PyCon 2009 reflections


I was planning to write each day about PyCon, but as you see, I didn’t. Too busy, too tired, too distracted, or just too forgetful.

So here are my summary PyCon 2009 reflections. I’m penning this mid-morning, two hours before the conference’s formal talks end.

This is my second PyCon. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency.

Random observations

I feel both smarter and dumber at PyCon. Smarter, because I learn so much from every available avenue — formal talks, informal talks, meeting new folks over lunch, chatting between talks, overhearing conversations, IRC, and Twitter. Dumber, because I’m amazed by many of the attendees’ intelligence, creativity, and energy. If an inanimate language specification can be blessed, then Python is blessed to have so many smart and driven individuals working with it.

At times, I wish I were IQ points smarter. (And if I have a magic wand, 40 years younger..) (And while I’m waving it, 50 pounds lighter…)

Being unemployed has its benefits. Now in-between jobs, I didn’t have internal pressure directing me to talks pertinent to my work responsibilities. I was free to attend whatever talks I wished, even if their appeal was on a whim. I took in many talks I wouldn’t have otherwise; for example, on TurboGears.

I can’t decide if I like topic tracks assigned to rooms. If ballroom D hosts all my talks for the morning, I get to stay in one place. That’s convenient. OTOH, there’re benefits to moving to another room when a talk’s over: I stretch my legs, come into contact with other people, and have an opportunity to find a better seat.

It’s too easy to remain seated between talks when you’re staying in the room. Eh, I’m just being a crank.

Pluses

It was a great conference. Is this tautological on a “pluses” list? I hope the conference’s organizers and staff hear this a lot, from all corners of the Python community. They deserve every accolade in the book! Huzzah!

There was a good mix of high-level vs. low-level talks, and technology-focused (“vertical”) vs. technique-focused (“horizontal”) talks. I’m leaving with a list of tools/technologies/techniques/systems that I think will be useful, and want to research further. I love the, “OMG I have 18 new subject areas to learn and get up to speed on,” feeling.

The tutorial and conference talks were mostly of high quality, attendee information and updates were timely, venue was accommodating and didn’t distract, and the entire event ran on a train schedule. What more can you ask for from a conference?

The Hyatt was a great choice. My grumbles below don’t take away from this.

The food was excellent in quality, amount, and delivery. I’m including both meals and break food here. (It seemed slightly better during the tutorials than the during the main conference body.) Serving 900 people simultaneously ain’t easy.

The pycon wifi was excellent. Fast, always there, covering a wide swath of the public areas, and without network passwords to remember. I heard of some problems on IRC, but never experienced them.

The Python community is amazing. It’s smart, friendly, energetic, and self-organizing.

The corporate vs. non-corporate balance felt just right. I’ve attended conferences where too many talks were thinly veiled company advertisements. That wasn’t the case here. Well done.

The formal talk vs. lightning/open-space balance felt just right. If I could adjust the mix, I’d slightly nudge it toward facilitating more lightning talks and open-space meetings. And let’s try a “super lightning” 10 minute format.

Minuses

Some hopefully constructive suggestions for future conferences.

Stop giving away tchotchke bags. They’ve been part of traditional conferences’ revenue stream. They’ve become an antiquated waste. Let’s replace them with something else.

I threw out the bag. It was thin and flimsy and definitely not a keeper. I can stash things into my laptop case, or bring them back to my hotel room. Not much was being given away anyway — even if had kept it all, it would have easily fit into my personal case. So if I had held onto the bag, it would have just been an inconvenient additional item to carry.

In fact, I discarded 90% of the bag’s contents. I don’t need a lame foam brain. I don’t need lame stickers that are advertisements for companies. I don’t need paper flyers. I don’t need a paper conference booklet that’s outdated the moment I touch it. All that info (updated!) is online.

Unless there are many really good goodies (and I mean bona fide great tchotchkes, lots of clothing, etc.), conferences should desist this wasteful practice.

The Hyatt’s in-room wireless was wretched. Every geek conference hotel should include decent in-room wifi. I can’t imagine attending a conference and not wanting to get on the net from my room at least once a day.

What’s the financial distinction between charging X for a room and Y for the wireless, and charging X+Y for a room including wireless? None. There’s also no financial distinction between charging X for a room and Y for linens, or charging X+Y for a room including linens. But, in a hotel of Hyatt’s caliber, I expect in-room wifi, just as I expect a dresser. Yet the Hyatt doesn’t include it. Fail.

But wait, there’s more. The cost was $10/day. Fail.

But wait, there’s more. Their wi-fi was absurdly slow. (You didn’t discover this until after signing up, which I did. For only one day.) Fail.

Twitter is fine, but don’t forget IRC. The Connect page listed Twitter, but not IRC. The early morning screens displayed Tweets, but not IRC. How odd.

Twitter is for one-shot announcements, while IRC is best for discussions and threads. I use Twitter myself, but don’t forget IRC. And displaying tweets on the early morning displays peeved me, for some reason.

Voting was odd. The dot-in-the-bucket approach was OK. But why not provide thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons in our online personal schedules?

Administrative functions should be in one location. It was slightly odd that the open-space signup boards were on the other side of the hotel from the registration area. I see some logic in collocating the sign-up boards with the open-space rooms, but, making it easier to review the boards between talks would have been a better trade-off.

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2 comments
  1. Andrew said:

    Actually, there is a difference between charging for wifi and including that cost in the room: people choose hotels based on room price, but not based on the availability of Internet access. There’s a good article about this but I can’t find it right now.

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