I’ve just got back from 3 days spent at the annual EuroPython conference, this year held in Birmingham. There were about 450 attendees and a wide variety of different talks from web development to printing money to science stuff.

This was my first time at a non-academic conference and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Overall, I found it extremely useful, mostly just through being exposed to a diverse range of excellent programmers and seeing some of the ways in which they use their tools. The standard of talks was generally higher than academic conferences (far few people randomly overrunning their time and not caring, for a start) and I also found the people to be more friendly and easy to talk to. In general, there was a lower freak quota, which makes it more bearable to spend 3 days surrounded by these people.

I realised quite early in the conference that I was surrounded by a large number of programmers who were more proficient in Python than I am, despite having used the language for nearly 10 years. Of course, this is intimidating at first, but I realised that this was a great opportunity to discover new ways of doing things and expand my horizons. During those 10 years almost everything I have learned about Python has been self-taught. This is good as far as it goes but I could advance a lot more quickly by more interaction with real experts, including pair programming, code reviews and just generally working with other people’s source code.

I’m saddened, but not surprised, that so few academic programmers attend these conferences; I would say that fewer than 10% of the attendees were academics. To me, something like EuroPython makes just as much of a contribution to my productivity as a conference with other scientists. Maybe I can persuade other computational scientists to come along with me next year.


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