2017 Conference Rundown

April Codeland 2017 - New York, New York

Codeland was a bit of an emotional mix for me: it was inspiring and welcoming, but at the same time I felt out of place. The conference is geared toward Code Newbies, and this was the first moment I realized that I was definitely not a newbie any longer. A highlight was meeting Katrina Owen, who was speaking, and who cowrote a book I had read recently and who is the founder of exercism.io, a significant part of my coding journey. She is one of my heroes who has directly made programming more accessible to me. In a casual conversation, she graciously encouraged me to consider putting together a conference talk on a project I shared with her. Her encouragement and feeling like less of a newbie really got the gears turning in my head - maybe 2018 is the year of speaking at rather than attending conferences.

May !!Con 2017 - New York, New York

!!Con was great again this year. The speakers are always diverse and fascinating, and the frenetic fun of 10-minute talks keeps the energy high all day. I really appreciated that there was more unconferencing social time during the conference this year; it let me chat to some nice people, reconnect to old people in my technical network, and meet some new RC people in meat-space. My experience at !!Con was super different than last year - I followed technical aspects of talks better, felt less mind-blown all the time (or at least, the mind-blowing had an “OMG COOL” feel rather than an “OMG I am so lost” feel), and I was more confident introducing myself to strangers as a programmer. It was a good benchmarking experience for me to feel how much I have grown as a programmer and technical person in a year. I’ll definitely try to attend in 2018, but tickets are pretty tough to come by, and I felt lucky this year to get one!

I also got to meet Mirabai again this year. Mirabai does live captioning for conferences on her stenography machine. She is basically a pinball-wizard crossed with an arch-mage, and is also somehow super nice. Her passion for stenography and the relatively nascent efforts to support it with open source hardware and software were totally infectious. Meeting her again got me excited to try and learn stenography, so I’m currently eagerly awaiting a 3D printed steno board.

PyCon 2017 - Portland, Oregon

PyCon 2017 was an amazing experience. After having so many conference jammed into my spring schedule, I was feeling a little conferenced-out. So I gave myself permission to go all in on the “hallway track”. I attended only one (1) live talk! After the conference, I went back and watched some of the talks that seemed the most useful to me on YouTube. During the conference, I hung out with friends, networked with companies and open source maintainers, and enjoyed PyCon’s robust Open Spaces events and Lightning Talks. I got to meet Russell Keith-Magee, the owner of the BeeWare project, who I heard speak about his BeeWare Toga project at last year’s PyGotham 2016, and getting to know him as a new contributor to the BeeWare VOC project felt as if a lot of things had come full circle for me in a very positive way.

Got a challenge coin for my BeeWare contributions

I did have a weird sense of being less of the Python tribe than many who attended. A lot of people who go to PyCon seem like they have really drunk the Python Kool-Aid, and use Python as a tool for absolutely everything because they are fond of and expert with the language. As someone who identifies as a polyglot programmer, I found it a bit baffling at times the contortions people get into so they can use Python for everything. It was an interesting takeaway - learning about the power of Python, but also seeing that there are limits and that it might not been the best tool for all things (though this was a conclusion I came to myself, not one espoused by anyone I heard or spoke to).

It was a lot of socializing, which I found exhausting but also really enjoyable and valuable. The Python community is intensely supportive, kind, outgoing, etc. I also got to meet a number of Recursers who had traveled to Portland. I wish I could have stayed for the sprints during the week following the conference, as contributing in that setting to the BeeWare project would have been valuable, but Recurse was back in session on Monday. Maybe next year!

September Owning Your Experience by Write/Speak/Code - New York, New York

This one-day intensive for women and nonbinary people was part-workshop, part extended talk. The material focused on owning power, leveraging experience, and ways to demonstrate and amplify those to the world. I ran into a lot of great women I already knew, and met many new people. It was nice to talk with women from all over the tech world, in varying specialities, and with different experience levels. I was a little disappointed that the impressive mentors for the day didn’t have much stage time to talk about themselves and their experiences, and that we didn’t do as much coding as I imagined we might do.

ElmConf and Strange Loop 2017 - St. Louis, Missouri

ElmConf was an interesting experience. It underlined to me that Elm is a young technology and a small community; most of the speakers were maintainers of Elm packages, maybe had a bit less star-power than I have become accustomed to from conferences. The talks were interesting and I learned some new things about union types and integrating Elm with APIs.

The actual StrangeLoop conference was fantastic. I enjoyed the NES talk, which was very reminiscent of an extended !!Con talk. I was interested to hear about some newer languages, like Lux, Datafun, and Kotlin. Heard a good talk about web authentication (It Me) and building for chaos - but I tried to remember, my projects are not Netflix-scale.

This was a less social and less fully committed conference on my part. I had some personal stuff going on before and during the trip that left me with less energy and time to be social. Those factors affected my enjoyment of this conference. St. Louis was a cool place to visit, though, and the venue was wonderful, the party was really fun, and the hotel was super beautiful.

PyGotham 2017 - New York, New York

I made it to the first day of PyGotham this year before being taken down by the flu. It was wonderful to see lots of my Python friends, hear some cool talks, and make a bit of progress on my job hunting.

I enjoyed hearing about algorithmic transparency and getting exposed to new data science stuff, learning more about the Raft consensus algorithm from a Python friend’s first talk (!), and I felt that I got a lot out of the excellent Sumana’s talk which took the form of a play and demonstrated various approaches and dialogues one might encounter in a professional setting as a programmer with code to review.