March 30, 2009

PyCon Proves Its Worth

Here's a great quote from Catherine Devlin's blog post Five Minutes at PyCon Changes Everything reporting the unexpected recruitment of a high-powered development team after giving a lightning talk:
If I'd had $1 million of startup funding to hire a staff to work on sqlpython, I couldn't have gotten a team that large or that talented. I figure that gives me better than a 1000-to-1 return on my PyCon investment. :)
It's also been extremely gratifying to discover that the dip in numbers (initial assessment says we were maybe 10% down on 2009) represents an amazing result. Apparently many conferences have seen attendance at 50% of last year's numbers, and some have simply canceled because the cancellation fees were a smaller that their expected loss.

This really vindicates the low-cost community-based approach that PyCon has always used. Several people told me that they booked to attend the conference without knowing whether they could get company approval, because they knew the conference was great value and they could afford to attend on their own dime. PyCon is a very special conference indeed, and the Python community makes remarkable things happen there every year.

PyCon 2010: Hyatt Regency Atlanta

I would like to thank everybody who came to this year's conference. In discussions with the banqueting and other staff it's become clear that as far as conferences go PyCon is a delight to cater for! We aren't too demanding, we don't mess the place up too badly and we have brought a large chunk of much-needed business to the local hotel industry.

With that said, and before the sprints are more than just starting, I thought I would try to whet your appetite for next year's conference, which will be at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. In October of last year I added an extra day to the beginning of a business trip to Atlanta to meet Ewa Jadlowska of CTE (the conference organizers who help the PyCon organizers to organize) in Atlanta and inspect four possible venues. I sent in a report to David Goodger, and CTE continued to negotiate with the venues. Ultimately the Hyatt bid was successful, and so I thought these snapshots I took at the time of my visit might be of interest to those who like to see where they are going in advance.

The 22-story lobby greets you at ground level and draws you in. The general flavor is somewhat similar to that in the Hyatt Regency O'Hare we just occupied, but the extra height and larger area makes it even more impressive, though the elevators don't have fancy colored lights underneath them. The view of this space from about halfway up gives you an impression of its size.

There's a purpose-built registration office that should come in useful, and the audio-visual guys will be interested to hear that the main ballroom area has a balcony (from whence I shot this picture) for their use so that they can view the session without intruding on it. The height of the ballroom leaves nobody feeling claustrophobic.

The room I stayed in (which might have been rather up-market because I wasn't a secret shopper and they wanted to impress me) was large, clean and comfortable. Rather than show that I photographed a regular room, which is likely to give you a better idea of how comfortable you will be.

All in all I think PyCon will have a great time in Atlanta, and I am already looking forward to it. See you there?

March 28, 2009

PyCon 2009 Day 1

Way too much stuff going on to fully describe it. I should already be in bed, as tomorrow I want to be up early enough to see Jesse Noller's lightning talk: he had me do some graphics for him (so for Heaven's sake don't expect anything classy - we haz gimp but do not really know how to use it :)

Finally got to read Kirby Urner's instantaneous blog of my tutorial session yesterday. Great verisimilitude, lends an authentic flavor to his description.

PSF Members' meeting at lunchtime gave very good results: all members and sponsor members elected/ratified, board now expanded to 10, new bylaws adopted (thanks, Stephan Deibel) and motion to discard logo trademark protection defeated.

My presentation The State of the Python Community: Leading the Python Tribe took too long to present as I didn't have time to shorten the slide presentation, so I only had ten minutes to exchange ideas, but discussions afterwards made it obvious that some people with valuable information are intimidated by the level of research and/or determination it takes to get through to someone who can update the web site. Also there is a lot of enthusiasm to help the PSF. Apparently Jacob Kaplan-Moss is at least toying with the idea of stepping up to help the PSF volunteer web team. That would rock.

