Thursday, April 27, 2017

Python 1994: Recollections from the First Conference

We are happy to announce PyCon 2017’s Sunday morning plenary event — the final day of this year’s main conference will feature Guido van Rossum on a panel of Python programmers who attended the first-ever Python conference back in 1994! Paul Everitt will moderate the panel as they answer questions and share their memories about that first Python conference when the programming language was still young.

At the beginning of 1994, the World Wide Web consisted of less than 1,000 sites. There was no distributed version control. No public issue trackers. Programmers communicated their ideas, issues, and patches in plain text on mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups. The small community of Python programmers were connected through both a mailing list and the comp.lang.python newsgroup, which was busy enough that several new messages were appearing each day.

An exciting announcement blazed out to subscribers of the Python mailing list in September 1994: Guido van Rossum, the Dutch researcher who had invented Python, was going to visit the United States! An impromptu Python workshop was quickly organized for the beginning of November where Python programmers could for the first time meet each other in person.

Attendees of the first Python conference, in a tiny and highly artifacted JPEG that was typical of the era

Of the small group who gathered at NIST over November 1–3, 1994, several will be on stage to share about both the triumphs and the mistakes of those early years. The panel is currently slated to include:

  • Guido van Rossum
  • Paul Everitt (moderator)
  • Barry Warsaw
  • Jim Fulton

There is one way that you in the Python community can go ahead and start helping us prepare for the panel:

We need your questions!

You can go ahead and suggest questions by tweeting them with a hashtag of #nist1994. The panel will curate your tweeted questions along with questions that they solicit elsewhere, and will have their favorites ready for the panel at PyCon.

Thanks to Paul Everitt for organizing the panel, which will aim to spur not only nostaligia for a lost era but lessons, warnings, and inspirations for future generations of Python developers!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Announcing the PyCon 2017 Keynote Speakers

Only one month from today, PyCon will be almost over! The conference will be on the third and final day of its program. The sponsor booths will all have been packed up the night before and the Expo Hall re-purposed for a morning full of Poster presentations and Job Fair tables. Only one quick afternoon of talks will stand between us and the closing ceremonies.

Here in the present, the hatches are nearly all battened down. The schedule is set. The conference is completely sold out of registrations. The sponsor lineup is nearly finished, with only a few booths still left to be claimed. Almost everything is now in place — though, we do still need more attendeees to sign up as volunteers, a topic about which we will blog in further detail next week.

Meanwhile, the time has come to announce this year’s keynote speakers, who will be addressing the conference during our plenary sessions! They are:

  • Kelsey Hightower
  • Katy Huff
  • Jake Vanderplas
  • Lisa Guo & Hui Ding

We look forward to hearing from each of them!

You might be wondering: where on this list is Python’s fearless leader and perpetual keynote favorite, Guido van Rossum? Don’t worry! Guido will definitely be on stage this year as part of a special Sunday morning plenary session — the details of which we will be announcing soon. Intrigued? Watch for our announcement next week!

Here are more details about 2017’s keynote speakers:

Kelsey Hightower

Kelsey Hightower is an open source advocate and recovering sysadmin who is currently serving the application container and distributed systems community as an educator and toolsmith. He is currently employed by Google.

Katy Huff

Dr. Kathryn D. Huff is an unapologetic advocate for open reproducible scientific computing and for emissions-free base-load nuclear energy. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she leads the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group. She holds an affiliate faculty position with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and is one of the University of Illinois' most recent Blue Waters Professors.

Her current research focuses on modeling and simulation of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. She is currently the elected chair of the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division of the American Nuclear Society. Through leadership with the Hacker Within, Software Carpentry, SciPy, the Journal of Open Source Software, and other initiatives, she strives to advocate for best practices in open, reproducible scientific computing. With colleagues, collaborators, and friends, she has co-authored two books to help scientists with these practices: Effective Computation in Physics, O’Reilly, 2015 and The Practice of Reproducible Research, UC Press, 2017.

