It was busy. It started early in the morning. There was free food. There were a lot of tech companies with a lot of money. The opening remarks took place in a packed room to big to be panned over in the course of a single snapchat. I felt something you could call culture shock.
I was mostly too shy to talk to anyone, though by the third day, I had graduated from *literally* 'too shy to talk to anyone' to 'talking at the snack table but not enjoying it' . Somehow, despite shyness, I would describe the environment as welcoming. This is because women and newcomers to programming (both demographics I belong to) were explicitly welcomed in the keynotes, opening remarks, and conference branding. This is important and not to be underestimated. At a Maker meetup event she organizes, my friend Hillary Predko said recently, "You have to invite people into spaces, not sit around wondering why they're not showing up," which is a tidy and concise way of saying what I deeply feel.
If it needs to be said, and maybe it does, I did not experience what I would consider misogyny at any instance that weekend.
I sensed this was a political climate I can pass in - Themes covered in keynotes included diversity, leftism, activism, work-life balance, the importance of participating politically, and maintaining a free and open public sphere. Free and open source software was championed. The terrible state of infosec was decried. There was live close captioning in *all* of the talks. The conference has financial assistance available for women and minorities, and even at normal price I paid (the $100 student rate), it is financially accessible so far as conferences go. There was childcare, and I actually saw children at the event.
Favourite talks and some comments follow:
The opening question for the first keynote, about Code for America is "How can we get the government to stop dropping bombs on brown people and locking up innocent Americans?"
The very first thing I learned at Pycon: Apparently I am sometimes attracted to men with ponytails.
Talk I most likely to make immediate use of in my actual life: Exploring Minecraft and Python: Learning to Code through Play by Kurt Grandis. At the Tool Library, my Minecraft 3D printing workshops are always a huge hit . . . and I'm teaching Code Camp in about a month. I've been thinking of teaching in python, and this adds a compelling argument.
Talk most about something I already do: 3D Print Anything with the Blender API by Jenny Cheng (who has a great blog https://caretdashcaret.wordpress.com/). This talk walks through the process of making a pair of 3D printed glasses programmatically. And not only do I work with 3D printers at the Tool Library . . . I make CNC mass-customize-able glasses.
Cutest talk: Systems programming as a swiss army knife by Julia Evans. I mean cute in a totally un-diminutive sense here, if that is possible. Julia's obvious enthusiasm for programming and learning was contagious. This talk accompanied the linux tips with a photocopied zine called "How to spy on your programs with Strace . . . in which we learn about . . . how one standard Linux utility can make you a WIZARD, why you should heart your operating system, and that system calls are THE BEST." It belongs on a table at the anarchist book fair of my dreams.
Talks about something I felt like I understood a little bit for the first time: This is a tie between Type python, press enter. What happens by Philip James and Asheesh Laroia and Hash Functions and You: Partners in Freedom by Curtis Lassam. In the first I learned that "repl" stands for Read, Eval, Print, Loop because . . . that's exactly what it does. The second I learned how to use passwords without storing them, and that there are pairs of strings that have the same hash but that finding them by is very unlikely (called "low collision probability").
Talk that would have fit in most at art school: The closing Keynote by Gary Bernhardt which began by introducing the concept of Rumsfeld unknown unknowns quote and then referenced Zizek's the Perverts Guide to Ideology. Perhaps you can infer that it was about how the ideology of programming lives in the unknown knowns, just like my old favourite definition of ideology goes: (2nd year history of New Media Art TA paraphrasing . . . somebody) "Ideology is everything you don't know you believe."
T shirt jokes are a thing at Pycon. Here is a list of notable Pycon T-shirts:
"This technology could fall into the right hands"
2 hitchhikers guide themed shirts spotted, slogans unrecorded.
"Looks like we got a badass over here"
"There's no place like 127.0.0.1"
A coffee cup saying "1up"
"This is what a programmer looks like" (on a woman)
Let's close this post with a sneaky selfie. Hi!