Jeff Carouth

Web and mobile developer. Agile apprentice.

The Missing Conference Track

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This past weekend I attended PyTexas 2011. It was a great conference—even for someone that doesn’t regularly use Python. It was enlightening to be the “noob” at a particular subject to gain a vantage point that I would otherwise be without.

Note: I’m not knocking on PyTexas at all. It was organized well and the sessions I attended were informative. However, in talking with a couple attendees and presenters I noticed something that hadn’t dawned on me before, and is particularly relevant as I am helping organize a conference schedule and also hope to present at more conferences in the future. (Shameless plug to both HTML5.tx and ZendCon2011.)

The one thing missing from this conference was the intermediate level. There were talks and activities aimed at pure beginners as well as sessions that were clearly for advanced developers. I think that is great. But, in my case in particular, what I needed was something in between.

I attended talks in each of the available levels, and my suspicions were confirmed: the beginner talks were too below my abilities, and the advanced talks had content that won’t fully grasp for a few weeks of working with Python. You might wonder what an intermediate-level session might look like. Well, me too. I have some ideas though.

Coming this conference as a (mostly) PHP developer, there were obviously some differences in language features, but, more importantly, there was a language barrier in terms of definitions of features. I heard a lot about “decorators”—which, incindentally are a really awesome feature—but I had to spend significant energy figuring out what a “Python decorator” was, which left me behind in most of the advanced talks that glossed over them.

One particular talk idea would be, as a general concept, Python development lingo. This would obviously require someone that has enough knowledge of other languages to point out examples if there are any. On a more specific level, Python for PHP/JAVA/C++/Ruby developers talks—open space idea rightthere—would be great.

Another idea for such an intermediate session would be focusing on particular programming paradigms. For example, Object-Oriented Programming in Pythonwould fit in this category. A talk of this persuasion would allow me to use my previous knowledge of programming with a concrete parallel into Python.

Anyway, that’s my little “lightning post” on what I’d love to see at language-specific conferences. It would make them more accessible to those wanting to learn who are not total beginners to programming in general.