PyCon 2014: Community, community, community. Also, childcare.

There were lots of problems with PyCon this year. For example, the free, hi-speed wifi made you log in each day. And it was in Montreal, so one of my foreign students couldn't come because he didn't get a visa in time. The company booths were not centrally located. And, worst of all, the PyCon mugs aren't dishwasher safe.

So, as you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed.

Haha, no, just kidding. PyCon 2014 was wonderful! For the first time, I brought quite a few people from my lab; my wife & two children (6 and 3 yro) also came, because it was driving distance from Michigan, and so we just packed everyone into a minivan and drive 700 miles.

Community

My labbies -- none of whom had ever been to PyCon before -- said that they really enjoyed the conference. In large part that was not just because of the talks, but because of all the subcommunity stuff that went on -- I heard that the various women-centric and LGBTQ meetups were great. The efforts to raise diversity and enforce the code of conduct at PyCon (especially in light of last years' happenings) paid off this year: I heard of no major CoC violations, and while mansplaining was apparently alive and well in some Q&A sessions, the overall atmosphere was really friendly and welcoming.

As Michael Crusoe pointed out to me, PyCon has clearly decided that they will focus on community more than technology -- which is probably the only truly sustainable path anyway. Highlighting this, there were plenty of talks on Python, and also plenty of talks on other things, including building community and raising awareness.

A particular highlight for me in this regard was Naomi Ceder's talk on being a member of the Python community both before and after she transitioned. What an amazing way to raise awareness, and what an excellent talk.

On Childcare

This was also the first year that PyCon had childcare. It was great! We brought our six and three year old girls, and they spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the conference in a meeting room in one of the conference hotels. Presumably it will be similarly located next year (PyCon 2015 will be in Montreal also), and I can't recommend it highly enough. Our girls loved it and were very happy to go back each day. They had activities, movies, and swimming - good fun.

I would suggest changing a few things next year -- first, it would be great if parents knew where childcare was going to be. As it was we stayed in the other hotel (Hyatt?), and had to walk from one hotel to the other (the Hilton, I think) before going to the conference. This extended our morning quite a bit; next year, if we bring the kids, it'd be nice to just walk them downstairs in the morning. Second, it might be nice to have the option of extending childcare a day or two; my wife had to take the children while I taught Software Carpentry on the Monday after the conference. We did make use of an in-room babysitter from the daycare to go out one evening, and that was great! She even taught our older child some French into the bargain.

From a larger perspective, it was super fun to have the kids at the conference without having to have either my wife or myself take care of 'em all the time. My wife (who is also technical) got to attend talks, as did I, and I got to introduce the kids to a few people (and make Jesse homesick for his kids) -- maybe next year we can do some more young-kid-focused gatherings?

My talk

I gave a talk again this year -- it was on instrumenting data-intensive pipelines for cloud computing. You can see all the things. It was reasonably well received; the crowd was smaller than my 2013 talk (video), because I'd avoided sexy keywords, but I got good questions and several people told me it had made them think differently about things, which is a nice outcome.

My talk was sandwiched between two other great talks, by Julia Evans (talking on Pandas) and David Beazley (talking about what happens when you lock him in a small enclosed space with a Windows computer that has Python installed along with several TB of C code). Julia's talk was hilariously high energy -- she gets way too excited about bike routes ;) -- and David's was, as usual, the highlight of the conference for me. You should go watch both of 'em.

Next year, I'm thinking about doing a talk on sequencing your own genome and interpreting the results with Python. I think that means I need to sequence my own genome first. You know, for science. Anyone got a spare $1000 lying around?

--titus

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