Community

Jessica McKellar - Episode 21

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Summary

We got the chance to talk to Jessica McKellar about her work in the Python community. She told us about her experience as a director for the PSF, working as the diversity outreach manager for PyCon, and being a champion for improving the on-boarding experience for new users of Python. We also discussed perceptions around the performance of Python and some of the work being done to improve concurrency, as well as her work with OpenHatch.

Brief Introduction

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or RSS
  • Follow us on Twitter or Google+
  • Give us feedback! Leave a review on iTunes, Tweet to us, send us an email or leave us a message on Google+
  • I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the show. Your contributions help us make the show sustainable. For details on how to support the show you can visit our site at
  • We are recording today on Aug, 12 2015 and your hosts as usual are Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Today we are interviewing Jessica McKellar

Interview with Jessica McKellar

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
    • Attended MIT, originally for Chemistry
    • Had friends pursuing CS degrees
    • Toolset and skills seemed worth investingating
    • Led to BA and MS
    • MIT was in transition from LISP to Python
  • Can you describe what your responsibilities are as a director of the PSF?
    • A lot of outreach and investment in the community
  • Do you think the PSF does a good job of making people aware of what it is, what it does for the community, and how they can help?
    • Struggled with this historically but has gotten better in recent years
    • Website re-design has helped
  • A large focus of your work in the community has been around improving the experience of users who are new to Python and programming in general and I noticed that you just received the Frank Willison Memorial Award for your contributions to outreach and education in the Python community. What is your motivation behind this particular focus?
    • Great deal of empathy for newcomers due to personal history
    • Knowing how to program changes how you think about the world
  • Has the situation for newcomers running Windows who wish to try Python gotten any better since your keynote at Kiwi PyCon?
    • Some vaguaries of setup have gotten better with recent versions (e.g. setting path variables)
    • Ruby has in-browser tutorial to get people hooked
  • Do “Batteries Included’ distributions like Anaconda help or is it the same problem of visibility you discussed in your talk?
    • Informatino flow / what are you default options question
    • We could be much more opinionated about this
  • You have presented a number of times about the future of Python and how we can all help to make sure that story is a happy one. How has the material for that talk changed over the past few years?
    • As a largely volunteer community, how to maximize the impact of the bandwidth that we have
    • Focus on the ‘top of the funnel’ to win over new users
    • Python has the steepest positive curve of any language
    • Community should invest in AP high school Python curriculum
  • What do you anticipate will be the talking points for this topic over the next few years?
    • We need to be smart about which areas we invest in to ensure success e.g. mobile, web, desktop.
  • If you could grade the Python community on how well they have listened to and acted on the calls to action in your talks over the past few years, what would you give them?
    • Rallying large groups of volunteers is a hard problem
    • We need to think about commercial partnerships in key areas
  • In your Kiwi PyCon talk you mentioned Kivy as an example of a great way to do mobile software development in Python. It feels to me like the Kivy team are still not getting the community involvement and buy in they should. How can we help make Kivy the mobile app development platform of choice for beginners?
    • This will be a tough battle because Python is not the default platform for mobile compared to Java for Android, Objective C, Swift
    • Users vote with their feet depending on what provides the most value to them
    • Opportunity for a virtuous cycle here
  • Game development as an entree to programming has been a recurring theme on our podcast. Has the Python game dev scene improved at all since 2013? And do you still see the same pitfalls holding people back (like app packaging), or have we moved on to different problems?
    • The problems are largely the same
    • Status quo still feels pretty broken
    • Creative experiments around this definitely make sense for the community
    • KivEnt could be a win here because Kivy apps are free standing binaries and require no dependencies.
  • What do you view as the biggest threats to the popularity of Python currently and what can we do to address them?
    • Other languages gaining popularity where Python has historically been strong (e.g. server-side development)
    • A lot of this may be a perception issue
    • May be largely a marketing problem
  • I understand that you were involved in the formation of the Open Hatch organization. Can you describe what Open Hatch does and how our listeners can get involved?
    • Non-profit dedicated to lowering barriers to entry for open source contribution
    • Host workshops in colleges, underserved communities, etc.

