Thoughts on PyConUK 2015

I don’t really have a lot to say about this year’s PyConUK. That’s not a bad thing: it just reflects the fact that it ran, for me, along very similar lines to last year’s. As usual I was over the road in the Education Track for most of Friday & Saturday: Friday for teachers, Saturday for kids. And as usual, the first talk I attended in the main conference was the one I myself was giving, on Saturday afternoon after the kids had gone. (And can I publicly thank the organisers for being so accommodating when I needed to shift earlier from my original 5pm slot).

A few things were slightly different: the lunchtimes have been staggered, for example. And it seems to have worked. Despite there being even more people this year than last, the queues were not horrendous, at least not when I was there. And although I had the 12pm slot on my badge, I ended up being there at each of the three slots: 12pm, 12.30pm & 1pm. Perhaps I got lucky: I did see someone tweet that he was off to a restaurant. But no-one [who stayed in the queue] seemed to be too unhappy.

There was also a science track, which [ANECDOTAL DATA ALERT] I don’t think quite got the take-up the organisers were hoping, but I’ve certainly spoken to several people over lunch and dinner who had attended or were going to attend although they hadn’t come along with that in mind. Sarah Mount, the organiser, seems happy enough, so let’s hope it’s been successful enough.

During the year I’ve spent a little more time engaging with teachers courtesy of Cat Lamin’s Coding Evenings in Twickenham. I’ve also become involved with PiNet, hoping to improve the Python elements of that project. On the Friday I ended up helping out in the Code Club sessions in the large front room closest to the building entrance. This meant that I was in a position to greet latecomers, whether developers eager to help or parents & kids eager to learn. Having being a little more involved with the Python-Ed community, I was in a better position to link people up: a father in Horsham who’s keen for his daughter to get involved with a local code club; a 12-year-old interested in security and penetration testing; a Surrey-based father whose two young daughters were both coding.

I thought it was a nice touch to have some of the Kids present a lightning talk session over the main conference. (And thanks to the conference delegates who packed the main hall out and gave the youngsters a great audience). I was particularly impressed by the two lads who decided to live-code their Minecraft demo!

The rest of the conference went by enjoyably if unexceptionally. I enjoyed the Friday night social in the canteen (and the Saturday night sit-down meal was as good as ever). I had a pleasant Sunday night meal with a few others in a Lebanese restaurant close to the hotel I was staying in (formerly housing the Coventry Technical College and now housing the Hotel and a Theatre). And I got some useful sprinting done on Monday, principally working on pgzero. I was refactoring ZRect: the floating-point version of pygame’s uber-flexible Rect class.

I always find it really easy to chat to random folk at PyConUK — something I don’t find that easy elsewhere! Everyone’s happy to talk, and not just about how they use Python (altho’ that’s a handy icebreaker) but about where they come from, in every sense, and what we might have in common.

I think the venue is fine, and the staff are always friendly and helpful, but we really have outgrown it, it seems. There’s talk about Cardiff next year, or maybe back to Birmingham (where we held the first few PyConUK and hosted EuroPython). I don’t mind: I’ll be back.