Summary: My report of the PyCon.SK Python conference 2017 in Bratislava where i gave my “teaching python to (your) chilren” talk.
Thanks to the local Python User Group Vienna, i was made aware of the PyCon.SK conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, very close to Vienna. I submittet a talk with the topic “Teach Python to (your) children” via the PyConSK website and was very happy that the talk got accepted. I am now an international conference speaker! I did spoke at international conferences before, but never in Slovakia.
Thankfully, the whole topic of organizing transport and booking of the hotels was done by the great friends of the Vienna Python User Group (PyUg.at). Many PyUgat members were already at the first PyConSK 2016 and had practical experience, so i could remain passive and let others do all the organizing. Perfect!
Bratislava is -compared to Vienna- a very affordable city, i spent 60,-€ for 2 nights in a hotel and less than 10,- € shared gas cost for Claus Aichinger (organisator of PyDays Vienna, who transported me in his private car. As an official speaker, i got the conference ticket (around 20,-€?) for free.
We arrived by car at Friday night in our hotel, in walking distance to the conference building, the university institute of informatics. Technically we could have choosed to arrive at Saturday morning but it was nice for me to have time to relax and create slides for my speech without worrying about transport and arriving too late. I spend most of my time looking up and sorting photos of students of my programming courses for children and not so much on the talk preparation itself.
Saturday 11 march 2017 was the first conference day with an English program. I discovered that my speech was not before sunday afternoon so i felt pretty relaxed. The conference in the very modern university building was smaller than the typical Europyhton conference but offered 2 rooms for talks (mostly in English), rooms for workshops, some sponsor tables with coffee, popcorn, recruiters from tech companies and a nice mix of national and international python geeks. The female to male quota was higher than the usual 10% thanks to the efforts of the organizers to hold “Djangogirl” workshops directly at the conference.
The first talk i visited was exactly “my” topic: “Make learning great again” by “best teacher of the year” Valdemar Švábenský. I interviewed him afterward for my podcasts.
Interview with Vlademar Švábenský about teaching python to students, social learning and how to get elected as “best teacher of the year”:
I spent rest of the day chatting, listening to talks and working akwardly on my slides without much progress. Sadly i felt very tired out in the afternoon and retreated into the hotel for an hour, so i missed some of the lightning talks. Good thing that all talks were recorded on Video and can be seen later at the PyConSK Youtube channel.
Food was provided at the conference, and in the evening we all met at a big impressive pub in the old town of Bratislave, called “Flagship”. It looked a bit like a cathedrale in the inside, and a whole floor was reserved for the PythonSK conference people. It was my first time in Bratislava, i chatted in Italian with Juan Luis Cano Rodriguez, a guy from spain about recommended spanish Python conferences, feeling very international. Of course i interviewed him right at the diner table:
A bit less relaxed than on saturday, I managed to finish my slides in the morning and even found time to speak “silent” my talk unsing a stopwatch, to be as exact as possible in the desired 30 minutes frame. Sadly, a very intersting workshop ( SDL2 and OPENGL game programming ) was sheduled around the time of my own talk, and i could not attend the workshop. The WLAN at the conference location was so good that i upgraded my Ubuntu Mate distribution instead of rehearsing the speech a second time. While watching the progress indicator, I reflected on the not so far-fetched scenario that the update will make my laptop totally unusable because of some video driver problem. The presentation was saved as a pdf on the laptop and additionally as a google drive file. In an emergency, i could use someone's else laptop and login with my own google account.
I watched some other talks and finally, in the afternoon it was time for my own speech “Teaching Python to (your) children”.
Traditionally, my laptops never work hassle-free with the adapters of beamers, and this time was no exception. While i could see my own screen on my laptop, the beamer showed only the Ubuntu mate login logo (more than nothing, but not good enough) and then, after some frantical clicking around in screen resolution menues: nothing at all. The beamer projected a big black mass of nothing while i got the familiar feeling of increasing nervousness. I also realized that nobody in the room would be able to help me, because not only did i use Linux, i also did it in a German language setting. Two tech guys from the conference watched me clicking around the screen resolution menu (mirror screens? change resolution?) while controlling the video adapter cable. Suddenly the beamer projected the correct image, even if i had no clue what click exactly caused it to work.
I went on with my talk for 30 minutes, showing mostly pictures of my students and telling about my experiences with teaching python game programming to children. I could hear from the laughs in the audience that the talk was good recived, even if everyone was a bit tired after a long day full of interesting speeches.
The question and feedback system for the whole conference was done via the website www.sli.do: The audience typed in comments or questions for the Q & A session after each talk, and the host would read out loud the questions for the speaker to answer. This clearly helps with documenting and recording a talk. I liked this system more than the traditional “please use the microphone before asking your question” approach: Not only could the whole audience rank the questions while the talk was still in progress; the host could also re-order questions or summuarise little questions: “i think this question was already answered…”.
The biggest advantage was possibly to have an effective filter against the typical loving-to-hear-himself-speaking guy that always fails to understand the difference between a question and an statement with the sole aim of stealing everyones time. During the whole PythonSK conference, i found the feedback and Q & A sessions a very pleasant experience.
I got several questions for my own talk and -my favorite- a comment, if i remember correctly: “this is no question but a comment: thanks for this very interesting talk!”
Before leaving, I managed to interview Bhargav Srinivasa Desikan, a young Indian programmer living in France, about his Google Summer of Code experience:
Also I had a good time chatting with conference participants about coding for children experiences.
In the car on the way home, PyUgat member Bernd summarized the PyConSK conference into a very good sentence: “so many such nice people at one place”.
The conference had an very nice after effect for me: I got an email, inviting me to speak at conferences in Poland
Summary: See you at PyConSK 2018!