[Conferences] PyCon India 2009 : A report
noufal at gmail.com
Tue Oct 6 22:19:32 CEST 2009
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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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