[Conferences] PyCon India 2009 : A report

Noufal Ibrahim noufal at gmail.com
Tue Oct 6 22:19:32 CEST 2009

Hello everyone,
   We wrapped up the first Indian PyCon at the end of last month and
it went quite well. I have written up a report of the event at my blog

   I'm having some trouble with the hosting provider so it might not
always be up. I've pasted the article here.

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PyCon India 2009 was the first developer conference held in India
which catered specifically to the Python language and related
technologies. It was organised by the [Bangalore Python user group] and
was held at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore on 26 and 27 of
September 2009.

Around 350 people attended the event on the first day. On the second,
the attendance dropped to around 170 or so.

There were approximately 20 talks including the keynote. A number of
lightning talks were also held. Some of them were registered earlier,
others were on the spot.

Our main sponsors were [ZeOmega] and [ThoughtWorks]. Our Associate
sponsors were [Dux software], [Navisite], TenXperts, [Strand life sciences],
and [Mahiti]. We also had help from The [Indian Institute of Science]
and from the Python Software Foundation itself.

I was the first among equals for this whole project and this is my
account of the weekend of the event. Since this is a public document,
I'm toning down some of my stronger feelings. Those are best brought
out during face to face meetings and discussions with relvant people.

This whole event would not have been possible without the help of many
volunteers. There are too many to mention and missing out names would
be unfair. Hence, I'm going to stay away from mentioning names

2009-09-25 Fri
  I left work after lunch and arrived at the venue to meet some of the
  other chaps who were involved with the event. We were to make sure
  that all the paperwork for the venue was taken care of, to make sure
  that the food providers knew what to do and when, to make sure that
  some things like banners, posters etc. were in place so that people
  coming in the next day could easily find the actual halls where the
  lectures were going to happen and to meet the sysads from Mahiti
  would would help us set up the wifi and test it out.

  The banners were the simplest job since it was just a matter of
  tying/sticking them up. We bought some essentials from the
  IISc. stationery store (like double sided tape etc.) and put up the
  banners. We also printed some directional posters so that people
  would be led to the venue from the gates. The IISc. campus is
  extremely vast and without /some/ guidance, unfamiliar people will
  get lost. We decided to put up the posters on the next day since
  otherwise, rains in the night might spoil them

  I received an SMS from one of volunteers who was taking care of the
  T-shirts and swag. The T-shirts had arrived from Tirupur (a
  city with a large number of textile industries) and the rest of the
  swag (bags, pens, books etc.) were ready as well. His house was not
  too far away from the venue and we decided to meet over there early
  next day around 700 to transport and unpack the stuff. It was about
  120 Kg of stuff totally so it promised to be a non-trivial task.

  We talked to the registrar and the local security staff about the
  people who'd come the next day and about the equipment that would be
  brought in (video cameras, PA systems, wifi routers etc.).

  The folks from Mahiti were held up by the rush hour traffic and made
  it quite late. We got cracking on the wifi immediately but even
  after an hour or so of hacking, the network was not reliably up. The
  DHCP servers, the wireless router configs, the laptop routing setup
  etc. didn't all work. The staff were getting anxious to close the
  halls for the night so we decided to convene the next day in the
  morning and fix things up.

  Little details like printing and putting up the talk schedules and
  getting a list of delegates so that we could tick them off as people
  paid was deferred to the morning of the next day since our site was
  down and the site admin was travelling from his native place to the
  venue and couldn't access the server from the car.

  We left the venue around 2030 in the evening and I got back to my
  place in about an hour. On the way, I had a minor accident and broke
  my motorcycles headlight. I'm a bit of a worrier by nature and so
  the minor problems that will always creep up before any large event
  got magnified in my head and gave me a rather sleepless night. I
  live about an hours drive away from the venue and had to be up by
  500 to get ready and there by 700 to unpack and arrange the swag.

  Thus ended d-day - 1.

2009-09-26 Sat
  Although the event officially started at 930, there was some action
  before that. I've put that in a section below called "Pre event setup"
* Pre event setup
  I didn't sleep much and was up early on Saturday. Rushed off to the
  venue and met the chaps helping out with the wifi on the way to the
  venue. I wanted to buy some batteries for my camera but none of the
  shops opened that early in the morning so I have no snaps of
  day 1. I called up the people doing the video recording. They
  promised to be at the venue by around 800. The keynote was
  scheduled to start at 930. The wifi guys got cracking and after
  quickly looking over things, I ran off with a friend to pick up the
  T-shirts and swag.

  The whole bundle weighed around 120 Kgs. We had to lug it back
  around 2 Km or so and got an auto rickshaw to do that.

  After getting the bundle to the venue, a couple of friends of mine
  who were registered suddenly showed up to offer help. All of us
  together setup a crude assembly line and readied around 200
  packages for the first few delegates.

  A sad (although later interesting) thing was that our T-shirt
  provider misprinted the slogan behind the T. It was supposed to be
  "I'm not really a wizard. I just use Python". Instead, we got "I'm
  not reappy a wizard. I use Python". This led to a lot of cracks
  like [this] and at the end an actual [application] hacked up in a

  The video recording setup was ready by around 900 but the wifi was
  still not working. Meanwhile, people started showing up and the
  queue at the registration desk started to increase. I was mostly
  running around trying to get the final details ready before the
  keynote started and so didn't really man the registration desk

* PyCon India day 1
  The registration queue died out around 1030 and we had an
  approximate 350 people who came. This was a pretty decent
  turnout. The total number of people registered on the site was 600
  or so and we had absolutely zero media advertising. Everything was
  completely word of mouth. I think we did quite well with our
  advertising efforts.

