The Eighth Annual Python Conference: Day One
The Python Conference began today, in Arlington, VA, just across the border
from Washington, D.C. A freak snowstorm preceded the beginning of the
conference by a few hours, but it had no effect on the 200 or so of us,
bundled up together in toasty conference rooms.
This is my third Python Conference. At the first one, a loyal 70 or so Python
loyalists debated potential new features of the language. At the second, 120
or so Python programmers split their time between a review of language
features and the discussion of interesting Python applications.
At this conference, the third, we moved onto a completely different level.
Presentations and demonstrations at this conference of nearly 250 attendees
have covered applications built on Python. Companies are demonstrating their
Python-based products. There is venture capital here. There are people here
because they want to learn about Python. This year, mark my words: Python
is here to stay.
The big story of the first day is
Zope, the Z Object
Publishing Environment. This product, from
has its own track at the conference.
The founders of Digital Creations have been Python afficianados for a long
time, so some people, like me, thought it was nice, or supportive, or loyal,
of the conference planners to give Zope its own track. Not for the first
time, I was wrong.
Zope's conference room has been overflowing: more than 80 people at one of
the sessions I attended. Interest in Zope since it became Open Source has
been soaring. Jon Udell, one of the speakers (and author of the admirable
Groupware, noted that some consider Zope the Open Source alternative,
the only alternative, to Lotus Domino.
Zope is important to Python because it is a robust, important application
built entirely on Python. Users are ready to do the kind of collaborative,
web-based publishing that Zope makes possible, and when they do, they are
using Python. Paul Everitt, the CEO of Digital Creations, asked the attendees
of one session how many of them first used Python through Zope. Almost half
of the room raised their hands. Zope may be the breakthrough application that
leads people to learn Python.
A few years ago, there were two Python books:
by Mark Lutz (from O'Reilly) and Internet Programming with Python, by
Aaron Waters, James Ahlstrom, and Guido van Rossum (which is now out of print).
Last year, O'Reilly published the
Reference by Mark Lutz and
by Mark Lutz and David Ascher.
Reiter's Scientific &
Professional Books, the official bookstore of the conference, lugged
boxes of Python titles through the snow to Northern Virginia. There were
books from many publishers other than O'Reilly: Manning, New Riders, Prima,
and Prentice-Hall. The star of the table, however, the one that sold out
20 copies before lunch was over, was O'Reilly's
on Win32 Platforms, by Mark Hammond and Andy Robinson. (Fairness
forces me to note that David Beazley's
Python: the Essential Reference, from New Riders,
was also highly sought.) Python titles grew from three to nine in less than
Jon Udell on Collaborative Web-Based Software
late of Byte,
described his vision of distributed, collaborative computing, and he said
that Zope, while not perfect, is as close to his model as any software. Jon
believes that three elements create the environment for the development of
These are the elements that Zope relies on.
- A network services architecture
- Document interfaces that allow people to interact with those network
- Datastores that underlie the network services.
Jon believes that XML will be the centerpiece of this development environment
and urged the Zope team to move quickly to XML (from HTML).
I won't go into any more detail about Jon's talk, as I'm sure it will soon
be available at the Python site, and probably at the O'Reilly site as well.
Eric Raymond: the Magic Cauldron
Eric Raymond, author of O'Reilly's
The Cathedral and the
Bazaar, delivered the keynote address, a variant of his essay
The Magic Cauldron, a version of which appears in his book
and on the Web). The address contrasted the "use value" of
software with the "sale value" of that software. His conclusion is that
proprietary software can't support the long-term costs and unmeasurable risks
of product support.
Unlike most keynotes, Eric's was interactive; the audience, many of whom were
familiar with Eric's ideas, argued and questioned. One perceptive question
led the unflappable Eric to admit that he had to spend some time understanding
the discounting of the future value of money. He suggested that he might
talk to an actuary, but one attendee remarked, "Microsoft Excel can do it for
you." A wise guy.
The demonstration projects this year were interesting. Several were built
on Zope, making them applications of a Python application.
World Pilot is a
Web-based organizer and messenger "powered by Zope".
again at the conference with their PythonWorks suite of tools for Python
My favorite demo, though, was Paul Prescod's conversion program. Many of you
will recognize Paul as an XML authority and supporter. It irks him when
conferences require him to deliver his slides in PowerPoint, an
appearance-heavy presentation product that is anathema to semantic-loving
XML experts like Paul. Paul built, and demonstrated, a conversion program
that allows him to put together his presentations in XML and then use Python
and COM to convert it to PowerPoint. "I'll deliver my talks in PowerPoint,
but I won't use it," Paul bragged.
Read about Day Two and
Day Three--Developer's Day.
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