Pycon disappointment

Barry Hawkins barry at
Sun Mar 16 16:20:25 CET 2008

On Mar 16, 9:18 am, a... at (Aahz) wrote:
> In article <5bd37c10-af5d-4254-8799-49c762673... at>,
> Bruce Eckel  < at> wrote:
> >If the following seems unnecessarily harsh, it was even more harsh for
> >me to discover that the time and money I had spent to get to my
> >favorite conference had been sold to vendors, presenting me as a
> >captive audience they could pitch to.
> Ouch.  I'm probably one of the few organizers currently paying much
> attention to -- because I'm also one of the few who's not at
> PyCon.  We debated this extensively before going ahead, and we decided
> it was worth an experiment.  If your feedback is at all representative,
> this won't happen again, I assure you.
> >I believe that this year's Pycon organizers suffered from inexperience
> >and naivete, because they didn't know that some vendors will ask for
> >anything just to see how far they can push it.
> Actually, it was our idea to offer something in return for the
> sponsorship.
Ashz, thanks for offering some explanation.  It is my sincere hope
that the organizers will look upon the aforementioned experiment as a
failed one.  I shared the same perception as Bruce; most "keynotes"
and lightning talks were anemic vendor pitches that really gutted the
spirit of what I experienced last year.  In meeting new people this
year, I have had more than one first-time attendee ask me if PyCon
lightning talks "are always like that."  I have also heard from a
couple of folks I would consider PyCon elders who were not happy with
what lightning talks became this year.

I was one of the 15 or so persons who had a lightning talk that ended
up in overflow for the Saturday talks.  At the end of the regular
time, we were all brought forward to be told that we would not do
overflow talks.  Standing there in the huddle,  I looked around, and
it appeared that we were mostly non-vendors.  It was pretty crummy to
see that real PyCon lightning talks had been sacrificed in favor of
subjecting Pythonistas to rather dry vendor presentations.  Some of
the vendor presenters even had a tone that sounded like "my boss is
making me do this."  PyCon lightning talks are the stuff of legend; I
implore the organizers to learn well from this costly experiment, and
let's not go there again. Ever.

> >On top of that, the quality of the presentations was unusually low.
> >I'd say that 80% were not worth going to -- there were definitely some
> >good ones, but it was a lot of pain to discover them.
> Just to make sure, you're talking about the vendor presentations, right?
I'll step out and say that some of the non-vendor talks were quite
weak.  The most severe was a talk on Stackless where the original
speaker was unable to be here and someone got up and clicked through
the slide deck at a very fast pace.  I thought the person had stepped
in at the last minute, but later learned that he had volunteered with
a couple of weeks' notice.  Additionally, the original speaker had
Andrew Dalke's *exact* slide deck from his Stackless talk last year.
One first-time attendee told me over lunch that he was going to
recommend to his employer that they not pay to send their programmers
to PyCon next year based on what he had seen in this year's talks.  I
know that's an unpleasant message, but in the interest of preserving
PyCon's quality, I'm willing to be the jerk of a messenger.

> >I know what the argument for the results of Pycon 2008 will be: we
> >needed the money. My answer: it's not worth it. If this is what you
> >have to do to grow the conference, then don't. If the choice is
> >between selling my experience to vendors and reducing the size of the
> >conference, then cut the size of the conference. Keep the quality of
> >my experience as the primary decision criteria, or I'll stop coming.
> That was our intention.  Apparently it didn't work for you.  I'll wait
> for more feedback before I make up my mind about whether your experience
> was common.
Hopefully the surveys and this thread will be filled with feedback
from the participants.  Also, check for some
further anecdotal evidence.

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