From 2006 to 2007 we saw an increase of about 43% in attendance, from 410 to 586 attendees. I was expecting 800-900 people for 2008, but I feared we would see more... and my fears were realized with over 1000 attendees, an increase of 77% over PyCon 2007. We had over 420 people registered for tutorials on the Thursday before the talks (March 13), more than the total conference attendance in 2006 (the first year with a PyCon tutorial day). Attendance at the development sprint was at an all-time high: at least 250, possibly many more.
Registration started late this year, as did early-bird registration. Early-bird registrations accounted for about 75% of the total, and about half of the early-bird registrations were done in the last week (300 over 4 days; over 100 in a single day!). Next year we must open registration earlier and close early-bird registration much earlier, so we have some real numbers to work with early enough to be useful (e.g. for swag orders & catering plans).
The registration system itself had some rough edges, which we've noted and will be working on. It's quite something that there were only rough edges though, since PyCon-Tech was mostly written by one person in his (not-so) spare time. Doug Napoleone could sure use some help on the PyCon-Tech project!
In a classic snafu the credit card processing service used by PyCon & the PSF up and quit the day before the end of early-bird registration. It wasn't our fault or specific to us (many other online businesses were affected), but that didn't stop complaints. Andrew Kuchling and Doug Napoleone did a great job behind the scenes solving problems and soothing people's anxieties.
The phenomenal increase in attendance caused us some growing pains. We had to revise the seating plan in the ballrooms to fit more people (we'd planned to have more tables, but we couldn't do that and fit over 1000 people). The catering plan had to be reworked. The wireless network was affected. I'll address these issues in parts 3 & 4.