First Time at PyCon India

Dated: October 06, 2012

PyCon India 2012 happened in Bangalore this year and it was my first PyCon India ever. Given that not a lot of good events/conferences for geeks happen here in Delhi/NCR and PyCon US and DrupalCon Denver were the last two conferences that I attended earlier this year in March, I was getting impatient to attend another conference and get together with some geeks. I like it because there is lots to learn from the sessions and the smart people who attend these events, and its always fun to know how busy the people you know are innovating new and awesome stuff.

First of all, I’d like to thank the PyCon India organizing team for the amazing hard work they had put in. PyCon is a completely volunteer driven effort and wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work put in by all the involved volunteers.

Tutorials

PyCon India was a 3-day long conference with the first day dedicated to tutorials and the last two days taking care of the keynotes and presentations. There were a couple of interesting tutorials. To start with in the first block of tutorials, the only one that I found to be close to my interests was Piyush Kumar’s and Konark Modi’s tutorial on Background Task Processing and Deferred Execution using Celery. Unfortunately, I missed this one because I was catching up with some friends at the conference venue. In the second slot of tutorials, again I found only one tutorial interesting and that was Building Simple Clusters using Beanstalkd. I thought it would be something new but it was just about using Message Queue systems to distribute tasks amongst your worker processes running on different machines, something that I have already done before. I did leave that tutorial a bit early but I wouldn’t say it was bad. Perhaps I misunderstood the topic a bit and was expecting too much out of it. All in all, the only take away from the tutorials day was that I got to meet some old friends. However, I wish it was not like that. Tutorials are a good opportunity for audience of all kinds (i.e. beginner, intermediate and even expert) to learn something new. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time. IMHO, the tutorial topics were either too use-case specific or something that I already knew. :P Also, it was general feedback from the people I know that the tutorial speakers were not very well prepared. I hope that won’t be the case in the future conferences. Attendees buy tutorial tickets because they really expect to learn something new and if they don’t get it, they get upset and perhaps won’t attend tutorials in the future.

Sessions

The last two days of the conference had many sessions. I missed a couple of sessions that I wanted to attend, including Anand’s session (even the second time, shame on me). Out of the four or five sessions that I attended, I found two sessions good. Most of the other sessions gave me a feeling that the session speakers were not prepared at all whereas some sessions were merely presentation of documentation of existing Python libraries. This is one thing that I wouldn’t want to experience again. In fact, if a person has proposed a session, then that person must prepare it well because his audience expects that they will get to take something valuable away when they attend that session but unfortunately many sessions at this PyCon had only disappointment as the only take away. I am not going to name sessions here but some sessions were really bad. Yes, its the responsibility of the organizers to make sure that the sessions are good. But, as a speaker I believe I would want not want to disappoint my audience at least content-wise or I will not propose a session at all. Why volunteer to give a session when you are not going to prepare properly? Session speakers must understand this that someone else could perhaps present a better sessions with better content than theirs. I hope this will not happen again and the organizing committee will take care of this as they have already noticed this issue themselves.

I spoke at PyCon India as well. My session was on Queues for Web Applications. It was session for an audience between beginner and intermediate level. As I earlier pointed out that many sessions were merely presentations of documentations of some Python libraries and I expected that would happen as well, I made it a point to not make my session a tutorial. So my session was more about how I got introduced to real-world queues and how I understood things and started implementing it and went on to choose more complex and more sophisticated tools to solve problems. I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed with the turn out. Though I was a little disappointed with myself for getting nervous while presenting as it was the first time I spoke at a big event like PyCon India. At the end, I did get some good comments from some people from the audience, some good questions as well and that made my day! :)

Keynotes

I at least expected the keynotes to be a little more interesting. The first keynote, by David Mertz, was more centred around the Python Software Foundation and related projects. I am not indicating that it was a bad keynote, but not something that I take a lot of interest in or plan to do so in the near future (and that was the general feedback). The second keynote, by Jacob Kaplan Moss, was definitely centred around an interesting topic — the Real-Time Web and how he sees the web evolving. Real-Time Web is definitely a hot thing and WebRTC looks like an amazing initiative towards it. It will change a lot of things and not just web applications. For example, Javascript APIs for capturing photophraphs and videos using device camera and accessing sound input from device microphone will enable developers to challenge existing VoIP services. WebRTC is also working towards P2P amongst different browsers, which again will open a whole new range of possibilities for developers.

Jacob’s demonstration of MeteorJS was also interesting. Meteor allows developers to build real-time apps really easily with almost the same set of Javascript APIs for the server and the client. MeteorJS is pretty interesting. Its good to see the line between client-server getting blurred. Jacob’s point was to make real-time apps in Django or similar frameworks right now is very very difficult whereas it shouldn’t be. You need to setup multiple systems and then make all of them work together to see some real-time magic. Meteor definitely strives to make things like that really easy. Now, we cannot bring Python/Django on the client side like Meteor has done. But, do we really need to do so immaterial of the fact that it is not possible? How difficult it really is right now to make real-time apps with existing frameworks? How easy does Meteor make it? Can we be sattisfied with something not as easy as Meteor but definitely much easier than existing solutions? There are some interesting questions arounds this that I think about these days. Perhaps I will write a post just on this if I am able to think of any concrete approach. Anyways, Jacob’s talk was not bad, but not exciting enough as I was expecting it to be.

Overall Experience

So these were the PyCon India 2012 days. Apart from the conference, I had an amazing time meeting friends and new people. Want to thank Ankur Saxena, Ashish Dubey, Piyush Kumar, Konark Modi and Gurteshwar Singh for all the amazing conversations we had. Got to learn lots from everyone! I would not say that the conference was bad but it was not good enough and it can be much better and it should be much better!

Since I got involved with FOSS projects and communities in Delhi/NCR, I started attending conferences and events because I feel that there always is a take away value in them in the form of learning from sessions, experience, networking, and getting a chance to get more deeply involved with these projects. At PyCon India 2012, this was really missing and this is perhaps one of the factors that I will keep in mind in deciding to attend or not to the next PyCon India. Lets see how the preparation of future PyCons in India shapes up.

Update: I forgot to write about my own session in this post. Its now added at the end of the “Sessions” section.


Originally published at vaidik.in.

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