Last week I got back from PyCon 2011 and it was flabbergastingly awesome. This was the first PyCon I'd ever been able to go to. In previous years, I just read blog posts and watched session videos online.
Now that I've been, I realize how little of the conference is captured in blog posts and session videos. Honestly, Doug and others are right and the talks are maybe 1/5 of the conference if that. There's also:
sprints that allow for in-person group collaboration
giving lightning talks about things that are important to you to an interested audience of 800+
talking with people whose code you use
talking with people who use your code
talking with people who work on libraries that solve the same problems but in different ways
the expo hall where a bunch of companies were hiring and a bunch of groups are showing off what they're doing
talking with people about non-Python things
free t-shirts, mugs, stickers, and bottle openers (which turned out to be very handy)!
looking over peoples' shoulders and watching them use tools you've never heard of
meeting other people who also wrote a mocking library, micro web framework, blogging system, or enum library (which covers at least half the attendees)
Being part of the video crew, there was some talk about how videoing the conference sessions reduces the number of people who go. Honestly, if you don't go to PyCon because you think you get the same experience from watching the videos that get posted online, you're horribly mistaken.
I thought of some analogies to help understand:
It's like seeing a 4x6 picture of a peach pie vs. having a slice sitting in front of you that was just taken out of the oven and it's got a nice honkin scoope of vanilla ice cream that's melting as you watch.
It's like hearing a 15 second muzak-like ring tone of your favorite song vs. listening to it being played live at a concert.
It's like looking at a JPEG image saved with a quality of 10% of your birthday party vs. being there. (You wouldn't skip your own birthday party, would you?)
I don't want to belabor the point beyond that. There are other reasons people don't go to PyCon that are perfectly valid. Not going because the conference sessions are posted online and that's equivalent to going to the conference is not one of them. I hadn't gone previously because of money, classes, work and family issues. I regret it now.
While at PyCon, I was on the video crew and ran the camera in room 5 on Friday and Saturday. When I wasn't running the camera, I was watching Carl, Ryan, Dave and others coordinate the video-recording side of the conference. The amount of work, technology, and calamity-preventing know-how that goes into videoing a conference is awe-inspiring. Carl even took a moment to teach me how to coil cables correctly.
The Next Day Video crew have all the videos currently posted on http://pycon.blip.tv/. They're working on encoding them in Ogg Theora so that I can post them on Python Miro Community with the Universal Subtitles embed code making it possible to caption and translate these videos. We've already worked out the workflow, so it's just a matter of finishing up encoding and posting them.
Carl and I gave a lightning talk about melding Python Miro Community with Universal Subtitles. I'm really excited about this work. It makes these videos more accessible which is really important. This work is funded by a grant from the PSF. (Thank you!)
PyCon 2011 was amazing and I met a lot of amazing people, ate some great food, participated in some great conversations, ...--it's hard not to slide into absurd amounts of rampant hyperbole when talking about it.
Thank you so much to all the people who made this possible. PyCon is a fantastic conference that's about people, building relationships, enabling conversations, and reinforcing the community and the work you put into it really shows.
I feel the need for the obligatory I'm *passionate* about PyCon.