PyCon 2008 Report

By on March 20, 2008 1:31 pm

This past weekend was the time for PyCon 2008, which was in Chicago for the first time. The US PyCon conference is a volunteer-run conference, which means that it’s filled with Python enthusiasts. Even the vendors there are enthusiastic about Python.

This year, there was a lot to be cheery about. The Dallas venue of the past two years would never have held the 1,000+ person crowd. For me, the primary appeal of a conference like PyCon is that it’s a chance to meet many people who are doing interesting things. I’m a big fan of the “hallway track” and open spaces. I think it was at the first CodeMash that I heard Bruce Eckel talk about how you can watch an “eyes-forward” presentation anywhere on video, but the face-to-face discussion can only happen when people are brought together.

PyCon this year was more than 50% larger than last year, so that meant a lot of new people to meet. It was nice to see some Ruby people stop by (Chicago resident DHH, for example), attend the conference and hack on stuff (Zed Shaw) and even sprint with Python folks (the JRuby guys). I’d love to attend a Ruby conference to get an idea of the kinds of things going on there. There’s more in common than not between Ruby and Python, and a bit of idea exchange is a good thing.

There were 4 talk tracks, a vendor hall and open spaces. Add lightning talks, hallway conversations and hacking done at the conference, and you get the feeling that not only is a lot happening at this conference, but there’s a lot happening in Python in general.

Python 3.0 is coming this year, but it’s going to be some time before we really feel the impact of that release. Since 3.0 makes some incompatible changes, most notably going “all unicode all the time” for strings, it is going to take some time before we start seeing 3.0-compatible versions of the libraries we use. But, it’s better to make these changes than not, and Python 2.6 will really help ease the transition.

For anyone working with relational databases in Python, you should take a look at the slides from Mike Bayer’s SQLAlchemy talk. I continue to be impressed at just how well SQLAlchemy brings together the full power of both your RDBMS and Python. Mike has even gone and included an Active Record pattern layer in the package.

Next week, I’ll post a screencast version of my talk “Rich UI Webapps with TurboGears 2 and Dojo” (note: screencast is now up), as well as a downloadable version of the code. The technique that I show off—having JavaScript drive the application rather than server-side code—works out equally well in other Python and non-Python web frameworks, as Adam Gomaa points out.

Neil Blakey-Milner has a consolidated list of people’s PyCon posts that is a good read if you weren’t there or if you want to see what you missed in talks you couldn’t attend. Those posts are a good way to get a broad-sweep view of what’s going on with Python development recently.