PyCon 2014

  |   Source

Pycon 2014

Almost two weeks ago was the beginning of PyCon 2014, I took a break durring the writting of my dissertation to attend, end even if I was a little concerned because it was my first non-scientific-centric Python conference that I attend, I am really happy to have made the choice to go.

I'll write what hopefully will be a (short) recap of (my view) of the conference. Maybe not in a perfect chronological order though.

Getting There

So this year, PyCon Us was... in Montreal Canada, 7 hour flight from where I leave, in a seat narrower than me, and I'm not that wide. Hopefully there was video on demand. I watched Gravity, but I must say I was really desapointed. Beeing a physicist, I saw a lot of mistakes that ruinded the movie. Guys, it is worthless to program an engine that simulate physics if you gave it the wrong rules. From basic physics classes you will learn the following :

  • Angular momentum conservation also apply in space.
  • There is no buoyancy convection, hence no "flame" like the one on earth.
  • Usually the law of physics don't change with time.

Landing in Canada, Custom were more thorough than US custom. They actually searched what PyCon was, and asked me question about it.

Going from Airport to Center Montreal was quite easy, direct by bus 747, finding the right stop was harder has the bus driver was announcing stop number, and not name of the station, and no map was availlable in the bus.

Hotel was a block away from conference center (but not that easy to find when you enter by the given street adress and not the main entrance).

So I was finally settle around 18 hours before the beginning of the tutorials, tweeted to know if anybody was around, meet with Agam, get dinner, sleep.


Durring the first day I was able to attend two tutorials, which I both enjoyed, and allowed me to adjust to the right timezone. 1h lunch is just enough to meet with people and discuss, hopefully you get (some) time to discuss and meet people in the evening.

I catched up with Fernando who was giving the IPython tutorial the next day in the morning.

Btw, do not forget to update your phones app before leaving the country, especially the one you want to use that require textto send you a text when you are abroad and do not get roaming.

The IPython tutorial on thursday went great, except some really weird installation issues where :

  • Anaconda did refuse to install because it is already installed but nowhere on the hardrive, and in the end, you force miniconda install and do all the dependency by hand.

  • Of course you brought Pendrives to avoid user to download the 300Mb install on conference wifi, but you forgot the Win-Xp-32bit installer.

I was really suprised to see people still using IPython 0.12, and modal interface seem to make sens for people having never used IPython.

1h lunch too short, just extend it.

One thig that really make PyCon so great, (and the python comunity in general are the people) I basically missed many tutorial and talk during the week only because of discussing with people. I must that I learned a lot by discussing with Nick Coghlan and Fernando Pérez (ok, as a non native english I might have been really quiet, but learned a lot, and I'm gettign better, I'm starting to hear people accents).

If you want something on python core, you need to be persistant. By default, anything you will propose to the CPython core comunity/PSF will be refused, but you need to perseverate. If you perseverate then you show the community that you are ready to put time into supporting what you are proposing.

Also keep in mind that even if there are obvious issues (haem packaging) people are working on it, you probably don't know the implication :

hal fixing light switch

So please either be patient, or help them with the most basic thing missing : documenting ! Has seen later in the conference the CPython/packaging/docummenting/pip that once were difficult to distinguish becomme separate spaces, where for now people tend to be the same, but things are shifting.

Becomming member of the PSF is now also open to everybody, so you can know get even more involve into Python.

Thursday evening reception

Even after missing one tutorial afternoon can get busy, volunteers packed stuff in bags for the (real) oppenig of the conference the day after. It is also the time were sponsors are starting to set-up their booth and were you can talk to people before the big affluence. Usually the time also to finally see in flesh and blood people you only know by their twitter/github/... handle. Often it even takes you a day or two find out you already know each other.

Unlike other meals, there was (a limited number per person of) free beer, still found a little annoying that you had to pay for soft drink afterward. It is also the right time to look for the different competions around the different booth to win stuff. This goes from Linked-in that has this informal "do this puzzle as fast as you can", to Google were you actually had five minutes chrono to program an AI for your snake in a "Snake Arena" game.

Reception ended pretty early as teh conference had not already started, but if you plan on arriving the day before, it is a must attend if you want to start meeting with people and start adjusting to the timezone when you are flying from further west.

Still empty stomach (except for 3 beers), I met with Jess Hamrick (which describe her version of PyCon here) to eat dinner, before crashing to sleep. I won't repeat was jess has said as she is much more skillful with words than I am.

Core of the conference

I really appreciated the morning during the main conference as the breakfast was served in the convention center, which allow you to socialize early in the morning.

In [15]:
from IPython.display import Image
Image('img/breakfast.jpg', width=600)

As you can see there is room for plety of people !

I wont spend too much time on the keynotes and talk that were presented, they are already all uploaded on PyVideo / Youtube and I must say that the PyCon team in charge of filming/organising the events did a pretty awesome job !

In general I felt like PyCon was really different from SciPy first by the number of people that are present which is huge :

In [4]:
from IPython.display import Image

Main conference room before keynote (stolen from twitter at some point, if you re-find the author plese tell me so that I could update the post)

Also unlike SciPy, PyCon is much less axed toward science, which both gave me the opportunity to discover lots of project and found out that in the end, IPython is not that used and known. Having been once in Texas and once in Canada, in my own experience conference food during break is alway better in Austin than in Montreal.

In evening we either went to restaurant, or to party organised by Speakers or Sponsors. Note that even if it is great to have open bar (and not cheap alchool, but nice wine) and unlimited cake, I felt like real food was missing.


When going to another continent, I usually prefer to optimise and stay as much as I can, hence I also stayed for sprint (I'll write my PhD dissertaion later). In the other hanf Fernando Perez is a Busy man and only was present for the first day and a half. Hence we were not supposed to have a real IPython sprint for the first day.

So we arrived at the sprint on monday morning off the cuff, ready to have only a few people for the sprint. To our surprise after 1h, we were around 20 around the table with our number growing. We were more and more in need for a blackboard to a globab explanation of the IPython internal. Hopefully our hacker spirit lead us to the back of a pycon sign we steal and use the back of the blackboard:

In [8]:
Image('img/fperez-pycon-sign.jpg', width=500)
In [16]: