Blog of Sara Jakša

My First Python Conference at PyConSK

Right now, when I am writing this, I am sitting on the bus from Bratislava to Ljubljana. This weekend, I have attended my first python conference, namely the PyConSK2019 conference. I have been hearing about how great the software developer's conferences were every single month (along with some weird stories about pants, which I am glad I did not see on this conference :) ). I have to admit, that I caved to the peer pressure and decided to check, if they were really what they were hyped to be (peer pressure is going to play some role later as well). Considering the hype, I think there should be something more? But I can understand now, why they hype them, as this one at least was great.

My preparation for this was basically asking one friend of mine, how do they look like and what would his recommendation be. According to him, there is going to be too much information to process all on the fly and that it will be a great social opportunity. Which, alright, was helpful for my expectations, but not really in what I want to do at the conference.

So, my plan for the conference was just to go there and observe this, and then the next time, I will know what to do. Spoiler alert, that is not what I ended up doing at all. I went from i-have-no-idea-why-i-am-doing-somebody-stop-me on the first day, to being surprisingly comfortable doing and socializing in the third day. I don't know if the same is true for all software development communities, but the Python community is the most accepting and open community, that I had ever been a part of. It is something, that for me is crystal clear, but maybe it does not come up enough. The point, that I will also be returning to later.

So, when I arrived there, I talked to two of the guys. I have to admit, I don't remember any of their names, though I could check one, since I attended his talk later during the conference. Sometimes, I don't know if I don't include the names because they might me more privacy conscious or because I don't remember a lot of them and I am trying to be consistent. Well, anyway, I got my first tips there. First, the description that I got as a preparation for the conference was accurate. The second was to check the Django girls tutorial, which has some easy example of very simple concepts. The same ones, that are too obvious for me to try and explain them to the novices in programming, that I am tutoring sometimes (not, that I am a very good one).

As far as the morning session goes: I will remember Arvil, in case somebody will need a site without too much complication, if they needed something more than a static website. But I (so far) don't see myself using it. I am excited now to try the MindsDB, both because the data science is something that I am interested in and become they were convincing. The space talk was nice, but there was nothing that I remember would be something, that would be helpful to remember. (I did write notes during the presentation, but I am writing the summary from my head. Just to see, what my mind found it important enough to remember).

Then it was lunch, and I was positively surprised, that there was lunch included. I ended up talking to a woman. We discussed many things, but the one that will come up later is, that this was her first tech conference, if she did not count the women in tech conference that she attended. And how these are organized, to bring the gender ratio to 50:50.

After the lunch, I attended the workshop on passwordless authentication. Where a person would get a link in their email to log in with. So we went through example, and even though it did not work on the end (firewall problems or something), the code itself seems simple enough. I already have a personal project in mind, in where I am going to try using it. The code is here (I am going to assume, that since it is on GitHub, it is alright to link to it?).

After the workshop, I went back to listening to the lectures. The GitHub bots gave me one or two potential ideas, but the workshop that happened later was more helpful for me. I think this is when they announced, that it is possible to apply for the lightning talk, because I don't remember even the main message of the next talk. There were unwanted thought in my head all the time, in which I am going to expand about in the next paragraph. I then applied for a lightning talk, but then I was still not very present for the next talk. I remember that there was some comparison with Facebook and some stock prices, but I also have no idea, what the main message was. The last one was an funny talk about the time zones. Along with a pointer to a timezone database, that I will be using in the future. It seems like a fun database to play with (not to mention, with historical data, there are a lot of thing that I can visualize at least).

Now, what did I mean with the unwanted thoughts in the previous paragraph. There were a couple of things that were maybe a bit unusual. So, back in Ljubljana, I have this friend, that I had known for years. One conversation with him eventually lead to the creation of this blog years ago. And we have been recently seeing each other in the Python Meetups. So, I knew that I eventually am going to do the lightning talks and the main talks at the meetup, but I wanted to take a lot more time. So, after that main presentation, he was like giving me the comment, that the next one is going to be at the conference with the standing applause. And I was already primed for a rant because of the comment at the lunch about the women tech conferences. Not, that the person I was speaking with was making me like that, but the whole idea of equality of outcomes, which will never happen without some version of totalitarianism (which I really don't like). And then the poor organizer had to open the flood with the comment about the lightning talks. I am aware, that it was not his fault, he was just doing his job. And I remembered the lightning talk that I gave at the Python Meetup before. And then it was playing on the loop, for the entire lecture (which was 40 minutes) the voice of that friend of mine and his comments and me trying to convince myself to not do it.

Well, it did not work. Like at all. And I realized, that I will not be able to talk myself out of it. So I went to the place, where one could apply for a lightning talk, with the intention that they will talk me out of it. Well, things did not go according to plans. They were all so encouraging and nice and helpful and tried to convince me to just apply. Which was the opposite of what I wanted at that time. But there was a catch, which was that if there were too many, they will randomly choose some. So, even if I apply, there was still a chance I will not do it. It would be better, if the choice was not random, but as long as there was a chance to not do it, I will take it.

