PyCon2008 Experience

by Noah Gift

I arrived at PyCon 2008 on Thursday and attended the Eggs, Buildout, and Virtualenv tutorial given by Jeff Rush. It was quite good, and I would recommend going to any tutorial by Jeff Rush as I have been impressed by his ShowMeDo screencasts, and how thoroughly he prepares for his presentations. His slides for the tutorial are available at the wiki.

Next, I attended the Generator Tricks for Systems Programmers Tutorial by David Beazly. This was my favorite technical talk at PyCon and I learned quite a bit. It happens that his book on Python is one of my favorite all time python books, so it was great to learn from him in person. If you get a chance to do a training session with David, do it, it. You will get more than your money's worth.

Finally, I attended the web testing tutorial with Titus and Grig. I learned quite a bit about testing web applications, and I am glad I attended.

On Friday, I gave a talk on Creating Agile Unix Command Line Tools With Python, you can download the slides and source code for the presentation there, or at my personal site here. I was a bit surprised at the turnout for the talk, as the room was completely packed. The talk went pretty well, although it would have gone better, if I would have had network access to demonstrate discovering a subnet in a few seconds. I think the source code has some really cool stuff in it, so hopefully people download it and play with it.

I should add that my time leading up to and during PyCon 2008 was pretty crazy. The rough draft for the book I am working on with Jeremy Jones was due on Monday of PyCon, and then on Friday I had my talk. Finally, Brandon Craig Rhodes and I were working on an article on ZODB that we finished on Monday. It was a great lesson in managing stress to get all of this done, attend PyCon, and hang out with friends. Whew, glad this week is over though! I turns out that I have written 14 articles this year, in addition to writing a book, and having a full time job. What was I thinking!

The talks that I enjoyed the most were:

Supervisor: Chris McDonough and Mike Naberezny.

Supervisor is really an interesting tool, and I found out it was based on something Guido originally wrote, which makes it even cooler. I love it when people write tools that are immediately useful, and are simple to understand and use.

Managing Complexity: Matt Harrison

Managing Complexity was an educational talk that exposed me to several ideas that were packaged in a novel way. More than anything, I brought away from the talk that simplicity is the key to reliable software. While I personally enjoy solving the most complex problems I can find, I also highly value the simplest possible solution to a problem. I suppose we as software engineer's still need to learn that All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best".

Nose: Jason Pellerin

The Nose talk was a little hard to hear because Jason had a cold, but he had one of the best quotes when he was asked to compare py.test to nose. He said," py.test is a like a Belgian Ale, and nose is like bud light". I again am very interested in starting to use nose more than my brief experiments, because it is simple, and designed to be simple.

Testing OLPC: Titus Brown

Titus gave a very entertaining talk on testing OLPC, and came up with a cool XML-RPC testing harness that detected lines of code that were executed. Apparently he wrote this during PyCon, in some "spare time", when he wasn't getting free dinners from my book editor, Julie Steele :)

Due to my crazy schedule, I did miss a few talks that I really wanted to attend, but for some reason missed out on. One in particular was Using Grok To Walk Like a Duck by Brandon. My wife arrived on Saturday, and on a spur of the moment JJ convinced us to grab an authenticate Chicago sandwich. The sandwich was good, but we didn't make it back in time. Oh, well, I can always force Brandon to do this talk for PyAtl.

Random Thoughts

I had a wonderful time at PyCon this year, and would highly recommend it to anyone considering whether to go next year. Sure, there were a few things that could have been better, like not having to endure a guy in the room next door pulling a Fear and Loathing at PyCon Hotel. At one point, the "scented" smoke coming from next door was so bad, I wondered if there was somebody burning a campfire of dried hemp in their room. Not sure, why PyCon was the ideal spot to "hot box" a hotel room for a week, but whatever dude.

I also was a bit bummed about the wireless problems during tutorials and talks, but hopefully we can improve on this next year. Wireless is a tricky thing to get right, so I am sure everyone was doing their best.

I did not attend any of the Lightening talks this year, so I can't comment on whether they were good or bad. It turned out that every time there was a lightening talk, I met somebody interesting to talk to, and didn't get a chance to see them. I agree that half the fun of PyCon is meeting other people in the community, sharing ideas, and catching up.

A met quite a few interesting people including Eric Dahl, the CTO of Zenoss. Having used Zenoss, I will say it is a great product, and now having met Eric, I can say he is a very sharp guy. Zenoss has been doing some extremely innovative things with Python, and is a very good example of how Python can be used in the Enterprise. In addition, to having a great SNMP monitoring solution, Zenoss has also been doing some innovative work with Python, SAMBA, and WMI. If you don't currently use SNMP to monitor your network, or if you are curious about what a Python solution would look like, download a virtual machine, and let it discover your datacenter in a few minutes.

I also got to talk with Guido, who needs no introduction, Alex Martelli, Steve Holden, Ian Bicking, Jeff Rush, Kevin Dangoor, Ben Bangert, and many other people for the first time. Jeremy and I got to work with Jullie Steele, the editor for our book, and it was a pleasure to meet her in person for the first time. I think our book is in good hands.

Brian Dorsey the creator of Noon Hat was fun to hang out with and we chatted quite a bit. It is always cool to meet new friends. I also got to chat it up with Mike Orr a bit at breakfast on Tuesday morning, and that was a blast as well.

For the first part of the week, I got to hang out with Grig, Titus, and JJ, who I email quite a bit during the year, so that was also pretty cool to see them again after a year. Overall, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to catch up with everyone again next year.


The main thing I am going to take away from this PyCon is to embrace simplicity.


2008-03-19 06:57:13
Thank you for the review - it sounds like a good time, and there are lots of interesting links to follow. I find myself wondering what a "lightening" talk is - perhaps a weight loss pitch? I've heard of lightning talks, but this one sounds like it would be on Oprah, not PyCon.
2008-03-25 09:25:04