PyCodeConf 2011: Snakes in an Infinity Pool


If there is one thing that I learned from PyCodeConf, it’s that all conferences should be in Miami in October. And they should all feature parties at rooftop infinity pools. Aside from the fun, PyCodeConf had a great selection of speakers that showed the breadth of the Python community, from wedding web sites to scientific computing. Read on for an overview of the some of the talks that pulled at my heartstrings.

The slides and audio from all talks can be downloaded from the PyCodeConf site.

What makes Python AWESOME?

This talk by Python core developer Raymond Hettinger was one of my favorites. When working with a language on a day-to-day basis, it is easy to take features for granted. Iterators, generators, and comprehensions are things that seem simple at first, but allow you to do very complex operations in very little code. The new-ish with statement provides an elegant interface for resource management and separation of common set up and tear down code.

Physics is renowned for the beauty and elegance of it’s theories and equations. It’s these same principles that made me love Python. While the language is slower in gaining new features, you can be guaranteed that the implementation will be incredibly clean and consistent with the principles of the language.

Embracing the GIL

I was fortunate to see David Beazley give a GIL thrashing talk at PyCon and this talk was just as good. The GIL is a very controversial part of Python which has both FUD and actual issues surrounding it. David has done a lot of research into how the GIL works and demonstrates how it behaves under various conditions. The summary: Python 2.7 is okay, Python 3 needs work, and a basic implementation of thread priorities in Python 3 puts it on par with 2.7.

API Design and Pragmatic Python

Kenneth Reitz is best known for his wonderful packages such as requests, envoy, tablib, and clint. If you’ve used any of Kenneth’s projects you’ll have noticed that he values creating sensible APIs that insulate users from the messier parts of Python. He takes a very conservative approach to his cause; no need to actually replace messy packages, just create wrappers that make them easier to use.

Kenneth also announced the release of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python. His goal is to create a central repository for Python best practices covering everything from installation and editors to coding style and app layout.


The one common theme of nearly everything at the conference was PyPy, famed alterna-interpreter. The team has come a long way and everyone was eager to show the areas in which it excels over CPython and point out the parts that need some work.

The general consensus seems to be that over the next few years PyPy will become the interpreter of choice for running Python. The team is currently accepting donations on their site for general development, Python 3 support, and a port of NumPY. I’ve donated, you should too!

Who’s coming with me next year?

I highly recommend checking out out each of the talks. Even though I only highlighted a few here, they were all quite excellent. Thanks to GitHub for putting on such a great conference and all of the sponsors that allowed it to happen (free mojitos).