Thursday, April 24, 2014

PyCon 2014

I've now been back from PyCon for a week, and I've got some thoughts to share.


It was huge.

I usually try to memorize everyone's names, and I have some habits that help me with that. But there were so many people, I think that may have fallen apart. :)

A lot of hero worship, as I met, or at least observed from a distance, many people who helped shape my views on software (+Tres Seaver in particular).

Conversely, I managed to avoid running into those attending from my employers (I'm looking at you, +Kenneth Reitz, Sandy Walsh, and probably someone from RIM/BlackBerry).


All the promotion of the diversity was terrific. At the same time that it's great to be part of a movement that is markedly more female-friendly then the tech community at large, Jessica McKellar made it clear that we have so much farther to go. As the father of two girls, it's very important to me that we change the culture around technology to emphasize that there's no particular skillset or aptitude that's required for entry.

Software is our world, and we can empower EVERYONE to play a part in shaping it.

Content Overview

I enjoyed the talks that I went to, but I did skip more than I was intending to. I had trouble letting go of work, and there was a lot of content that was relatively beginner focused, or represented tutorials that I knew had high-quality online counterparts, should I need them. I feel like this was a deficiency of my own, and one I hope I handle better if I come back next year.

Meta programming

I've been flirting with creating my own language for a while now, and if I were to do so, it would probably be on top of Python. Thanks to talks by +Allison Kaptur and +Paul Tagliamonte, I feel much more prepared to do so.

Allison provided a brilliant guide to implementing the import mechanism from scratch. Having read +Brett Cannon's blog when he created importlib, I knew there was a huge amount of work that went into getting it right, so it was an intimidating area. Yet in 20 minutes Allison walked us through getting something functional.

Paul's talk on Hy was not quite so accessible, but perhaps even more inspiring. The relative ease with which Hy and Python can co-exist within the same project is just awesome, though mucking around with ASTs remains a bit of a scary idea.


While I was skipping talks, I consoled myself in the thought that I would really engage during the Sprints (I had a day and half scheduled for these). But I didn't, and while I think that had more to do with me (once again, I worked), I'll share what I think could have been done better, in case anyone else felt the same way.

Technically Sprints started Sunday evening, but I get the feeling that no one was actually interested in running them Sunday evening (or maybe my timing was off). There were a handful of people there, but no clear organization or plan about what was to be worked on.

Monday morning, it was certainly better attended, but it still wasn't inviting. There was a central chart of what rooms contained what projects, but within the rooms there was no indication of who was working on what. From my limited time being involved in or running other short coding sessions, I was also surprised not to see much use of flipcharts or whiteboards.

I guess how I would do it, if I ran it next year (I'm not volunteering, yet), is provide signs for each project to put at their table, and encourage each of them to write out a list of goals for the sprint in a place where it can be publicly examined and crossed off. Perhaps also provide special shirts/hats/badges to the "leader" of each sprint. The experience I would like is for someone to be able to wander in, examine what each project is doing without actually bothering anybody, and then if they find something they think could fit them, to know who to ask.


  • Ansible is what we're using at SFX, and while I've had some experience with it, I have a much more robust appreciation for it, thanks to +Michael DeHaan
  • Peep should be included in the standard library. Seriously.
  • Asyncio makes things most people do easier. Bravo!
  • iPython Notebook is cool, and +Catherine Devlins talk about executable documentation has me itching to try it out.


As someone who has been around the block but doesn't find much time to actually code anymore, I may not be the code audience for PyCon. But I'm still delighted to have finally made it to one, and I'm really tempted to make it a family trip next year.