Import This: the Tenth International Python Conference
Andrew Kucheling won O'Reilly's Frank Willison award for the most outstanding contributions to the Python community. He won it for his work on the crypto toolkit, HOWTOs and his "What's New in Python 2.2" series. He had a proud smile on his face when he accepted the award. (Frank Willison was a late editor at O'Reilly and a big Python supporter.)
We shared the foyer and ballrooms with a group of US Marines. There's a definite irony in the contrast between the spiffily dressed Marines in uniform and the scruffily dressed geeks, although I'm not sure what it is. One Pythoneer commented that if you got a hundred Python attendees against four Marines, it would be a fair fight. But if the activity were information warfare, the ratio would be reversed.
David Ascher during the closing ceremony gave the funniest quote of the conference: "I used to be uptight about garbage collection, but then I realized that the Web has no garbage collection."
There was nothing like Toilet Paper this year.
Many thanks to to the conference sponsors for supporting Python even in this difficult economic climate:
Hostway (a web hosting company that uses Python internally, including the control panel application for customers to modify their account information on-line)
Archaeopteryx Software (maker of Wing IDE)
Python and Zope Job Market (a place to trade resumés and jobs)
Rubicon Research (health care software)
Zope (they employ PythonLabs now)
O'Reilly (you know what they publish)
The economy brings up another issue: the cost of the conference. $545 (or $840 with Developers' Day) is too steep for most individuals and even for many companies. I know at least three people in my local Python group who would have attended if they could afford it, and I'm sure others can say the same thing. This is especially important for an open-source project, because enthusiastic Pythoneers are the lifeblood of the project, and when they can't participate in something, the whole project suffers. Nevertheless, the fact remains that even the current price is not enough for the conference to break even, and if it weren't for the sponsors there would be no conference. Finding affordable meeting space for three hundred people is a difficult task, and it won't get any easier. (Maybe Zope, Inc. can buy a hotel and call it the Zope Hotel?) So, I wonder if the Python community can put their heads together and come up with a different kind of conference, or something other than a conference, that all enthusiastic Pythoneers can participate in. Perhaps a set of regional meetings rather than one international conference? I don't know what. Certainly, everybody wants to hear Guido speak, and Guido can't go to ten different regional meetings. Maybe we can webcast his talks and other important Python talks (with transcripts for the multimedia-impaired), so that more people can bridge the distance+cost barrier. A call-in radio talk show called "The Python Hour"? Farfetched, but the more we brainstorm ideas, the more we'll come up with something practical.
Next year will bring another round of maturing for Python and Zope and spin-off products from Zope and packages that have recently been released or are still on the drawing boards. What will they look like? All we know is what the Monty Python announcer says, "And now for something completely different...."
Mike Orr is part of the tech staff at SSC, Inc. and Editor of Linux Gazette.
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