Tag Archives: pyconau 2012

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 sponsorship@pycon-au.org, 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 http://2012.pycon-au.org/register/prices

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!

PyCon Australia early bird registrations now open!

For fear of spamming EVERYWHERE with the news, I include just the tl;dr:

tl;dr: PyCon Australia early bird registrations are now open! Find out more at http://2012.pycon-au.org/register/prices, including details of our accommodation programme.

The full media release on the opening of registration can be found at http://2012.pycon-au.org/media/news/15

Hope we see you all registered soon!

More pontification on alcohol at conferences

This post started off as a reply to a comment (by “Alan”) on my previous post on this topic, but it got a bit long-winded, and raised a few clarifications of my own viewpoints on this matter. So it’s turned into a post of its own.

So, before I start this, nothing against the organisers or team surrounding OSCON. I loved my experience speaking, and attending the main conference event, and I’m coming back to OSCON to speak again this year. The reason why I pick on it is because it’s the one large American conference that I’ve been to, and it provides a nice contrast to the grassroots-style conferences that I’ve been involved with back home. It also exhibits some very specific examples of fostering that “culture of exclusion” that could be fixed with a few minor policy changes.

So, without further ado, here’s me addressing the points in Alan’s comment.

Could it be that this and the “brogrammer” culture is a problem that is more present at JSConf and Ruby conferences than Python?

I certainly agree that this culture does peak around various types of communities — for instance, Ryan’s post on the “Culture of Exclusion” speaks very specifically of JSConf and various Ruby groups, and in my own experience this sort of culture doesn’t seem to be prevalent at PyCons. However, to say that it’s attached to a small subset of communities is probably quite unfair — OSCON is very much a multi-community conference, but there’s still quite the drinking culture attached to it. Likewise, it seems to me that the Ruby community in Australia isn’t quite as drinking-centric as the examples that Ryan put forward.

You don’t hear anything about sexist COBOL programmers or late night binging at Java conferences from what I can tell. Even PHP seems to have grown up.

I think the likelihood of these sorts of things to occur really does depend on the level of “community” that is attached to a given language or technology. As an example here, people doing Java coding are almost certainly doing so because they work for in a corporate environment. Ruby and JS people are doing so because they work in a “startup” environment, or they’re doing it for fun. The companies that form the founding groups around a conference will often bring their culture along with them. It’s interesting to consider why this doesn’t happen so much at Python conferences. I don’t have any particular answers here — indeed, it’s quite the paradox, because I’d have considered Python to be more of a “startup” type language, and one would assume that would bring the “startup” culture into it. Perhaps it speaks of the values of those who started gatherings for Python coders?

Are these excesses a problem at conferences in general? Is this an American thing? Or even a Ruby/JS thing?

Is it a problem with conferences or communities, or is it a much more widespread cultural issue (as in e.g. American youth culture) that has just become more visible for us recently?

Excess is something that needs to be managed — it’s very easy for a conference organiser to say “yes, you can provide an open bar at this event” to a sponsor, and sponsors get quite an amount of good will from it (free alcohol doesn’t upset people, non-drinkers won’t speak up). It’s also pretty clear to me that if an open bar is offered, there’ll be a group of people who will take it up, regardless of the community that centres around the conference.

So the conferences that suffer from this sort of problem are the ones which either don’t have a policy of limitation of alcohol sponsorship, or those that actively encourage a culture of drinking (the sort of things that Ryan Funduk talks about in his article). I doubt there’d be open bars at any conference if there weren’t sponsors who were willing to fund them.

The onus is therefore on conference organisers to make sure that they don’t encourage binge drinking. In particular, this involves limiting the amount of alcohol sponsorship a conference is willing to accept — we at PyCon Australia are doing this by only providing tokens for drinks at our alcohol sponsored events (with the exception of at the dinner, where the open bar is time-limited, and comes with food and other entertainment).

What distinguishes conferences and communities that have this problem from those that do not?

Conferences can send out a message about this culture: For example, offering OSCON offers free attendance to the drinking events, but not to the main content of the conference; this can be compared with Linux.conf.au, where you have to pay extra to attend the drinking session. The contrasts between these arrangements provide quite the subtext between the values of the two conferences — intentional or not. In my view, OSCON providing such a ticket says that the “base level” experience of the conference is one where you go to all the parties, and the talks and tutorials are the “added extras”. For LCA, it’s the other way around.

So in summary, there are plenty of factors that surround the discussion of alcohol at conferences. I think it’s an important discussion to have, not least because it presents as a diversity argument in very much the same way as the gender diversity argument has presented itself over the last few years — conferences should always be looking at the messages they send out about the communities they wish to foster, and ensuring that they’re inclusive towards everyone in that culture.

Do Australian tech conferences suffer from “A Culture of Exclusion”? How do we avoid it?

I spotted this interesting article by Ryan Funduk, on the culture of exclusion generated by piss-up parties at tech conferences — primarily at conferences in America, but the issue is certainly prevalent in other places.

