PyConUK 2013

Every PyConUK has a different feel to it. By which I mean: I chart a different course through the weekend each year. Of course, the specifics of the conference itself change each time, too: the talks being given, the rooms being used, the people there, the special events or tracks being offered; all those things affect the feel of things too. But, as the ever energetic Zeth (”Really I should call this ZethConUK”) pointed out at one of the several opening addresses: this is a community conference; it is what you make it.

This year I’d committed to being a session chair for an hour and a half in one room on the Friday afternoon. Being a session chair means you’re going to be listening to three sessions, whether or not you’re inherently interested in the subject matter. In my case matters were made more interesting by a misunderstanding by one of the speakers who mistakenly took another speaker’s slot. At the exact same time that the Wiki was out of action after over-zealously shutting down when detecting an IP-bomb. (ie all the people at PyConUK on the *same* Nat-ted address all trying to access the schedule at the self-same time). This meant that I couldn’t check the timetable and I had to believe the quite-certain speaker’s version of events. The thing was resolved amicably and we moved on.

My own talk had been in the very first slot of the Fri afternoon sessions and nobody walked out or evidently fell asleep so I’m willing to judge it successful on that basis!

Following on from last year’s “Teachers’ Track”, the indefatigable @ntoll [actually: very fatigable as we saw on Monday] had organised both an education track on Saturday and a Raspberry Jam on Sunday, assisted in the latter by “Mr Raspberry Jam” himself: Alan O’Donohoe. There are pictures and videos of both around the web, for example here and here.

This year we had bigger rooms, which worked for me. I slightly missed the Tweetstream which used to be projected in the [this year’s] “HP Room” but Twitter traffic didn’t seem that great when I checked so maybe the Twitter-buzz is tailing off, or at least plateau-ing.

As always, the chance to meet people, the evening meals and drinks, looking around historic Coventry, all the not-conference things add to the occasion. The Ibis hotel is perfectly pleasant and reasonably priced (and effectively on-campus for the conference). The staff at the Technology Centre are helpful and friendly and competent; several times this and previous years I’ve witnessed the dining room staff go out of their way to try to accommodate someone’s needs even when, for whatever reason, they haven’t been given advanced notice.

My particular take-home idea from talking to teachers at the Education track was the idea of “One Screenful of Python”. I’ve started a Github organisation but I haven’t yet fleshed the thing out fully. The basic idea is that programmers would like to contribute to helping teachers out, but don’t necessarily have the time or flexibility to go into schools directly. But teachers would be helped by having a self-contained piece Python code which does something interesting. A screenful is the right size to put in front of a class and go through in the course of one lesson. Don’t know if it’ll come to anything, but it’s worth a try.

Anyway, big thanks as always to John Pinner and the PyWM team and everyone else who helped. (Hat-tip here to Peter Inglesby who very ably coordinated speakers and session chairs). I enjoyed it and I look forward to next year.

PS There are links to write-ups and photos over on the wiki.