EuroPython 2009

About two weeks ago, I attended several days of the EuroPython 2009 conference in Birmingham, UK. The conference is a community-run event, with some very dedicated pythonistas putting it together, and it seemed to go quite well. The venue was the Birmingham Conservatoire, a music school, so there was the occasional mixing of computer nerds with music nerds, but this also means that we had rooms of all sizes (from big performance halls down to practice rooms) and they generally had good acoustics.

There was no single theme, of course, except for python, and there were talks on many aspects of the language. If I had to find one big topic for the conference, though, it would be the proliferation and rise of new python implementations. There were several talks on jython, iron python, and pypy, and a lot of the buzz outside of the talks was about these. Probably every talk I went to had a question like “Does your new library work on [insert python implementation]?”, and I think there’s a big sense that python has a bright future as it moves into more and more “platforms”. I personally look forward to this future, and will be following these projects.

I would like to complain a bit about the quality of some of the talks, though. I talked to some others at the conference, and I’m not alone in feeling that some of the presenters were simply not prepared. In the worst cases, it was as if the presenter had never even run through the presentation and didn’t really know what s/he was talking about. Fortunately, most presentations were better than this, but the wide variance really makes me appreciate the really good talks (of which there were a few.) I know this will get some groans from students the world over, but perhaps speaking and presentation skills should be required or more heavily stressed in CS and engineering courses. Just an idea…

Speaking of presentations, one presenter took the fun step of having live IRC and twitter feeds about the talk. There were some minor technical glitches, but once they got going, the feeds were an interesting sort of feedback mechanism for the audience. I don’t think it really influenced the presenter, but it was a good way to get the audience involved and, somewhat unexpectedly, I think it kept us more engaged in the talk than we otherwise might have been.

All in all, the conference was a success and, especially considering how cheap it was, I’m definitely interested in attending next year. The quality of the keynote speakers was high, and I hope that they can keep that up. Birmingham was a fine city, but of course it’s always fun to visit new places so hopefully it will be somewhere different next year. In any event, I look forward to it 🙂

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