Pycon disappointment

DavidA david.avraamides at gmail.com
Mon Mar 17 18:17:11 CET 2008


On Mar 16, 9:42 am, Mike Driscoll <kyoso... at gmail.com> wrote:
> Do you mean the "official" presentations or the lightning talks? I
> thought both were kind of bad. Jeff Rush was great in both of the
> sessions I saw and the gaming presenters were also good. But I saw a
> lot of people who had never presented and were unprepared. In fact,
> one didn't have any code whatsoever to share and the other one only
> started showing some code during the last 10 minutes of his time.

This was also my first time at PyCon and I thought I'd expand on what
Mike said as I feel pretty much the same way. I also want to provide
some constructive feedback that can hopefully help improve the next
PyCon.

I attended all the keynotes, 15 sessions and two days of the lightning
talks. I was disappointed with about one-third of the keynotes and
sessions. I found only a handful of the lightning talks interesting.
My biggest complaint was the lack of preparation of the speaker:

* in three cases the presenter had a recent problem with their laptop
  but had no back-up plan (dead drive, dead power supply, unable to
get
  video out to projector). The presenters didn't have a copy of their
  presentation elsewhere (thumb drive, or even a printout) so they
just
  winged it and the presentation was difficult to follow and
ineffective.
  When I have presented at conferences in the past, we were required
to
  submit our presentations and materials to the conference at least a
  week before so they could make them available on a web site and also
  on backup laptops at the conference.

* the PyCon feedback survey doesn't allow for any useful feedback
about
  the presentations. You only get to pick your five favorites. There
  should be forms available (hardcopy or online) where we can give
feedback
  to the presenters themselves. My impression is that many of the
speakers
  have presented at PyCon before and may do so in the future so this
feedback
  can help them be more effective. I found it a bit ironic that I
attended
  at least three sessions with a strong testing theme that talked
about
  the importance of feedback in the development process and how it
helped
  improve the quality of the final product, yet there was no channel
to
  provide feedback to the presenters themselves. It seemed a glaring
  omission to me that the PyCon survey had questions about whether I
shared
  a room (who cares?) but not about the quality of the presenters and
  presentations.

* As a PyCon first-timer, I was not aware of the open meetings and
BoF
  discussions while I was there. I feel like I might have missed one
of the
  more valuable parts of the conference simply because I was ignorant.
It
  would have been nice to get the word out a bit more - maybe an
announcement
  each morning at the beginning of the keynotes.

* There has been a lot of discussion about the reservation of
lightning talk
  slots to sponsors. What I don't understand is why this wasn't
disclosed at
  the conference. I've seen some of the organizers defend the
"experiment"
  but no one explain why it wasn't mentioned beforehand. I'm left with
the
  impression that the organizers knew this would be unpopular and
didn't want
  to draw attention to it. I think a lot of this could have been
averted by
  disclosing this change before the conference took place (in which
case the
  community may have pushed back and convinced the organizers to
reconsider
  the decision). Or at least it could have been disclosed at the
conference
  so people could have decided to skip the lightning talks and
organize their
  own ad-hoc meetings or talks. Experimenting isn't bad. But failing
to
  disclose this information was a poor decision - especially at a
conference
  that prides itself in openness and community involvement.

* Lastly, I found the technical depth at most talks to be too shallow.
I was
  especially surprised at this because I've only been using Python for
two
  years, so I still think I'm a bit of a noob. But if you looked
around at
  the conference, you saw a bunch of people who are really into
programming
  (so much that many of them were doing it _during_ the talks) so to
think that
  the audience isn't capable of following deep technical discussions
is a bit
  off the mark. At other conferences I've attended and/or presented
at, they
  would typically rate presentations as a level 1, 2 or 3. I think
this would
  help set people's expectations. That coupled with session-level
feedback, would
  help the organizers plan future PyCon sessions that better match the
attendees'
  interests.

That said, I did learn a few things at PyCon and found the overall
experience
pretty good. I simply had been hoping for a little more...

-Dave



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