Things once again did not go according to plan. There were only four people that applied, so I did had to go to the stage. To make matter worse, the first one was a quite well prepared speech about a framework (I think it was about parallelization, I think this one: https://github.com/ray-project/ray?). The second one was the one, where he showed us a keyboard hack. And to convince us about it, he spoke in like ten different languages. And then there was me, and a announcement for another python conference (I think it was for the one in Berlin?).

My presentation was based on my agent based model to understand the gender differences in STEM. It was about 3 minutes long and it was a rant. I think they will put the video there eventually, so I will link to it, when I will notice that it is up. And afterwards, I was mortified.

Spoilers: it did end up being a good idea.

I decided that I will not go to the party (I was still under stress from the lightning talk). I walked back with the women, whose comment helped inspire this, and then wrote an angry email to a friend, that was responsible for the voice in my head. I do regret that email a bit now, but I know that until I will not have a bad reaction to an angry email, I will keep sending them (not that I send many). So, if by any miniscule chance, that person will ever read this blog, he knows that I was talking about him. He is dangerous, but I would count him as somebody, who had a noticeable positive effect on my life (this blog would be example enough, and that was not the only thing).

So I went to sleep early, and then there was day two. I got lost during the Django talk, I think the reason was mostly that the talk was quite detailed, but I had never before even tired Django's ORM. Otherwise, I think I would have found it a lot more interesting. Then it was interactive talk about Google API's, which were fun, but I don't need them for professional project (especially since data privacy is a big thing with whom I work for) and I don't see myself using it in personal projects. Maybe in the future. The next talk was about OAuth (Slides), which is great, because I will likely have to implement some sort of authentication service, and this seems like a good way. The final decision is not mine, but the talk convinced me that for me, this become like the first approach, that I would try. Then I listened to the talk, which was presenting some weird stuff in python, that (if I understood correctly) were there for the optimization. Like changing the list inside tuple in the same line, where the error is thrown out.

I don't really remember lunch. I remember eating something, but this was it. I think I might have ended outside, with a cup of tea, on the sun?

So, after lunch I attended the workshop about teaching algorithmic efficiency, where I was clearly not the target audience, but it was a nice overview of it. Then I decided to play hooky and go on the drink with one of my sort-of former classmate. That was fun. When I came back, I listened to the talk about micro:bits (still not sure, how they are different from raspberry pi), participated in the Quiz (apparently Python was released the same year I was born) and listened to the lightning talks (this time I did not participate).

The lightning talks had a lot of announcements of the future conferences. There was a guy that is sending messages from one conference to another. There was a really interesting one about the Indie OAuth, which build on the concepts of Indie Web, which I though it was an interesting idea, when I first encountered it. I can't remember any other out of my head.

Next it was socializing. I talked to way too many people. Some for longer, some for shorter amount of time. There was a guy with existentialist problems, there was a woman would was about as old as I was, but had a resume longer than some of the 40-something people I know and more impressive than others. There was this one guy, that was interested in cognitive science and the foodie woman. There was one, who really encouraged me to learn some soft skills. Then there was this other guy, who we talked about the quality of talks at the conferences, one guy, that I only one day later I remembered, I talked to years ago (thankfully, he did not remember me either) and a nice guy with a guitar. And I probably missed a lot. (Yes, I remember other things about them, but I don't think I remember a single name).

I only came back to the hostel at three in the morning.

The next day, I decided to come a bit later, since the English program did not start until 10 o'clock. I enjoyed a good cup of tea, as I was waiting. I ended up talking to a pair of people, and ended up being late to the workshop.

The workshop itself was helpful for three reasons. It was about graph analysis, which I will have to know for my cognitive science master thesis, and I realized that most of the things that I found out on my own were the things, that are considered basics (which for me is a lot of times not true). Next, I knew that I will eventually have to deal with communities, and this was a nice intro (on Game of Thrones) and I had a small problem with a small analysis that I was doing, considering weights, that I got a good idea in how to tackle it in a new way in the US Airport example. So, overall a good workshop.

Then it was already lunch, when I ate and then spend a lot of time talking to the guy from yesterday (the one that was really interested in cognitive science).

Then I attended the GitHub Bots tutorial. They were using the Octomachinery tutorial. I had to leave before the end, since there is only one direct bus from Bratislava to Ljubljana, and I wanted to catch the direct one, since when I was buying the tickets, I was not sure how sleepy I will be. Well, instead of sleep, I have been writing this blog for the last 2 hours and a half. But I think I am at the end.

Overall impression (which I know I should wait to process everything, but whatever), is that these events are great and now I want to attend more of them. I really need to finish with my two master thesis, so that I could actually get a 'real' job and my wallet will not mind, if I just go to as many of these are I have the time and energy :).