Saturday, July 7, 2012

Europython 2012 - hot stuff

Being English I often tend to start a new conversation with the weather. At Europython this week I had  good reason, it was hot 30 - 35 degrees centrigrade. Whilst at home the UK has been bathed with ... rain and temperatures of 20 at the most. Of course for Florentines it is only a couple of degrees above the norm, so nothing worth talking about. However they were polite enough to respond to this, or any other opening conversational gambit I offered, and in general I found Europython to be a very social event this year, in terms of meeting new people, probably more so than any previous conference I have been to for Python or its frameworks.

At this year's conference I attended on my own, and hence I made a bit more of an effort to be sociable. This along with luckily getting a poster session (that could help justify work sending me!), were prompts to try and start conversations where I may normally have been more reticent.

The conference itself has a great atmosphere for mixing in any case. With possibly four main themes. Core language and implementation developers. Web applications. Data mining and processing. Configuration management and automation tools. Of course within these there are divisions, the investment banking iPython analysers vs. the applied science academic researchers. Or Pyramid vs. Django, etc., but it seems everyone can usefully share ideas, whether they are sales engineers from a large company or a pure hobbyist.

This inclusiveness was also a theme in itself, particularly wrt. women. Kicking off with Alex Martelli's keynote about the inventor of the compiler, along with a lot of other stuff, Grace Hopper.
Unfortunately they are under represented in the coding sector, at work I think its around 20% for programmers, but even that is higher than the average - probably because we are public sector / unionised. This is reflected by much lower membership of our local DBBUG Django group who are mainly drawn from the commercial sector, with only 2 out of around 50 active members. Europython was as bad, at 4% last year, but that has doubled this year to around 60 of the 750 attendees.

Returning to Python themes. The chance to chat to the data miners was most useful since we are currently in a state of transition at work. Having been involved in internal systems, particularly CMS from the days when it was evolving 10 years ago, we are now moving to a more pure R&D role.
This means that CMS work is to be dropped and whilst we want to continue large custom web application work related to research (thats where my poster session on our Django survey system comes in). We also want to be moving towards work that ties up with the University's applied science research - especially big data mining and the like.
So for me the chance to talk (and listen) to people across a range of disciplines was ideal.

Lastly, I also realised how stale my knowledge of the the new features of the language are. Time to get a book on Python 3 - and get back on track I think.  Oh and of course many thanks to the Italian Python community and conference organisers for a really great conference - and more than my fare share of free cocktails - which certainly helped break the ice.

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