Eric Florenzano’s Blog

Talk Controversy, Django Community, Sprints, and People

Mar 21, 2008

PyCon 2008 has come to an end for me today, and while it was a highly different event for me this year than last year, it was more enoyable in many ways. During my flight today, I contemplated the previous week and my thoughts invariably came back to four main themes:

Formal Talks and the Controversy Surrounding Them

I was blissfully unaware of all of the controversy surrounding the conference this year until well after everyone else seemed to be. I disagree on many of the points that were brought up on the Python mailing list, but I can't help but think that a few of the points brought up there hit close to the truth.

Last year was my first PyCon, and every talk that I went to excited me, intrigued me, inspired me, and made me feel like Python was really something great. This year, I seemed to consistently pick the talk right next to the great talks--I could tell because of the laughing and cheering from the other side of the wall.

That's not to say that I didn't attend any great talks this year. The PyPy and IronPython/Silverlight talks were definitely highlights. Both projects are really thinking outside the box about traditional ways of doing things and are succeeding in implementing their crazy ideas that could never work. It's exactly that kind of conceptual evolutionary change that excites me to try new things myself, and anything that does that is a good thing.

The Django Community Thrives

Wow. The Django community is now huge. At last year's Django BoF, we were able to sit in a big circle and eat pizza and talk about Django, but this year there were way too many people for that to have been possible. The BoF was literally a mini-conference inside of PyCon this year.

It seems like everywhere I went, I'd run into somebody that I recognized from the Django community. There were even some crazy times where people actually recognized me! (Sometimes I forget that people actually read this blog.) Whenever there were Django people to be found, they were always grouped together and keeping each other company. I think that this is mostly a great thing, as long as it never turns into a reality distortion field.

No matter how you look at it, the rate of growth of the Django community, even when compared to the growth of the Python community, is staggering. At one point in Adrian Holovaty's "The State of Django" talk, he asked everyone to raise their hand if they were learning Python specifically through using Django. A large portion of the people in attendence raised their hands. How cool is that!?


Sprints dominated my time this year. Last year I got to stay for one portion of one sprint--simply not enough to really understand what sprinting is all about. This year, however, I got to sprint a lot! The first day, I smashed through about four patches and then started working on many-to-many intermediary model support. The merging of newforms-admin is really one big barrier for this patch right now, so I was basically forced to stop working on it.

Aside from those contributions to Django itself, however, about 5 of us (who, by the way ranged in previous experience in Django from almost none to branch committer) began working on a project for the community. Unfortunately we're not yet finished with the site (we're probably sitting at about 75% complete), so I can't publicly reveal it. Rest assured that I'll blog about the site itself once it's ready.

In all actuality, however, we didn't put our noses to the grindstone on this site. Sure we got a ton of work done on it in an extremely short amount of time, but we could have gotten more done. Instead of being code monkeys, though, we really ended up taking the time to just drink some beer, make fun of each other, and get to know one another. And that's really what it's all about.

It Always Boils Down to the People

This feels like it's becoming sort of a recurring theme to my blog, but it's something that I find to be true time and time again. If PyCon had been just the talks and coding by oneself, it would not have been very fun--it really boils down to this: it's the people who make life fun. People that challenge you, trust you, people who don't match up with your expectations of them, people who make you laugh, and people who you just can't figure out.

There's never a better place to find people who fit all of the above criteria than PyCon, and in this case we all share a common interest: Python. I found myself thinking at the end about some of my fellow sprinters that we had become quite good friends. I don't know why it happened, but in only a week we really seemed to get along.

Why do I love PyCon? Because you can get into debates about computational linguistics, walk 20 blocks with arms full of beer, stay up all night coding, and groove out to some really amazing live jazz, all in one week. That's why I love PyCon.

(Note: There are no links in this post since I wrote it on a plane and posted it in-between connecting flights in an airport.)

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