2012 December 16 [Sunday]
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 work :-P
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 setup guide", 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 !
2012 December 4 [Tuesday]
Positively thrilled to announce the one-day hands-on intensive Pandas workshop and sprint for new contributors with Chang She - a Pandas core-dev leading the sprint. Its 4 am'ish and I just finished spamming a few mailing lists, IRC channels and thought I'll write a blog-post if I must be energetically expensive.
I have so many people to thank that there will be a longer blog post, post the event ...yeah, the list is long but maybe if I get started now (and my apologies if I have missed your name ... feel free to gently lart me, its 4AM and I am sleep deprived :)) ... Alphabetically-ordered XXXL THANK YOU'S to: Aahz, Asheesh, Brian, Carl, Chang, David, Diana, Jesse, Josh Knowles, Krissy, Meghan, Sheila, Steve, Wes.
2012 November 17 [Saturday]
import pyconPatches welcome!
from pycommunity import AwesomePeople
canada = pycon.path.abspath(pycon.path.dirname(__file__))
README = open(pycon.path.join(canada, 'README.rst')).read()
__version__ = '0.01'
requires = [
Last weekend, at this moment, I was giving a technical talk at Pycon Canada, my first. Right now, I am still wallowing in the fun and warmth of friendships (some old, some new) that thawed the cold Canadian weather. It was the most mentally simulating, energy-packed experience I've had. Oh, wait...I say that about all the PyCon conferences I attend - Well, this is my second PyCon but the first speaking gig, and it has, as before, been about meeting some of the smartest people and having the most intellectually simulating discussions with them, learning from them and having a whale of a time. Wish all my weekends were this much fUn! The Python community is known for just that - their fabulously fantastic community, which attracted me to the language (no, I love the syntax too) and has kept me hooked.
Thanks to the change in climate (thanks Sandy!), I had a migrane that got worse on the plane ride on Friday morning and I was much happier landing in a slightly warmer and dry climate in Toronto. Enjoyed the shortest ferry ride of my life and reached the Metropolitan Hotel by 2pm to find the Google goodie-bags waiting for us at the hotel room - such a nice surprise, thanks Google! Went for a long walk in the afternoon - its a relief to be able to walk around and see the city and its inhabitants without men bumping into you, or tripping yourself over jutting stones on the sidewalk (erm...whenever Indian roads have a sidewalk), the calmness of being able to stop and click pictures without worrying about someone "accidentally" (it always is, isnt it?) feeling you up while you were just standing there admiring a monument ........ Oh, well... never mind, you get the picture!
Later that evening, there was a casual mixer event enabling attendees, speakers and some awesome sponsors (one of them being Google, whose Diversity grant made this conference a reality for me) to register, hang out, and chat before the conference, with food and drinks at the venue bar open to all... and oh, we ate some yummy cake. Mixers before your conference is a smart way to avoid the rush and long lines that will queue up to register on the morning of your conference, a nightmare if you are short on volunteers.
I managed to reach the venue thanks to Suzanne (who I randomly stopped on the road to ask for directions, instead she ended up dropping me off till the venue - its amazing how one meets kind souls), met Laura at the registration desk who saw that every attendee had their badges and tags. Nicola introduced me to Sheila, who suddenly morphed into a real person instead of an email address with a picture attached to it. In a global distributed space knit via bits and bytes, our identities are unequivocally tied to an email, twitter, G+/FB account now.
Met more interesting people and had the longest discussion with Mark Eichin and his friend Laura, on a range of technical topics, mobile technology, languages, and not excluding the mandatory talk about the DFSG and licenses in FOSS - talking legalese is the most important thing when you meet a DD (j/k). After the party, I returned to the room, met Laren, another diversity grant recipient room-sharing with me. By now, the pounding in my head was worse and the pain would not let me sleep, so I kept re-editing my slides till I was tired enough to sleep.
On Saturday morning - Day One of the conference, Laren and me walked over to the venue and I went of into the Green Room where all the speakers were pampered with food, some space to sit and work with you laptop, more food, chat with other speakers while having even more food, but I had no taste buds so I took three Advil's and gave my first technical talk. That done, I was free to go and watch talks but instead I went off to be a volunteer - this is the easiest way to make friends with some really cool people within the community who welcome and appreciate your contribution and efforts. Its also very humbling to see the PyConCA board members and speakers who volunteered to carry in the lunch boxes the caterer had dropped off.
Post lunch, I attended the "Numerical and Scientific Computing with Python" tutorial by David, listened some great speakers, spoke to more people, had interesting discussions on NLP and linguistics with Mike and DWF, and before I knew it, it was the end of the day, which means more food - snacks and drinks were available at the bar. Did I mention that Pycon-CA pampers you with food and drinks all through the day. At every break, there was something to munch on. Every where I looked there were food boxes, fruits / salad boxes, cookies, coffee, tea, drinks, water bottles, cakes, tacos, samosas (I noticed that those ran out really quickly as compared to the salads which is not surprising), strawberry and chocolate, juice, .... ummm..ok, you get the picture. You were very well-fed and taken care of. At one point I counted the number of laptops Vs. the food boxes on the table. Guess which was outnumbered!?
Sunday morning, being the second and final day of the conference, I attended talks on Graph databases in Python and Persona (identity/privacy, which is important to me) and later, Greg Wilson and a bunch of speakers in the green room had an interesting conversation on education and knowledge (or the lack thereof) in the current education system, what role do Universities and schools have to play within the system - are they redundant with their monolithic rigid structures, MOOC's, their pro's and cons, and how the internet and technology is changing the education system, whether sites like Udacity and Coursera (did you know that their business model allows them to sell your personal details to publishers like McGraw Hill and their ilk, who have apparently signed on the dotted line) are imparting knowledge to their users and learners at the risk of their privacy? Where exactly is creativity, mental development, critical thought, knowledge and learning today? That was more food for thought than the food around the table. Post lunch, I morphed into a Runner - yeah, its that person who runs behind speakers. Katie and me were deputed to the Main hall speakers and got to see ALL the talks, including lightning talks, ending with Fernando's (not-to-be-missed) closing keynote.
Videos:No matter how hard you try, you cannot attend every fantastic talk out there. When Carl sent across the video link to me, I was stunned by the excellent production quality. The first thought that crossed my mind was "Wow, that is a second career right there" and sure enough it is - these excellent videos are brought to you by nextdayvideo.com :
* Taavi showing you how pandas get a workout
* Elizabeth Leddy rocking the Main Hall
* Did you Test today?
* No conference is complete without a talk on "BigData"
* Brandon Rhodes on why he thinks Python is beautiful (a must see if you are a beginner to Python)
Wow, this post has gotten too long. Among all the things, I admire the organizational abilities of the board the most. The conference had awesome sponsors too, one of them being Google, whose Diversity grant made it possible for me to attend the event. Initially, when my talk was accepted, I had planned book the bus tickets in advance so that I could stretch the grant money to enable me to attend both the days of the conference. When I mentioned this to Diana, she worked her magic, enabling me to cover my flight bookings and also the hotel stay within the grant. Amazing team! Kudos to the PyCon-Canada team.
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