November 16, 2008

Pyworks In Summation

Filed under: blogging,PHP,python — jonEbird @ 7:10 pm

I sit in the Atlanta Airport reminiscing over the events of PyWorks ’08. This was the first year for PyWorks but MTA combined the conference with PHP Architect and I believe everyone was happy with the combination. At a minimum, people had engaging conversations between the groups and a significant number of them cross-attended the sessions. I attended two PHP sessions and one neutral session and then the rest Python. Some people were a bit disappointed in the lack of Python attendees and it is true that we didn’t make up a large part of the total 148 attendees of the conference. But with the quality of talks staying superbly high, not having a full room wasn’t a bad thing.

The quality of talks were all superb, indeed. Probably over half of the presenters are either principle developers on high profile projects or they have written a book or own their own consulting company. On day zero, where there were 3hr long tutorial sessions, I spend the morning in Mark Ramm‘s TurboGears but then I switched over to the PHP side in the afternoon to catch Scott MacVicar and Helgi Þormar Þorbjörnsson‘s Caching for Cash.

At the start of day one, the first day of the normal sessions, I think everyone was expecting a lot more people. There were, in fact, more people but not as many as I was expecting, but again that’s perfectly okay. This day was a full one, starting off with the keynote by Kevin Dangoor about Growing your Community. After a break I then attended Decorators are Fun by Matt Wilson and learned that he is not that far away from me in Cleveland. Next I attended another Mark Ramm talk about WSGI where he was explaining how easy it was to build a web framework. It was given a bit “tongue in check” since he is the primary maintainer of TurboGears. Following that, I attended a middle track session about Distributed version control with GIT by Travis Swicegood. Travis had just finished writing a book about using GIT called Pragmatic Version Control Using Git and not surprisingly gave a authoritation explanation of using GIT. Following lunch, I attending another PHP track presentation but it could have been in the neutral middle track. The talk was Map, Filter, Reduce In the Small and in the Cloud by Sebastian Bergmann where he explained the popular functional programming techniques popularized by Google for computing large quantities of data. Sebastian gave me another reason to checkout Hadoop and in fact I’m now thinking of another Python Magazine article about using hadoop with Jython. For the last session of the day I decided to attend Michael Foord‘s talk about IronPython. I didn’t think I’d ever checkout IronPython on my own, so I thought I’d get a crash course from Michael who also just finished work on his book IronPython in Action.

Still not done with day one. After all of the normal presentation’s concluded, we had happy hour while gearing up for the Pecha Kucha competition sessions. Pecha Kucha is where you provide 20 slides and set them to auto switch every 20 seconds making your session a little over six minutes. Apparently people have found that you can get the same quality bits of information in that format as compared to a full hour session. At least that is what the Japanese have concluded. As for PHP/PyWorks, we mostly had fun with the sessions. There were talks about web security, general ranting, LOLCode, and many others which I’m having a problem remembering. At the end, the LOLCode talk took the prize of the Xbox 360 gaming system by our judges and if you’d really like to see what was going on, you may be able to watch streamed video captured by Travis Swicegood‘s iPhone. Before I went to bed, I rehearsed my presentation one more time.

By the time day two started, it felt like I had been there a full week and yet we still had a full day of presentations again. I started the morning in Chris Perkins‘s talk about the Sphinx Documentation System. We all understand the importance of documentation and it’s not always fun, but again I thought investing 45min catching up on some of the Python “best practices” for documentation would be well worth the time. Afterwards, I stayed in the same room for Jacob Taylor‘s talk about Exploring Artificial Intelligence with Python. Jacob didn’t get around to showing any Python code but he had good attendance for being a founder of SugarCRM. Next, the highlight of the conference, my presentation about LDAP and Python. The number of attendees for my presentation were average for the Python sessions and by this point I felt like I knew everyone which removed any pressure or nervousness. We’ll see how interested people were by seeing who downloads my and/or scripts. After lunch, I attended Kevin Dangoor‘s Paver talk where he explained the motivations for Paver and showed numerous examples of what pain points it solves. Finally, the last session I attended at PyWorks was Jonathan LaCour‘s talk about Elixir, the Python module which makes introduction into SQLAlchemy an easy one. Elixir helps kick start your DB code by simplifying SQLAlchemy by making a lot of sane choices for you as well as providing other conveniences. Jonathan had to work hard to get all of his content into his hour, mostly because he gave a decent overview of SQLAlchemy and then his Elixir module.

As with the previous day, this day concluded with another happy hour while waiting for our closing keynote. The closing keynote was given by Jay Pipes about “living in the gray areas” and not sticking to extreme black and white of our technologies. He praised the joint efforts being made by the PHP and Python folks and criticized people who are too biased to learn from the other communities. Jay is working on Drizzle, while working for Sun, where they are challanging all of the preconceived notions being made by the MySQL community. Drizzle is basically a fork of MySQL and their goals are to provide a much more streamlined version of a database. Jay explained that forks are good (as well as “sporks”) because it keeps people on their toes and keeps the level of competition up. Finally, Jay’s last point was that we need to spend more time listening to other people and less time preaching our biased opinions.

I overheard PHP and Python people resonating Jay’s message after the keynote. I’m glad to have participated in such a successful conference where I truely believe boundries were crossed. With as much time that I spend with the PHP folks, I was repeatedly asked, “So, you coming over to the PHP side?” I think the last time I was asked that was in the hotel pool where again I was playing the role of the “token Python guy” amongst the PHP folks. To be honest, those PHP folks know how to have fun, and if my criteria for choosing a programming language was the amount of fun the community had I would be doing PHP development. I definately want attend next year’s PyWorks and PHP conference and I have an entire year to come up with my presentation proposals.