Reflections on PyConAU 2013

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The weather during a good moment.

This weekend has been a great one. I spent it at PyConAU, the premier conference for Python in Australia. Two days filled with all of my favourite things: great open source software, lots of friends, great food, interesting talks by interesting people – and the weather has been “interesting” too.

Conferences like these (PyConAU and linux.conf.au) are a really great chance for me to catch up with some of my friends that live interstate or overseas, as well as make new friends and meet new people. There’s always an interesting discussion going on, and nobody minds if you just stand there and listen in – you learn so much just by standing around!

Of course, the whole point of a conference is the talks, and here were some of my highlights:

  • Luke Miller’s talk on making a point-and-click indie game for gay men. This talk really covered the entire breadth of the game making process, both generally and specific to his game. He showed us the engine he built, discussed the story and graphics, discussed packaging and marketing the game, as well as some of the feedback he has got back from the gaming press – both positive and negative. Anybody who wants to make their own game should definitely check out this talk when it is available online.
  • Ed Leafe‘s demo of creating OpenStack deployments using Python. He showed simply using the pyrax library to create VMs and provision databases and DNS entries, but of course you could extend this by using python scripts to set up applications on the VMs afterwards, naturally. I’m almost convinced to move everything that I have in Amazon AWS to Rackspace’s cloud. OpenStack is pretty much awesome.
  • The Saturday morning keynote from Alex Gaynor on trying to narrow down what exactly programmers “do” and how they do it… by drawing in parallels from other fields like science, engineering and art. Really, it seems programming and software engineering is the intersection of the three. Also, software engineering is a very young field, really only 40 or 50 years old, compared to science which has hundreds of years to mature, and art which has had tens of thousands.
  • I also enjoyed the many (I think I went to about 5) talks I went to regarding software testing (unit testing, mostly). I actually learned a few tips from these that I plan to use in my day job, even though we use C# and not Python. Things like writing tests before adding any new feature – which of course is best practise that I knew, but “forgot” (i.e., was lazy). Food for thought.
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Jack Greene – loving the decor.

Speaking of food, the conference venue, the Wrest Point Casino, provided a good spread of food right throughout the conference, with morning and afternoon teas being very well catered, as well as lunches (lots of options for my vegetarian friends, and lots of tasty meat those such inclined). The peak, of course, was the conference dinner held on Saturday night, where we ate ourselves into an absolute stupor with the finest Tasmanian produce. A truly terrible burden, but one we accepted with vigour.

Naturally, the conference had to come to an end, but not before a trip to a local pub (and despite being a local, one I hadn’t been to before). Jack Greene in Salamanca Place hosted our after-party, and I’ll definitely be going back. I’ll also definitely be attending the next PyConAU, in Brisbane next year.

Thanks to Chris, Josh, and the rest of the organising team for a great weekend!

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