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Conference Presentations

Al Sweigart on Python for Non-Programmers - Episode 19

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Summary

We got the opportunity to speak with Al Sweigart about his work on books like ‘Automate The Boring Stuff With Python’ and ‘Invent With Python’. We discussed how Python can be useful to people who don’t work as software engineers, why coding literacy is important for the general populace and how that will affect the ways in which we interact with software.

Brief Introduction

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or RSS
  • Follow us on Twitter or Google+
  • Give us feedback! Leave a review on iTunes, Tweet to us, send us an email or leave us a message on Google+
  • I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the show. Your contributions help us make the show sustainable. For details on how to support the show you can visit our site at
  • We are recording today on July 27th, 2015 and your hosts as usual are Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Today we are interviewing Al Sweigart about Python for non-programmers

Interview with Al Sweigert

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
    • Started in PHP/Perl, introduced to Python in 2006
    • Lack of curly braces took some getting used to
    • Clarity of standard library was refreshing
  • What inspired you to start writing books for non-programmers?
    • Friend who took care of 10 year old interested in programming
    • Lack of coherent introductory material
    • Started writing a tutorial which grew to book length
    • All books published under Creative Commons license
  • You have written a few books about teaching Python to people who have never programmed, can you share your thoughts on the best order in which to introduce the various aspects of programming?
  • Where does software testing come in when teaching new coders how to program?
    • Use the logger, debugger, and assertions effectively
  • In invent with Python you use games as the vehicle to discuss the principles involved with writing code. What is it about computer games that makes them so popular as a means to introduce programming to newcomers?
    • Something everyone is familiar with
    • Easy to make a simple game to get started
    • Good way to get creative with programming
  • For automate the boring stuff with Python you focused on explaining how programming can be useful even if it is not someone’s occupation. How did you determine which kinds of activities to focus on for the book?
    • Got the idea at a meetup talking to someone who works in an office doing repetitive tasks
    • A lot of office jobs that involve tedious computer work which could be automated
  • What are your thoughts on the need for software literacy among the general population?
    • How much programming knowledge do you think is sufficient for a member of our modern society?
  • You also wrote about using Python to decrypt simple ciphers as a means to learn about code. What was the inspiration for this approach to software education?
    • One of the projects in invent with Python was a simple cypher, inspired further interest in the subject
  • In episode 7 with Jacob Kaplan-Moss we talked about how we define what a programmer is. Can you share your opinions on what separates someone who can understand code from someone who is a programmer?
    • Barriers to entry have been significantly lowered, making the distinction very fuzzy
    • Definition of programmer is becoming much wider
  • Books available at:

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Liza Avramenko on CheckIO and Empire of Code - Episode 18

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Summary

In this episode we talked to Liza Avramenko, the CEO of CheckIO, about Empire of Code and CheckIO. We discussed what differentiates them from each other and from the other coding games that have been spreading on the internet. One of the main differentiators for CheckIO in particular is the strong focus on community. The bottom line is that if you use Python then you should check out CheckIO and Empire of Code as a great way to practice your skills.

Brief Intro

  • Hello and welcome to Podcast.__init__, the podcast about Python and the people who make it great.
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn
  • Give us feedback on iTunes, Twitter, email or Disqus
  • We donate our time to you because we love Python and its community. If you would like to return the favor you can send us a donation. Everything that we don’t spend on producing the show will be donated to the PSF to keep the community alive.
  • We are recording today on July 27th, 2015 and your hosts as usual are Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Today we are interviewing Liza Avramenko about CheckIO

