Foreword from the Chair:
The PyCon staff, volunteers, tutorial presenters, speakers, poster presenters, and community members have been hard at work preparing for PyCon 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. Along the way, we’ve gotten a chance to have some solid discussions about what makes PyCon good as well as where it can improve.
In February one of those discussions was around the dates when PyCon 2018 will be occurring, specifically the conflict with Mother’s Day 2018. The outcome of that discussion was a commitment by the PyCon staff to better communicate what decisions and compromises were made along the way and how they were considered.
PyCon is run by the Python Software Foundation, which is a grant giving non-profit. Many misunderstand or are unaware of this relationship, but the Python Software Foundation relies on maintaining a strict budget for the operation of PyCon in order to continue its grants programs and other financial responsibilities.
The PyCon staff and Python Software Foundation Board of Directors strive to improve year over year. After realizing that PyCon 2014 and 2015 conflicted with the observance of Passover, PyCon’s scheduling has explicitly avoided major religious observances and US holidays.
The end result is a schedule which varies year to year and a myriad of compromises small and large that are made along the way. This year one of those compromises was to schedule the conference in conflict with the following holidays and religious observances:
- May 10 - (Second day of Tutorials) Ascension Day
- May 13 - (Third day of Talks) Mother’s Day
- May 16 - (Third day of Sprints) Start of Ramadan
Conflicts were known and understood in advance of booking. For conflicts that staff did not have personal experience with, members of the community were asked to help fill in the blind spots. In spite of this we failed to properly and openly communicate the known conflicts, which allowed for speculation that they simply hadn’t been considered. This is a fair assumption, but it is not the case. In addition, our lack of transparency lead to the conflict being a surprise for many as they registered for PyCon or began booking their travel and accommodations.
With the help of our community, we’ve made adjustments and are planning specific events and spaces to better support mothers at PyCon this year. Moving forward, we will be more transparent about the known conflicts with PyCon’s dates and the ways that we work to accommodate groups which are impacted by those conflicts.
To better fill in the specifics of how it occurs, the team that works year-round to manage the logistics and planning for PyCon worked to develop a summary of that process, and we’d like to share it with you today.
Ee W. Durbin III
Chair - PyCon US 2018
PyCon: How are the cities and dates selected?
Recently, community members requested a deeper look into the process of selecting a city and dates for PyCon US. Below is an overview of the steps* taken:
Selecting a city and dates for PyCon a is process that usually takes about 6 months and involves many layers. First, we start with a list of cities that the Event Coordinators come up with along with any cities suggested by the community. We contact the local convention visitor bureaus and share with them our needs and expectations through a request for proposal (RFP). Our RFP includes the space we need, historical hotel costs, room night pickups, and types of services we need. Additional requirements included in the RFP are:
- Low-cost to no-cost space rental
- Avoiding religious holidays
- Reasonably priced internet and food
The cities that do fulfill our requirements, respond back with a proposal, which usually includes one to three date options depending on their availability. From there we work with all available cities on space -- that is usually the most work. Each city sends us the space they think will work. Our Event Coordinators go through every line to make sure it matches our needs. If a city has the space we need, we look at hotels. We consider the distance of the hotels from the convention center and their price. If hotel expectations are met, our Event Coordinators plan site visits to those cities.
* Steps can change from time to time as we constantly try to refine our process.
A Case Study
We’ll run through a sample scenario of how the above mapped out to the selection of 2020 and 2021, which was recently finalized.
We started with seventeen cities. We ended up only doing site visits to four cities. The large drop in cities is mainly because several cities turned us down for various reasons such as already being booked or not having enough space. PyCon requires 11 days of meeting space for setup, tutorials, the main conference, and sprints. Because we have such a lengthy span it is not always easy to find locations that can accommodate us.
City A was a large city and the dates we were looking at were in February. Since we were looking at February dates, the hotel rates were more in line with our expectations. However, once we saw the space we realized it would not work. City B had great space and good hotel rates so we were hopeful. It also had lots of places to stay near the convention center. City C had good space and hotels, but we did not feel safe walking around in it at night. It was also the second most expensive of the three. City D was having most of the convention center rebuilt but it looked promising and the hotels matched our expectations. One thing we noted is that the area around the convention center lacked places that PyCon attendees would enjoy and would have to take buses to other neighborhoods. The expenses involved with City D were also the highest so we did not select it.
In the end, we recommended to the Board of Directors that we move forward with City B for 2020. We plan to announce the city soon - possibly at PyCon 2018.
Known conflicts for PyCon 2019-2021
2019: May 1 to May 9
- May 1 (First day of Tutorials) - Yom HaShoah
- May 6 (First day of Sprints) - Start of Ramadan
- May 9 (Last day of Sprints) - Yom Ha'atzmaut
2020: April 15 to April 23*
- April 15 (First day of Tutorials) - 7th Day of Passover
- April 16 (Second day of Tutorials) - Last Day of Passover
- April 17 (First day of Talks) - Orthodox Good Friday
- April 18 (Second day of Talks) - Orthodox Holy Saturday
- April 19 (Third day of Talks) - Orthodox Easter
- April 21 (Second day of Sprints) - Yom HaShoah
- April 23 (Last day of Sprints) - Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day
2021: May 12 to May 20
- May 13 (Second day of Tutorials) - Ascension Day
- May 13 (Second day of Tutorials) - Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
- May 15 (Second day of Talks) - Armed Forces Day
- May 17 (First day of Sprints) - Shavuot
If you are aware of any conflicts we've missed, please reach out to pycon-local at python dot org. We will update this list and notify the community. Please note that for 2020, Tax Day in the US will be April 15, which is the first day of Tutorials.
If you’d like to recommend a city for us to check out in the future, feel free to email us anytime: pycon-local at python dot org
* the 2020 holiday/import date list was updated on Feb 18, 2019 thanks to community feedback we received.