PyOhio was a blast

August 5, 2011 Alex Ezell

With all the modern means of connecting people, I find that a little face time still goes a very long way. Software developers are often labeled as not being terribly social, but the giant secret is that we love hanging out with each other. To that end, I traveled last week to Columbus, OH to attend and speak at PyOhio.

PyOhio is a regional gathering of Python developers and those interested in Python. This year there were nearly 200 attendees over the two-day conference. I was honored to be chosen as a speaker and gave a presentation that probably seems familiar to our regular blog readers: PHP to Python With No Regrets. A video is forthcoming. Update: the video is now online.

We are not alone

The entire conference was chock full of quality. However, there were several sessions during the conference that piqued my interest. Chief among them was Taavi Burns of FreshBooks who presented on their move from a PHP application to an internal Python-based API. It was fascinating to hear that they had some of the exact same reasons for making the switch. Additionally, it turns out we solved some similar problems in similar ways. This is a great validation for the grand plans we’re cooking up here at Emma. Inspired by conversations with Taavi, I’m working on something with Freshbooks for the Emma app that I hope to be able to talk about more at a later date.

Python on an Atari

Somewhere on the spectrum from fun to crazy was Jeffrey Armstrong’s presentation about bringing Python to the Atari. He delineated a path to getting it working that would have stopped me in my tracks multiple times. It’s mostly a hobby pursuit, but the problem-solving skills on display were impressive. The dedication is enviable as well. In the end, he was able to create and draw windows on the Atari OS using Python. It was cool to see it all come together.

Why is httplib so painful?

If you’ve never seen Brandon Craig Rhodes give a presentation about Python, I implore you to do so at the very next opportunity. Brandon is one of the authors of Foundations of Python Network Programming and really knows Python inside and out. On top of his expert knowledge, he is an accomplished speaker with great energy and style that makes the often complicated content seem easy. He gave several presentations at PyOhio and the conference is the better for it. In particular, his explanation of how httplib and urllib2 work and where they might fall down was a welcome salve to those of us that have had to work with those modules.

Data analysis for the accidental programmer

The last session I’d like to call out is the Clark C. Evans’s presentation about the database reporting toolkit he has created call HTSQL. He calls it a toolkit for “the accidental programmer” as it allows someone to ask complicated business questions of the data in a database without learning SQL. I was especially impressed with his team’s dedication to making the generated SQL queries be performant. Often, when someone is trying to simplify SQL, they do so at the expense of performance. That doesn’t seem to be the case with HTSQL. I love the idea of giving technical support people and data analysts a tool that gets them closer to the database, but also insulates them from the vagaries of SQL. Having tons of easy ways to output the results in XML, JSON, HTML or others is icing on the cake.

Let’s party

On Saturday night, Emma hosted a happy hour at Eddie George’s Bar and Grill, and we got to hang out with a bunch of the folks from the conference. It was a great time to catch up about our favorite sessions and talk about all of the cool stuff people are working on using Python. Despite the stereotype developers typically get, it’s always fun when a bunch of us get together to talk shop.

PyOhio is impeccably overseen by Eric Floehr of Intellovations and an army of fantastic volunteers. It was an honor to be a presenter, and I look forward to going back next year. The conference attracted folks from as far away from Columbus as Chicago, Nashville, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Atlanta. If you’re remotely close to Columbus, I’d recommend attending next year.

Update: The video of the talk is now online here.

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