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PyCon US 2023 - An action-packed week

Published June 28, 2023



Lysandros Nikolaou

A few weeks ago, I had the great opportunity of traveling to Salt Lake City, UT to attend the biggest worldwide Python conference, PyCon US. After about 20 hours of traveling from Berlin to Utah through Frankfurt and Denver, I arrived at one of the conference hotels on Tuesday evening with just enough time to rest before a week full of summits, talks, volunteering, and talking to great people.

First item on the agenda on Wednesday was the Language Summit, an annual all-day gathering of CPython core developers, triagers, documentarians, and guests working on various Python implementations or projects that are closely related to them such as HPy. The discussions centered around the C API, the GIL and all of the work toward removing it, and how to recognize, prevent and tackle burnout. I won’t go into too much detail, but anyone that’s interested can read Alex Waygood’s blog posts on the Language Summit. He really did an amazing job in summing up all of the talks and discussions. I will, however, mention one personal highlight from the Language Summit. Before the first talk, Pablo Galindo Salgado, Python 3.10 & 3.11 release manager and fellow compiler front-end co-conspirator, went up to the podium and, in front of everyone, merged PR #102855, the implementation of PEP 701, which marked a significant milestone in our work toward standardizing and improving f-strings.

The next few days passed by quickly. On Thursday I attended the opening reception. It was the first time we got to see the expo hall with all the different companies and sponsors of PyCon US, which also included Quansight and our sister company OpenTeams. Friday was the first day of talks. It started off with a great keynote on how to go about talking to people by Ned Batchelder. It really helped me put into perspective a lot of my own open-source interactions and how to guard against common pitfalls when engaging with open source communities. After that and for the rest of the day I attended a lot of exciting talks on topics ranging from WASM and PyScript to Python 3.11’s specializing adaptive interpreter. I’m also very happy that, this year, for the first time, I volunteered as a session chair. This session included three amazing presentations on mutation testing by Dave Aronson, molecular simulation by Iván Pulido, and one of the killer-features of Python 3.12, the per-interpreter GIL by Eric Snow.

Saturday was another first for me. Attending the Mentored Sprints for Diverse Beginners, an event that aims at introducing open-source to anyone that might be facing barriers while contributing. This event was an incredible experience. It included working together with three people that were interested in opening their first PR to CPython. At the end of the event, they’d all succeeded in doing so, which marked a very successful day. I also attended the Steering Council panel, the Diversity & Inclusion Panel, and, of course, the one-of-its-kind keynote on Python expertise (or rather the lack thereof) by James Powell. A round of talks followed, on topics such as WASM (yes, WASM again), syntactic sugar in Python, and object-oriented programming. In the evening, it was time for the PyLadies Auction. One of the most fun moments in all of PyCon, the PyLadies Auction is a unique event that aims to bring people together in supporting PyLadies.

Sunday, like any last day of a conference, was a bit bitter-sweet. Everyone was excited to attend the last round of talks and keynotes, but, at the same time, a bit sad that the main part of the conference was slowly coming to an end. Yes, some people were going to stay around for the sprints the following week, but the sound of all the people rushing to their talks, talking with each other and having fun is not the same. The day started with a round of lightning talks and an eye-opening keynote by Margaret Mitchell on data, bias, and all the things we should be watching out for in the AI era, and it ended with three truly special keynotes. In the first one, Carol Willing talked about Python’s global network and how there are three basic elements to it: connection, communication, and scale. The second one was Deb Nicholson’s update on the PSF and the giving of Community Service Awards. The last talk of the day, which also marked the end of the 20th PyCon US, was a trip down memory lane by Guido van Rossum, who told us stories about the first Python conferences, the ones that started it all.

The following three days were mostly about coming together to sprint on a variety of projects. A lot of different projects were part of the event this year, one of them being CPython. During the three days I was there, I spent most of my time working on PEP 701-related firefighting and (mostly unsuccessfully) mentoring some awesome people to contribute to CPython. A personal highlight during these three days was witnessing Russel Keith-Magee managing sprinters on some of the projects he created, such as BeeWare. The amount of preparation, mentoring, encouragement toward beginners, and recognition of contributors with stickers and applause was a true learning experience.

For all of the great keynotes, talks, summits and sprints, there’s one aspect of PyCon that really is irreplaceable, the hallway track! The ability to talk to Python greats, meet old open-source friends and get to know new awesome people alike, really is what makes this conference the unforgettable experience it is. A big thanks to all of the people that made me enjoy this conference so much and, of course, to Quansight for sponsoring me and enabling me to be there!

I don't know about the rest of you... I came for the language, but I stayed for the community. ~ Brett Cannon

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