  We formally had 3 tracks going on in parallel and around 20 or so
  talks. There were more but a couple of participants pulled out
  their talks due to various reasons. One track was designated as a
  'tutorial track' and we tried to keep a marathon tutorial going
  there. I was personally delivering one piece of a session that was
  to span the whole 2 days. I don't know how effective it was but
  when I was there, the hall was crowded. The other two tracks were
  supposed to have parallel talks going on each 45 minutes long. The
  keynote speech was however one hour long and scheduled from 930
  to 1030. It didn't share the time slot with any other talk and was
  exclusive. The keynote was by Dr. Prabhu Ramachandran, the main
  developer of the MayaVi scientific visualisation system. It was a
  personal talk detailing his journey to Python as a programmer and
  an academic. I couldn't attend the whole thing since there was a
  tea break scheduled a little later and I needed to personally meet
  the caterers to ensure that things were ready. Also, there was the
  question of wifi which the folks my Mahiti finally got working but
  was a little flaky.

  Dr. Prabhu was impressively punctual and the keynote started at the
  scheduled time (930). It was meant to go on for an hour. I couldn't
  completely attend it since there were other tiny things to fix
  up. The caterers needed to be arranged for the morning tea break
  and some other things. From the general feedback, I gathered that
  the keynote went extremely well and if it was anything like the
  other two talks by Dr. Prabhu which I attended, it must have been
  really awesome.

  Immediately after this started our regular tracks. We had two
  talks. One by Anand Pillai of Harvestman fame and the other by
  Baiju Muthukadan who is pretty well known in the zope community. I
  attended the buildout talk and then ran off to the tutorial room
  where Kenneth was just wrapping up his introduction to Python. I
  took an hour long session after that which I think went reasonably

  After this, the lightning talks started but unfortunately, we
  didn't have a session chair and the whole hour or so was hogged by
  a single talk which thankfully was quite interesting. Still, a lot
  of people who had talks prepared were not able to speak.

  Lunchbreak followed and I let off some steam and chatted with some
  of the hackers that had gathered at the lunch area. The food was
  decent and I hadn't eaten any breakfast so it was doubly so for

  The regular talks resumed after the lunch break and I attended one
  on TDD in Python by Siddharta of Silver Stripe Software. During the
  next slot, I had to meet the registrar of IISc. regarding some
  logistics issues and couldn't attend any talks.

  I got back and managed to get half of Ramki's talk on packaging
  python apps for Fedora. Just after this was Dr. Prabhu and Asokan's
  talk on the education project they're working on. It was quite

  This ended the first day and there were no serious screw ups. We
  put all the audio visual equipment into one of the rooms and locked
  it up. Same with the wifi.

  I got back earlier than I did the day before and after a warm
  dinner, fell asleep with a smile on my face.

2009-09-27 Sun
  This was a more relaxed day that the 27th since most of the
  infrastructure was already in place and working. I got to the venue
  around 800 and went off for breakfast with a couple of friends.

  The overall turnout was considerably lesser than on day one. We had
  just over 170 people and had talks scheduled only for the morning
  session. The afternoon was meant for BoF sessions and other
  unconference style stuff.

  The morning talk by Dr. Prabhu on Mayavi was wonderful. I attended
  it and it was quite lively. I was the session chair for the talk and
  it was so engrossing that I lost track of time.

  After that was my own talk on the whole business of organising the
  first Indian PyCon. There was a talk scheduled by Anand C. on web
  programming after that which was cancelled since he couldn't make

  After this, we started with a series of lightning talks that
  bracketed the lunch break. There were many one of which introduced
  the framework insprired by the misspelling on our T-shirt.

  This ended the conference. People were either tired or simply eager
  to leave and except for a meeting by a group of localisation
  enthusiasts, we were done and all left by around 1600.

  It was personally a wonderful experience leading such a enthusiastic
  group of talented people to conduct such a conference. Given our
  shoestring budget and very grassroots style management, it was a
  tremendous success. Now that we have started the whole thing, I
  think we need to keep the ball rolling and help the computer
  industry in India to see the value of the Python programming

  To further this aim, we are registering a non profit society
  tentatively called "Python India" which will serve as a umbrella
  group for all Python user groups in this country and as the legal
  entity that can handle things like funds and equipment for events
  like PyCon India. This will have it's own site and mailing list. I
  will be posting the details as soon as we're done with the

  My own thoughts about being in a managerial role are mixed since
  I've generally been a stereotypical techie who looks daggers at
  management types. I realise the value of having someone lead the
  event and I don't think I'm being immodest if I said that I did a
  decent job.

  The credit for the whole event though belongs to the entire
  community since everyone pitched in at the right time to keep the
  whole thing running smoothtly. Give yourselves a hand. :)

  I had a presentation at the event which details the actual lessons
  learnt and the pitfalls. The slides are available here and I will
  edit this post to point to the video of talk once we upload it.

  The next PyCon in this region is [PyCon APAC] in 2010. I hope to see
  you all there.

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