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Showing posts from April, 2008

PyOhio

PyOhio, the first annual Python programming miniconference for Ohio and surrounding areas, will take place Saturday, July 26, in Columbus, OH.

The conference is free of charge. It will include scheduled talks, Lightning Talks, and unconference-style Open Spaces.

To get more information or to volunteer, see http://pyohio.org. See http://wiki.python.org/moin/PyOhio/CallForProposals for information on proposing a talk.

PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report, Part 22: Conclusion

I hope there are a few people still reading! There was a lot to talk about in an 8-day, 1000-plus-attendee, volunteer-run conference like PyCon 2008.
Organizing a conference of this scale is a lot of work, much more than any one person could do. I didn't mention everyone who helped out... but you know who you are. To all the speakers, sprinters, attendees, sponsors, organizers, and volunteers:
Thank you!
I had a blast chairing this year's PyCon, and I hope that next year's conference is even better.
To me, PyCon is no longer primarily about the talks, or the projects, or the code. (I hardly got to see any talks this year, my projects are on hold, and I haven't written much non-work code lately…)
Don't get me wrong -- talks, projects, and code are important, especially to new attendees. These aspects used to be the most important parts of PyCon to me too. The talks and projects are what allow us to have a conference at all; they're the framework everything else…

Part 21: 2009 & 2010 (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

PyCon 2009
PyCon 2009 will take place in Chicago again. This year's venue was near capacity; we're currently exploring options that will allow PyCon 2009 to have more elbow room and even grow. Stay tuned for more.
This report has discussed mistakes that were made this year, which we will not repeat next year. If you have ideas or opinions that haven't been covered, please reply in the comments, email me (goodger at python dot org), or better yet, join the mailing list!
I will chair PyCon again in 2009. But while I intend to stay involved beyond that, I do not intend to chair PyCon 2010. Changes of leadership bring fresh ideas and perspectives, which is a good thing. We'll be looking for a "chairperson-in-training"; let me know if you're interested.
PyCon 2010
Very shortly we'll be deciding the venue for PyCon 2010: the deadline for bids is May 1, 2008. An earlier blog entry describes the process, which is much simpler than in previous years.
We won…

Part 20: Future Growth (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

PyCon has shown impressive growth. As PyCon continues to grow, we'll continue to outgrow venues. At some point growth will plateau, and eventually we may even see declines, but for the near future growth seems to be on the menu. (I'm not expecting PyCon 2009 to grow another 77%; but who knows?) Keeping the community/volunteer nature of PyCon as it grows will be a challenge.
We have to decide which direction to take. I see several options:
Cap attendance. We had about 1040 people at PyCon 2008, and the venue has a hard limit of about 1200 people.
Hopefully we won't need to take this drastic a measure. We'll do everything we can to avoid it.Raise rates to limit attendance. This would mostly affect the attendance of hobbyists, independent consultants, developers at startups & small businesses, and students. One way to counter that would be to offer discounts or financial aid, but that entails a lot of additional work (I know, having handled financial aid last year…

Part 19: Organizing PyCon (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

PyCon is organized and run by volunteers. How?
The PyCon organizers are a self-selecting group. You can't make people volunteer, or make them do things they don't want to do once they have volunteered. All you can do is ask for help, and encourage people to take full ownership of their area. As the "leader" of the PyCon organizers, I was less a manager and more a cheerleader and a watcher of the "big picture". The people who helped to organize and run PyCon were doing what they chose to do, what they wanted to do. That alone provides plenty of motivation.
Boiled down to the essence, the PyCon organizers all wanted a great conference, and they did whatever needed to be done to achieve that.
However, we all have day jobs and lives, and some things fell through the cracks. PyCon 2008 was very ambitious, and many people put in enormous efforts. We didn't really have backups or deputies for most areas, but that's something we should consider for the…

Part 18: PyCon-Tech (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

The website software and the registration system saw a complete overhaul this year, mostly implemented by Doug Napoleone. It was absolutely necessary, as we were unable to collect the data we needed previously. However, the registration system and the rest of the Django-based PyCon-Tech project is very ambitious and there's a lot left to do, and some rough edges.
Brantley Harris did an initial site design. And then, when we didn't have the volunteer capacity for some much-needed further work, we bought some discounted development from Imaginary Landscape (also a PyCon sponsor).
PyCon-Tech is an open-source project based on Django, and other conferences are looking into using it. Hopefully they'll contribute to it too! Of course, there's a PyCon-Tech mailing list where you can help out!

