Sunday, October 28, 2012

PyCarolinas 2012 Recap

I ran a conference.

I said it had to be done, apparently I said I'd even be the one to do it. Before I knew it, I was doing it and now its over.


All the way up to the date of our inaugural year I was feeling unprepared, afraid I was forgetting terribly important things, or simply that the event would be uneventful. I could not have been more unprepared for the sheer success of PyCarolinas, from the presentations everyone was able to enjoy to the success of the food and drinks we provided to keep them all going to the amazing sense of community and connectedness everyone at the conference obviously felt.

How Did I Get Myself Into This

This was not only the first conference I ran, but the first involvement in running an event beyond a dozen-person hacknight for TriZPUG, so "out of my comfort zone" accurately describes how I felt during the months leading up to October 20th and 21st.
I had mentioned a few times, in a few places, that the carolinas (and the south east in general) need a Python conference. What I meant was "Hey, someone else should run a Python conference, so I can attend."
But, no one did.
The catalyst was Chris Calloway finding the great space we used, and pushing to reserve it for the event. Once he had those wheels moving, it was up to me to make something happen at the time and place we now found ourselves with.

Pulling it Off

I did the best I could with no idea what I was doing.
We did a lot of things right on our first year, which is great.
  • There was coffee to spare. It was good coffee
  • There were pastries and muffins all day long
  • The schedule and talk selection was well varied and interesting
  • Food trucks were picked to keep lunch costs down (catering is expensive)
  • We had amazing shirts designed by Julia Elman of Caktus Group, one of our sponsors
The call for proposals was out pretty early, which I think was good. Lots of our speakers were able to practice their talks to polish, and this really showed.
I could not have done this alone, and I need to thank everyone who made PyCarolinas 2012 possible.
Chris Calloway was invaluable.
He kicked off everything with a space to actually have this event. Chris spent countless hours negotiating with the UNC departments responsible for our needs between the space of the conference and the parking lot we reserved for our lunch trucks. Chris has long been the heart of our local user group, TriZPUG, and he carried that enthusiasm and commitment to his help in making PyCarolinas a reality.
Thank you, Chris.
Kurt Grandis was tireless.
The great lunches we had from the Only Burger truck were possible because of all the leg work Kurt did hunting down great options. The crowd was really happy about the food truck, and everyone should thank Kurt for the great good.
Thank you, Kurt.
Rebecca Lovewell was generous.
She organized our well received coffee reserves, which never ran out, and helped underwriting our never ending pastries. Every conference I've been to seems plagued with ran-out-of-coffee syndrome, so we should all thank her for helping us all stay awake through the exhausting weekend.
Thank you, Rebecca.
Andrew Thompson was a life saver.
I made the grave mistake of failing to organize volunteers well, or at all, during the actual conference. I also underestimated the quick pace and difficulty of keeping up with registration in the first morning! But, Andrew stepped in (we had never met before) and helped run the registration table, doing a much better job of it than I was. Without his spontaneous volunteering, I would have been unable to leave registration and take care of everything else that needed attending that morning.
Thank you, Andrew.
Of course, our sponsors made everything possible.
Thank you, Caktus Group.
Thank you, Google.
Thank you, 10 Gen.
Thank you, Marakana.
Thank you, Cox Media.
Thank you, Wingware.
Thank you, Kitware.
Thank you, Meta Metrics.
Thank you, RochApps.
Thank you, Heroku.
Thank you, Red Hat.
And, a special thanks to Joe Copp and Andrew Kuchling, who both made personal donations in support of our fledgeling event.
And, without our amazing speakers to fill our schedule and share their knowledge and experiences with us, there would be no conference to attend in the first place.
Thank you, to our keynote speakers Lynn Root and Gary Bishop.
Thank you to all of all session speakers Randall Hunt, Joseph S. Tate, A.M Kuchling, Chris Church, Paul J Kowalczyk, PhD, Rick Copeland, Mark Lavin, Michael Manfre, David Ray, Vinod Kurup, Wayne Witzel III, William Sams, Al Snow, Barry Peddycord III, Kenneth Reitz, Matthew Frazier, Julia Elman, Fred Alger, Jeff Heard, Brian Painter, Tim Hopper, Simeon Franklin, Francois Dion, Flaviu Simihaian, Chris Calloway, Michael DeHaan, Dr. Brian J. Soher, Philip Semanchuk, and Brad Crittenden.
But, what would a conference be without an audience?
I want to give a very sincere thank you to everyone who attended this first year. You all came to an event that had never happened before, so you had no idea what to expect. This faith in our new occurance is not missed, and I hope we have lived up to whatever it was you hoped to get out of the weekend. I hope that PyCarolinas was good enough use of your time that I will not only see each and every face again next year, but that you'll all spend the year pumping up your local user groups and Python community and bring more people along next year.

Next Year

There will be a next year. It will be smoother.
While the first PyCarolinas was amazing, it is important to remember what could be done better. I've kept a "to done" list. A list of things I should have done, or done different.
  • Seek out volunteers for the registration desk ahead of time
  • Seek out session chair volunteers
  • Seek out volunteers to clean-up afterwards
  • Print out better programs with sponsor logos. They deserved more thanks.
  • Prepare the badges and sign-in sheet better. I forgot to alphabetize.
  • The badges should show last names better
  • and, they should have shown the conference name and logo!
and, finally
Even though I talked to the people responsible for the space we used about scheduling the cameras to record I should have confirmed this within the week before the conference, in case there was a mixup. Which, I am very sorry to report, there was. We do not have the recordings of all our wonderful talks, as had been expected. I am terribly sorry for this.
Not the least of reasons being that I didn't actually see any talks in full the entire weekend, personally.
If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know what could have been better!
Thank you to everyone who attended. Thank you again to all our sponsors and speakers. I hope to see everyone there again next year!

-- Calvin Spealman
I write here about programming, how to program better, things I think are neat and are related to programming. I might write other things at my personal website.

I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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