Our Experience at PyCon US 2024 in Pittsburgh



By the community, for the community

I recently had the opportunity to attend PyCon US 2024 in Pittsburgh, traveling all the way from Namibia.

Namibia is renowned for its natural beauty, encompassing vast deserts, rich natural resources, wild animals, and a rapidly growing Python community amidst its expansive dry landscapes. In contrast, experiencing Pittsburgh, with its iconic bridges and vibrant city life, was a delightful change.

Traveling solo from Namibia, I was pleased to connect with people from around the world.

A Rocky Start: My Arrival in Pittsburgh

When I arrived at the airport in Pittsburgh, I took a taxi to my hotel. However, upon reaching the hotel, my Visa card wasn’t working, leaving me unable to pay the driver.

Stressful and not the best way to start in a new country, I had to explain the situation to the driver. The driver took my luggage while I sought assistance from the hotel reception. They helped me reach out to Jay Miller who came to my rescue.

Despite the initial hiccup, the driver kindly waited for more than 20 minutes, demonstrating his understanding and patience and at the end we managed to pay him.

During the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Iqbal Abdullah, the CEO of Laloka Labs, the company behind Kafkai.

Iqbal hails from Japan—a country celebrated for its advanced technology, beautiful cherry blossoms, rich culture, and delicious cuisine.

Meeting him in person after a long time was a joy, and I was grateful that he shared insights from the conference and more about PyCon APAC.

About the Event Itself

The event was held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from the 15 - 23 May 2024, which provided an excellent venue for the numerous keynotes and sessions. The event was full of various activities, from talks and keynotes to sponsor booths and community gatherings. It was difficult to decide which talks to attend as most of them were interesting, making it impossible to be in multiple places at once.

The conference was packed with informative sessions and hands-on workshops. The speakers were incredibly knowledgeable, and we learned a lot about the latest Python libraries and frameworks.

The workshops were also a great opportunity to gain practical experience and acquire new skills.

1. Jay Miller Keynote

Jay Miller's keynote was a standout, engaging the audience with his insights into the future of Python and its community among Black Python developers.

Jay emphasized the importance of inclusivity and innovation within this group. He spoke at length about how Black developers around the world are often left behind when it comes to participating in Python-related activities.

In many cases, there are few Black people attending events, giving talks, or helping to organize the bigger conferences. Therefore, it was necessary to have Black Python Devs to assist these individuals in coming forward and supporting the Python Software Foundation mission.

Jay indicated that they have supported many individuals from different parts of the world, including Africa, to attend PyCon US this year. This support has been crucial in helping to bridge the gap and ensure that Black developers have a significant presence and voice within the Python community.


2. Simon Willison

Simon Willison's keynote introduced the concept of "Imitation Intelligence" as an alternative to "Artificial Intelligence."

His talk focused on Large Language Models (LLMs), a subset of AI. Simon explained that LLMs function like an advanced autocomplete, predicting the next word based on statistical analysis. However, they can sometimes produce inaccurate or fabricated information, leading some to question their utility.

  • Vibes: Simon evaluates new technology by asking, "What can I build with this that I couldn't build before?" He introduced "Vibes" as a term to compare LLMs, suggesting users test them on tasks to see how they perform. Simon highlighted LYMSYS Chatbot Arena, which ranks LLMs based on their "vibes."

  • Prompt Engineering: Simon discussed "dumb tricks," or examples of prompt engineering, emphasizing the importance of not mixing untrusted text with instruction text to avoid prompt injection.

  • What LLMs Are Good At: Simon concluded by noting that LLMs excel at interpreting code due to its structured nature. Tasks that previously took him half a day now take minutes, allowing for more experimentation and innovation.

This was a great talk about language models. Iqbal wrote an article on the same topic, titled Stay Connected with AI, Off-line And Free: The Magic of Llamafiles


PyCon APAC Booth: A Hub of Activity

The APAC community was one of the standout presences at the conference. We had a great time visiting their booth in the lunch hall, where we learned about their community and the upcoming conference (PyCon APAAC) in October in Indonesia.