Brief hiatus followed by a short Board meeting. I am chairman for another year, and we decided on a couple of Python Community Awards. I was stunned (in the most pleasant way) to be able to view a recording of my session in the Green Room two hours after I had started presenting it! Way to go, audio-visual guys. When this stuff hits the met it will make tech news. They really *are* good.

On to dinner with my Board colleagues plus Allison Randal of the Parrot Foundation, Liew Beng Keat from the Singapore user group and Luciano Ramahlo of Brazil. The Board's only chance to socialize through the face, so an important occasion even if the table was a little long and narrow to allow round-table communication.

Then back to the hotel for a quick drink, a look at today's tweets and a bout of email responding before finally capsizing into bed after finishing this post. Always busy at PyCon. Time flies when you are enjoying yourself. More tomorrow ...

March 27, 2009

Chairman's Challenge for PyCon Delegates

I was originally hoping to offer an enormous prize for the best delegate video of PyCon, so I could put it up on, (sorry about the currently-parked domain status - I am at a conference!) but I didn't get my stuff together despite good advice from Leslie Hawthorn. The better the advice the worse it's wasted, I guess. Sorry, Leslie.

Anyway, absent any clear probability of video appearing (and if video does appear then I will judge it and award a prize) I have decided to issue a challenge to those delegates with electronics knowledge and a practical bent. I have brought to the conference a (working) Arduino duemilanove board, an assembled but untested motor driver board, a prototyping breadboard, two power supplies, a butane powered soldering iron with solder and a shitload of electronic components.

I will award whichever delegate who (in my sole opinion) produces the best gadget by noon on Sunday a gift certificate for Elegant Stitches, the vendor who produces wearable Python regalia.

The first person to find me or the stash of components should find a corner of an Open Space room somewhere that can be used by anyone wishing to take up the challenge. Extra points for proving the motor driver board as either good or bad (but convincing evidence will be required).

Delegates working in teams will be given extra credit and will receive more generous consideration in the event of a win. Entries to me in person or via the registration desk team.

Even if you don't want to seek a prize, feel free to play with the bits and pieces if you have any electronics knowledge. The Arduino is an interesting little device, and it would be great to have Python support for it.

PyCon Tutorial Slides

My PyCon tutorial attendance was closed at 60 students, but there were a few spare seats still due to dropouts and such. Next year some way of allowing wait-listed students the flexibility of a last-minute change would be a small improvement.

Extremely happy that this is the most negative thing I can imagine saying about the way Greg Lindstrom and his team ran the tutorials. As a presenter I have nothing but praise for the way the organization supported me: all I had to do was follow the line of least resistance. That always makes it easy for a presenter.

Please post any questions or corrections about the slides as comments.

Thanks to everyone who supported PyCon by coming to the tutorial. What should I do next year (when I think I will limit myself to one)?

March 19, 2009

Sun Microsystems in Play

For a couple of days now Sun's stock has been the subject of speculation due to IBM's wish to acquire the company. Strangely enough the company would have been worth more a month ago, since IBM's interest is unlikely to be in Sun's hardware range (which IBM would be well advised to spin off as no longer a part of their core competency).

No. IBM's interest in Sun is its software, which in turn means its people. So the price would have been higher before Sun's recent round of layoffs. If the deal goes ahead it's an unfortunate fact that many remaining Sun employees will lose their jobs because there will be duplication of administrative functions. I doubt, though, that many of those with higher-level technical skills will find themselves redundant, as they are the basis of the $7bn valuation of Sun.

I should have bought Sun stock at $4 a year ago (but didn't, for reasons I won't bother to go into here). But I think even at $8 I'll manage to make a modest profit on them.

March 18, 2009

PyCon Web Registration Closes Today

If you are planning to register for PyCon before you arrive at the venue, save yourself some money and do it on the web before web registration closes.

March 14, 2009

New Training Policy

OK, from now on every public Holden Web Python class is going to have at least two free places available for open source programmers. We are running a quarterly schedule right now. The next Introduction to Python class runs on yet-to-be-announced dates in September: the June class was canceled due to bereavement.

