PyCon: The “Python” Community Sinks Its Teeth Into Montreal
Before you understand what PyCon is, you’ll need to understand what “Python” is. Fortunately, we are not talking about the slithering creature that employs asphyxiation before swallowing its prey whole.
The Python we’re talking about is a high-level computer programming language — a technical dialect known for its simplicity, readability and explicitness. It is open-source and available for many operating systems.
PyCon is the largest annual gathering of the Python community. For the first time in the history of the conference, it has opted to host the event outside of the U.S.A.
Naturally, the community selected Montréal.
Montréal: A Den of Pythonners
Brian Curtin is the publicity coordinator for Python. As part of the organizing committee, he noted that the selection of a host city is directly linked to a strong community of local Python developers.
“The Montréal-Python group has been well organized and advocated to bring PyCon north of the border,” explained Curtin about the impetus of the 2014 edition of the conference.
Yet when it comes to moving a consistently successful, decade-old event to a different country, there must have been some reservations about attendance.
“We’re about to hit our 2,100th ticket sold, and we’re expecting 2,300 total,” Curtin clarified. “That puts us in line with the Santa Clara PyCons [in 2012 & 2013], which grew greatly because of the conference’s proximity to Silicon Valley.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge with choosing a host city outside of the U.S.A. is simply reminding attendees to ensure their passports are renewed.
“For a lot of us, it’ll be the first time in Montréal. For others, they’re looking forward to getting back into the city. Either way, people seem excited to get there!”
Forget the Antiquated “Cheetos Stereotype”
To one participant, PyCon is a homecoming of sorts. Yannick Gingras used to call Montréal home — that was until he was plucked by a little startup called Facebook. As a leader in the Python community, he was part of the aforementioned team of local developers that encouraged the annual conference to cross the border.
From his vantage point he’s encouraged by the tech community in Montréal.
“I am very excited by all the progress that has been done on the outreach front,” Gingras explained from his home base in Silicon Valley. “Montréal now has its own chapter of PyLadies, there are more community workshops for people with little or no programming experience, and prototype weekends are more popular than ever.
“[In Montréal] we are moving away from the stereotypical white male in his twenties feasting on Cheetos while coding in his parents’ basement. We now celebrate a rich community that is far more representative of all the diversity that Montréal enjoys.”
Let’s Get Physical: The Importance of In-Person Meetings
For a group that is very comfortable with the Internet, it made us wonder: Why is an in-person meeting even necessary — can’t you all meet in a chat room?
Both Curtin and Gingras were happy to address this question.
“A chance to get out from behind the screen and meet face-to-face with a huge group of your peers is so valuable,” noted Curtin.
And it turns out that the magic of “face-to-face” still accounts for something.
“Bandwidth matters and you can convey much more when you combine body language and tone to your words,” said Gingras.
(For an amusing anecdote about the serendipitous nature of in-person meetings, click to read Gingras’s account of an average morning at a PyCon event . . .)
Official conference name: PyCon
Dates: 9 – 17 April 2014
Notable events: Tutorial Days, Conference Days, Development Sprints and Summits