Part 17: Finances (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

PyCon is a community conference run by volunteers, and is underwritten by the Python Software Foundation (a non-profit public charity). The PSF wants PyCon to be an accessible, affordable conference. To that end, every year PyCon is budgeted to operate at a (small) loss. But (almost) every year we have had more attendees and more sponsorship than the year before, and PyCon has always come out in the black. We're still receiving invoices and paying bills for PyCon 2008, and won't know the final results for a while yet.
Any proceeds go into the PSF's general funds and are used for the good of the community. For example, in recent years, the PSF has sponsored other conferences and events: EuroPython, PyCon UK, PyCon Italia, Jornada Python en Santa Fe (Argentina), and more.
Corporate Rate
PyCon introduced a new, higher "corporate" registration rate (the old "regular" rate was renamed to "hobbyist"), and I was pleasantly surprised by how many atte…

Part 16: Professional Meeting Planner (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

This year for the first time, PyCon is working with professional meeting planners. Working with Conference Technology Enhancements (CTE) has helped a lot, and I wouldn't want to go back to the old way. Without CTE's help, either PyCon would not have been able to take place in anything near its present form, or I would have lost my job and gone insane. Possibly all of the above.
CTE handled the negotiations with the venue: room rates, catering, A/V, and more. Volunteers did this in the past (Jeff Rush in Dallas, Steve Holden in DC), and perhaps they enjoyed it (although I doubt it), but I wanted to have as little to do with negotiation as possible. Also, CTE continues to offer us a wealth of experience and ideas. For example, CTE originated the idea of significantly increasing the sponsorship levels while increasing our investment (in the Expo Hall, etc.), in order to properly value the conference. I couldn't imagine a conference of this size and complexity without th…

Part 15: PR (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

This year as in years past (especially, I think, last year), the grass-roots blogging and word of mouth served to get the PyCon word out. This year we also tried something different: professional PR.
Last August Van Lindberg got in touch with Page One Public Relations, a PR firm specializing in open source companies. Page One offered their services to PyCon at a discount, and we took them up on the offer as an experiment, to promote PyCon and Python. Catherine Devlin and Van coordinated efforts with Daniel Schneider of Page One PR.
Daniel wrote and distributed four press releases, but much more importantly he arranged for multiple telephone, email, and in-person interviews with reporters, resulting in at least 25 articles, podcasts, professional blog posts, and event listings (listed below). I personally took part in several telephone interviews (5 or 6), some for podcasts, others for press. We don't know how many articles may have originated with the press releases.
When I aske…

Part 14: Financial Aid (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

The budget for PyCon 2008's financial aid was several times that of 2007, and we were able to help more people come to PyCon than ever before. Over 40 people received financial aid of some form. This is a trend I'd like to see continue.
Almost everyone who asked was granted aid. Only a few were turned down, either because their application was incomplete (after multiple requests for clarification) or because they requested an excessively large amount.
As I stated in my opening remarks, I believe I was the recipient of the first PyCon financial aid back in 2004, PyCon's second year. I hope that this year's aid recipients were able to get a fraction as much out of PyCon as I have, and I hope they give back to the community in turn.
Ted Pollari was in charge of financial aid this year. Thanks Ted! Ted could use some help next year...

