PyCon India 2012

Inspired by Noufal Ibrahim's recent article on the general state of the Python community in India, I've finally written this belated report on my recent India trip :)

At the end of October, I had the good fortune to attend PyCon India 2012 in Bangalore. Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay (from Red Hat's Pune office) suggested I submit some talk proposals a few months earlier, and I was able to combine a trip to attend the conference with visits to the Red Hat offices in Bangalore and Pune. It's always good to finally get to associate IRC nicks and email addresses with people that you've actually met in person! While Sankarshan unfortunately wasn't able to make it to the conference himself, I did get to meet him when I visited Pune, and Kushal Das and Ramakrishna Reddy (also fellow Red Hatters) took great care of me while I was over there (including a weekend trip out from Pune to see the Ajanta and Ellora caves - well worth the visit, especially if you're from somewhere like Australia with no human-built structures more than a couple of hundred years old!)

While I wasn't one of the keynote speakers (David Mertz gave the Saturday keynote, and Jacob Kaplan-Moss gave an excellent "State of the Python Web" keynote on Sunday), I did give a couple of talks - one on the new features in the recent Python 3.3 release, along with a longer version of the Path Dependent Development talk that I had previously presented at PyCon AU in August. Both seemed to go over reasonably well, and people liked the way Ryan Kelly's "playitagainsam" and "playitagainsam-js" tools allowed me to embed some demonstration code directly in the HTML5 presentation for the Python 3.3 talk.

Aside from giving those two talks, this was a rather different conference for me, as I spent a lot more time in the hallway chatting with people than I have at other Python conferences. It was interesting to see quite a few folks making the assumption that because I'm a core developer, I must be an expert on all things Python, when I'm really a relative novice in many specific application areas. Fortunately, I was able to pass the many web technology related questions on to Jacob, so people were still able to get good answers to their questions, even when I couldn't supply them myself. I also got to hear about some interesting projects people are working on, such as an IVRS utility for mothers to call to find out about required and recommended vaccinations for their newborn children (I alluded to this previously in my post about my perspective on Python's future prospects).

One thing unfortunately missing from the PyCon India schedule was the target experience level for the talks, so I did end up going to a couple of talks that, while interesting and well presented introductions to the topic, didn't actually tell me anything I didn't already know. Avoiding any chance of that outcome is one of the reasons I really like attending "How we are using Python" style talks, and my favourite talk of the conference (aside from Jacob's keynote) was actually the one from Noufal Ibrahim and Anand Chitipothu on rewriting the Wayback Machine's archiving system (The other major reason I like attending such talks is that knowing I played a part, however small, in making these things possible is just plain cool).

While the volunteers involved put in a lot of effort and the conference was well attended and well worth attending, the A/V handling at the conference does still have room for improvement, as the videos linked above indicate. I've sent a few ideas to the organisers about reaching out to the PSF board for assistance and suggestions on that front. Hopefully they'll look into that a bit more for next year, as I think producing high quality talk recordings can act as excellent advertising for tech conferences in subsequent years, but doing that effectively requires a lot of preparation work both before and during the conference. There are some good resources for this now in the Python community at least in Australia and the US, so I'm hopeful that the PSF will be able to play a part in transferring that knowledge and experience to other parts of the world and we'll start seeing more and more Python conferences with recordings of a similar calibre to those from PyCon US and PyCon AU.