The Spectacular Blog of George Titsworth

PyTennessee 2014 Wrap-Up

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This weekend I went to PyTennessee! This was a first time conference that took place in Nashville and was by all standards fantastic. There were a lot of great talks and tutorials and I wanted to give a quick overview on some of the highlights.

Equipping Solr with Semantic Search and Recommendation

John Berryman (@JnBrymn)

John gave a really cool talk – both in content and slides-manship. While I don’t work in this realm, I related to the story he told – industry standard tools were not working as well as advertised and Python provided a function equivalent to a month’s worth of work in a weekend. He had some really good “real data” examples to go along with his talk, which always makes me happy.

John also gave a cool lightning talk on Neo4J, which I wasn’t familiar with but looks nice.

To the Moon and Back: Taking the Leap in Solving Big Problems

Julia Elman (@juliaelman)

This was the first talk I went to that was not focused on a specific python technology, but rather how we as technologists in general can better use our skills to make an impact. I almost didn’t go to this – there was another talk at the same time that a guy was remixing using python… I mean how cool is that? But I rolled the dice on going to this talk and came up a winner. I came out of this talk with a different perspective than when I came in. Julia threw out so many great references about how we, as developers and technologists, have the power to do great things – from helping code new and innovative government services to educating tomorrows programmers. I especially was impressed by the conversation after the talk in which more and more people shared the things they were doing to make a difference in their communities.

The blog post linked to above is also a github repo so the community can keep adding to the resource list!

Statistical Data Analysis in Python

Chris Fonnesbeck (@fonnesbeck)

Chris gave a great tutorial on data analysis in Python with Numpy and Pandas. I have sat through a few of these “intro to” python analysis, but I always like to refresh myself as I can get stuck in certain patterns and seeing new “intro” presentations can always be good. Chris has developed an incredible set of notebooks that drive his tutorial, one of the best I seen. He gives unique examples and uses unique data sets related to his biostatistics background to highlight different capabilities and analysis techniques.

He also gave a great talk about Monte Carlo Markov Chains and his Python library PyMC. I’ve only tangentially worked with MCMCs and this talk was a little over my head, but I think it was good??? :)

Teaching the Next Generation of Python Programmers

Jessica McKellar (@jessicamckellar)

Jessica’s talk picked up right where Julia’s left off. She talked about the current state of computer science education in high schools, which is not to good. She talked about the differential of boys and girls in high school CS and highlighted a single teacher in Chattanooga that made a huge impact on the education of girls in CS. So much so that it pushed Tennessee to the top in terms of female CS students who took the CS AP exam.

The biggest thing I took away from this talk was that a single person can make a big difference. And that the entire group can make a huge difference. She urged the crowd to do one thing. One thing that will make a positive impact in the next year. This really resonated with me and I want to go back to PyTennessee 2015 with many things that I can say I did to make a difference.

Other highlights

Matthew Russell gave a great talk on mining social data from twitter and signed copies of his awesome book.

Eric Floehr gave a really cool presentation on computer visualization in python. I just with I could have gotten SimpleCV installed to play along. That is now on my backlog of things to play with

Cal Evans gave a great opening keynote on what it means to be a professional developer which was great all around.

New Connections

Another big highlight of the conference was getting to meet so many other developers. I went up with my neighbor, Jeff,  and got to spend some time getting to code and geting know each other better (without our five combined children running around at our feet :)).  I also got to meet many more people that have common interests.

A few people that stood out were Patrick Atlman and Michael Trier from Eldarion. I have been following them online for a while now. Michael used to have a podcast about Django that I listened to religiously. I didn’t know who he was at first glance, but as soon as I heard is voice I knew who he was. Patrick is a developer that is local to Nashville and contributes to a bunch open source projects. This two were awesome at the sprints and were eager to help out myself and other developers get set up to contribute to some open source projects.

I was also really impressed to meet a high school student from KY named Jonah. He had recently learned Python and was super pumped to learn more stuff. I worked with him on setting up Anaconda and IPython so that he could run some notebooks that I and others had created. He is big into cross country running and I showed him a cool post on Flowing Data that used R to plot mass amounts of run data to make a map of a city. The next night, we both started hacking in python to recreate. It was awesome to see someone so young with a drive to hack away at code and create something cool. I gave a lightning talk on this Sunday morning and will write a post on that soon.

There were many other I met as well – Katie Cunningham who ran the young coders section of the conference, Luke Stokes who is the cofounder of FoxyCart, and Tom Brander who has so much experience in many industries, but is now runs Oswco and and evangealizes open source software and python. everyone had such a cool story to tell and was eager to hear others stories.

Really there are more people than I can call out here. My following page on twitter grew quite a bit over the weekend.

In Conclusion

I  came away from PyTennessee refreshed that there are so many people doing cool, fun, and impactful work. Id like to thank the organizers, the sponsers, and the speakers for the amazing things they did. I look forward to next year!

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PyTennessee 2014 Wrap-Up