PyCon 2013

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Python, Code, MyRamblings, Tech

by maria on 29 Mar 2013 - 05:40  

I went to Pycon in Santa Clara this year, and really enjoyed it. I learned a lot, and made quite a few connections. First the unpleasantness, the Adria Richards debacle. Much has been written already, so I'll make this brief. Adria Richards tweeted a picture of two men who were making sexual jokes behind her during a talk at the conference. Whether or not Adria chose the 'best' course of action for pointing out inappropriate behavior at a tech conference is an open question, and quite frankly beside the point. She chose what she thought was the best tool at the time, and there is no way she could have predicted what followed. What followed was a massive onslaught of threats and insults that was completely beyond the pale and speaks miles about how much sexism exists in the tech community. The reaction of the tech community shows that this community can be a very uncomfortable and often downright hostile place for women, and when incidents like this happen, it makes me incredulous that some people still wonder why women leave the IT community. If you would like to read more, I recommend these articles:

If you want to be depressed about the general state of conditions for women in IT, check out geekfeminism.

And, now onto much better things. My favorite talk was 'The Naming of Ducks: Where Dynamic Types Meet Smart Conventions' by Brandon Rhodes. It was very informative, and done with humor and great slides. My biggest pet peeve about technical talks is the slides containing huge swaths of programs. Most of the room can't even read it all, and all of that code usually distracts from the speakers point, anyway. These were nice, small bits of code, stripped down to the bare essentials to make the point. His talk is up on the awesome pyvideo site:

http://pyvideo.org/video/1676/the-naming-of-ducks-where-dynamic-types-meet-sma

And you can see the slides here:

http://pycon.github.com/2013-slides/Naming%20Ducks%20by%20Brandon%20Rhodes/

Another favorite talk, which was just chock-full of useful tidbits was 'Transforming Code into Beautiful, Idiomatic Python' by Raymond Hettinger. Another engaging, humorous speaker. His talk can also be seen on the pyvideo site:

http://pyvideo.org/video/1780/transforming-code-into-beautiful-idiomatic-pytho

and his slides are also available:

https://speakerdeck.com/pyconslides/transforming-code-into-beautiful-idiomatic-python-by-raymond-hettinger-1

I also participated in a couple of days of sprints, and based on my experience, I have some unsolicited advice for anyone wanting to run a sprint. The purpose of a sprint is two-fold. The current software developers on the project want to get a piece of software out there, and the new software developers want to help. That is the basic. It is hoped that everyone will learn something and have some fun as well. So, to accomplish this, the current software developers should do some homework before the sprint. If you actually want the new software developers to be able to help you, you must be able to get them up and running as soon as possible. Here are the most important steps, as I see it:

  • make development environment for your project easy to set up
  • document how to set up the development environment
  • Follow your documentation and seriously spend time installing on new computers and/or wipe out your environment and re-install a couple of times. Simplify the procedure, make instructions clearer, re-iterate
  • create documentation on how group uses versioning and software used
  • list out some tasks that need to be done, rate tasks by complexity and size
  • have an example of a test(s) to ensure that the nothing has been broken by the new code

I repeat, the more time you spend making sure collaborators can hit the ground running, the more help they can give you. This not only helps for the sprint, but will make your project more welcoming to potential contributors in general.


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