Need advice on starting a Python group

Mike Orr sluggoster at gmail.com
Thu Mar 18 21:52:00 CET 2010


On Mar 11, 7:57 am, gb345 <gb... at invalid.com> wrote:
> I'm hoping to get advice from anyone with prior experience setting
> up a Python group.
>
> A friend of mine and I have been trying to start a
> scientific-programming-oriented Python group in our school (of
> medecine and bio research), with not much success.
>
> The main problem is attendance.  Even though a *ton* of people have
> told us that it's a great idea, that they're *very* interested,
> and have asked to be added to our mailing list, the attendance to
> our first few meeting has never been more than 5, including my
> friend and I.  Last time just he and I showed up.
>
> The second problem is getting content.  The format we'd envisioned
> for this group was centered around code review (though not limited
> to it).  The idea was that at every meeting a different member
> would show some code.  This could be for any of a number of reasons,
> such as, for example, 1) illustrate a cool module or technique; 2)
> present a scientific research problem and how they used Python to
> solve it, or get help solving it; 3) get general feedback (e.g. on
> code clarity, software usability, module architecture, etc.).  But
> in principle just about anything is OK: e.g. a talk on favorite
> Python resources, or a comparison of Python with some other language,
> or an overview of Python gotchas would all be fair game.

I've been involved in a Python users group since 2000, and have
attended or heard about a few others. The ones that have 20+ attendees
have a speaker every month. Our group is usually a show-and-tell and
open discussion, so we get around six people each month (but not the
same six). We've decided to solicit more talks as a way to increase
attendance.

I have never heard of a Python group focusing on code review, so I
don't know what attendance to expect for that. One problem is that
much of people's code is private at their workplace, and they can't
bring it to a meeting. I'd suggest expanding the focus a bit: code
review, writing unit tests for each other, pair programming, some open
"How do I do this in Python?" discussions, etc.

You're also limiting the pool of potential attendees by targeting one
institution. There are only a subset there who are interested in
Python, a smaller subset who can attend meetings, and an even smaller
subset who are willing to attend meetings even if they can. A citywide
group or at least bringing in other institutions would hopefully
increase attendance. Although it may be harder to keep the scientific
focus with that.  But on the other hand, here the specialized groups
are getting more attendance than the general groups are. The local
Plone and Django groups get more people than the Python group does.

--Mike



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