[Edu-sig] Pycon 2008

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Dec 22 01:17:17 CET 2007

Regarding high schoolers @ Pycons, I think we shouldn't be shy about
letting some devil's advocate suggest that Pycons are for the most
part *not* very friendly to absolute beginners, of any age.

Come if you want to, most definitely, but be prepared for something
two or three standard deviations from what you're used to, if not (a)
a geek or (b) a pythonista.  But if you've seen lots of Monty Python,
that'll help you feel at home.

This is not exclusivity based on snobbery nor any reflection on the
friendliness of Pythoneers *as people* whom I've found to be not only
friendly, but personable, gregarious -- many other positive attributes
apply (smart, multi-lingual, worldly...).

It's not like we're a conference of introverts with no social skills,
*but* (admit it) we occupy a very specialized niche.

When subspecies dentists get together to discuss their trade how many
even *think* in terms of bringing high schoolers?  That we're even
having this discussion is (a) a good sign and (b) suggestive of a
positive future.

But if at the end of the day, we get few or no high school visitors to
Pycon 2008, I don't think we should hang our heads and mutter about
failure (why set ourselves up in that way?).

Here's what I'd like to see in terms of outreach and recruitment:
better promotion of the streaming media versions of conference talks
after the fact (maybe not the tutorials?), more hyping of Showmedo
(Jeff Rush was doing this) because there's content suitable for high
schoolers and (drum roll) their teachers, and, last but not least,
more actual use of Python in the schools, and I'm not just talking
about OLPC.

I also wish we took this "Python Nation" moniker more seriously (am I
the only one using it?), kick started by the BDFL concept (dictator
*of what*? -- "some nation" is just part of the grammar of the word --
plus our neighbors in the Republic of Perl could use some company
(kinda lonely being the only one)).

Then we could have at least a couple "portfolios" that we pick up in
rotation, voluntarily, as volunteers, and in good coordination with
one another.

I'm thinking in particular of Minister of Education (CP4E type stuff)
and Minister of Propaganda (what we currently call "advocacy") and
yes, I'd suggest at backwards R in Propaganda (which is how I already
spell DARPA).

Along these lines, I'd bill myself a former and/or retired Minister of
Education, having already done the London stint with Guido  at the
Shuttleworth Summit, frequented the Europython scene, plus given
Python a big boost in the already very open to open source Portland,
Oregon scene.

Retired maybe, but hey, I'd do it again if asked.

So why do I suggest all this stuff?

Because "geeks having fun" carries the "hard fun" message we associate
with "programming just for the fun of it."  Doing more with Python
Nation looks like fun to me, but not "idle fun" not "mindless

I don't want us to make Python in Education be something too
somber-serious -- that'd be unfriendly in that other sense (not
personable, not accessible, not joyful).   Whether or not we succeed
in attracting lots of high schoolers to Pycons, I think there's much
we could do to attract high schoolers to Python.

Anyway, food for thought.

Kirby Urner
@ Mosgo's Internet Cafe
Arcata, California

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