Yearly Archives: 2012

PyCon Australia 2013 needs sponsors

tl;dr: Grab our 2013 Sponsorship Prospectus, and direct sponsorship queries to

It’s less than two months since the generally excellent time we had at PyCon Australia 2012, but we’re already on the lookout for new sponsors to join us for our 2013 conference, which will also be held in Hobart.

As a community-driven conference, the generosity of our sponsors is what makes it possible for our conference to be as successful as it is.

To give you all an idea of how important sponsorship is for us, I thought it might be a good idea to explain what we put our sponsorship money towards.

Keeps our registration costs low

While Python is growing as a language used in industry and government work, the roots of the Python community are in science, research and the Open Source community. There are plenty of people who are active in the Python community and benefit from events like PyCon Australia.

For our two-day conference this year, we were able to charge less than $200 for enthusiast delegates, and less than $50 for Student Delegates.

In raw budgetary terms, our Enthusiast rate covers the extra costs involved with them attending the conference (the extra catering, a t-shirt, a dinner ticket). The Student rate actually loses us money.

Having a wide array of sponsors means that we don’t need to pass fixed costs such as venue hire, A/V equipment, and video recording onto our registration costs. This means that we can put registration for PyCon Australia into reach for more people who want it.

Chances are that students who benefited from our low costs will be back contributing to the Python community, and to our conference in years to come. It’s this sort of community building that PyCons are all about.

Attract international speakers

In the grand scheme of things, Australia’s pretty isolated. If you want to get here from Europe, you need to spend the best part of a day to fly here, and it’s not much better if you’re from the US.

A big role of holding a PyCon in Australia is to help connect the Australian Python community with the best Python developers around the world. Having extra budget to offset the travel costs for international speakers is one of the biggest benefits we derive from sponsorship.

Run more events

Having an excellent schedule of presentations and tutorials is a huge part of our conference, but having the opportunity to meet other delegates, and to chat with them in a less structured atmosphere is also really important.

In 2011, we introduced two days of sprints to the end of the conference, and in 2012, we folded the CodeWars programming tournament into the organisation of the conference itself. We’ve done our best to keep these events free of charge for all comers, and we couldn’t do that without our sponsors.

Help bring people to the conference

In past years, with our diversity programme partner, Google, we’ve run a grants scheme to help bring more women to PyCon Australia. In 2012, we helped to bring 5 enthusiastic women along to PyCon Australia, and by all accounts, it was an invaluable experience for them.

Next year, we want to make this programme even more wide-reaching. We know that there are many people, especially students, or people living further afield who can’t afford the trip down to Hobart. We want to put the conference firmly into their reach.

So you want to help out?

Great! I’d love to hear from you. Our 2013 Sponsorship Prospectus is online now, and any queries can be directed to me at

Announcing the LCA2013 Open Programming Miniconf!

TL;DR — submit a proposal at before the first round closes on Monday 29 October 2012.


I’m pleased to announce that The Open Programming Miniconf — a fixture for application developers attending since 2010 — is returning as part of 2013, to be held in January at the Australian National University in Canberra. The Miniconf is an opportunity for presenters of all experience levels to share their experiences in in application development using free and open source development tools.

The 2013 Open Programming Miniconf invites proposals for 25-minute presentations on topics relating to the development of excellent Free and Open Source Software applications. In particular, the Miniconf invites presentations that focus on sharing techniques, best practices and values which are applicable to developers of all Open Source programming languages.

In the past, topics have included:

  • Recent developments in Open Source programming languages (“State of the language”-type talks)
  • Tools that support application development
  • Coding applications with cool new libraries, languages, and frameworks
  • Demonstrating the use of novel programming

If you want an idea of what sort of presentations we have included in the past, take a look at our past programmes:

To submit a proposal, visit and fill out the form as required. The CFP will remain open indefinitely, but the first round of acceptances will not be sent until Monday 29 October 2012.

OPM2013 is part of 2013, being held at the Australian National University, Canberra in January 2013. Further enquiries can be directed to Christopher Neugebauer via e-mail ( ) or via twitter ( @chrisjrn ).

Vale John Hunter, author of Matplotlib

In my BSc(Hons) thesis, which I submitted in 2010, I commenced the acknowledgements as follows:

First, a hearty thanks to people whom I do not know: The developers of Python, Numpy, Scipy, the Python Imaging Library, Matplotlib, Weka, and OpenCV; you have collectively saved me much boring work throughout this past year, for which I am truly grateful.”

So to hear of the sudden death of John Hunter, creator and maintainer of Matplotlib was truly saddening. Matplotlib is one of those pieces of software absolutely instrumental in Python’s takeup as a language in the fields of maths, the sciences and engineering. When I was a student, I’d find myself using Matplotlib very often — it was the best there is.