Interview

  • Please introduce yourself
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
    • Learned about it from Co-Founder Alex
  • For anyone not familiar with CheckIO, can you explain what it is?
  • What was the inspiration for creating the CheckIO platform?
    • Alex was bored working in a bank and wanted to create a place for sharing practice problems
  • What is your goal with this platform?
    • Become global community for most popular coding languages
    • Remain open and supportive
  • How do you deal with the question of ownership and licensing in CheckIO? Was this a tricky hurdle to get past in the site’s creation?
    • Being willing to share solutions publicly is a core part of the site.
      • This had to be more explicitly stated due to some users confusion early on.
  • Growing a community is difficult because of the chicken and egg problem. How did you kickstart the growth of the CheckIO community?
    • Community always number one priority
    • Started organically
    • Initially had 24/7 live chat to help new users
    • Openness was attractive, led to critical mass
    • As community grew, need for live chat decreased
    • Nature of Python community lends itself well to a collaborative, open community
    • Guido provided advice on how to grow and foster community
  • Guido himself has participated in a number of conversations on your platform to critique submissions. Have you received any feedback from him directly about his impressions of the system?
  • How does diversity play into CheckIO? Are there aspects of the site’s design that are purposefully meant to attract a diverse audience?
    • CheckIO has always targeted people with basic coding experience
    • Early live chat feedback focused around very new coders wishing there was more material for them
    • These early challenges resulted in the development of Empire of Code
  • There are a number of other online programming-oriented games available. What makes CheckIO and Empire of Code stand out from them?
    • Priority of community
    • Others are more about gaming, showcasing talent
  • How did you design the gamification aspects of CheckIO, and how important do you think they are to the site’s success?
    • CheckIO was never a game, more of a library of challenges that have game elements
    • Empire of Code is all about gamification, code and algo improvement are baked into the gameplay
      • You choose Python or Javascript “legions” at character creation time, this is a one time choice.
      • Buildings, troop movements, materials, etc. are all based in code
      • Players can steal code and algorithms from other players
        • Incredible innovation
      • Great adoption story for new users – can start playing without writing any code
        • But in order to really excel you will WANT to start writing code
        • So many people have their original motivations for coding come from playing games
      • Cooperative play in the form of training missions with other players
        • This is an opportunity to learn how people on the other side are solving the same problem
      • New languages are planned – Ruby, maybe Java?
  • Do you think that there is something about the Python language or community that inspires adoption of this kind of gamified practice?
  • You recently released the beta of a new experience called Empire of Code which is more akin to the type of video game that many people are familiar with. What inspired that evolution?
    • As part of the new experience, you also added JavaScript as an available language. Do you intend to add new languages in the future?
    • Is there a particular demographic or set of demographics that you are targeting with Empire of Code vs CheckIO?
  • What’s the monetization strategy for Empire of Code or CheckIO?
    • For Empire, you can play for free but you might keep losing your resources until you can learn to code more effectively, OR you can buy a shield which will protect your resources for a time.
  • In CheckIO, how do you label the difficulty level of the individual puzzles, is there a set of guidelines for that or is it up to the puzzle writer / submitter?
    • CheckIO trusts its community
      • The community rates each challenge
  • Part of the CheckIO platform is the ability for users to submit their own problems. How much vetting is involved before these submissions are available to users of the site?
  • Where do you see CheckIO and Empire of Code going in the future?
    • Want to have Empire of Code known as the best online game that blends in programming by the end of 2016
    • In ~5 years want to see people saying the CheckIO/Empire of Code inspired people to program as a career
    • In ~10 years want to see all major languages represented
    • Aiming to become a major game publisher

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Glyph on Ethics in Software - Episode 17

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Summary

In this episode we had a nice long conversation with Glyph Lefkowitz of Twisted fame about his views on the need for an established code of ethics in the software industry. Some of the main points that were covered include the need for maintaining a proper scope in the ongoing discussion, the responsibilities of individuals and corporations, and how any such code might compare with those employed by other professions. This is something that every engineer should be thinking about and the material that we cover will give you a good starting point when talking to your compatriots.

