Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Part 6: Conference Talks (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

The PyCon Conference Days took place from Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16. More than 60 speakers gave freely of their time, and presented some great talks. On behalf of the PyCon organizers: thank you all!

We received over 140 proposals for talks, more than twice as many as we could accept, and unfortunately we had to turn down many good proposals. The PyCon Program Committee (all volunteers, led by Ivan Krstić) did a great job in the long selection process, but it's hard to balance the needs of beginners and gurus alike. It's inevitable that there were some complaints.

The only way to improve in the future is to have more participation, especially from under-represented sectors: core Python, advanced topics, PyPy, etc. There has been talk of switching to a topic-based track program (web track, advanced/technical track, introductory track, etc.). This could work, but it needs the participation of many experts. If you care about Python's North American flagship conference, join the pycon-pc (Program Committee) mailing list!

There was an issue with the printed schedule: the talk levels weren't included. Unfortunately, nobody caught this in time. We won't repeat that mistake. The levels were visible on the online schedule though.

There were some issues with talks and speakers during the conference itself. We had ideas about a speaker ready room and info packets for speakers and session chairs, but there wasn't the time or manpower to implement all the ideas we had. In future, this needs to be organized earlier and publicized better.

We had 4 tracks this year, instead of 3 in past years. How did that work out? Should PyCon remain at 4 tracks? Return to 3 tracks? Or increase to 5 or more tracks? Given the size of conference PyCon has become, we now have the freedom to choose. Also, the cost of A/V becomes more reasonable when it's spread out over more attendees, and this opens up the possibility of recording and subsequently (or simultaneously?) releasing everything.

Some people would like to see more, shorter talks. Many others believe that 30 minutes is not enough time for an in-depth talk. But if we increase to 45 or 60 minutes, we'll have far fewer talks. We can mitigate this with more parallel tracks, but then people have to make hard choices, and if any one talk is overwhelmingly popular the (inevitably smaller) room could be filled.

There is a lively discussion going on right now on the pycon-organizers mailing list. Join us!

No comments: