Python is an amazing programming language that makes software development productive and fun. Python is open source, was created by a community of thousands of developers world-wide, and is used by about 14% of all programmers today. These are my thoughts as a user, advocate, co-author of an IDE for Python, and a director of the Python Software Foundation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

PyCon and the Python Community

Socially, I can be pretty dense. This made it possible for me to arrive at a startling revelation at PyCon this year, one that significantly changed my perception of the Python community, and my view of my place in it.

I've always loved going to PyCon and working with people in the community. But it wasn't until I heard David Goodger's opening remarks on Friday that it finally dawned on me how important Python is to many of its members as a community and circle of friends. Or for that matter, how important it is to me as well.

Here's the back story: In the early days of PyCon, in 2004, I heard that David couldn't come to the conference for lack of funds. He'ld been laid off. I sent an email to the docutils mailing list and within hours had enough pledges to pay for his travel and accommodations. One anonymous donor gave over $200.

That was more or less the last I thought of it until I heard David speak about it this year. What he said was that he was not just out of work but also depressed and this show of support from the community ended up meaning a lot to him. It was clear from talking about this with others afterwards that he's not alone in his perception of the community as very personal indeed.

Even if you're not the type to get teary eyed by such stories of unselfish giving from members of our far-flung community (and I admit I do), you can't argue with the sheer brilliance of this approach. As an investment in our collective future, this gesture turned out to pay off handsomely. As many of you may know, David has served as Director in the Python Software Foundation, where he has done a fantastic job as Secretary, and he has worked intensively this year as the PyCon Chairman.

So now I've figured it out, and I am all the more confident of the health and vigor of Python. The motivations run much deeper than I thought, as do the rewards.

This is also why I'm not much concerned about some of the criticisms of this year's PyCon. These things will be fixed next year, and we'll move on.

Every community has its problems. It's just a question of how (and whether) the community comes together to solve them. Like the small rural town where I live, one that strongly resists 21st century corporate intrusions into our 19th century village, I have a feeling that the Python community is not going to be building a Walmart any time soon.

I hope this is useful to those that share my social denseness, or that it may inspire others to practice spontaneous kindness as a way to build community.


At 5:12 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Stephan: It's worked out even better that you anticipated. Now that I'm off the hook as PyCon chairman you;re off the hook as PSF chairman.

More seriously, as you know I have always been interested in building a social element around Python users. Now the message has clicked, I am sure you will be a force to be reckoned with.


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