Part 13: Swag (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

We had some great conference swag this year. When the Python xkcd strip came out, the Python blogosphere exploded. It didn't take long before the idea arose -- from several people simultaneously -- to use it for the conference shirt. Ted Pollari was particularly enthusiastic and tracked down the artist to secure his permission. (And Randall Munroe has done it again, this time in a more philosophical way.)
We decided to upgrade the conference bag this year -- it's really sharp. In addition to being attractive, it's durable, and a useful size too. I can't wait to see one in the wild, and I fully expect to. Use your bags! It's great advertizing for Python.
The good people at Python Magazine worked with Van Lindberg to produce PyCon's first program guide. And is it ever slick! 60 full-color pages, a real collector's item. A special PyCon edition of the March 2008 Python Magazine was also part of the swag.
And stickers! We had thousands of Python logo s…

Part 12: Sponsorship & Expo Hall (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

Businesses are a big part of the Python community, and sponsorship is a major way for companies to show their support and enable us to keep PyCon affordable. Sponsorship allows companies to interact with individuals, raise awareness, recruit, and even sell some product.
We increased the sponsorship rates significantly this year, to bring PyCon more in line with other conferences of our size, and the sponsors responded generously and in great number. Sponsorship was at an all-time high: three times the budgeted amount. Among other effects, the exceptional response from sponsors enabled us to offer catered lunches on all four sprint days, and allowed us to record all of the scheduled talks. The results are beginning to be seen in videos published on the web.
Interesting aside: the lanyard sponsorship was a very popular option; several sponsors asked about it. Next year we'll have to add a significant fee on top of the simple production costs.
There was a mix-up in the timing of ar…

Part 11: Development Sprints (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

After the lightning talks session on the afternoon of Sunday March 16 (by all accounts the best one, natch), we had an "Intro to Sprinting" talk & panel led by Brett Cannon. The talk was one of the few I actually saw (much of), and it should become an instant classic once it hits the web. This was followed by sprint tutorials, where each sprinting project went off and did introductions of various lengths.
The sprint tutorials seem to have been quite successful, and were a good way to segue between the conference and the sprints (a transition which felt a bit jarring in the past). Many new sprinters learned what they needed to be productive during the sprints themselves, and many people who couldn't stay this year may have been convinced to extend their stays next year.
There were over 20 projects sprinting. On the first sprint day (Monday March 17), there were over 250 people participating. There were 263 people at lunch, and I know of several who ate elsewhere; b…

Part 10: Open Space (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

Open space was under-utilized at the beginning of PyCon. It was slow on Friday, and it only really kicked into high gear on Saturday evening. I don't think it was used much at all during the day, opposite talks. The open space rooms should have been used for more follow-up sessions after talks. Next year perhaps we'll offer the scheduling of open space as a service to speakers; a debate is going on now.
We had a split upstairs/downstairs venue this year, with talks in the ballrooms upstairs, and open space rooms downstairs. There wasn't an ideal place to put the open space schedule board. Upstairs it would have caused terrible bottlenecks, but downstairs (where we did put it) it wasn't "in your face" enough. In the future, no matter what the physical layout of PyCon, we need signs directing people to the different areas.
It seems that another reason for the slow start may have been because many attendees didn't know exactly what open space was, or ho…

Part 9: Lightning Talks (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

(Here's the part many of you have been waiting for! ;-)
We had more time for lightning talks this year than ever before: 5 hours total. I'm looking forward to seeing many of them when they show up on the web (the disadvantage of chairing PyCon is that I didn't actually get to see much).
Last year we invited sponsors to give lightning talks during a special lunchtime "sponsor lightning talks" session. This year's sponsor package repeated the offer of sponsor lightning talks. We didn't have any sessions at lunch time though, because that scheduling decision had mixed reviews.
Many sponsors took us up on the offer this year -- too many perhaps. It seems that 2007 was a sweet spot, with few enough sponsors that sponsor lightning talks were feasible. 2008 saw too many sponsor lightning talks, and they crowded out the attendee talks. It seems that the nature of the talks was not communicated as well as it could have been, leading to some confusion. There wa…

