So, EuroPython 2011 came and went, and it was great fun. I'll try to write down some impressions before I forget them entirely. UPDATE: I finally got to publish this more than a year after it has been written. I won't even bother to read it much.
Florence is just beautiful. It was very tempting to leave the conference and just go walk around. I only did it once :) Jokingly we argued that conferences should be held in duller towns to avoid conflicts of interest. In reality though, having such a pleasant backdrop is hugely satisfying. I'm definitely looking forward to visiting Florence next year again, and I'll definitely visit without any conference to actually see the sights properly. I only had time to do a 3h guided tour before the conference started, which was great fun though I was surprised at how few people showed up.
The 'Grand Hotel Mediterraneo' was very good. Spacious, air-conditioned rooms, very good facilities, brilliant coffee breaks and lunches, very pleasant overall. Although, before the conference started, they tried to charge me 1 euro for a glass of water, which I found absurd.
I've found that the organizing team did a great job putting everything together. Before the conference started they put up a great site with all the details, they communicated very efficiently with the speakers and they had lots of equipment available. I've asked for cabled network for my training, whiteboards and plenty of water and they delivered in all fronts. Excellent job. The only huge problem was the wifi and internet connection. Due to legislation, they could not provide anonymous wireless internet, so we had to go through an arduous log-in process via ComCom. While they had lots of ComCom guys around trying to fix stuff, the interent and wireless was basically unacceptable. Which is a shame because the conference never got the online coverage (twitter, blogs) that it deserved.
I'm afraid I was a bit let-down by the available talks. There was a 'community voting' process where people that bought a ticket could vote on interesting talks, but I think this is a flawed approach. There are different levels of expertise that a conference should seek to satisfy, and I've found that most talks were at a very basic level. I think that the concept of 'tracks' (eg web track, systems track, language track) would help make better decisions both in talk selection and in planning, and also an expert track would be required. I didn't have any serious conflicts, though I've found that scheduling the gEvent talk at the same time as my Twisted training was a bit unfortunate, as people interested in async stuff would probably want to do both.
On the other hand, I've found that having the trainings side-by-side the actual talks was a very good idea. It made the conference longer, but it gave much more people the opportunity to decide to skip a talk in favor of a training. If the trainings were a separate event I feel much less people would have chosen them.
The Twisted training was a blast. I was fortunate enough to do it on the first day, which meant my nervousness only lasted a day. I missed the morning keynotes, though since the audio was piped in the room I've locked myself into, I could still get the gist of them. I was horrified to hear the Spotify people discuss how they've built a lot of stuff with Twisted, since this meant I would get lots of questions I wouldn't know how to answer.
Fortunately two Twisted core devs, Laurens van Houtven (lvh) and Stephen Thorne (jerub) were right there at the front row, taking notes and fielding the difficult questions. I thank them again for this, I didn't even know they'd be there.
The room was packed and we had to send people away, which led the organizers to ask me politely to re-deliver the training. At first I declined (4 hours standing up is a long time and tiring) but then we made a deal, if there was enough interest I'd do it. Turns out we still had to turn people away but in the end a couple just sat on the floor with their laptops on their knees. The second time I was much more relaxed but I still didn't finish on time. I think that 3:15 hours is just not enough to cover all the Twisted basics. Next year I'll ask for a whole day, so that people can actually have time to do the coding exercises, and so that the concepts can sink in before we move on.
So, all in all, 50ish people attended, which is roughly the number of new twitter followers I got since the conference. I think it went well. I have put the slides on the conference page and I've started converting the training into a written tutorial
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