't help feeling that it might be a mistake for the two entries I have marked in red to be so close. Especially when there's no "unpublish" button ...

PyCon Open Space Session Idea

I just saw Mark Cuban's Open Source Funding blog post (as many interesting ideas do, this one came my way via Seth Godin). If anyone in the Python world is looking to fund new ideas then this might be worth looking at, given that they will already have a predisposition to open source anyway. So here's an idea for a PyCon session.

Get together in an Open Space room with a few like-minded individuals and see if you can't come up with a plan for a real cash-generating business that Cuban would fund. As far as I can see from the first 684 responses there's still a lot of room for real business plans. If you need cash this would be a good way to get it, and who knows - you might find a way of getting the business off the ground without cash, thereby avoiding the need to hand over a chunk of your equity!

If you are looking for a way to start a new business it's hard to think of a better pool of Python talent than the one that congregates at PyCon every year. As far as ideas goes, PyCon might also be a good place to collect those. Most of these aren't computer-related, but here's a list of 999 business ideas that anyone could consider. Why shouldn't the Python world have a similar list?

February 9, 2009

PSF Policy Neither Stickist nor Hattist

While I could not go so far as to say that some of my best friends are hat-wearing stick-people, I would like to vociferously reject any suggestion that the Python Software Foundation is in any way stickist or hattist. The recent PyCon blog entry was not approved in advance by the PSF Board, and can in no way be said to represent the views of anyone but the PyCon organizers.

If I had my way these people would end up talking to the PSU before

Do Not Visit xkcd

In a not-usually-required follow-up post to my original note [translation: "somebody appears to have read one of my posts"] I have to express in the strongest terms my support of the PyCon organizers' policy vis a vis Randall Munroe and urge both my readers to under no circumstances visit the primary source of this poison at xkcd.org. Some of the material there is such that no sensible person would ever consider publishing a link to it, let alone two.

Some of this material is of an adult nature. You have been warned.

Randall Munroe Banned from PyCon

Wow, this will get tongues wagging! As PSF chair I hardly know what to make of this.

February 5, 2009

Teach Me Web Testing

Thanks to Grig Gheorghiu for agreeing to involve the web testing community in my up-coming Open Space Teach Me Web Testing session at PyCon in March. Thanks also to Doug Napoleone, who has done his usual excellent job on the PyCon web site and has harnessed a bit of Google technology to provide a web page that allows you to add topics to a list and to vote those topics up and down. The session will attempt to address the user-provided and -prioritized issues in more or less the order they eventually end up on that list.

This session is inspired by last year's Teach Me Twisted, where the Twisted community generously came along and tried to educate me about their excellent asynchronous networking software.

I have no idea how this year's session could be as much fun as last year's, but I am going to do my best to enjoy it even though it's rather intimidating facing a room with no real plan as to how the session is going to proceed (except for the knowledge that one's ignorance will be the focus of the event). Just the same I hope everyone with an interest in web testing will come along, have a little fun and hopefully learn something too.

February 3, 2009

On the Take?

While we're at it, what about politicians like Tom Daschle, who now says he's "deeply embarrassed and disappointed" about his failure to pay more than $120,000 in taxes. Seems to me that being a senator should be a full-time job or, if not actually full-time, it should keep you busy enough to preclude your earning $5.2 million advising people in the industries the government is supposed to be regulating. [UPDATE: Daschle earned this money after standing down as a senator].

I believe Daschle is Obama's poorest pick yet, and this choice of nomination for the head of Health and Human Services seriously threatens to undermine Obama's credibility. Even ignoring the fact that the guy might (or might not) be a tax cheat ("What, you want me to join the cabinet? Damn, I'd better undo a few lies") Daschle owes the health services industry a lot, and he's unlikely to turn and bite the hand that's fed him once he joins the cabinet.

So think again, President Obama and the Senate Finance Committee. This is one nomination that shouldn't be confirmed. Let Senator Daschle retire on his nest-egg and let's see whether we can't actually give the Office of Government Ethics some teeth. Or maybe $5.2 million isn't enough ...

Jobs for Life?

One question I have to ask about the financial world. The largest financial organization in the world have clearly been managed by people who have failed to take to heart the lessons of Fooled by Randomness. In fact they don't even seem to be aware that the past does not always allow you to predict the future, except when their undertakings need billions of dollars and suddenly become "too big to fail".

So how come these people are still in their jobs? I think we can do without the Gordon Gekkos in Wall Street and the City, thank you very much. If they won't do the work without being paid huge bonuses perhaps it's time to look for people who know what "enough"means.

There's been a suggestion that nobody in one of the banks that the US government has recently invested heavily in should earn more than the US President ($400,000 when Bush was in office). I think that's a great idea. If the fat cats won't take a pay cut, let them find better-paid work elsewhere.