Back from PyCon 2010

Monday 22 February 2010

I'm back from PyCon 2010. It was a great three days. I had a chance to talk to tons of people about, or testing in general, or just chat. It's really true that the "hallway track" is the best part of PyCon. The formal presentations will be available on video later anyway, and there's not much opportunity for interaction. Meeting people face-to-face is a rare opportunity and really builds the community.

Every year at PyCon there seem to be strong themes, not by design, but because of the community's current focus. This year they seemed to be packaging, concurrency, and speed. There was a lot of discussion about threading, asynchronous activity, eventlets, and so on.

Last year seemed to be about the alternative Python implementations. This year, they were present, with status talks as part of the plenaries, but were just an accepted part of the Python eco-system. I think this has had a positive effect, even on CPython. There's a new GIL implementation in 3.x, and I can't help but think that the idea of completely different implementations of all of Python helped grease the skids for re-implementations of central parts of CPython.

I decided on the spur of the moment to do a lightning talk about the last year of progress on, video here, I start at about 19:40. Lightning talks are fun: they're fast, spirited, and can be (far) less serious than the formal presentations. But it was a little terrifying being on the big stage, knowing you have only 5 minutes to talk, and that you'll be cut off unceremoniously if you go over. As it was, I finished with 0:05 on the clock!

I met with other local users' group organizers in an open space. It was cool to see the positive energy they each brought to the job, and to hear other ideas for bringing Pythonistas together.

I gave a talk on Saturday, Tests and Testability, which seemed to be well received. There was an interesting dynamic afterward, because people who saw the talk assumed I was an expert on testing, and had all sorts of difficult questions for me. The fact is, I'm not a testing expert, just an eager learner. I wanted to talk about testability not because I know all about it, but because it's a topic I struggle with myself, so it's on my mind quite a bit. I did the talk because I'm learning about testability myself. In the talk, I energetically described what I've learned, but afterward, I felt like I was learning from the questioners as much as they were learning from me.

The Saturday night Testing in Python open space was the usual rowdy party, with lightning talks and extended heckling from the crowd. I missed the first hour, but the bits I saw were good. Andrew Dalke and I talked about nitty-gritty details of grokking the structure of Python programs, and he's got an interesting start on a different approach to coverage measurement.

Dirkjan Ochtman and I had been exchanging emails about getting tricky parts of the Mercurial test suite coverage tested. We managed to get together one evening and worked through the problems. If we had been caught up on our sleep, it probably would have taken about 15 minutes, but it was a fun way to spend three hours anyway! Dirkjan convinced me to release the next version of quickly so that he could use it for real, so that should happen in the next few days.

I also had a chance to help Stani Michiels start coverage testing Phatch.

Antonio did a kick-ass keynote. He's posted the text and slides, but if you didn't see it, I recommend waiting for the video to get his inimitable delivery.

I booked my flight early, thinking that the presentations would be over by noon (for some reason), so I had to miss ones I really wanted to see. I'll plan better next time.

Overall, PyCon was the usual re-energizing experience, making me excited to continue contributing to the community, and seeing where things will go in the next year.


  • Sikuli is one of those tools that does the seeming impossible: automating GUI's directed by screenshots.
  • Python Docx looks like a useful tool for those of us that need to deal with Office documents.
  • A few people used Prezi to do unconventional presentations, and someone mentioned JessyInk also: a comparison.
  • In the future, will speakers pre-check that their good jokes fit into 140 characters so they can be effectively tweeted?


Mike Driscoll 10:48 AM on 22 Feb 2010

I booked my flight incorrectly too as the last two years, the talks were done at noon or one at the latest. I think I may have booked before the schedule was cast in stone though...

Thanks for the micro-notes. I had already forgotten about Sikuli and missed the other stuff.

- Mike

Larry Hastings 1:19 PM on 22 Feb 2010

It certainly kicked my ass!

Jared "Lucky" Kuolt 4:15 PM on 22 Feb 2010

Dang! Had I known you were there I would have sought you out! Next year, for sure!

Catherine Devlin 10:55 AM on 2 Mar 2010

Thanks for the note about python-docx - it sounds like ideal grist for Python for Secretaries!

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