PyCon 2008 was a lot of fun. This was my first PyCon and until now my interaction with the python community had been nothing beyond a few mails in the IronPython forum. My experiences of conferences so far has been limited to Microsoft ones like TechEd and TechMela(the equivalent of MIX/TechEd in India). This was so very different from that - the mood was different. PyCon is organized by the community. Everything from stuffing swagbags to debugging WiFi issues was managed by volunteers. There seemed to be more hallway chats between everyone than between just organizers/attendees. The keynotes that interested me were Guido's (I hadn't seen his last year's, so all the Python3k stuff was new for me) and Fitz's keynote on software development in general(it was a very well structured talk). I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive buzz about IronPython. Apart from the two regular IronPython talks (Jim Hugunin's talk on IronPython, and Michael Foord's on Silverlight with IronPython) IronPython was mentioned in many other talks as well starting from Guido's keynote to Python.NET to Resolver systems' talks to even Van Lindberg's keynote on IP :). The sessions were at best most illuminating and at worst interesting.

So what did I get out of PyCon (other than four cool t-shirts) in the order of most tangible to least tangible. 

  • Learnt a lot more things about python itself from talks. Some talks that I enjoyed a lot - How Import Does Its Thing, Unicode In Python, Completely Demystified, More Iterators in Action and Core Python Containers -- Under the Hood
  • Learnt about the different important projects in the community (like Django and its new features, about PyPy, PyGame, SqlAlchemy, zope. It will be a useful exercise to see which parts of IronPython get worked out by these . For example, Django uses metaclasses heavily.
  • The birds of a feather session was very interesting just in terms of hearing what people wanted in IronPython and what their priorities were. (For example a lot of them said VS integration is important to them, shipping standard libraries would be awesome, better performance with exceptions was discussed at length.)
  • Got introduced personally to many of the IronPython users and people whose mails I get to see in the mailing list and also met a lot of people in the hallways from various companies using python internally. The variety of companies who had set-up booths varied from YouTube  to CCP to LucasArts!
  • A sense of the kind of stuff being developed in the python community and sense of what is important to the community and what is not. I don't claim to have grokked the community in just 3 days but I'm way better off than I was 3 days back.

I was mostly in listening mode the entire time. In some ways I learned more in the last 3 days than in the last 3 months (I know what the first comment is going to be - So you didn't learn anything in the last three months?)