The APAC booth quickly became a vibrant hub of activity, highlighting the region’s contributions to the Python ecosystem. From innovative projects to community initiatives, the booth offered a glimpse into the dynamic and diverse Python community in APAC. Attendees flocked to the booth, eager to learn more about the community.


D&I Workgroup Session

The Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Workgroup Session was another highlight of the conference. The session featured five panelists: Abigail Mesrenyame Dogbe, Dima, Jules, Mason, and Jessica, with moderators Debora and Georgi. Each panelist has been involved in the community for over five years, bringing a wealth of experience and insight.

  • Abigail shared her journey of searching for her place in tech and discovering her passion for helping people through the events she participated in.

  • Jessica talked about starting out as a coffee barista with no programming knowledge and finding her way into tech by contributing in various ways beyond coding.

  • Mason recounted his involvement since 2013, highlighting his significant contributions to PyTexas, one of the largest regional conferences.

An inspiring initiative discussed was the "Books for Techies" project by PyLadies Ghana, for which Abigail expressed gratitude to Anthony Shaw.

Iqbal thoughts on the D&I Workgroup Session:

"I was happy to see a diverse set of community leaders from different parts of the world introduced to the PyCon US crowd. There are many leaders and talents within our community that still need to be highlighted, and this session was a step in the right direction"


PyLadies Auction: Fun for a Cause

The PyLadies Auction was a highlight of the evening, combining fun and philanthropy. Attendees eagerly participated in the bidding, with all proceeds going to support the PyLadies organization.

The event was a lively celebration of community spirit and generosity, underscoring the supportive nature of the Python community.

Lunch hall, Food, Networking and Community

One of the best aspects of PyCon was the sense of community. We met developers from all over the world, each with unique experiences and insights. It was amazing to see how passionate everyone was about Python and how willing they were to share their knowledge. I met great people in python community for the first time like Trey Hunner , Jeffrey Triplett , Loren Crary, Velda Kiara , Sydney Runkle, Naomi Ceder and many more that i can mention in future articles.

We made some great connections and even found a few potential collaborators for future projects. I had a good conversation with my long time friends Cheuk Ting Ho and Tania Allard where we discussed voting and becoming members of the PSF. Many people from different parts of the world don’t vote or don’t know how to become members of the PSF. The community needs to work on this just as we pay attention to the code of conduct at every conference.

The posters and different booths were impressive, and we met great people who explained various applications based on the questions we asked. The catering team was excellent. I can't forget Benedict Kofi Amofah for his support at the venue and around the city—cheers to you, brother. We have a good story to tell regarding Ubers.

The food at the conference was excellent and suited our tastes as Namibians. Unlike the cuisine of some West African countries, Namibian food typically uses less pepper. We had some interesting conversations around the table about the various uses of pepper in different cuisines, which was both educational and entertaining and also tech in general.

Outside the conference, we had time to explore Pittsburgh. The city has a rich history and a vibrant cultural scene.


A Heartfelt Closing by PSF/PyCon Staff

The closing ceremony, led by the PSF (Python Software Foundation) and PyCon staff, was a heartfelt conclusion to an incredible conference. They expressed their gratitude to all attendees, speakers, and volunteers who made the event a success.

The closing remarks were a reminder of the collaborative effort required to bring such a vibrant community together. PyCon US 2024 was more than just a conference; it was a celebration of the Python community's diversity, creativity, and collective spirit.

From keynotes to panels to informal gatherings, the event left a lasting impact on all who attended, reinforcing the importance of community and collaboration in driving the future of Python.

Wrapping up

Attending PyCon US 2024 was a truly enriching experience. We left with a wealth of new knowledge, a deeper appreciation for the Python community, and a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our work.

We are grateful for the opportunity to have been part of such an inspiring event and look forward to applying what we learned in our projects back home. Thank you Mariatta Wijaya and the team for organizing this wonderful conference.

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