Pycon disappointment

Dianne Marsh dmmsoz at gmail.com
Mon Mar 17 20:52:27 CET 2008


This was my first PyCon as well.  I had heard glowing recommendations
about the lightning talks (from Bruce) previously, and I was really
looking forward to them.  I, too, was disappointed.

I help to organize a community based conference, and we have struggled
with providing value for sponsors as well. I have some suggestions,
which I will offer here and to PyCon organizers. This sounds similar
to what one person described above, regarding how lightning talks were
managed in '07.

At CodeMash, we scheduled a daily slot for vendor sessions and clearly
marked them as such.  We were concerned that attendees would simply
avoid the vendor sessions, which would backfire.  To mitigate this
risk, we strongly encouraged our vendors to do something "different"
than a sales pitch for vendor sessions, asking them to consider
providing something meaningful for the audience.  Talks weren't
reviewed; we just gave them a nudge when we discussed the vendor
sessions with them.  They were entitled to choose a pure sales pitch
if they wanted to do so, but we definitely discouraged this activity.
And the sponsors responded with some great talks, and expressed
satisfaction in the entire process! The vendor sessions were well
attended, and it was completely transparent that they WERE vendor
sessions.  I had been totally skeptical about providing vendor
sessions ahead of time, yet even *I* was won over.  Vendors WANT
people to come to their sessions.  Sometimes they, just like speakers,
simply need a little nudge in recognizing what makes a compelling
talk.

In my opinion, other speakers suffered from not knowing what makes a
compelling talk as well.  I don't know what other talks were proposed,
but those that were on the schedule were often disappointing because
the speaker provided too much "background" and not enough "here's
what's cool" for me.  Those were the talks that I walked out of.  I
suffer from this same problem as a speaker and I'm trying to fix that
myself.  I hope that other speakers are interested in doing the same.

As for the attitude that if you weren't involved with organizing
Pycon, you can't complain about it, that's a bit unfair.  Several
people DID engage in the conference onsite, organizing Open Spaces
discussions (Bruce included).  I saw Bruce both suggesting Open Spaces
talks and being recruited to convene them (and, in one case, even
reconvene one that had taken place earlier).  That's being involved in
the process, and should not be discounted.

Furthermore, in my experience, people don't usually complain about
things that don't matter to them.  It's important, IMO, to recognize
that the complaints you see on this group seem to come from the heart,
from a desire to see PyCon flourish and be a conference worth
attending.  I certainly feel that way, and I suspect that the vast
majority of people who have offered constructive criticism here do as
well.

I'm bummed about the lightning talks at PyCon from 2008, but I have a
lot of confidence based on what I have read here from Jacob and
others, that things will be different in 2009.  Thank you for
listening to the community feedback.

-- Dianne



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