Andrew, Nathan and I just got back from Atlanta for Pycon 2011 and it was a blast. It was a great mix of learning, hacking, networking and free swag. I have never been picky about free t-shirts before, but there were so many badass shirts that I actually walked past a booth with well designed shirts because I already use AWS and don’t want to rep any other hosting provider… Google was giving out cool swag, and I actually won a raffle for a Galaxy Tab which I will be compiling my RTPS particles to shortly. We accumulated more than just free stuff, there was much knowledge to be gained from the talks and the Birds of a Feather sessions. There were a few really great talks, namely David Beazley on turning his 1979 SuperBoard into a cloud computing platform. This guy is the epitome of a hacker and at the same time an excellent presenter, he takes you on a twisted journey using beautiful and powerful tools to operate on ancient technology to create a frankenstein monster with the byproduct of his sick experiment being five packages ported to python3. Not only does he explain some awesome technical feats, he does it in a way which makes you feel like you could too, and he gives just enough detail to entice you and not too much to bore. I found that the best talks were those who really love doing what they do, and the excitement shines from them more than the projector. In particular I really liked Christopher Webber‘s talk on the Blender Python API bpy as well as Yung-Yu Chen’s talk on SOLVCON. I do not want to sound overly critical or negative, but I do think it should be mentioned that we were underwhelmed with more than a few presentations. Granted public speaking is not easy, especially when you speak on inevitably complex topics but the quality of many presenters (but not the quality of their content) left something to be desired. Perhaps at a conference about such an elegant language I would hope people would express themselves with more clarity. In any case, there was a huge amount of knowledge encapsulated in the talks (not all of them seem to be in this archive).
The Bird’s of a Feather were something else entirely, I found them all incredibly informative, met some really smart and knowledgable people and exchanged some cool ideas. The Scientific Computing, Visualization and GPU Computing sessions all had around 20+ people discussing various techniques, problems and libraries they experience in several interesting and disparate fields. A bunch of Blendheads got together Saturday night and did some show-and-tell along with lots of great discussions. I was lucky enough to be schooled on bpy and UI coding by none other than slikdigit and paroneayea and I’m inspired to refactor my current efforts to expose much more of my library to Python. It’s amazing what artists can do with the power of Python in their palette.
One last amazing thing was how many people were hiring, I don’t think there wasn’t an exhibitor who didn’t open the conversation with “how far along are you in your studies,” even the ones selling services to developers. Apparently there is no recession for Python developers.