Part 8: Keynote Talks (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

We experimented with the keynote format this year. Rather than daily 90-minute talks, we had 60-minute and 15-minute keynotes. The format seemed to work well.
The choice of keynote speakers and talks also seemed to work well. It's impossible to satisfy everyone, and foolish to try. I believe keynotes should not be music to everyone's ears, but should be challenging as well as informative. I think this year's mix of technical and general talks was successful. What do you think?
We also had short keynotes from our diamond sponsors (White Oak Technologies and Google). While I heard some grumbles of discontent, most feedback was very positive.
Should we change the keynote format further, keep this year's format, or return to the old format? Should we continue having diamond sponsor keynotes in 2009, or drop them, or modify them in some way? We'll be discussing these issues and more over the coming months.
I'd like to thank Noah Kantrowitz for wrangling details f…

Part 7: A/V & Power (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

Carl Karsten was a real hero of PyCon 2008. His seemingly boundless energy and wealth of ideas catapulted the technical aspects of PyCon far beyond what we'd had before. He worked with the hotel's A/V staff to record every talk, and is currently leading the effort to organize, edit, and post the videos to the web.
Tip to organizers of other conferences: get a clone of Carl. You can't have Carl though, he's ours.
I first noticed Joe Baker going from room to room on tutorial Thursday, changing tapes in the video cameras. Joe appeared as if from nowhere (from my perspective), and it was great having him there.
Cosmin Stejerean, who ran the Python Lab in open space, also helped out the A/V effort a lot. At one point there was a cot in the A/V room -- Joe and Cosmin were rotating between sleeping and swapping tapes in the cameras for digital video playback to computer files. That's dedication!
The results of this year's A/V efforts are beginning to show up on the …

Part 6: Conference Talks (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

The PyCon Conference Days took place from Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16. More than 60 speakers gave freely of their time, and presented some great talks. On behalf of the PyCon organizers: thank you all!
We received over 140 proposals for talks, more than twice as many as we could accept, and unfortunately we had to turn down many good proposals. The PyCon Program Committee (all volunteers, led by Ivan Krstić) did a great job in the long selection process, but it's hard to balance the needs of beginners and gurus alike. It's inevitable that there were some complaints.
The only way to improve in the future is to have more participation, especially from under-represented sectors: core Python, advanced topics, PyPy, etc. There has been talk of switching to a topic-based track program (web track, advanced/technical track, introductory track, etc.). This could work, but it needs the participation of many experts. If you care about Python's North American flagsh…

Response to Titus Brown's "PyCon '08: The Brain Dump"

This is a response to Titus Brown's article, "PyCon '08: The Brain Dump". My response was too long to post as a comment.
Titus' text is in block quotes (indented):
I wholeheartedly support the adoption of an advanced-technical-only track. As it was this year the talks I was interested in (mostly very technical) were embedded in the middle of a bunch of other talks that were not technical. I wasn't up to picking them out of the mix.I hope you show your support by joining the PyCon organizers, and specifically the program committee! We need people with backgrounds in different areas, to help make a well-rounded conference.
Speaking of "good talks", I think the whole review system is effed up. What's with the anonymous authorship of proposals?There's an anonymous review phase, during which proposals are rated based on the information we were supplied. This is to level the playing field and allow new speakers a chance. Then there's the dec…

Part 5: Tutorials (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

PyCon 2008 had 28 tutorials in three sessions (morning, afternoon, and evening) on Thursday March 13. Over 420 people attended, more than the total attendance of PyCon 2006. Almost all of the tutorials were full. More than half of the attendees took 3 tutorials, resulting in a very full day for many people. I'm sure more people would have taken more tutorials if they hadn't filled up.
We were using the ten largest breakout rooms, in the lower level of the hotel. They were of different sizes. The five largest rooms could handle up to 70 - 90 people, according to the hotel's capacity chart. We limited registration to 50 in these rooms. The other rooms could handle anywhere from 18 to 36 people. We limited registration in these rooms too, cutting about 20% off the maximum, to allow for elbow room.
It's a good thing we set these limits, because the hotel capacity charts leave out one crucial detail: the maximum capacities listed are for a room crammed full of tables…

