PyCon DC 2004

Showing off new software, planning for the future and running sprints in DC.
Macintosh / SubEthaEdit

A surprising number of Macintosh laptops were spotted at this conference. But then I remembered that there was a surprising number of Macintoshes at last year's conference too. Bob Ippolito gave a talk called "60 Minutes with MacPython". I haven't had a Mac since I sold my Classic in 1993 to get a machine that could run Linux, I'll spare you a clueless interpretation and refer you to the session paper and SubEthaEdit notes. Bob has some warnings about which Python to use for OS X 10.2 vs 10.3, the dreaded resource fork and more. MacPython also has libraries for Cocoa, the NeXT framework that was ported to the Mac. Bob says Cocoa is a good API; it's been around for 15 years. wxPython works on the Mac but it doesn't put the widgets in quite the correct place.

One thing I didn't realize until after the conference (when my friend Brian Dorsey pointed it out) is that many of those Mac laptops were running SubEthaEdit. SubEthaEdit is a distributed text editor; you may prefer to think of it like a multiplayer game, CVS on steroids or a real-time wiki. All the SubEthaEdit programs running in wireless range of one another get together and state which files they have open. Anybody can update anybody's document simultaneously in real time. The background color of the text shows who edited what portion. When done in a lecture hall (for instance, a talk at a Python conference), the result is the best of everybody's notes all in one. This is the next generation of notetaking and will no doubt be a staple at future Python conferences.

Some of these Mac addicts went to dinner together on the first day of the conference and started thinking, "Why don't we write an open-source equivalent to SubEthaEdit in Python?" The result is Fuse, which is partially working. The developers' mailing list stalled March 30, but a couple people checked in April 11 to say they're still working on it.

Plans for Next Year

Success has its drawbacks, and the biggest one is that we may outgrow GWU next year if attendance approaches 500. The organizers are shopping for a venue that can handle a thousand people, so we won't have to move again after a couple years. We may be too late for next year because conferences normally book 18 months in advance. If we do stay at GWU one more year, we'll have to cap attendance at its capacity. Priorities for a new location include:

  • proximity to public transportation, low-cost accommodations and a city to hang out in

  • facilities that include catering, network equipment and the like at a cost comparable to GWU

  • accessibility for off-hours activities, like BOFs

  • a place to hold the sprints before or after the conference

There are arguments both for and against remaining in DC. "lac" writes in the wiki that we can't assume that the number who attend because it's in DC are more than the number who don't attend because it's in DC. We just don't know. The West Coast has OSCON, but OSCON attracts a different clientele due to its higher price and different focus. There's a possibility of two regional conferences down the road, PyCon East and PyCon West. Is that better for the community or worse? Europe already is hosting its own conferences (EuroPython and Python UK), and maybe Asia will too.

Steve Holden has said he's willing to chair one more conference but he wants to retire after that. He's hoping to train a vice-chair next year who can take over the reigns the following year. PyCon cannot remain dependent on one person or it won't succeed long term.

Steve's greatest regret is that 50-100 people marked the volunteer box on the registration, but there was no mechanism in place to alert them when they were needed, so that manpower was lost.

There's discussion about whether to have the sprints before or after the conference, or both. The argument for after is the talks will draw new people to the same-topic sprints, and the sprinters already will know one another and maybe have decided their tasks so they can start running. The argument for before is that people will be burned out after the conference.

Open Space definitely needs better organization. Open Space, Lightning Talks and BOFs need to be planned into the schedule. Perhaps the first day's topics should be set before the conference to avoid losing that day. Also, what's the difference between an Open Space and a BOF anyway?

The brightest note is that Steve writes, "It's amazing how many people say that PyCon is the best conference they have [ever] attended, even people who are quite experienced conference-goers."

Oh and Steve, if you do step down from the chairman role, you'll still be there with your British understatement zingers, won't you?



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LeoN a pure Python SubEthaEdit clone

Anonymous's picture

There is a previous pure python SubEthaEdit clone that has an full featured alpha release

Re: PyCon DC 2004

Anonymous's picture

Since Mike didn't mention it, I'll point out -- the VoIP software that Anthony Baxter presented is called Shtoom, and it's hosted at Divmod:

-- Christopher Armstrong

Re: PyCon DC 2004

Anonymous's picture

I've read half a dozen writeups on PyCon 2004. Mike's is the clear
winner among them all. Thanks! I really feel like I've gotten some of the essence of an interesting event.

About Fuse

Anonymous's picture

There is a previous pure python SubEthaEdit clone that has an full featured alpha release