Tragically, John Hunter was in his mid-forties, and left behind a wife, and three young daughters. Numfocus has created a memorial fund to care for and educate his daughters. I’ll be contributing to this fund as a way of thanking the Hunter family for John’s contribution to my own work.

Fernando Perez of IPython fame has written up a substantial post about John’s contribution to the community. PSF member, and PyCon US chair, Jesse Noller has also written a tribute to John.

It’s a somewhat strange feeling — coming to realise the contribution of one person only after he died. Such is the way of Open Source — the impact of the tools we use and develop become more important than the people who develop them. And sometimes, developers are just happy to let things be that way.

On the Tasmanian Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2012

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled Python community discussion for something completely different.

The Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2012 passed the lower house of the Tasmanian Parliament today. As a passionate supporter of marriage equality, it would be wrong to not let this moment go unnoticed.

I read the bill in full this week (you can find the text of it from the Tasmanian Parliament web site), and was quite disappointed by it. Basically, the bill defines an institution called a “Same-Sex Marriage” under Tasmanian Law. “Same-Sex Marriages” are defined as follows:

“the lawful union of two people of the same sex, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”

That is to say, it defines a union, available exclusively to same-sex couples. There are many provisions of the bill that I personally hold grave concerns about, and I feel that celebrating the passage of this law as a victory is counterproductive to those fighting for marriage equality at a Federal Level.

My friend, Michael Cordover, who’s more deeply versed in the law than I am, posted the following to his Facebook feed this evening, and I asked him to reproduce it on this blog so that it might reach a greater audience.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything he’s written (I’m not going to be drawn on the constitutionality of the bill), but his words have encapsulated most of my thoughts, but with the added gravitas of someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

I am a deeply passionate supporter of marraige equality. I think there is no rationally based oposition to permitting same-sex marriage which is not homophobic. But I do not support what the lower house of Tasmanian Parliament has done today. Here’s why.

Because I support equality

The Tasmanian bill, by necessity, produces “same sex marriages” which are a different institution to that which we know as marriage in Australia. The entire basis of the argument as to its validity under the constitution (and we’ll get to that in a second) is that it covers something different to the Commonwealth Marriage Act. I want homosexual marriages to be recognised. These are civil unions with a misleading name. It is a separate and lesser institution. It’s not even the separate-but-equal, which I maintain is not equal at all.

Because it’s unconstitutional

The argument goes that because the Commonwealth Marriage Act defines marriage to mean only that which is between a man anad a woman, it is not intended to exclude marriages between same sex couples. As marriage is a concurrent power under s 51 of the Constitution, that means states can legislate for same-sex marraige. This relies on a claim that the Marriage Act was not intended, at the time of the 2004 amendment, to “cover the field” which includes same-sex marriage. I have been wrong before about High Court decisions but I think any argument that this bill is not invalid by virtue of s 109 of the Constitution is academic at best. I don’t think a High Court decision to that effect would be good law, I don’t think it would be based on a proper examination of the issues, and I certainly don’t think its likely given both the way in which the Court has interpreted s 109 in the past and the way the current Court has been dealing with questions of the division of powers.

Because it promotes complacency

The message that is coming out is that this is the end. That Tasmania has finally done what the Commonwealth refuses to do so we’re first and we’ve done the right thing. We haven’t. If one person says – and I guarantee [one] will – that we don’t need a change to the Commonwealth Marriage Act because of the passage of a Tasmanian Act, that is a harm. Does anyone think instead that people will start lobbying for change to the Commonwealth law as a result? Perhaps. Perhaps it’ll be a “well it didn’t destroy the world” argument. I mean, just because we already have that argument for Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States, doesn’t mean it won’t be strengthened by adding Tasmania.

Because it’s misleading

This I think is the worst thing. If this passes the upper house, people will get married and they will expect it to stick. They will be devastated when their marriage isn’t recognised by Commonwealth law. They will be devastated when their marriage isn’t recognised in Victoria. They will be devastated when they find all the red tape they’ve gone through is ignored by everyone outside this tiny little island. And they will be most devastated when the High Court finds that the law is unconstitutional. These people will be hurt because the Tasmanian Parliament is making a promise on which it can’t deliver.

A few final thoughts

That the Commonwealth Marriage Act discriminates against same-sex couples is simply unjustifiable. That moves to amend that Act have failed is disheartening. This is my number one issue. I believe it’s a heinous form of discrimination that is easy to fix. I believe the purported political gains are meaningless. I try to convince everyone I meet of my position and because of this issue – like few, if any other issues – I will stop talking to people. I have left friendships for their failure to support same-sex marriage; I have argued for hours on the topic; I’ve pursued lines that I know I can never win; and I’ve cried when people remain unconvinced. Believe me when I say I want marriage equality. But that’s not what this is. This is a sham. This is the Tasmanian Parliament making a statement it’s made before, but now with a promise it can’t keep. So I don’t support it, and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Michael’s words are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence.