If you know someone who might benefit, please ask them to contact me to get themselves on the waiting list.

March 12, 2009

United Gets Lost Luggage Right

Earlier this week I flew back to Washington Dulles from Memphis via Chicago. Familiar story: short change, airplanes right next to each other, luggage transferred via central routing came on a later 'plane. The courteous assistant looked up my baggage details and led me to an entry terminal. He asked me to select the "OK to deliver by overnight service", which I did.

9:30 I get a call asking if it's OK to leave it tonight. I say "sure" and attach a signed note to the door asking the delivery service to leave the bag on the stoop.

Next morning I wake up and the bag is on the stoop. I've complained in the past when they've got it wrong.

So, this time, United, well done.

March 11, 2009

Lest We Doubt ...

You know your software is popular when people send you bacon in the mail. Jacob Kaplan Moss of the Django team certainly knew, because the people from built a web business and said they "couldn't have done it without Django" in a note to Jacob ... with bacon enclosed.

Jacob captioned the image on Flickr "Do you have any idea how awesome it is receiving unsolicited bacon in the mail!?", which certainly winds up top of my list of questions most likely to receive the answer 'No'. He tweeted:
jacobian [...]! Just got BACON IN THE MAIL from the amazing people at!
So, through those long dark nights as you try to stay awake long enough to compile your extension module, instead of wondering why you work on open source softwar, comfort yourself with the thought that someone may, one day, send ... bacon.

March 10, 2009

Microsoft Shoots Self in Foot in Iceland

Since Holden Web has a modest interest in the Icelandic economy it's nice to see a major competitor's decision to unleash their draconian rapacious capitalist instincts has met with a swift kick in the gonads by way of a prompt reply.

Making design decisions about Icelandic markets in Redmond is like making design decisions about Europe in Detroit, say. Now major resellers in Iceland are realizing that the local market trusts them far more than Microsoft to say what's best for the Icelandic markets. And why wouldn't it? Unsurprisingly the vendors now prefer open source, so more revenue stays in Iceland.

Hey, Icelandic guys, welcome to the open source community. What's more you an train a generation of open source programmers who understand Icelandic. This could even help the long-term survival of the Icelandic language itself.

Congrats to Simon Willison

Simon tweeted recently to announce that the launch of the Guardian Open Platform appeared to have gone well. Clearly this is a newspaper management that "gets it", and the service looks fascinating from a technical point of view.

I am hoping to find out how easily information services can be built on this content.

The Guardian is one of the things I miss from back home. During my time back in Scotland it became a real pleasure to drop in at the newsagents near the station for a copy of The Guardian. So now I can at least get the content.

Congratulations, Simon! I am really looking forward to hearing about this development project at PyCon in a couple of weeks. Or at EuroPython later this summer

The Guardian Goes Open

So, some newspapers do appear to "get" the open source phenomenon. I linked recently to Washington Port open source software and now in the UK a national daily newspaper has opened access to its content. Hooray for the Guardian! Though I think you'll find if you look at the top left that they have made a typographical error in their masthead

Nice to see a Python application advertising on the Open Platform site. [Edited after correction from Simon Willison] Of course the Open Platform application is in Java/Spring. The client-side application, however, is in Python. So that gives anyone who already knows Python (say, the growing army of Google App Engine programmers) a head start.

Get to it, Python tribe!

March 8, 2009

Python Success Story Graphics Wanted

Andrew Kuchling points out today that he has a patch ready for testig that would allow us to see different Python success stories (typically but not necessarily links to stories featured in the success stories). The idea appears to be to supplant the space walker with other images from the righ and varied world of Python applications.

The format is 240 x 90 pixels, so look over the success stories and see what you can concoct. Below are three that I did with simple screenshot techniques using SnagIt (tm).

Can you do as well, or better? This could brighten up the home page a bit ...

March 5, 2009

Been Busy Lately

Amused to notice just now I am 2740 messages behind on django-users. That list is a firehose!