I attended OSCON last year, and whilst OSCON is clearly not as bad as the type of events that have been highlighted in this writeup, there were still plenty of events that were promoted by the conference and their sponsors, but clearly served only as an opportunity to booze up some delegates. In fact, there was at least one such party advertised in the conference schedule each night — peaking on the Wednesday where there were three such conference parties advertised on the conference schedule, cleverly paced for two hours so that delegates could move on to each of the parties as the previous one wound up.

I personally feel as though these sorts of events have no place being actively promoted by the conference schedule. There are several good reasons for this that are all detailed in the parent article, but they all boil down to the fact that not everyone drinks. Parties where the key attraction is drinking only attracts those who drink. By advertising such events as part of the programme, they create cliques within the conference community that aren’t defined by the community that the conference serves to support.

Worse still is when such events are not run with alternatives available, because this strongly promotes the subtext that drinking is the only way to socialise at the conference. So a delegate who doesn’t drink will not fit in to any part of the conference, because there is no well-established way for non-drinkers to find each other.

As an active participant in tech conferences in Australia, it’s important to reflect on criticisms of such conferences in other countries, as well as here, to make sure that we’re providing a culture that actively encourages any delegate who chooses to attend — regardless of age, gender or lifestyle choice.

In the case of conferences run in Australia, I don’t believe that the issues of Alcohol-driven events are near as much of a problem as they are in America.

At Linux.conf.au, since the demise of the Google Party (an event very much brought over by American employees of Google), I don’t think I’ve seen a single event associated with the conference where drinking was the sole purpose of the event. One exception of this is the Professional Delegates Networking Session, however, I have always seeked to run a non-alcohol driven alternative against it. As a non-drinker for most of the LCAs I’ve been to, I don’t think I’ve lost out by not participating in the drinking.

At PyCon Australia, we’ve been careful to not offer up any events with an open tab — companies who want to sponsor alcohol have to do so in a way that ensures that the amounts provided are limited, and any foray into dangerous territory comes at the expense of the delegates. There is no conference event planned without a defined activity, and in every case, the presence of a bar at the event is clearly a distant second in terms of priorities for the organisers.

One of the great successes over the past few years in Australia has been ensuring that toxic cultures within the tech community aren’t tolerated. I think it’s imporant that we look at everything we do with a critical eye. I’m sure that our record on avoiding the fostering of an alcohol culture at our events isn’t spotless, and it’s one that we should look over with as critical an eye as we use to look over issues of gender or sexuality.

It’s definitely my intention to do this as I continue to put together PyCon — constantly looking at what we can do as Australian-based conference organisers do to ensure that the culture of alcohol doesn’t take over from the culture of the technology that we’re gathering for?

Update: I’ve written a further post on this topic. Do try it.

Speak at PyCon Australia 2012

February was a pretty big month for PyCon Australia organisation, we finally got our new website up and running, and our Call for Proposals is finally open. We’ve even got our first keynote presenter lined up (hush hush).

Nick Hodge at PyCon Australia 2010
Of course, opening a Call for Proposals doesn’t make a conference just happen. We need people to submit talks now. In particular, we’d like for you to submit something. Even better, our Call for Topics (which has been open since January) has turned up some great trends for what people want to see. Perhaps you have something to say on one of these topics? We want to hear from you!

In-depth techniques with common Python libraries

Have you done interesting things with Python Libraries? Perhaps you’ve solved a difficult application design using Django; or maybe you’ve done awesome hacks with SQLAlchemy? Our delegates want to know just what can be done with those libraries that are out there in the wild — help them take the next step in enhancing their skills.


Few things are more important in the application development process. Thorough testing means that you can be confident that your code works, and well-written tests ensure that things don’t break when you make changes. But talks on testing have been sorely lacking at PyCon Australia in the past. Help show our delegates how to make code that’s testable using the best tools available to Python developers.

Alternative implementations

Sure, CPython may be the reference implementation of Python, and it may be what nearly everyone coding python uses, but it’s not the only version of Python out there. The PyPy project is working wonders at making Python code run fast (so that it can compete with state-of-the-art JavaScript VMs), and the Jython and IronPython projects are helping to bring the world of Python to Java and .NET developers. Show PyCon Australia that the Python world doesn’t stop at CPython.

Live Code Reviews

One of the best ways to learn about how something works is to take it apart and see what’s inside. Open source projects let us deeply study the internals of the tools and libraries that we use every day. Show our delegates just how their favourite Python tools work, suggest improvements, and perhaps find new contributors to your projects.

Forward-porting to Python 3

Currently, two incompatible versions of Python are competing for your development time — Python 2, which is the old version of Python with flaws you’ve come to know and accept; and the all-new Python 3, which is easier to code with and more consistent. The problem is that all the code you depend upon is written in Python 2. Help speed up the migration to the new version of Python by showing how to forward-port libraries to Python 3.