Memoirs of a PyCon Australia organiser: Part 1 (of no idea how many)

This past weekend saw the staging of the third PyCon Australia conference. It’s been a very long time coming, and the subject of countless hours of hard work by myself (chasing sponsors, arranging to fill a programme, and ensuring delegates attended the conference), not to mention my amazing co-organisers, Joshua Hesketh, Matthew D’Orazio, and Josh Deprez.

PyCon Australia 2012

We held the conference in Hobart, my home city, and the capital city of Tasmania – this follows two successful conferences in Sydney. Despite a lot of scepticism about Hobart as a venue for a conference, we managed to attract 240 signups (placing us somewhere in the middle of the first two Sydney conferences in terms of attendance (woo!)).

CodeWars at PyCon Australia 2012

The first conference activity, the CodeWars programming tournament, started on Friday evening, with teams of up to 4 competing to solve programming problems against each other on projectors. This was a great event, which let delegates meet and greet each other before the conference started, and we’re very thankful to our event sponsor, Kogan, for helping us to make it happen.

This year, we were graced by the presence of two overseas keynote speakers –– Mark Ramm, the current engineering manager on Canonical’s Juju project, and Kenneth Reitz, the chief Python guy at Heroku.

PyCon Australia 2012 - Opening

Mark’s passionate and entertaining keynote delved into the murky waters of product management, and showed that applying the tools of testing and scientific process to product development and evaluation was something well in the reach of everyday engineers, even those with small projects. A smattering of war stories from his days leading product management at SourceForge rounded the talk off. It was a great way to start the conference, and it really helped set the informal, enthusiastic tone of the event.

Kenneth Reitz at PyCon Australia 2012

Kenneth’s talk dwelled on his philosophies of designing libraries in Python. He’s the developer of the python-requests HTTP library –– a library that has taken its rightful place as the obvious way to do HTTP in Python. His keynote gave us some strong insights into places where Python can make itself more accessible to newcomers, as well as being easier to remain involved for developers who use Python in their day-to-day lives. Kenneth’s presence was a great asset to the conference –– through his keynote, and also by making himself readily available to chat with delegates in the hallway track. Hopefully we’ll be seeing him back at PyCon Australia in future years, with more of his Heroku colleagues.

PyCon Australia 2012

Our conference dinner was held at the beautiful Peppermint Bay restaurant near Woodbridge (some 30km South of Hobart); delegates were delivered there by the fast catamaran, the MV Marana. We saw some excellent views of Hobart at twilight – the silhouettes of Mt Wellington and the Hobart Hills were quite spectacular. Unfortunately, the river got a bit choppy near the entrance to the D’Entrecasteaux channel, which left a few of our delegates feeling a bit worse for wear. Luckily for us, the dinner itself was a fantastic evening of socialising, and finding out about other delegates’ interest in Python. It was a great event, with great food, and we’re going to have a lot of difficulty topping it.

PyCon Australia 2012 Sprints

There are countless people who made an amazing effort to help improve our conference, including our volunteers, our speakers (some of whom stepped in at the very last minute to help improve our conference), Ritual Coffee (who produced their own custom blend for the conference, named “African Swallow“, no less!), the venue staff at Wrest Point (especially Kelly Glass, who’s put up with my worrying about conference rooms for several months now), our sponsors (who helped to keep the conference itself affordable), and many many more. It’s helped make my life as an organiser so much more tolerable.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I expect that I’ll have a follow-up to this post, dwelling on what we did right as an organising team, and how we can improve for next year. Incidentally, the conference will be run in Hobart again next year – if you’re in a position to help out with sponsorship, shoot me an e-mail at, and I’ll get a prospectus to you as soon as possible!

It’s… The PyCon Australia 2012 T-Shirt Deadline!

We’ve less than three weeks until PyCon AU 2012, here in Hobart, and we’d really like to make sure that you get one of our amazingly cool conference t-shirts. I’ve just seen the final design, and I think you all are going to love it!

So, if you want a shirt along with your registration, please make sure you register and pay by midnight tonight! Likewise, if you have a friend who’s been holding off on their registration until now, make sure you nag them until they’ve registered :)

Details and prices, as always, are at



Twice every year, an interesting astronomical event occurs in New York: the sun aligns perfectly with the streets (vaguely east-west) of Manhattan’s grid: for two days in May, and two days in July.

I was fortunate enough to be travelling through New York for the July event, and caught this photo on 14th Street, between 2nd and 3rd avenue.