Jake Vanderplas

Jake VanderPlas is an astronomer by training, and a long-time user and developer of the scientific Python stack. He currently works as an interdisciplinary research director at the University of Washington, where he writes, teaches, collaborates on research, and spends time consulting with local scientists from a wide range of fields.

Lisa Guo

Lisa Guo is a networking, platform, and scalability software engineer with over 20 years experience. She has been working with the Instagram Infrastructure team since 2014, where she led efforts to expand from a single to multiple data centers and improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Prior to joining Instagram, Lisa worked on Facebook’s Software Defined Networks strategy and deployment. She was also Director, Engineering at Juniper Networks in charge of software development for EX switching series. She joined Juniper through its acquisition of NetScreen, and held core infrastructure development roles at Shasta Networks, Tahoe Networks.

Hui Ding

Hui Ding is Head of Infrastructure org at Instagram, where he oversees the scaling of Instagram backend platform that supports hundreds of millions of concurrent users on a daily basis. Hui has been with Instagram since 2012, and has led the development of many Instagram product launches as well as all infrastructure efforts.

Before joining Instagram, Hui was a core member of the Facebook infrastructure team, building its distributed data store for the social graph. Hui holds a PhD in computer engineering from Northwestern University.

Monday, March 20, 2017

PyCon will be underway in just two months — and is nearly sold out!

It seems hard to believe, but two months from today PyCon 2017 will be underway in Portland! Attendees will be enjoying a full day of scheduled talks, self-organized Open Spaces, and visits to our many sponsors the Expo Hall.

Only a little more than eight weeks remain until we meet in Portland. As PyCon’s volunteers put the finishing touches on their plans, talk slides, and rosters, here are several updates on the conference:

  • Less than 100 tickets now remain! Soon the conference will be sold out and unable to accommodate any further attendees. If attending is crucial for you, we recommend signing up immediately while there is still time.
  • All the major schedules are available on the site. The program committees who select talks, tutorials, and posters have completed their hard work for the year — thank you, volunteers! — and you can already start planning what you want to see.
  • Several Sponsor Workshops are already scheduled. Attendees can register for free for these sessions that give sponsors the chance to offer technical content, in-person instruction, and short talks to community members interested in their techology.
  • The one-day Education Summit has published its schedule. The sign-up link is available from its main page. The summit invites educators from all kinds of venue to consider joining this year’s discussion and sharing their insights.
  • Several job fair listings are already up on the site, and many more will be posted in the weeks leading up to the conference. You can go ahead and start reading about the kinds of position that PyCon sponsors are interested in filling from the ranks of the Python community.
  • The list of sponors has grown and grown until, at least in my browser, it now takes nearly 40 PgDn keystrokes to reach the bottom! We are thrilled that so many organizations, both for-profit and non-profit, are finding it worthwhile to come alongside the open-source Python community and support the idea of a free programming language.

We are excited about this year’s conference. We know, of course, that only a fraction of the world’s Python community ever gets to attend any individual PyCon, and so we will be recording and preserving as much as possible for the use of all of the world’s programmers for years to come. But for those who will be able to manage the travel and to attend, we look forward to your presence in Portland and wish you well as your preparations enter their final weeks!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Financial Aid deadline is February 15! But what about international travel?

The deadline for applying to PyCon 2017 for Financial Aid is this coming Wednesday, February 15th! The link to the application is on our main Financial Aid page:

https://us.pycon.org/2017/financial-assistance/

Given that international travel to the United States has become a greater risk for many in the international community, PyCon wants to make an extra stipulation this year to try to protect our Financial Aid recipients in case they are turned away upon arrival in the United States. But, first, let’s get clear about the risks and duties of those who are awarded Financial Aid.

For many people, airline tickets and nights at a hotel are never routine expenses. They are frightening blows against a bank account — large, exceptional purchases for special occasions. But what if a person becomes too ill to travel, cannot get a full refund, and the money is simply lost? What if a missed flight adds hundreds of dollars of extra expense that were not in the budget and for which they are unprepared?