Brief Introduction

  • Welcome to Podcast.__init__ the podcast about Python and the people who make it great
  • Date of recording – July 21, 2015
  • Hosts Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google+ and Twitter
  • Give us feedback! (iTunes, Twitter, email, Disqus comments)
  • We donate our time to you because we love Python and its community. If you would like to return the favor you can send us a donation. Everything that we don’t spend on producing the show will be donated to the PSF to keep the community alive.
  • Overview – Interview with Firstname Lastname about Topic

Interview with Glyph

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python? – Chris
    • 2000 – large scale collaborative gaming system in Java
      • Asynchronous IO
      • Twisted
  • Let’s start with the bad news :) What are some of the potential wide spread implications of less than ethical software that you were referring to in your Pycon talk? – Chris
    • Robot Apocalypse :) (Not really)
      • Much of the discussion around this derails into unrealistic nightmare scenarios
      • THERAC 25 radiation machine
      • Toyota unintended acceleration scandal
    • Real worry – gradual erosion of trust in programmers and computers
    • First requirement for a code of ethics – a clear understanding of the reality you’re trying to litigate
    • The search for ethics will likely begin in academia where this aspect of software dev is more like psychology.
  • In your talk you commented on the training courses that Lawyers are required to take as part of their certification. Do you think the fact that there is no standardized certification body for software development contributes to a lack of widely held ethical principles in software engineering? – Tobias
    • Do you think that it is necessary to form such a certification mechanism for developers as part of the effort to establish a recognized ethical code? – Tobias
    • If we were to create a certification to indicate proper training in the software engineers code of ethics, how do you think that would affect the rate at which people enter the industry? – Tobias
  • Assuming we can all agree on a set of relatively strict professional ethics that would prevent the above from happening, how would we enforce those ethics? Or do you advocate an honor system? – Chris
    • Ethics are by definition an honors system
    • Enforcement would be straight forward – professional organizations to maintain a record and deviations from that record
    • Need better laws & better jurisprudence
    • We need an Underwriters Laboratory seal for software development ethics
    • Code of software ethics will not and should not tell you how to be a decent human being.
    • Devs / companies can create software that could be used for evil – “We are merchants of death and these are lethal weapons” – could conceivably earn the ethical software developer’s seal of approval.
  • Where does accessibility of the software we make fit into a code of ethics? Do you think there should be a minimum level of support for technologies such as screen readers or captioning for audio content in the software that we build? – Tobias
    • Minimum levels of knowledge required
    • Minimum levels of content in curriculum
  • In your talk you mentioned how Rackspace’s stance on user support matches the ideals you’d previously laid out, can you flesh that out a bit for us? What does that mean to individual Rackers in their day to day work lives? – Chris
  • In your talk you mentioned that availability of the software source should be mandatory for compliance with a properly defined ethical framework. What mechanisms for providing that access do you think would be acceptable? Should there be a central repository for housing and providing access to that source? – Tobias
    • Would the list of acceptable mechanisms change according to the intended audience of the software? – Tobias
    • What responsibility do you think producers of software should have to maintain an archive of the source for past versions? – Tobias
    • How should we define what level of access is provided? In the case of commercial software should the source only be available to paying customers, perhaps delivered along with the product? This also poses an interesting quandary for SaaS providers. Should they provide the source to their systems only to paying customers, or to potential customers as well? – Tobias
    • This question of transparency and availability of source is especially interesting in the light of a number of stories that have come out recently about patients who have been provided with prostheses and other medical devices. In a number of cases, shortly after receiving the device, the company who made it, which are increasingly startups, goes out of business, leaving the patient with no way of obtaining support for something that they are dependent on for their health and well-being. Having the source for those devices available would help mitigate the impact of such a situation. – Tobias
  • You brought up an interesting aspect of the trust equation and its relevance to the need for an ethical code. Because what we do as software engineers is effectively viewed as sorcery by a vast majority of the public, they must therefore wholly place their trust in us as part of using the products that we create. As you mentioned with the demise of the scribe with the rise of literacy, increasing the overall awareness of how software works at a basic level partially reduces that depency of trust. At what level of aptitude do you think our relationship with our users becomes more equitable? How does the concept of source availability play into this topic of general education? – Tobias
  • What can the Python community in particular do to start the ball rolling towards defining a set of professional ethics, and what has it already done in this area? – Chris
    • PSF Code of Conduct is a starting point
      • PSF is an organization of individuals
      • Corporations are cagey about getting involved for fear of it becoming a legally binding contract
    • Django Code of Conduct more specific