For more info on this curious event, Neil deGrasse Tyson has an interesting writeup on this phenomenon.

One month until PyCon Australia 2012 (gulp)

As I’m busily sitting in the speakers’ room at OSCON 2012, I’m reminded that it’s not all that long until we kick off PyCon Australia 2012. I’m really looking forward to seeing two days of interesting, fun and informative talks from Australia’s best Python experts. I’m also really really excited about our two US-based keynote presenters: Mark Ramm (TurboGears co-BDFL, Pyramid hacker, and Engineering Manager on Juju at Canonical) and Kenneth Reitz (author of Python-Requests, various other Python open source projects, and Python Overlord at Heroku).

If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, we’d love it if you did: registrations will remain open until the week of the conference (unless we sell out); if you want T-shirts, you’ll need to register on or before July 31. More information can be found at the PyCon Australia website.

PyCon Australia 2012 Programme – Out now!

I’m very glad to be able to finally release PyCon Australia’s programme for this year. It’s one of the strongest programmes we’ve put together for this conference, and it features excellent content for developers in all aspects of the Python Ecosystem.

Here’s some of the favourites that I’m looking forward to:

Of course, there’s more than 30 other talks, including our keynote presenters, Mark Ramm (who’ll be showing us why Python’s strengths in handling scientific data make Python an excellent tool for helping make product design decisions), and Kenneth Reitz (who’ll be explaining how to make APIs in Python better).

There’ll also be our regular opportunities for lightning talks at the end of each day, and plenty of other activities. So why not check out the rest of the schedule and tell me what you’re looking forward to?

The PyCon Australia 2012 Venue Tour!

It’s been a very busy month for PyCon Australia organisation — not only have we selected our programme for the conference (more on that real soon now), but we’ve also announced two keynote presenters, and made some real concrete choices about our conference venue. Since as presenters and delegates, you want to know about where you’ll be presenting, it’s probably worth showing off the venue to you.

Wrest Point, Tasmania

As we’ve mentioned countless times before, we’re holding the conference at the Wrest Point complex in Hobart. As well as being amazingly experienced operators of conferences, they’ve done a great job at being flexible to our needs — right down to a late venue change for us.

Locals, and people familiar with Hobart will probably be familiar with Wrest Point — it’s a very prominent tower building, right on the waterfront in Sandy Bay. Whilst there’s a quite prominent convention centre at Wrest Point, we’re forgoing that part of the complex in favour of something different. PyCon AU will be operating out of the Mezzanine section of the Wrest Point Hotel — a 1930s-era Art Deco building, which, whilst old, is amazingly well-kept, and very pretty.

Derwent room 3 from speaker's position

The Derwent Room is our primary venue – it’s an Art Deco ballroom, and in the configuration we’ll be using, will seat around 300 delegates comfortably. It’ll be set up as our keynote venue for the first and last sessions of each day; but during morning and afternoon tea, it splits into two halls — seating 200 in the larger of the two rooms (and more than 100 in the other). We’ll also be using the Derwent Room in an open-plan configuration (with couches, an open fireplace, and views of the Derwent River) for our post-conference sprints.

Portlight Room from speaker's position

The second piece of the puzzle — the room for our third stream of talks — is the Portlight Room. Located at the back of the Portlight Bar (just down the hallway from the Derwent Room), the room will be used for our extended tutorials, as well as some of our shorter talks. It’s recently been renovated to allow for more seats — we reckon it’ll seat more than 100 delegates comfortably.

Portlight Bar

The Portlight Bar itself, complete with open fireplace, will be our haven for caffeine addicts — our Espresso Bar, sponsored by Secret Lab, will be pulling shots for delegates right throughout both conference days; you’ll also find a selection of other drinks at morning and afternoon tea time. This will also be where we put our conference registration desk.

Wrest Point hotel hallways - hallway track and mingling

A great tech conference needs a great hallway track; and a good hallway track needs good hallways. Luckily, we have these too! There’s ample couches and space to mingle with other delegates around the conference hallways.

Riviera Room (Hacking Space)

Finally, we’ve set aside a room for use as an open space — we’ll have couches, as well as desks available to let you hack and work on slides to your heart’s content. Or if you want to hold an impromptu talk, we’ll make sure that you can do this here too!

Boardwalk Gallery

Boardwalk Gallery

The final venue to look at is the Boardwalk Gallery — it’s part of the convention centre section of Wrest Point, and it’ll be where we’re holding the CodeWars tournament (which, by the way, is now being sponsored by Kogan). It’s a large, open-plan space, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the Derwent river, which is less than 5 metres away.

So that’s it — our venues for PyCon Australia. If you want to see the full set of venue photos, including plenty of extra angles from each of our conference spaces, you can find it on Flickr. Got any questions? Feel free to ask!