Thursday, October 1, 2009

PyCon India 2009 My impressions

I attended 1st day (26 September 2009) of the PyCon India 2009 conference. It was first Python Conference in India and I felt inclined enough to go all over to Bangalore from my home place Noida and attend the conference.

The conference was organized at IISc Bangalore. From the main gate to reach the conference area was easy as proper directions had been placed all over. Registration was a bit chaotic. There were not enough desks to handle the huge crowd waiting to be registered. I guess it was still quite satisfactory process considering the fact that it was first such event in India and there were not enough funds (I guess) to manage the event professionally. Since I had pre-registered, I had to pay just 200 rupees for attendance. They provided us with schedule, a T shirt, a notebook, a pen and off course a badge which was quite good as a conference kit. And the lunch and tea breaks were excellent.

There were about 600+ delegates participating in the conference. The profile varied between students, professors, independent consultants, professional programmers etc.

The first session by Prabhu Ramchandran (My adventures) was quite nice. It was interesting to see how an open source project Mayavi had been run successfully over the years out of India. Since there were three parallel tracks going on, hence I had to identify the sessions I wished to attend.

Some of the sessions had a lot of issues related to presentation. The presentation on zc.buildout was quite boring. The presenter spent too much time just discussing what is isolation and repeatability that there wasn't much time left for actual demonstration. Similarly, the session on DJango turned out to be quite boring. There were three presenters taking turns in the talk. They spent a lot of time preaching about DJango, like what it is, why it is great, etc. etc. They also spend a lot of time typing the code which they wished to demonstrate. I guess one should be very careful in using the 45 minutes available during a conference time and make the best use of it as possible. One should avoid time wasters like typing code and fixing bugs during the talk itself. Another boring session was on Semantic web. The presenter was explaining a whole lot of difficult concepts. It seemed like a typical IIT lecture in which students preferred to sleep through or if possible bunk them.

Another interesting talk was 'Jython at Strand LS' by Janaki where the speaker explained how they used Jython at their company. Examples were short and sweet. Illustrations were easy to understand and the speaker had a great sense of humour. I was impressed to see the extensive application of Jython in a production quality platform like AVADIS (TM) at Strand.

Finally, my own talk on using ZPT and RML for generating PDF in Python applications came. I didn't expect too many to attend the talk but I was happy to see about 30+ ppl still continuing to sit for my session. Some of them left during the session which meant that they didn't really enjoy the content much. Others continued through the session and I guess they liked what I talked. I would leave it for others to comment on how good the session was.

There were tracks for lightning talks but I guess very few speakers were actually prepared to conduct them. There were lots of talks registered but ultimately many of them were not delivered.

Some of the things I feel that should be improved for future conferences:

  • Expected audience of a talk should be more clearly explained
  • Focus should be more on specific coding workshops rather than general talks
  • Longer workshops on specific topics should be conducted if there are speakers available
  • There was no peer review of presentation material. This should be extensively fixed.
  • The work on presentation materials should actually finish 2-3 months before the conference at least so that peer reviews and revisions can be completed say about 2 weeks before actual conference.
  • Scheduling of talks should happen through a more transparent process
  • Registered delegates should receive notifications about talks (when its announced, when presentation materials are uploaded etc.) over mail as the process keeps on going before the actual conference
  • The talks without presentation material should be rejected in the final schedule.
  • Speakers should avoid wasting too much time talking about abstract concepts and spend more on illustrations. They should also avoid typing code during the session.
  • Multi-speaker talks should be minimized

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