For those who are unaware, Rimuhosting has sponsored a lot of conferences, particularly local ones including open source and tech related. We believe in giving back what you can to the community as much as possible .
Peter, our wonderful boss, likes to encourage us to do the same, so often is happy to pay for us to go to conferences if we contribute a talk. Not all of us are chatty like myself, so usually I end up going, and talking as well.
Recently we were lucky enough to be able to sponsor the local New Zealand Python Conference. Our PyCon sponsorship came with 5 free tickets, which were calling my name from early on as I had always wanted to learn some python. Being a sysadmin means i already had a good understanding of programming languages, knew a few fluently, so had a head start on this goal.
The problem was that I had to give a talk on something i knew nothing about! Luckily i had already started playing with my sons OWI/Maplin robotic arm toy. Taking it the next step, i connected it to a Raspberry Pi, and found some broken but fixable code on the internet. With a few problems and bugs i managed to get that code working, then cobble it together with some other code elsewhere, setup a PIR module, and a web server enough with python that i had a full talk fairly quickly (one that got accepted!).
Hooray, i had earned my ticket to Pycon! Now what to do with the other 4 tickets? Give them away of course! I was trying to encourage more females into programming and IT, so tried my best to give out as many as possible to females wanting to learn python or get into IT. As it turned out, 2 went to females, 2 to males, so a good mix!
Friday tutorials were free, no ticket required, and they were excellent for me to pick up more of an understanding of what i had been fiddling around with already. In particular, i was very impressed with the classes that the OpenTechSchool had put together (you can see it at http://opentechschool.github.com/python-data-intro/ ). Having words with them later about it, it was more of a self education, but with somebody on hand to answer questions.
The explanations were very straight forward, with nice examples to test, little things to work out (with solutions in case you couldn't). Should you get stuck, they had plenty of people who were extremely helpful and everyone ended up helping each other. It was a great environment!
These people have classes all over the place, and are keen to support more people who are interested in setting them up locally, with a ton of resources. If you are interested, check out http://www.opentechschool.org/
Saturday was my birthday, it started early with a PyLadies breakfast, and kept up a busy schedule for the day. One of the talks that stood out for me was 'Out on a LIM: Automatic Map Generator by Natalie Scott which explained how they had automated map generation using python for LIM reports. It was great seeing and hearing how people had picked up a new language, tied it into what they were doing and how.
A good few talks went over my head, talking about things i had never heard of. During breaks i was able to ask people what some of the terms like 'Decorators' were, or similar things, which clarified it for me.
Eventually it was my turn on the stage at the end of the day, and everyone appeared to enjoy my talk. My basic 'Hello World' python program used the PIR module to detect people walking past, make the robot wave and the Raspberry Pi speak a random greeting phrase. I then pointed out if people connected to the Robotic Arm wireless access point they could browse to a web page and control the robotic arm themselves which appeared to be popular. The Pi got a little overloaded, but kept going until crashing near the end of the talk (nobody noticed, its fine!).
Sunday was even better, there were a couple of talks which i found fascinating. In particular a talk How to Lose Friends and Influence Burnout by Rhys Elsmore really hit home. He talked about how stereotypes make some coders tend to work all hours, take on too much stress and work, and the toll it can take. It was touching that he went over his own experiences and burn out, then explained ways of identifying burnout, how people could avoid it, and places to go for help when feeling depressed.
Brenda Moon introduced me to Python Pandas , and some neat graphing of Science on twitter, and i was also really interested in a talk by Angus Gratton about Encouraging new programmers - the Open Tech School model (see open tech school link earlier).
There were a lot of talks that tied in well with what Jessica McKellar talked about in the Keynote about trying to encourage and help new people into python, share what you know, and contribute back as much as you can. As a result i plan on trying to look into how I can help further in my spare time.
Finally, i also enjoyed one of the last talks of the day about Python in Home Automation by Marek Kuziel, though i admit i got sidetracked by his images and blog about his shipping container house he is building!
Over all, i enjoyed the conference, i enjoyed talking to like minded people, and thought it was fantastic how friendly and accepting everyone was. If you ever get the chance to go to a similar Conference, by all means jump!