Today was my first day at a PyCon conference, and the first day of PyCon 2014. I wanted to talk about some of my favorite events:

Keynote: John Perry Barlow

I didn't know that the lyricist for The Grateful Dead also founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I think it shows you how technology merges paths of those from all walks of life. An interesting talk about how exposing more information is ultimately putting more power into the hands of the people: a lack of information is how corporations are allowed to continue policies and practices that are unfair and don't benefit society.

Talk: All Your Ducks in A Row: Data Structures in the Standard Library and Beyond

Long title, but great talk from Brandon Rhodes. Coming from an embedded-ish background, I've had curiosities about how Python's data structures work internally. This talk discussed very interesting concepts like:

  • C Structs exists in Python
  • how Python can build c-like arrays
  • how Python's built-in arrays isn't very good because it requires converting the data into a Python object (and hence only really good for a compact storage mechanism), and one should use NumPy's arrays instead.
  • Python's built-in binary search
  • Anything in queue is thread-safe

He's done a lot of talks on Python's Data Structures before as well, so I definitely have to catch up there.

Talk: Twisted Mixing

Laurens Van Houtven gave a good talk on how one can mix Twisted Python into a variety of things. It seems like libraries exist to mix anything into Twisted and Twisted into anything:

  • crochet is a library that creates a Twisted reactor that you can use whenever you need. Basically a Twisted-on-demand type model.
  • geventreactor to run Gevent and Twisted side-by-side.

So it just makes me think that a lot of people are pushing Twisted forward. Definitely speaks in spades about a technology. Twisted very well may be the future for async (for Python 2 at least)

Talk: Real-time Predictive Analytics using Scikit-learn and RabbitMQ

Decided to diverge a bit and go to a machine learning talk from Michael Becker. Really awesome stuff. The description for the talk talks about how he's going to make a simple service that detects what language a block of text is written in. He shows you how it's done, and it's crazy simple: Scikit-learn for the machine learning, RabbitMQ to maintain the task queue, and a worker to pull from the queue (and the client server).

The crazy thing here was how powerful Scikit-learn really is. Complex algorithms such as various implementations of K-nearest-neighbors. It makes me realize that academia is an incredibly powerful ally: getting buy in from a community which solves very hard complex problems ends up with amazing technology at the tip of your fingertips.

I'm definitely going to try something with Scikit-learn very soon.

Talk: Castle Anthrax: Dungeon Generation Techniques

Listened in to a talk from James King about how to generate dungeons. Like a lot of pieces in game programming, a heavy algorithm is required to generate the best results. James discussed a ton of generations algorithms from:

  • taking a square and cutting it a bunch of different ways randomly.
  • generating random noise and then connecting with a minimal spanning tree.

He discussed use methods such as Poisson Disks, Cellular Automation, and Perlin Noise. I haven't had time to grok all of it just yet, but Definitely going to investigate those next time (or really the first time) I make a rogue-like game.

Talk: Fan-In Fan-Out

Brett Slatkin discussion was mainly supposed to be about the advantages of a map-reduce type architecture of delegating work to multiple machines and retrieving and aggregating data, but it felt more like a demo of how awesome asyncio (the new async library in Python 3.4) really is.

Regardless of what his goal was, it's really cool to see an Async library in Python. I'm just reading into in now, and I see that it's incredibly powerful: easily customizable, providing a lot of the facilities that you see in some of the more traditionally concurrent languages (such as the future idea). Definitely one huge reason to move to Python3 if possible.

Dinner: PyCon Dinner with Brandon Rhodes

I signed up for the dinner not really knowing who Brandon Rhodes is, but my more community-literate Python colleagues tell me he's one of the must-see/hears. The dinner with him was definitely enjoyable. I ended up at a table with a lot of Pythonistas way more knowledgeable than me, which was really important as the dinner involved a three-round python trivia game. A lot of fun questions, and I learned a lot about Python 3 and python in general.

Conclusions

My first day at PyCon (albeit a jet-lagged one less than five hours of sleep), was awesome. Aside from all the great talks, the breakfasts and lunches spent talking to other Python enthusiasts was an eye opener. I definitely learned a lot, including:

  • flask, django, and pyramids is definitely the current trend of web frameworks that the Python community is using
  • Python 3's addition of async (and the lack of it in Python 2) is a strong reason to move to three, and it's only going te get stronger as Python 2 continues to stagnate.
  • Despite this, almost everyone is sticking to 2: it's really hard to migrate your code to Python 3.

And that's it for Day 1. Next, day 2!


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About Yusuke Tsutsumi
I work at Zillow. I focus on tools and services for developer productivity, including build and testing.

My other interests include programming language design, game development, and learning languages (the non-programming ones).