I've always wanted to attend a scientific Foss hacking session in Python and
last Sunday, I made that idea come true. So how do you even begin to describe a
fantastic Sunday that got over even before it started. Well, that was how it
felt in retrospect...
Having kick-started the Pydata-Pandas workshop-sprint, it was annoying to catch
a viral bug the week before the sprint-workshop one is organizing - talk
about increasing the stress levels. The cold weather did add to my discomfort,
but could not dent my enthusiasm - I was organising my first event on a whim,
at short notice in a new city (country?) where I hardly knew anyone, not to
mention it was at the start of the Holiday Season! See what I mean about having
perfect timing ... gee, what was I thinking!?!
Aahz announced it on the Pythonsprints
site and soon enough Sunday dawned bright and shiny. I reached the Pivotal Labs
Manhattan office to find Asheesh calmly sprawled on the ground calmly munching
on croissants and sipping Java (err..coffee). We had planned to come in a
little earlier incase someone needed installation help. I had not eaten any
breakfast but I was more stressed than hungry as this was the first event I was
organizing in an alien country. I declined the yummy snacks and nervously
wondered if Chang would show up?; ... will all the people who registered show
up?; ... this was the Sunday before the Christmas week and maybe everyone may
decide to sleep-in or go off on a holiday; would Saturday have been a better
choice, or maybe we should not have kept it free - what if nobody came despite
registering, what if .... oh, well..the monkey-mind was hard at
Disastrous thoughts were stronger than the currents of the Niagara, when Chang
and Emily made their appearance and I managed to make small conversation as the
stress ebbed away. Things were sunnier when JT arrived and opened the doors,
leaving me with less time to indulge my monkey-mind. We all got busy setting up
the space for the event, arranged the tables and chairs, checked if enough
power-points were available, checked the video camera, set up the name tags,
did a recce of the adjoining kitchen.
Pivotal Labs has the nicest open kitchen, well-stocked with a variety of
snacks, fruits, nuts and a large variety of drinks that cater to all taste
buds. I hate carbonated sugary drinks and artificial flavouring which restricts
my choice to drinking H2O, but to my surprise there was coconut water. Now if
you liked your pint of beer while coding, the PL kitchen had that too. A big
shout-out (Thank You :)) in gratitude to Pivotal Labs for being the most
gracious host an organizer could ask for!
Back to the tiny tasks bits, I got a print out of Chang's presentation so he
could have his notes handy during the workshop. The machine was a Mac, so
ipython files would not work. The solution was a PDF. When you are organising
an event like this there may be small miniscule things that can hold up your
event so you would need to plan and budget time for them. Someday I shall
collate my thoughts on 'how to organise small events' like workshops and
sprints in a new blog entry.
A little past 10 AM, I introduced Chang She to the assembled attendees, and
Chang kick-started the Pandas workshop by walking us through the Pandas data
structures for 1-dimensional, 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional data. He moved on
to DataFrame components and indexing, accessing data via files and Databases,
Broadcasting and some basic Statistical computations.
It was not all theory, as all the participants were following and experimenting
on their laptops, in part, thanks to Asheesh's excellent "Laptop
", enabling attendees to come with configured machines, making
it easier to get going with Pandas. They worked on the small tasks and
exercises that Chang gave out as the session progressed.
Soon it was lunch time and Asheesh being in-charge of the food (and the
finances), did an awesome job of keeping us well-fed - we had Vegitarian wraps,
Egg wraps and Hummus wraps, and Salads. That was the first meal of the day for
me and over lunch I got to know a nice group of interesting people; with the
conversation meandering around scientific programming with Python, Julia and
R-language, different programming environments, our offices, work, etc..
Small talk and big lunch over, it was now time to Sprint - not literally, just
the mental hacking kind! Chang split us up into small groups of 2-3 people and
it was very exciting to see the attendees pored over their machines, trying to
tackle Pandas bugs
Working in small groups of 2 (or 3) people meant Chang could walk around and
talk to each group to help and guide them. He was ably aided by Asheesh who
also went around helping other sprinters, answering questions, etc...
I was neck deep in the Pandas code and a flash went off - looked up to see
Asheesh behind the lens. Reminded me that I had totally forgotten to click
pictures. Having organized multiple workshops over the last few years, Asheesh
was an experienced pro unlike the rookie (me) organizing her first event.
Pictures speak a thousand words:
The sprint went on till evening, when finally at 1745 hours, Pivotal Labs had
to ask us to leave. Yeah, we had so much fun that they had to tell us it was
time to go home !
For those who love numbers, enjoy these statistics. We had 31 registrations
(Capped at 30, but we had a waiting list that accommodated the cancellations.)
and 18 people attended the Pandas Workshop-Sprint, with 7 female hackers, which
makes it a cool 39% female attendees :-)) Infact, three female
researchers had to opt out due to other obligations during the holiday season.
The most amazing email was from a person who missed the registration by a few
minutes, wanting to drop by on Sunday morning hoping for last minute
cancellations. _That_ was the kind of response I would have expected for a
talk, never for a Sprint!
Ofcourse, this entire event would not have been possible without our generous
sponsors. A huge Thank you to:
* Chang She for conducting the workshop.
* Pivotal Labs, our generous host for the day -Thanks JT for spending an entire
Sunday with us.
* The Python Software Foundation, whose generous grant for "Breakfast+Lunch and
Asheesh's travel from Boston", kept us fueled and
on track all day.
* O'reilly Media, who gave all attendees a free E-book copy of Wes McKinney's
"Pandas for Data Analysis", including a 40% discount on the
print copy of Wes's book.
Thank You Everyone !