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Still Crazy After All These Years
A Consultant's Conference
by Steve Holden
August 25, 2003
I'll probably never blog from a conference, since sometimes the true impact of news takes a while to assess. Besides which, sometimes there are other priorities, even when you're at a conference. And then there are other costs ...


Fear and Loathing in Portland

little question here ... yes? ... well you were a speaker at OSCON, what happened to the Python track? ... sometimes, life is complicated...

I arrived Monday afternoon to give a tutorial Tuesday morning, so it was a fast whip round the speaker's room, see if anyone I knew was around, make sure I can project my slides in class and then out with Kevin Altis (a Portlander who mostly put the Python track together at OSCON), Patrick O'Brien (the man most likely to publish the first wxPython book) and Kirby Urner (who later gave an acclaimed presentation on Python in Education) to an alehouse whose name is lost in the mists of time. Portlanders, God bless them, take their hospitality seriously.

There I met Ward Cunningham (the instigator and maintainer of the Portland Pattern Repository and its related C2 wiki) and Randall Schwartz, famed Perl author and one of the leading lights of Stonehenge Consulting, both for the first time. All in all, a fascinating evening.

The Drinker's Diary

I remember that ActiveState provided the drinks on Tuesday and Stonehenge Consulting did the honors on Wednesday (though I got to the party late via dinner with my publisher). Thursday evening it was a dynamic DNS company whose name escaped me, who were giving out neat little plastic toolkits. Quite what this says to the marketing types about giving free drinks to geeks I have no idea. Oh, and there was an exhibition.

Strange things, conferences. I used to be involved in a part of the UK conference circuit, Treasurer of DECUS UK and Chairman of the Sun UK User Group, member of both the UK and the European Unix User Group, but since I moved to the States I've been too busy to get into the habit over here. Besides which, I don't like to be away from Mrs. Holden for too much of the time. But OSCON promised to be exciting for me for a number of reasons.

Why I Went

First, it represented a chance to put some introductory material on Python network programming in front of an audience for the first time. I had spent quite a while working on the material, which I would like to eventually use as the basis of a one-day course with hands-on exercises against a class server machine. I'm happy to record that the seminar sold out, and seemed to go well, although I haven't yet received the formal feedback via O'Reilly.

Secondly, it represented my first opportunity to meet Andy Robinson, CEO and Chief Architect of ReportLab Europe, since we started to talk about ReportLab representation in the USA. I'm enthusiastic about Andy's approach to open source, since he's built excellent proprietary products on top of an excellent open source base library.

Thirdly, it was supposed to be my chance to keep in touch with Python users and canvas opinion about possible changes in PyCon for 2004, since we have now begun that planning process. It was here that my plan fell to the ground, as I got a call on Tuesday from a customer who wanted to demonstrate some new functionality on Friday. This meant that I had to spend substantial amounts of time programming in VBScript. It was good to recover the conference fees during the conference, but I'd rather have been able to socialise more in Pythonia. I made time Thursday afternoon to make a five-minute presentation of ideas for a registry of Python modules with the ability for remote (developer and end-user?) tests to record compatibility data that might later be useful to others.

On Friday morning one other thing I did find time for was to interview my fellow Artima blogger Guido van Rossum. I'd heard in advance about the move to Elemental security he publicly announced at OSCON, and thought it would be nice for him to be able to reply to some slash-dotters who seemed to think he should consider them in his choice of career path. It was a speculative interview, but I'm happy to say it was picked up by the O'Reilly Network (see It's been a long time since I was an active journalist, but this blog has woken the instincts. A number of Python users have been kind enough to mail me about the interview, so it's come to the attention of the community without any special publicity.

The Real Cost?

For me the worst thing about OSCON 2003 was the way O'Reilly inconsiderately arranged to hold my tutorial the same day as my third wedding anniversary. So nothing would do but Mrs. Holden had to have a nice gift to remind her that she really is more important than conferences ...


PyCon, the US-based community Python conference, won't be as big as OSCON - we are thinking maybe 400 delegates - but I'm beginning to realise that as demands on my time increase the chairmanship can't be a one-person job and so I am thinking that a few co-chairs this year wouldn't be a bad idea. Next year maybe I can enjoy PyCon as much as a regular delegate? Now, there's a thought....

Thanks to Michael Feathers for keeping me straight on names

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About the Blogger

Steve Holden has been using computers longer than some of you have been alive, and he still isn't tired of it. The fascination is to do with the modeling flexibility that information systems allow. Steve consults to help his clients design and build their network architectures and programmed web systems, and teaches networking, database and security classes. He is the author of "Python Web Programming" (New Riders, 2002) and chaired the PyCon DC 2003 conference.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2003 Steve Holden. All rights reserved.

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