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Naomi Ceder, Lynn Root and Tracy Osborn on Diversity in the Python Community - Episode 11

Listen to past episodes, read about the show and check out our donations section at podcastinit.com

Brief Introduction

  • Date of recording – Jun-10th, 2015
  • Hosts Macey and Chris Patti
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn
  • Give us feedback! (iTunes, Twitter, email, Disqus comments)
  • You can donate (if you want)!
  • Overview – Interview with Tracy Osborn, Naomi Ceder, Lynn Root

Interview with Prominent PyLadies

  • Introductions
    • Tracy Osborn
    • Naomi Ceder
    • Lynn Root
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • In what ways do you think the Python community has succeeded in making itself more friendly and welcoming to women and other under represented minorities, and where could it do better?
    • Python community leadership takes a positive stance on diversity
    • Codes of conduct are taken very seriously
    • Financial diversity needs more focus
  • What can you tell us about PyLadies and DJango Girls?
    • PyLadies
      • started in a coffee shop in LA
      • pip install PyLadies
      • Over 70 locations on almost every continent – half on meetup.com
  • What are some of the challenges you still face in being a part of the Python community, and how can our listeners help?
    • Don’t be disparaging about women-focused events
  • I had to read up to page 17 of the top authors list on PyPi to find a woman. Can you provide some insight into what may be contributing to this state of affairs and how we can help to improve it?
    • pypi is confusing and intimidating
    • Process and tools are tough to use
    • Maybe Pyladies should host a “make your own package” night
    • Mentorship and easy HOWTOs are needed
  • You have all gained some notoriety in the Python community through work that you have done. Do you feel that you were faced with greater adversity than your peers in the course of your careers?
    • Startup community more hostile than Python community
  • We are talking to each of you because of your involvement in the Python community. Have you worked with and been involved in other language communities? If so, can you provide some comparisons between that and Python in how they manage the subject of diversity, gender and otherwise?
    • Design community – lots of conferences with “all dude” conference speaker line up
    • Startups very focused on males for employees and customers
  • What effect do you think job descriptions play in excluding women and other minorities from roles in development positions? (In reference to https://blog.safaribooksonline.com/2015/06/08/on-recruiting-inclusiveness-and-crafting-better-job-descriptions/)
    • Discourage more appropriate term than exclude
    • Women less likely to apply for roles that they are not completely qualified for
    • Spotify experimenting with blind resume review and cross-checking of job descriptions
      • Result is more women applying and having better results
  • For any women and young girls who may be considering a career in technology, do you have any words of advice?
    • Go for it, but be aware that it’s hard
  • Do you have any advice for the men in the Python community and technology as a whole?
    • Actually listen when somebody tells you that it’s not the same for them (race, economics, gender)
    • Have some compassion and empathy
    • Men should educate themselves
    • Old habits die hard but getting over them is important
  • Is there anything we haven’t discussed that any of you would like to bring up?

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  • Tobias
  • Chris
  • Naomi Ceder
  • Lynn Root
  • Tracy Osborn
    • EasyPost – Simplifies generating shipping labels for USPS

      Keep in Touch

  • Naomi Ceder
  • Lynn Root
  • Tracy Osborn

The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

Brian Granger and Fernando Perez of the IPython Project - Episode 10

You can find past episodes and other information about the show at podcastinit.com

Brief Introduction

  • Date of recording – June 3rd, 2015
  • Hosts – Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Overview – Interview with Fernando Perez and Brian Granger, core developers of IPython/Project Jupyter
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn
  • Give us feedback! (iTunes, Twitter, email, Disqus comments)
  • You can donate (if you want)!

