IndustryWant to Get More Out of Python? Join the Community!

Kenneth Love
writes on January 28, 2015

One of the best things about Python isn’t the language or the huge number of packages waiting to be used, it’s the welcoming nature of the community. If you’re looking for a community that will be accepting, uplifting, and continue to teach you new things, Python is, in my eyes, the best one around. Let’s look at some of the conferences and groups around that make possible.

I’m only going to focus on North American conferences and groups (with one exception), but many of these groups are actually worldwide, and your friendly local search engine will be able to point you toward regional conferences in your area, too. If you need more guidance on that, feel free to comment below!

PyCon

I’ve often described the largest North American Python conference, usually just called PyCon but officially named PyCon North America, as being a family reunion. 2,500+ attendees and exhibitors meet for a week to give and attend tutorials, talks, and poster sessions. There are several days of sprints and informal working groups that focus on getting features and bugs finished for different products like Django, Requests, or Python itself, along with many other activities sprinkled in. For the last few years, 2015 included, PyCon has also been host to the Young Coders sessions, a day-long event teaching kids from 9 to 15 how to program in Python and modify games on a provided Raspberry Pi (the kids even get to take the Pi home afterward).

This year, 2015, PyCon is taking place in Montreal, Quebec. Aside from the tutorials, talks, sprints, and Young Coders, there’s going to be a free workshop provided by Django Girls. If you want to attend, tickets are almost sold out, but if you’ve already got one, be sure to find me there!

One of the really neat things about PyCon, and many other Python conferences, is that it’s 100% volunteer run. No one gets paid for working on or speaking at PyCon and everyone, even the PyCon Chair, pays for their ticket. But, thanks to the generosity of Python members and the Python Software Foundation (the PSF), most years see over $200,000 in financial aid being given away to cover attendance, hotel stay, or airfare. This allows minorities, people with special circumstances, and sometimes even really eager kids from around the world, to attend the conference.

DjangoCon US

Other than PyCon NA, DjangoCon US is probably the largest Python-focused conference in North America. Much like PyCon, it’s several days of tutorials, talks, and sprints. Most years, DjangoCon has been run as a professional conference but 2015 sees it being run, again, like PyCon, as a volunteer effort.

As you can probably guess from the name, DjangoCon is mostly focused on Django, but with hundreds of attendees, hallway discussions range from the latest Django beta release to favorite packages to make some feature better to the ins and outs of Python itself.

DjangoCon EU

DjangoCon US’s European counterpart, DjangoCon EU, is quickly becoming famous for its amazing venues and quirky setups. One year, recently, it was held in a giant field in a circus tent. Circus performers were around for entertainment between talks and free popcorn and ice cream were available to cool off attendees. Last year, DjangoCon EU rented an entire island in the Mediterranean off the coast of France. If there’s one conference every conference organizer should try to beat, it’s DjangoCon EU.

This year’s DjangoCon EU is being held in Cardiff, Wales, in the UK, and has actually run into a fairly funny snag. In the middle of organizing hotel discounts and room blocks, the popular pop band One Direction announced that they would be playing in Cardiff during the DjangoCon event. Suddenly every hotel room in the city and surrounding suburbs was booked! DjangoCon has announced that they’ll be moving the dates and taking care of refunds or transfers for anyone that has already registered and can’t attend the new dates.

One other difference between DjangoCon EU and both DjangoCon US and PyCon NA is how it’s presented. DjangoCon EU is a single track conference so there is only one speaker at a time. Both of the other conferences feature multiple tracks, with PyCon NA actually reaching six tracks!

PyOhio and Pytennessee

Regional conferences are starting to pop up more and more lately. Two that have been very successful and popular in the last few years are PyOhio and PyTennessee taking place in their respective states. Details for PyOhio 2015 haven’t been released yet, but PyTennessee already has a schedule posted.

The great thing about regional conferences is that they’re usually much more intimate, more of a gathering of friends than a major event, and they’re often much cheaper. PyTennessee is free for the kids event and under $100 for adults going to the full conference. PyOhio is actually free for everyone!

PyLadies

So let’s leave the world of conferences behind and look at a couple of amazing user groups.

I already talked about Django Girls, a fairly new group aimed at getting women into technology using the Django framework. Before there was Django Girls, though, and paving the way for many other groups, there was PyLadies. PyLadies has become a world-wide organization helping women get into programming and technology, often through the Python programming language (I say “often” because many PyLadies groups have meetings that have nothing to do with Python, studying things like MySQL and JavaScript together).

If you’re interesting in getting into technology, or just want some awesome ladies to hang out with, and you identify as a woman, check for your local PyLadies group. Aside from PyLadies itself, most metropolitan areas have Python User Groups of their own. Look for yours!

#positive python

This one actually isn’t a group or conference at all, but it’s one of my favorite things in the Python community. A year or so ago, apropos of nothing, a new Twitter hashtag popped up, [#positivepython](https://twitter.com/hashtag/positivepython). It was a huge outpouring of appreciation and thanks for all of the hard work that others in the community do. I was lucky enough to get thanked a few times in it and I enjoyed being able to thank people that have built tools and libraries I’ve used day in and day out for years.

Some of these might not seem like anything too important. I mean, really, what’s a hashtag in the grand scheme of things? But each of these things gives people a place to connect and belong in a community that is very dedicated to being welcoming and warm. If you haven’t found a local Python group, find or start one!

If you want to learn more about Python, or just want to spend a weekend hanging out with others that love the same language you do, go to a conference. I’ll see you there!

PyCon 2013 photo by Ed Schipul

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