Now, submit something!

So, now that you know what people want to see at PyCon Australia 2012, perhaps you have an idea about what you can present. Head over to our Call for Proposals and submit a talk for us. The call closes on Friday May 4.

If you still need more ideas, PyCon Australia 2011 presenter, Daniel Greenfeld has a list of Python conference talks he’d like to see. And if you have more ideas that you’d like someone else to present, our Call for Topics is still open.

Can’t wait to see your proposals coming in!

PyCon Australia 2012 – Call for Topics now open

In case you missed the news, PyCon Australia is being held on August 18th and 19th in Hobart, Tasmania. Like the first two PyCon Australia conferences, 2012 hopes to be full of presentations, tutorials and panel sessions from experts and core developers of the Python programming language, as well as the Python libraries and frameworks that you rely on for your work.

It’s time for us to start shaping the conference programme for 2012, and we need your help. We want to know what topics you want to see covered at PyCon Australia, or which presenters you think can help make our conference perfect for you.

If you’re already convinced, pop over to http://tinyurl.com/pyconau2012-cft and fill out our Call for Topics form. If not, read on!

Oh, still reading? Let see…

PyCon Australia is running a Call for Topics. This is like the reverse of a traditional Call for Proposals: instead of proposing a presentation, you can propose a topic that you’d like to see a presentation on at the conference, or possibly a presenter that you really want to see present. PyCon US have been doing this for a long time, it helps ensure that their conference attracts the best possible presenters. There’s a couple of reasons why you should help us out:

See the presenters you want to see

We’re planning on putting out our usual call for proposals in February 2012, but we need to make sure that the best possible presenters submit proposals to PyCon Australia. Our delegates, like you, want to enhance their skills in Python with every session that they attend. Our CfP can’t reach everyone, and even then not everyone who sees the CfP will think that they’re good enough to present at a conference — getting an invitation to present can be a pretty good motivator!

Learn about the tools that you want to use

One great reason to come to a Python conference is to increase your skillset in the tools and frameworks that you use in your day-to-day work. Perhaps there’s a new library that you’re considering using? Nominating it as a presentation topic for PyCon Australia will increase the chances it being covered in the conference. If you don’t know of an expert in the field, don’t worry. We can find one.

Heard enough?

Great! We can’t want to hear your suggestions. Just head over to our call for Topics form, and send in your ideas. Every idea can help make this conference perfect for you.

PyCon Australia 2012 starts here

PyCon Australia
So one thing I forgot to mention on this blog is that I’ve taken over the reins of PyCon Australia for the 2012 and 2013 conferences. After spending two formative years in Sydney, under the direction of Tim Ansell, Richard Jones et al., we’re taking the conference south to Hobart, Tasmania. We’ve got a great team, consisting of myself, Joshua Hesketh and Matthew D’Orazio, and our papers committee is being led up once again by Richard Jones.

So, what can you look forward to? Well, here’s what we know so far.

Wrest Point

We’re holding PyCon Australia around the weekend of August 18 and 19 2012. Our venue is the Wrest Point Convention centre in Sandy Bay.  We’re really excited about our choice of venue — as well as offering us perfectly-sized rooms for our conference, the wide variety of spaces in the complex allow us to bring all of the traditional PyCon Australia events — CodeWars, the sprints and the conference itself — under the same roof for the first time.

Wrest Point is situated on the shoreline of the River Derwent, and this not only admits excellent views from the conference venue, but will also enable us to run some truly memorable social events, including the conference dinner, which we hope to share more details about shortly.

Our venue also lets us offer accommodation across a very wide range of budgets (starting around $124/room/night) to our delegates — this is not just a nominated conference hotel, it’s in the same building complex as the conference venue. This means that delegates can stay on-site for the entirety of the conference.  We think this will prove very popular, especially amongst delegates sticking around for the conference sprints.

Hobart & Wrest Point

For students and those travelling on a budget — we plan on keeping the conference affordable: there’ll still be heavily discounted student tickets, and we’ll announce budget accommodation options when registration opens.

Finally, you might be wondering how you can help make PyCon Australia the perfect conference for you? Well, in the coming week, we’ll be opening a Call for Topics.  This is an opportunity for you, as a potential PyCon Australia delegate, to nominate both topics and presenters that you’d like to see at the conference.  By nominating presentations, you can help ensure that PyCon Australia can help you enhance your skills and increase your knowledge of Python.

Of course, if you have something that you could present at PyCon Australia, we’d love to hear from you as well.  We’ll be opening a traditional call for presentations during February.

So, that’s it for now.  I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date on our progress as we seek to put on the best Python Conference that Australia can offer. If you’ve got something to ask, feel free to drop a comment, either here, on Twitter, or on our Google+ page — we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible!

(Photos: “Wrest Point” by JJ Harrison, CC-BY-SA; “View of Hobart CBD” by Aaroncrick, CC-BY-SA)