Thursday, August 25, 2016

PyCon APAC - Bringing us together

Two weekends ago I was lucky enough to get the chance to attend PyCon APAC 2016. This year the event was held in Seoul, South Korea at the COEX Convention Center within the Gangnam-gu district. PyCon APAC 2016 brought 1,500 Pythonistas together and it was organized by the PyCon Korea team. This was a very special trip for me as it was my first trip to Asia. The first day while we were figuring out the public transportation system, I did experience some brief challenges.

However, the following days at the conference settled my disorientation. Through this process, I realized that the same Python community qualities existed in South Korea as they do everywhere else in the world. We all may not have been able to communicate verbally, but the openness of the community still prevailed. The locals were welcoming, inclusive, and took the time to teach us Korean customs and culture. More than that, PyCon APAC 2016 stressed diversity of nationality and gender. One great way that the conference made everyone feel like they were part of the community was this sign that comprised all the names of the people who had pre-registered for the conference.

This meaningful sign had such a positive impact on the attendees as it acted as a constant reminder. I enjoyed watching attendees find their names in the sign, and all of the tweets that followed.

Through experiencing PyCon APAC, I also learned that the organizers spend a great deal of effort making their community strong and open. At the conference I was invited to attend the PyCon APAC organizers' meetings. During this meeting, the organizers addressed important questions such as "Do we continue PyCon APAC even though many APAC countries organize their own PyCon?" and "How do we continue to increase diversity?" It was decided during the meeting that the purpose of PyCon APAC goes beyond regional conferences and should continue. It helps build diversity and brings forth positive influences from other parts of the world. The organizers decided that each location should attempt to have a small portion of their budget set aside to send some of their community members to other “Indo-Asia-Pacific” regional conferences, especially the yearly APAC conference itself. Hearing how the team of organizers valued such questions and discussions showed me that they valued our community and that is one reason why their conferences are so successful.

Beyond community importance, the conference brought us together to discuss core Python development. Some of the questions I heard at the PSF booth were, "When will Python 2.7.x stop being supported?" and "What will happen to those of us that use 2.7.x in a corporate setting?" Their questions were based on PEP 373 and PEP 494, and their worries were relevant ones. Many think that Python 3.5.x still needs a lot more work before developers no longer need Python 2. Those questions are hard, and no one has an absolute answer, no matter how strong their beliefs. But our discussions led to how we all need to work on making Python 3.x better, since it is the future of the language. We discussed the need to port packages from Python 2 to 3, and the need for corporate support.

Regardless of the PyCon 2 vs Python 3 debate, the attendees were excited to get coding during the PyCon APAC Sprints. This was the first time the PyCon Korea team held sprints, and they did not know how many sprinters to expect. They were overwhelmed when that day came and they had to book additional space to accommodate everyone. As an organizer, I can tell you that this is a good problem to have, especially when the organizers react properly and swiftly.

During the Sprints/Tutorial day, Pythonistas attended a sprint about Pandas & PyData led by one of the creators of the pandas project, Wes McKinney. The picture above shows hands-on learning at the tutorial for DjangoCupcake. Others attended sessions about the Django Rest Framework, Write the Docs, Tox, Travis, and aiohttp led by Andrew Svetlov, a core Python developer.

Establishing connections with Pythonistas from the APAC region and beyond made the long flights to and from Seoul worth every minute. I hope to attend future PyCon APACs and reconnect with all the wonderful people I met during the conference. Thank you, organizers and attendees, for a memorable conference!

Monday, August 22, 2016

"In the beginning, there was one Python group": Community Service Award Recipient Stéphane Wirtel

In the beginning, there was one Python group in Charleroi, the P3B (Python Blanc Bleu Belge)”, Stéphane Wirtel recalls. This first Python group was led by Denis Frère and Olivier Laurent. Together with Aragne, the first company using Python in Belgium, and Marc-Andre Lemburg the P3B helped organize the inaugural EuroPython in 2002. Over the years, however, the P3B disbanded. “Other groups have organized some events for the Belgian community”, Wirtel adds. These groups, however, have faced some of the organizing challenges as the P3B.

As a Python user of 15 years, Wirtel contemplated what would be the best way to sustainably build the Belgian Python community. He originally wanted to organize the first PyCon in Belgium but eventually decided to invest his energies elsewhere. Ludovic Gasc, Fabien Benetou and Wirtel began by hosting Python events in Brussels and Charleroi.

The Python Software Foundation has awarded Wirtel in the second quarter of 2016 with a Community Service Award in recognition for his work organizing a Python User Group in Belgium, for his continued work creating marketing material for the PSF, for his continued outreach efforts with spreading the PSF's mission.


Outreach at PythonFOSDEM and Building a New Python Belgium Community

“FOSDEM is one of the most important events in the European development community with over 5,000 attendees participating in a weekend event” Wirtel explains. The importance of FOSDEM led Wirtel and Gasc to create the first PythonFOSDEM.

Since 2013 Wirtel has organized the PythonFOSDEM devroom, expanding the room from 80 participants in 2013 to well over 400 participants in 2016. Benetou, who volunteered in the FOSDEM 2016 Python devroom, remembers the excitement in the room explaining that the room was filled within five minutes of opening.

With the growth of the PythonFOSDEM devroom and the return of AFPyro-BE, led by Ludovic Gasc, Wirtel has been focusing efforts on building the mailing list and registering a Belgian Python website. “Stéphane continues to challenge us to organize bigger and bigger events”, Gasc comments on Wirtel. His continued work promoting Python in Belgium is helping provide the building blocks for a new Python community in Belgium.

Python Software Foundation Marketing Work Group

As a member of the PSF marketing work group, Wirtel is an ongoing voice in the discussion and creation of PSF marketing materials. Wirtel helped with flyer development and distribution for  PythonFOSDEM 2015, PyCon North America 2015 and PyCon Ireland 2015.

Inspiring new CPython contributors at EuroPython 2016

Wirtel spoke at EuroPython this year on the topic of CPython. His talk, titled “Exploring our Python Interpreter”, outlined the basics of how the Python interpreter works. Of notable importance Wirtel framed his talk for CPython novices, pointing out documentation on where to get started and resources for how to find CPython core mentors. Wirtel also pointed to a CPython patch he recently submitted for the __ltrace__ feature. With his patch you can compile Python to easily show the Python bytecode generated, a significant suggestion for beginners to be able to play with in the Python interpreter. Here is an example of his feature in action:

>>> __ltrace__ = None  # To enable tracing
>>> print("hello")     # Now, shows bytecodes run
push <built-in function print>
push 'hello'
ext_pop 'hello'
ext_pop <built-in function print>
push None
pop None
push None
pop None

Some of Wirtel’s other projects includes working as a former core developer of Odoo from 2008 to 2014, an open source enterprise resource planner which is built with PostgreSQL and CPython. He has contributed to Gunicorn and is working to contribute more to CPython. Wirtel is also a member of the EuroPython Society and the Association Francophone de Python (AFPy) as well as a PSF Fellow. Wirtel has supported EuroPython the last two years as a volunteer and as a working group member too.

Wirtel’s passion for bringing new Pythonistas into the fold, be it through the creation and continued organizing of the PythonFOSDEM Devroom or the proliferation of CPython knowledge and tools particularly suited for the beginner, is profound. As he noted in his EuroPython 2016 talk, he was completely new to CPython at the 2014 PyCon North America at Montreal! “Simply put Wirtel is the type of person who gets things done” Benetou says, adding that “these are the type of people that inspire me, that I like”.