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reflections on PyCon 2010

by David Glick posted Feb 23, 2010 05:50 PM
I just got back from the US PyCon 2010, my first Python Conference, where I had a blast. The conference felt to me a lot like Plone conferences in spirit, only with a greater diversity of software projects and of course more people (a record attendance of ~1100). It was held at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta and was a great success logistically. One success in the organization of the conference was the push to get more women to attend, which resulted in 11% female attendees, an increase over previous years which I hope will continue as a trend.

Some highlights of the talks I attended were:

  • "Building Leafy Chat, DjangoDose, and Hurricane: Lessons Learned on the Real-Time Web with Python" by Alex Gaynor – Introduced me to Orbited, Twisted, Redis, and other tools for building scalable, interactive websites.
  • "Managing the world's oldest Django project" by James Bennett – I found myself drawing parallels between the evolution of Django and Ellington that James presented and that of Zope and Plone. The Django community is learning the same lessons about testing and reusability that we have.
  • "What every developer should know about database scalability" by Jonathan Ellis – good general overview of different strategies for replication and caching (focused on concepts rather than any particular software)
  • "Powerful Pythonic Patterns" by Alex Martelli – philosophizing on software patterns and anti-patterns in the Python context
  • "Demystifying Non-Blocking and Asynchronous I/O" by Peter A Portante – very helpful beginner-level overview
  • "Unladed Swallow: fewer coconuts, faster Python" by Collin Winter – an update on the state of Unladen Swallow, which was approved for being merged into CPython during the language summit just before PyCon
  • "Pynie: Python 3 on Parrot" by Allison Randal – This one was for fun...I might keep an eye on Pynie just to see how a language actually gets implemented.
  • "How Python is guiding infrastructure construction in Africa" by Roy Hyunjin Han – Covered the use of Python for recognizing buildings in satellite imagery to help with planning development, etc.
  • "Why not run all your tests all the time? A Study of continuous integration systems" by C. Titus Brown – Bottom line: "Use Hudson."
  • the infamous Testing in Python BoF, which was a 3-hour lightning talk session organized one evening by the folks from Disney, complete with pizza, beer, heckling, and goats (the goat meme was introduced by Terry Peppers as an alternative to lolcats in slides, and ended up being adopted as a testing mascot).
  • "Tests and Testability" by Ned Batchelder – Not a lot new here for me, but a good overview by the creator of

Selecting which talk to go to was sometimes excruciating, and I'm looking forward to catching up with some of the ones I missed. Some of the ones I've heard recommended are:

  • "Deployment, development, packaging, and a little bit of the cloud" by Ian Bicking
  • "The state of Packaging" by Tarek Ziadé
  • "Scaling your Python application on EC2" by Jeremy Edberg – learnings from reddit
  • "Dude, Where's My Database?" by Eric Florenzano
  • "Understanding the Python GIL" by David Beazley – the hot topic of the conference
  • "The Python and the Elephant: Large Scale Natural Language Processing with NLTK and Dumbo" by Nitin Madnani and Jimmly L. Lin

Videos of the talks are, amazingly, already becoming available. Kudos to the A/V team.

On Sunday my attention waned and I got a bit mischievous. The Eldarion guys, who created Type War, set up OHWar, a type war clone where you compete to correctly guess who said various quotes that were overheard at PyCon. After playing for far too long and still failing to stay in first place for long, I decided it was a job for Python and created an OHWar-playing bot. I left it running in screen and came back a few hours later to find that I had not only topped the leaderboard but also hit the game's built-in score limit. :) This was also the evening that David Brenneman and I found the Django Pony unattended and added some "enhancements." ;)

Django pony with Plone stickers

Zope and Plone were not very visible in the conference schedule (there was one talk on Plone GetPaid and Satchmo, one on using Plone with Salesforce in which I contributed a few minutes of technical material to go with Chris Johnson's high-level overview, and one on the interface/adapter well as a couple relating to repoze.bfg which has a Zopish ancestry). On the other hand, I believe Plone was, surprisingly, the only open source project with a booth in the exhibition hall. We had a nice-looking display with the Plone banner that continues to be passed around to US events, a bunch of collateral and books for display, and a big monitor for demoing Plone 4. Various people took turns staffing the booth, including members of the Atlanta Plone group, and Chris Calloway for much of Saturday. The Plone Foundation also subsidized World Plone Day T-shirts which a bunch of us wore on Saturday. We gathered for a photo and ended up with around 30 people.

Plone folks at PyCon

During the conference, a highlight for me was meeting and eating meals with various luminaries, including Jason Huggins (of Selenium fame), Holger Krekel (founder of PyPy), Wesley Chun (author of Core Python Programming) and even Guido himself (well, way down at the other end of the table). I also got to interact briefly with Allison Randal (from the Perl community), while trying out and submitting a new test for pynie, a nascent Python implementation for the Parrot VM. I also now have a face to put with many additional names that I had only seen online before.

I was only able to join the sprints for one day, and mostly spent my time working on some miscellaneous tasks I hadn't been getting too. However we were able to have a good meeting of GetPaid folks, to try to determine how to move forward with Brandon Rhodes' work to clean up payment processor configuration. I also did some refactoring of the GetPaid development buildout to clean it up, make sure it still works, and pave the way for updating the product for compatibility with Plone 4. If I had been able to stay longer, I think it would have been fun to participate in the great work being done in the Python packaging sprint, led by Tarek Ziadé and the Packaging Pig. Next year I will have to be sure to attend the entire sprint.

Elizabeth Leddy says:
Feb 24, 2010 10:02 AM
glad you could finally give that pony the corrective lenses it needed :)