Friday, February 23, 2007

En Route to PyCon

I'm on my way to PyCon in Dallas. For you non-geeks, PyCon is the annual conference for the Python programming language. I'm not presenting anything, but we are having a SchoolTool/CanDo development sprint during slow times in the three day conference proper and four days afterward. We're bringing over the main SchoolTool developers, Ignas from Vilnius and Jean-Francois Roche from Brussels, and from CanDo we'll have Jeff Elkner and several of his students (and his brother Alan) along with lead developer Paul Carduner. We are focusing on the resource scheduling/reservation functionality, which has been about 80% done for a while, but needs some polish to really close the "sale" with schools.

The registration for this PyCon has been strong, and it feels like a buzz is building up again around Python. I previously attended PyCon two years ago, which was when I met Jeff. That was the last PyCon in the DC area, and the unspoken theme was "What is this Ruby on Rails thing, where did it come from, why is it kicking our ass, and what are we going to do about it?" There was the distinct feeling that Python had fallen behind on web frameworks just when what would come to be known as "Web 2.0" was taking off, and unlike the Ruby community, it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to get everyone to push behind one framework.

Last year, the response had begun to take shape, but the move to Dallas discouraged me, and apparently quite a few others from attending.

The past month or so I've been working with various new Python web components, like SQLObject, which is used in TurboGears and Pylons, but also makes a great standalone object-relational mapper for whatever database you're trying to manage, and Breve, which is a lightweight s-expressions style XML templating engine that can be plugged into several of the Python web frameworks or again, easily be used standalone. I definitely feel that Python's web options stack up to the Rails juggernaut now, but there is still a lot of diversity of options and approaches in the Python toolkit (it is one case where "there is more than one way to do it" in Python), but now we've got good freedom of choice diversity rather than bad every man for himself diversity. So I'm excited about learning more about the exciting new bits and meeting some of the developers.

Also, the Python in education community, which has had mixed success at essentially grassroots advocacy over the years, has received an incalculable boost by the very prominent use of Python in the OLPC system. PyCon will be my first chance to lay my eyes (and hopefully my hands) on an XO prototype and learn more about the current state of the software. I can't wait for that.

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