Some people love the stuff that goes on before PyCon, and with good reason. The tutorials are probably the best tech training value around, the language summit and education summit (my baby!) are amazing chances to connect with the movers and shakers, and the young coder sessions are exploding with energy and learning. So if you find yourself showing up at PyCon earlier and earlier each year, who could blame you?
But as cool as the pre-conference stuff is, we all know the main conference is even better. So many quality talks that everyone wants to be in at least two places at once the entire time, the keynotes, the lightning talks, the expo hall, the posters, not to mention the open spaces, hallway track, parties, dinners, and lunches. It just goes on and on.
So it's no wonder that by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around everyone is a bit overloaded. People start filtering out, to catch planes, drive home, etc., and by Sunday evening things are definitely much sparser, and on Monday only a relatively small core of PyConistas remain.
And that's a shame because that means that quite a few people miss the third part of PyCon, the sprints.
So what are the sprints? The sprints are the Monday through Thursday after PyCon when people get together to work on coding projects. It could be adding new functionality, fixing bugs, or even porting libraries or applications to Python 3.
I first sprinted in 2009. I didn't know really what it would be like, and as a someone who'd always worked alone, I didn't have a clue about how developers worked on a team. I ended up working on CherryPy with Bob Brewer, and in a day and a half I went from total sprint noob to being the person who started the port of CherryPy to Python 3. I got a great experience working on a project with other people, and learned a ton from discussing the bugs I was hitting with someone who knew more about web apps than I could ever hope to know. In that day and a half I absorbed more practical and lasting knowledge of Python development than I'd gotten from the talks and tutorials combined. And that's saying a lot.
That's what makes the sprints so great - after almost a week of learning about Python, talking about Python, hearing about Python, trading jokes about Python, even (in my case) dreaming about Python, the sprints are a chance to sit down and actually code in Python. And not just code in Python, but do it sitting next to the creators, maintainers, and developers of the language, packages, and applications that we use every day. How cool is that?
Even better, you don't have to be a top developer to sprint. Most projects have a range of issues, bugs, and projects in play, and if you're willing to dive in and work at it, it's pretty likely that you'll come away amazed by what you learned and what you helped accomplish.
And while the rest of PyCon is arguably one of the best deals in the tech conference universe, the sprints are an even better deal - all they'll cost you is the cost of your hotel and few meals (PyCon will spring for one meal a day).
And do keep in mind that the sprints are totally open as to how long you stay. If you can only make if for a day, that's cool. Or you can stay for two or three days, or even be one of the diehards and sprint for the whole four days. It's all good.
If you're curious as to what projects will be sprinting, and want to keep up with sprint news in general (hint: we're hoping to add and tweak a feature or two) keep an eye on the sprint page - it's pretty quiet now, but it will getting more lively as we approach the conference dates.
If you decide to join us, It's dead easy to add a night or two to your hotel and indicate your interest when you register. And if you've already registered, all you need to do is contact the nice people at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to add a few days to your stay.
For all you seasoned sprinters, we're collecting top sprint memories and stories to share in a future post. If you've got a treasured memory or story that shows just how cool the sprints are, please send them my way to naomi.ceder AT gmail.com.
So I hope you'll be joining us for the sprints. I'm pretty sure you'll find it an awesome way to finish up what's already an amazing conference experience.