While PyCon’s Financial Aid program does strive to make travel possible for a broader audience than could comfortably attend the conference on their own budget, it cannot eliminate the risks of travel. Indeed, its mechanism for delivering awarded funds — a physical check that must be collected at the conference itself — can only succeed for travelers who actually reach PyCon.

So let’s review the risks of traveling to PyCon in the hope of receiving a Financial Aid check, and then learn about the new promise that the conference is making this year:

  • Financial Aid is designed to help with travel expenses, not with your visa application fee. Financial Aid applicants have always been responsible for paying their own visa application fee, whether the visa is granted or denied. This remains true for PyCon 2017. So keep in mind that if your visa is denied, the United States will not refund your processing fee, and — as you will not be traveling — PyCon will not be giving you Financial Aid or refund your visa processing fee.
  • You should apply for your visa, if you decided to attend, right after you receive our response to your Financial Aid application.
  • As you start the visa application process, go ahead and register for the conference. You can do so without risk: we always fully refund a registration fee when a visa application is denied. We even waive our usual $25 fee for processing a cancellation — you receive back the full registration fee that you paid!
  • However, we advise you to delay any non-refundable travel purchases until after you have been granted a visa. Many applicants wait until they have their visa in hand before they even book a hotel room, and almost everyone waits until the visa arrives before purchasing airfare.
  • Beyond those guidelines, we have traditionally provided only the promise that each Financial Aid recipient, if they make it to PyCon, will receive their check. This obviously burdens each applicant with a risk: that if their travel plans go awry and they cannot reach Portland, that they will receive no Financial Aid. They will have to try cancelling their hotel room in time to receive a refund, and ask their airline if any kind of a refund is possible.
  • In previous years, PyCon assumed this risk to be a reasonable one. But we want to make a new stipulation here in 2017. First, if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, then after you pursue and receive whatever refund your airline might be able to offer, PyCon wants to send you enough of your Financial Aid grant to cover the rest of the cost of your airfare (or the whole grant, if the airfare cost more). You will need to document that you indeed arrived in the United States and were denied entry.
  • Second: if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, but used our registration page to book a room in a conference hotel, our staff will personally work with the hotel to make sure you do not receive a cancellation fee.
  • Third: if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, PyCon will fully refund your registration fee. While this is more serious for our conference budget — at such a late date, we will be unlikely to be able to register someone else in your place — we have decided to put the financial safety of our Financial Aid recipients from overseas first.

We hope that these extra guarantees beyond the normal terms of our Financial Aid program will help applicants plan more confidently and will continue to make PyCon 2017 an option for as wide a slice of the worldwide Python community as possible.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Precognitive Selected as Chicago’s Startup Row Company; Application Deadline Extended

On Thursday, January 26th, the PyCon Startup Row hosted its first local pitch event of the 2017 season! Braintree hosted the Chicago event at their headquarters in Merchandise Mart. Lagunitas donated beer, while Braintree provided food and soft drinks. ChiPy — Chicago’s official Python user group — joined as a community sponsor.

Our panel of judges included Tamim Abdul Majid, Marcy Capron-Vermillion, and Keith Vermillion. Our panel selected Precognitive to represent Chicago in Portland at PyCon 2017 — congratulations! Precognitive scans user behavior and other analytical factors to identify and flag fraudulent transactions on-the-fly.

Will your city have a company on Startup Row this year? The best way to guarantee representation of your local startup community at PyCon 2017 is to host a pitch event. We want a startup from your city to join us on Startup Row in 2017. Here’s a kit explaining what’s involved in holding a local pitch event. Contact Startup Row organizers Jason Rowley or Don Sheu with any questions — our emails are at the bottom of the Startup Row page on the PyCon 2017 web site.

Coming up next are a Startup Row event in Seattle on February 22nd, and one in San Francisco with SF Python on March 8th. Currently Startup Row staff are working with WeWork and Big Apple Py for a late-February date in New York.

Coordinating pitch events in cities around the country is unpredictable — originally, we wanted to conclude all of our pitch events by today. But because we now have events scheduled out to March 8, 2017, we are extending our due date for online applications. Our new application deadline is March 8th. Startups that have already submitted applications are welcome to revise applications up to the deadline.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

PyCon Startup Row 2017 Applications Are Now Open!

Starting at the 2011 conference in Atlanta, the PyCon Expo Hall has offered a special event for startups: “Startup Row,” a row of booths that features interesting startups built with Python.

We’re happy to announce that applications to Startup Row at PyCon 2017 in Portland, Oregon, are now open!

You may have questions about Startup Row, so here we provide some basic answers.

How do I apply?

There is information about applying at the end of this post, but if you’re the “do first, ask questions later” type, go to our application form.

What do Startup Row companies get?

We give founders a unique opportunity to connect with the vibrant, diverse community of engineers, data scientists, speakers, investors and enthusiasts who come to the world’s largest Python programming conference.

Startup Row companies get:

  • Free booth space
  • Admission to PyCon for two startup team members
  • Coverage here on the PyCon blog and elsewhere
  • A couple of fun events exclusively for Startup Row companies and the community.

And in a first for Startup Row, this year we’ll be giving our companies access to the Jobs Fair at PyCon, so they can recruit from the same quality pool of engineering talent that the likes of Google, Facebook, Dropbox and other big companies have recruited at PyCon for years.

All in, if selected, your company receives a few thousand dollars worth of access to the best PyCon has to offer, all for free because you’re doing cool stuff with Python.

What are the rules?

  1. Your startup has to be 2.5 years old or less.
  2. Including founders, there have to be less than 15 people on the team at the time you apply.
  3. Obviously, you have to use Python somewhere in your stack. (Open source, proprietary, front end, back end, data analysis, devops — it all counts.)

How does the selection committee pick companies?

  • We strongly favor engineer-founders, people who can build both valuable software and valuable businesses.
  • The technology or product has to be interesting. Are you solving a tough engineering problem? Building a version control system to replace git? Using a new technology in a unique way? Something that scratches your own itch as a domain expert in some field? Great!
  • Traction. Is your company reaching a lot of people, either now or in the near future? Do you have a good sales pipeline? Lots of signups? MAU stats that would make Facebook jealous? Be sure to tell us about it in your application.

Which companies have been on Startup Row before?

In the past six years, Startup Row has featured over 75 companies, some of which you’ve probably heard of or even used.

Pandas, the popular data science library, was created by Lambda Foundry. 

DotCloud (which would become Docker), ZeroVM, X.ai, Mailgun, Mixpanel, AppThwack, and many others were all featured on Startup Row back when they were early stage startups.

I’ve heard something about local pitch events. Tell me more!

Yes, we’re hosting pitch events in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. If you’re interested in pitching or hosting your own local Startup Row pitch event, email one of Startup Row’s organizers at don [at] sheu [dot] com, or jason [at] jdr [dot] fyi for more information.

Currently, we've scheduled events in Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, and we're adding more dates. The Chicago event is on January 26 at Braintree HQ in collaboration with the Braintree team and ChiPy, the local user group. The San Francisco event is on March 8, and as of the time of publishing a venue is TBD. Finally, Avvo offered to host the Seattle event in collaboration with PuPPy, the Seattle and Puget Sound Python user group.

We’ll be announcing the local events schedule and additional dates on the Startup Row page.

Where can I learn more about Startup Row?

Startup Row has its own page on the PyCon 2017 site, where you can learn more about the history of Startup Row at PyCon (fun fact: it started as a collaboration between Y Combinator and the PSF) and just how well Startup Row alumni have performed (another fun fact: nearly 20% have had successful exits so far).

If you have any quick questions up front for the organizing team, you can find us @ulysseas and @jason_rowley on Twitter, or at the email addresses listed above.

Okay, I’ve read all this. Now, how do I apply?

First off, we commend you for sticking it through to the end! You can click here to go to the application form for Startup Row.

We’re looking forward to learning a little more about what you’re working on!