Daniel Roy Greenfeld

Daniel Roy Greenfeld

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Beginner's Guide to PyCon 2013 Part II

This is Part II in a series of blog posts about PyCon US 2013. The goal is to provide a handy reference guide for first time attendees of the world's largest Python conference. Part I was mostly about tutorials, this post will be about registration and the first day of talks.


If you haven't done so yet, please register now. Last year PyCon sold out way in advance, and hundreds missed the event. Which is a shame, because the conference is awesome!

Keep in mind that the money you spend on registration will go towards a very good thing. You see, after the costs for running PyCon are subtracted, the rest will go to the non-profit Python Software Foundation (PSF). In addition to supporting the Python language itself, the PSF provides financial aid and grants for aspiring developers around the world. Which means the money you spend registering for PyCon will literally change people's lives. This isn't an idle exaggeration, this outreach has made a difference for you, me, and arguably the world. I would love to say more, but that's an article for another day...

Alright, on to the talks!

Talk Attendance Guidelines

At PyCon, talks are either 30 or 45 long. They represent the best and brightest in both old hands in the community and rising stars. Some quick guidelines:

  • Ask Questions! If the speaker leaves time for questions at the end, go and ask!
  • Shut the Laptop and Turn Off the Device. It's disconcerting to give a speech to hundreds of people staring at their portable electronics and not responding to your banter. Unless you are using electronics to actively take notes on the talk, consider turning them off to look at the speaker.
  • Don't Heckle. It's nerve wracking going up in front of hundreds of people live and tens of thousands on streaming video. Heckling is never funny and it's a good way to lose friends and make enemies. Unless the speaker asks for commentary during the talk, wait until the end and then ask your questions.

Alright, that out of the way, let's take a look at what Friday, March 15th, has to offer in terms of beginner friendly talks...

Friday Morning

The registration desk opens at 7:00 AM. Breakfast begins at 8:00 AM. From 9:00 AM to 10:20 AM is the welcome and initial keynote speeches. PyCon keynotes aren't boring - they are crazy awesome!.

In selecting these talks, I've tried to focus on the more technical ones.

10:50 AM talks

  • How to Except When You're Excepting (Esther Nam) - One of the rising stars of the community, Esther works for a group that demands 100% test coverage. She's going to cover the fundamentals of writing tests and why tests are a good thing.
  • How the Internet works (Jessica McKellar) - Want to know how the internet actually works? Jessica McKellar (also giving two tutorials and a keynote speech) will use Python to help you understand what's really going on.
  • Gittip: Inspiring Generosity (Chad Whitacre) - Gittip is an open source Python platform for sustaining open source development via small, anonymous donations. This is a technical case-study about the story of community.

11:30 AM talks

  • Scrapy: it GETs the web (Asheesh Laroia) - In 2009 I took a web scraping tutorial by the author. He impressed me with his energy and knowledge. While technically this is an intermediate talk, I know everyone will get something out of this talk

12:10 AM talks

  • API Design for Library Authors (Chris McDonough) - Well designed APIs are critical for how other developers interact with your code. Chris is one of the talents in the community when it comes to creating easy-to-use but extremely powerful tools. I'm delighted he's made this an introductory talk.

Friday Lunch

Quick notes:

  1. Don't forget to keep your PyCon meal tickets you got when you registered in the morning or they won't let you into the lunch room!
  2. Sit down to people you don't know and introduce yourself. Every time I do this I don't just get to meet interesting people, I get to meet amazing people. PyCon is full of brilliant minds and you'll never get to know any of them unless you try.

Friday Afternoon

Got lunch? Time for more talks!

1:40 PM talks

1:55 PM talk

  • Twisted Logic (Ashwini Oruganti) - Twisted is a mature, stable asynchronous framework written in Python that's been around for over a decade. New to the framework, the presenter explains why you shouldn't be scared of Twisted.

2:35 PM talks

This slot is going to be hard because all three beginner talks are things you don't want to miss!

  • Loop like a native: while, for, iterators, generators (Ned Batchelder) - One of the really awesome features of Python is that you can write custom looping classes. Factor in generators and you'll be amazed by one of Python's most powerful features.
  • Visualizing Github, Part I: Data to Information (Dana Bauer, Idan Gazit) - How can you go wrong with visualizing GitHub data using Python? This first part of the talk is on gathering and processing of data.
  • Encapsulation with descriptors (Luciano Ramalho) - Python has no private fields, but the property decorator lets you replace public attributes with getters and setters without breaking client code. It's amazing what Python can do when you delve into it's subtleties!

3:15 PM talk

4:15 PM talks

  • Transforming Code into Beautiful, Idiomatic Python (Raymond Hettinger) - This is the talk that's going to bring down the house, because Raymond covers the basics in such a way that even the most advanced developers pick up new tricks. This talk will be standing room only, filled with beginners to the most senior developers on the planet. Get to this one early or you'll miss it!
  • Deploy your Python app in 5 min with a PaaS (Nate Aune) - Long time presenter Nate Aune doesn't just explain and demonstrate various Platforms as a Service, he also gives tips on evaluating which one is best for your needs. For someone getting into the Python web this talk is an invaluable service.

4:30 talk

  • If You Code, You Should Write (Brian Jones) - Python has an amazing culture of documentation. We believe it's our civic duty to document our work on private and public projects. Brian explains why this is so and how to get across the concepts of your work in the best way possible.

5:10 talks

  • SimpleCV - Computer Vision using Python (Katherine Scott) - This is a crash course on computer vision using the amazing ipython notebook along with NumPy and SciPy.
  • Planning and Tending the Garden: The Future of Early Childhood Python Education (Kurt Grandis) - After his PyCon talk last year about using Python to fend off squirrels, Kurt suddenly found himself in the world of kid's education. This talk goes over the current state of the art for kids learning programming in Python and other tools.
  • Write the Docs (James Bennett) - Have you heard of a certain well-documented web framework called 'Django'? James Bennett is one of the people responsible for it's amazingly high documentation standard. In this talk he's going to coach on how to write prose that inspires and invigorates people to use your tools.

Evening Activities

On friday night the social scene will kick into high gear. There will be dinners, parties, Starcraft II contests, and much more.

Part III

Stay tuned for Part III of this series where I cover the second day of talks best suited for new Python developers!

Tags: python django audrey pycon pycon-2013-guide
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