Thursday, January 21, 2010

PyCon on the Charles

The first three Boston PyCon speakers spoke last night at PyCon on the Charles, Night I. NB: If you are near Boston do show up on Feb 3rd for PyCon on the Charles, Night II with Glyph Lefkowitz, Peter Portante, and Edward Abrams.

Francesco Pierfederici did a "python success story" industry talk on using a mix of Python and Fortran-77 (via the "ctypes" module) to eat terabytes of telescope image data in real-ish time - the requirements include picking out all new asteroids from the thousands of known moving objects during the 60 second window before the next 3giga-pixel image arrives. Approximating thousands of N-Body problems in limited time is a challenge, and that's Francesco's job.

Ned Batchelder gave his talk "Go Easier on Yourself: You don't test enough and the reason you don't test enough is because you don't write easily testable code." With good examples. No, great examples. Ned is an invited speaker this year because he is concise. His talk from last year covered the same topic I have talked on before and I kept thinking "He didn't mention X" followed by "I should have omitted that too."

My talk on "Python's Dusty Corners" earned it's more accurate original twitter title "Strange Python Shit." I scrapped my originally planned "overview of everything" and 1000-slide opus that covered comparisons, descriptors, namespace lookups, and context managers. I had to because that morning I tried to put all my well researched and thoroughly unit-tested examples into power point and it came out at .. I stopped kidding myself at 40 slides and gave up. Instead I threw up the bullet point slides on what I had and just tried to talk extemporaneously; The result was about 10 minutes of speaking and 30 minutes of Q & A. This suits me just fine - as I said about Vilnius (host of EuroPython 2008) "I love this town, it is unkempt but not ruinously so."

Most questions boiled down to asking for what purpose this "strange python shit" existed and why the stuff didn't seem more useful in the generic:

Guy: what good is [protocol X] other than that it makes it easy to implement [core python feature Y]?

The answer was usually "none" which is a compelling story by itself.

Based on feedback my final talk will include more graphics (arrow pointing at the dot in "") and include a description of why magic can happen (and why it rarely does!) at the dot. My original code examples that implement the various features like instance lookup in pure python will end up on a blog or wiki once I get them formatted. They were way too long to fit on a slide but about right for a web tutorial.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

PyCon Plans

My flight is booked, I'm registered, and I have otherwise been pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered*. I'll be there for the Language Summit through two and a half days of sprints.

My "Python's Dusty Corners" talk is coming along. I'll be giving a version of it next week at the Microsoft NERD Center (the too-clever acronym for their "New England Research & Development" house) at the first night of the PyCon on the Charles PyCon dress rehearsal. The talk still lacks a strong narrative - "things you might not know about python" is too loose for my tastes. I'll be polling the audience after to pick their favorite bits which will hopefully allow me to narrow the talk to one of two narratives:

  1. Here is a feature that you don't know about and here is what it looks like when a lib/framework does use it and throws an error.

  2. Here are all the ways that attribute lookup can be magic.

.. but if the audience feedback is that a hodge-podge of decorators, protocols, and namespace lookups actually is the interesting story I'll stick with that.

The conference organizers owe me some free drink tickets: The schedule is up and I have a good time slot (afternoon on the middle day) but I'm up against Glyph's "Turtles All the Way Down" talk. Hell, I want to see that talk. Thankfully I can because Glyph is giving a version at PyCon on the Charles night II. Feast and famine: I lucked out last year and had a packed talk because Bruce Perens was scheduled to give a keynote on the exact same topic as my talk (thus priming the pump) but then had to pull out at the last moment due to injury. Does Glyph ski? I'll have to ask him.

Be seeing you,


* "The Prisoner" remake was terrible. I disliked it so much I felt the need to write about it on my non-python blog.