Part 4: Catering (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

Our original plan was to have plated, hot lunches. When attendance went through the roof, we had to abandon that plan. The problem wasn't the hotel's ability to produce the food, it was their ability to serve it, and provide seating. There just wasn't space for everybody to sit at a table, so a "sit anywhere" approach had to be substituted.
Next year we hope to solve that issue.
Our meeting planners worked with the hotel's chef and catering staff to customize the "boxed lunches" we had, with soup and other hot side dishes. With the space constraints (that we imposed upon the hotel, with PyCon growing to over 1000 attendees!), they did the best they could.
There were some complaints that the food & drinks were being removed too quickly. I spoke with the hotel about it, and that seemed to solve it. At least, I didn't hear any complaints after that.

Part 3: Network (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

In his "Back from PyCon" post, Grig Gheorghiu wrote:
Whatever the critics say, I know I'll be back in Chicago next year for sure. I just want better network connectivity (why is it so hard to ensure decent wireless connectivity at PyCon year after year? it's a mystery) and better food.Yes, the wireless network this year was less than stellar. It was nearly unusable on tutorial Thursday and only approached usability Friday afternoon. The equipment deployed precluded wired connections in many rooms. For a detailed analysis and recommendations, see Sean Reifschneider's report.
Two years ago, PyCon's first year in Dallas, we trusted the hotel when they said they could handle our wireless networking needs. That was a mistake: they couldn't. It took a lot of effort, by Sean Reifschneider and others, to make their wireless configuration usable. Last year, Sean designed a wireless architecture for us and we deployed our own equipment. It worked beautifully, but…

Part 2: Attendance & Registration (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

From 2006 to 2007 we saw an increase of about 43% in attendance, from 410 to 586 attendees. I was expecting 800-900 people for 2008, but I feared we would see more... and my fears were realized with over 1000 attendees, an increase of 77% over PyCon 2007. We had over 420 people registered for tutorials on the Thursday before the talks (March 13), more than the total conference attendance in 2006 (the first year with a PyCon tutorial day). Attendance at the development sprint was at an all-time high: at least 250, possibly many more.
Registration started late this year, as did early-bird registration. Early-bird registrations accounted for about 75% of the total, and about half of the early-bird registrations were done in the last week (300 over 4 days; over 100 in a single day!). Next year we must open registration earlier and close early-bird registration much earlier, so we have some real numbers to work with early enough to be useful (e.g. for swag orders & catering plans).
T…

PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report, Part 1: Introduction

PyCon 2008 has come and gone. Overall, it was a great success. We tried some new things -- some worked, others didn't. There were some problems, which I will address in later posts, and which we'll correct in the future. I think that the PyCon organizers -- volunteers all -- put on a great event.
I've been collecting notes since before PyCon for a grand report. I was adding to it, polishing it, and it was growing to the point where it would be too long for anyone to read the whole thing. Also the longer it takes to post the report, the less relevant it may be. So with "publish early and often" and "just publish!" in mind, over the next week or so I'll post what I have, in small chunks, and see how that goes. We won't know how many parts there will be until there's a post titled "Conclusion".
This way, each post can start a separate, focused discussion, here and on the pycon-organizers mailing list. Please join and help out!

Article on InternetNews

Kevin Dangoor, Michael Foord, and I participated in interviews with Sean Michael Kerner of InternetNews.com. Here's the result: "Python Fans Take Aim at the Enterprise".
Apart from a couple mistakes (it's the Python *Software* Foundation, and I'm a director, not the director), it's a good article.
I still have my original (extensive) answers to his questions, which we should be able to find a use for...