PyCon PL 2016: Personal Impression

Three weeks ago, I together with two other TEONITE developers took part in PyCon PL 2016, a Polish conference obviously dedicated to everything Python-related. Today, three weeks after the conference, I decided to write a bit about my PyCon PL impression and present some conclusion I came with.

Favorite talks and topics

Naturally, there were some very interesting talks as well as those less interesting, at least for me. Of course, all of them were about Python usage or related to Python, like Colorful deployments by Maciej Szulik in which he talked about continuous delivery and some strategies of deployment and presented them on the Python-written project example.

In the retrospect, one of the better talks was Nicholas Tollervey’s Python in Education. He talked about the UK’s Python community and its role in UK’s economic, political and educational landscape. He also presented the Micro Bit(stylized as micro:bit) which is a ARM-based embedded system developed for educational purposes by BBC. Packed with ARM Cortex-M0 processor, accelerometer and magnetometer, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, 25 LEDs and two programmable buttons gives quite a number of applications and use cases. Generally, a great tool to learn programming. Nicholas Tollervey also talked about how the micro:bit is used by 11-12 years olds in schools to learn basics of the programming by using simplified Python - MicroPython. Personally, I think that this is a great way to interest children in programming basics and familiarize them with fundamental practices and way of thinking.

One of the topic I’m very much into is machine learning and everything related to it. Thus, I went on the talk about building foundation for Ukrainian NLP (Natural Language Processing). Generally, our Eastern neighbors scraped a ton of Ukrainian websites and treated the data with some deep learning magic. For me, important conclusion was that there is a smaller number of tools for languages other than English, so it's harder to work with languages like Ukrainian or to work on Polish language, we would need to also do some major scraping. And I mean MAJOR.

I also like the idea of lightning talks. Time limit of 5 minutes forced people to cut the claptrap and talk only about juicy, important parts without going into unnecessary details. Of course, if you wanted some details, you could just go and ask the speaker off-stage.

Target audience

Without boasting (Ok, maybe just a bit.) I can honestly say that all three of us are experienced developers that know Python, its capabilities and use cases very well. Maybe, that’s why we didn’t learn as much from some of the talks. For example, I was counting that talk titled Machine learning - how to solve complex problems (original title: Uczenie maszynowe - czyli jak rozwiązywać nietrywialne problemy) will be about application of machine learning methods to solve really complex and significant problems from different fields of expertise. In practice, it was a list of various Python libraries for machine learning and data science like scikit-learn or PyBrain used by the speaker in his biology research. Not very interesting for developers working in enterprise or web. Likewise, Artur Czepiel’s Evolution of "Best Practices" in Django was all about very basic Django stuff and definitions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to say that the talks itself were bad, or that presenting Python basics is bad. On the contrary! We still could get some minor details we didn’t know/didn’t think about before even from the talks about fundamentals. They just weren’t as helpful and mind blowing as we expected. However, for someone starting a Python journey, PyCon PL 2016 would be a perfect conference to learn about vast possibilities of Python application in science, machine learning, web, and education.

To conclude, I quite enjoyed PyCon PL 2016: I’ve learned some new things and met some interesting people. It's also good to have a Python conference in Poland. I'm looking forward to PyCon PL 2017. Who knows, maybe I'll even apply my own topic?

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