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I attended PyCon Pune 2017 conference between February 16-17 (Thursday-Friday), 2017 at Amanora - The Ferns Hotels and Club, Pune.

Ferns Hotel

Day I

I reached the venue early in the morning, to be of any help to the volunteers. The projector had to be checked, and I used my laptop to test the same. After changing couple of cables and adapters, the clarity on the screen was good.

This event had a single track where everyone sat in one big hall. I welcome this change!

Honza Král started the conference with his keynote, titled “(My) OSS Life”. He shared his experiences and learning in the Free and Open Source Software (F/OSS) world. At present, he maintains the Python drivers for Elasticsearch.

Honza Král

The keynote was followed by Anand Chitipotu’s talk on “Writing Beautiful Code”. He illustrated code examples on how to write simple, elegant, readable Python code. The use of meaningful variable names, comments were emphasized a lot. It was a short list of collated points on basic mistakes that newbie programmers make, and how to effectively write beautiful code.

Florian Fuchs then spoke on “Hacking Mailing Lists - The Mailman 3 API Ecosystem”. He explained the new architecture and API with code examples. He has been hacking on the new Mailman 3 web UI and the Python API bindings.

After attending these talks, I made a visit to the three booths at the conference - Red Hat, Python Software Foundation and reserved-bit. I also signed copies of my book that people had brought.

After lunch, I attended the “i18n-ise Django Apps” talk by Sundeep Anand, where he showed the internationalization processes for a Django application. All the relevant file modifications and commands involved were demonstrated.

John ‘warthog9’ Hawley is a Perl guy and gave an interesting keynote on building your own hardware, and why you should do that. He explained the various challenges he had faced, the process involved in the same. He had exclusively designed and produced a “Bug Bunny” embedded micro-Python kit for the conference and development sprints.

The “Building Trust in Releases” talk by Nigel Babu was very informative. He explained four important aspects in release management - cadence, documentation, testing, and empathy. This was also an experience report on DevOps practices, and was quite detailed and useful.

The last keynote of the day was by a Physics teacher, Praveen Patil. He shared his exploration on using Python to teach Physics to high school students. He is actively involved in ExpEYES Project, teacher training programs and also contributes content to National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER).

Praveen Patil system setup

Day II

The morning keynote was by Katie Cunningham. She was initially testing the microphone and laptop by singing nursery rhymes. While the organizers decided to wait for people to arrive and settle down, there was time for lightning talks. So, I volunteered to start the day with the resounding “Nursery Rhymes”. After a couple of other lightning talks, Katie started her keynote on accessibility guidelines. It was quite an informative session.

“You can help develop Python - and you should!” talk by Stephen Turnbull was on the history of Python, PEP guidelines and the functioning of the community. I also had a chance to talk with him personally on the story of XEmacs.

Farhaan Bukhsh and Vivek Anand presented their Google Summer of Code (GSoC) work on the project Pagure, which is an alternative to GitHub and GitLab. They shared the past, present and future roadmap for the project. In the “Testing native binaries using CFFI” talk, Noufal Ibrahim demonstrated how to write Python bindings using CFFI.

After lunch, there was time for lightning talks. Different Python user group communities (PyDelhi, HydPy, PythonPune, PyLadies Pune) pitched about their work . I had prepared the sequel to “The Yet Another Lightning Talk” and requested the audience to sing on my behalf. The feedback was positive, as usual. The latest addition to the nursery rhyme is as follows:

Twinkle, Twinkle, unit tests,
How I wonder, where you exist!
I will write unit tests,
Until the project is laid to rest.

The afternoon keynote was by Nick Coghlan. He also shared his know-how on Free and Open Source Software and community best practices. “Django on Steroids - Lessons from Scale” by Sanket Saurav was a good technical, intermediate-level talk on Django customization, nginx settings, scaling and deployment.

The last keynote of the day and the conference was by Terri Oda on “Is OSS more secure?”. She presented the various dimensions on which one needs to answer the question. She concluded by saying that there is definitely more scope in F/OSS to be more secure given the number of people involved, and the transparency in the process.

Conclusion

The number of participants at the conference was more than five hundred, and they all came on a week day to attend! For a first-time event, that is quite impressive. This clearly shows that there is a demand for such events across India.

PyCon Pune 2017 group photo
PC: Kushal Das

Initially, there was a lot of resistance (follow the thread) to this event, including the name of the event. Communities are meant for innovation, and stifling is futile. You can learn a lot in a community, and there are guidelines and best practices that are followed.

It was a four day event with development sprints, and hence it had to be a PyCon. Legally, the Python Software Foundation allows using the name “PyCon” for regional events too. Given the context and the necessity, I am happy that the Python Software Foundation (PSF) got the message right, and understood the need for the conference and supported it in a big way!

The development sprints had a limited seating capacity, and the registration got over early. I was informed that there were hundred more requests for the development sprints, which again emphasizes the need for such events! I also had a chance to meet some of the #dgplug (irc.freenode.net) folks with whom I have been interacting online on IRC.

It does take a lot of effort to organize a conference, and I congratulate the PyCon Pune team on their first event.