Interview with Brian Granger and Fernando Perez

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango
Orchestra

/ CC BY-SA

Jacob Kaplan-Moss on Addressing Cultural Issues in Tech - Episode 7

Read all of our show notes and find more information about us at podcastinit.com

Brief Introduction

  • Date of recording – May 18th, 2015
  • Hosts – Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn
  • Give us feedback! (iTunes, Twitter, email, Disqus comments)
  • Overview – Interview with Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Interview with Jacob Kaplan-Moss

  • Introductions
  • How were you first introduced to Python?
  • So, we wanted to invite you on the show to discuss the keynote that you gave at this years PyCon. Can you tell us what you mean when you say that you’re a mediocre programmer and why that is such an important admission to make?
  • What are some ways that we can change the tone of the conversation around programming skill?
  • What do we gain by admitting to ourselves and others that we are not all phenomenal engineers?
  • Where does the myth of exceptional vs terrible programmers come from? Can you provide some examples of times that you came in contact with this narrative?
  • How do you think hiring tactics in technology companies contribute to this misconception and how can they be more accepting of average programmers?
  • What are some ways that we can work toward eradicating the myth of the 10x programmer?
  • Thinking about our industry’s problems retaining women and other undervalued groups, do you think the way many managers do performance reviews play a role? If so, how can we do better?
  • Can you tell us about some other ongoing narratives in the technology industry that you find equally as damaging as our misconceptions around skills and knowledge? – Tobias

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Ned Batchelder - Episode 5

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Brief Introduction

  • Date of recording – May 4th, 2015
  • Hosts – Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Overview – Interview with Ned Batchelder
  • Follow us on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn
  • Give us feedback! (iTunes, Twitter, email, Disqus comments)
  • You can donate (if you want)!

Interview with Ned Batchelder

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
    • Zope
    • … Implemented in Python
  • How did you get started as the organizer for Boston Python Meetup?
    • History is long and varied (Why is this switching to numbers?
    • Started – 6 people sitting around a coffee table
    • 5 or 6 years
    • Co-organizer Jessica McKeller
      • Built structures to help keep the community goingr
    • Weekend Python Workshop
      • People ‘adjacent’ to the male members – wives, mothers, etc.
    • “What comes next” from weekend workshops – became Project Night
  • How much of your time ends up being dedicated to the Python community?
    • Also maitainer of coverage.py
    • Active on Freenode IRC #python
    • 20 hours a week
  • What are your goals for the Boston Python community?
    • Continue to grow
    • More events, different events?
    • chipy – Chicago UG very active – 1 on 1 mentoring program
    • Smaller events – 5 person events – study groups
      • All levels not just beginners
      • Computational Biologists – study genomics
      • Three user groups
        • Pyladies Boston
        • DJango Boston
        • Boston Python Meetup
  • What do you find to be the most important thing(s) for building a healthy community (particularly in reference to programming)?
    • Consistency – good to know what to expect
    • Pick a cadence – don’t burn out
  • Speakers aren’t superheroes, they’re just people. ‘Everyone has at least one talk in them’.
  • Value in having a blog, twitter stream – people talk back to you and by correcting your mistakes everyone benefits.
  • How do you keep people engaged outside of the monthly meetings?
  • What do you like the most/least about the Python community?
    • Communities can improve – IRC has gotten better
    • Turmoil on PSF mailing list over election for directors
  • How do you strike a balance between sponsors and the rest of the community? Do you have policies around sponsored presentations / talks?
    • Tend not to do sponsored talks
    • Microsoft NERD – great benefit to Boston Python
    • Provides monthly space for the group
    • 1 minute slots for sponsors
    • No sales pitches
  • What are the steps I can take to start my own tech community?
    • How can you get the word out?
    • Meetup.com is useful
    • People like free food and beer 🙂
    • Be predictable. Pick something sustainable
  • What is the State of Python, from your perspective?
    • No signs of slowing down
    • Ruby people are moving to other environments
    • Python people are still using Python
    • Python 2 to 3 conflict is unfortunate – transition could have been handled more smoothly
    • Python 3 ecosystem is getting much better
    • Next big drama – type hinting proposal
    • Appears to be contrary to one of the basics tenets of the language at first blush
  • Do you feel that Boston will ever have its own regional Python conference?
    • Toyed with bid to bring Pycon to Boston
    • Would require someone stepping up to do it
    • Not sure how a regional conference ‘feels’ as a local event
    • Try to have Boston Python be like a year long conference all year long
    • Huge undertaking

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