Saturday, September 24, 2011

PyTexas 2011 Memories: Lighted Sign by Paul Bonsor

Paul Bonsor made a really cool lighted sign for PyTexas 2011 using a laser cutter.

More images can be found where Paul posted them on Google+.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

PyTexas 2011 Schedule Firmed Up

The PyTexas 2011 schedule looks pretty solid at this point, though we are still looking for your feedback via this survey to help us to make sure we have the biggest crowds in the biggest rooms, and let us know if you plan to give a lightning talk, or want to participate in the Python Teach-In. Please take the schedule survey if you have not already done so.

Here are some notes about the schedule:

  • We have two TAMU faculty for the Python in the Classroom panel discussion, and another volunteer who could be on the panel or could be a moderator. We are looking for at least one more participant who has experience with Python in classroom settings or in a university environment.
  • All the speakers on the current schedule have confirmed that they will be present for the specified timeslots. Over the course of the last few weeks a couple of speakers had to drop out, but everyone currently named on the schedule will be there.
  • One of the speakers, Eric Malloy, who had to drop out was going to give a talk on VirtualEnv/Pip/VirtualEnvWrapper. I believe this is an important talk for beginners and hope we can find someone else willing to give a talk. Eric has posted the presentation slides online which could be used for inspiration, if anyone wants to step forward. 
  • Currently the schedule is a Google Docs spreadsheet, but soon it will be posted as part of the Django-based new PyTexas website.  Speakers interested in logging into the Django admin interface to modify their talk descriptions and bio should let me know, and I'll provide a login.
  • We have added a Blender tutorial at the last minute after learning that TAMU faculty and students have a high interest in that tool because the university has a strong emphasis on data visualization. To make it fit, we had to split it across several days. Special thanks go to Gordon Fisher for agreeing to travel from Little Rock to give the tutorial.
  • Unfortunately the OpenStack speaker had to drop out, and we're looking for a backup speaker for that slot.

All in all, I'm very proud of this schedule and the speakers who have stepped forward to give presentations and tutorials.  It has a nice balance of both advanced and beginner talks, and we were able to make sure every time slot has something of interest to beginners, and something of interest to advanced Python developers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Free Food and Drinks at PyTexas

I'm pleased to announce that PyTexas has new sponsorships in the category of food and drink.

  • Texas A&M College of Architecture has generously agreed to provide breakfast, snacks, and drinks for all attendees on both Saturday and Sunday. This includes that all important caffeine source, coffee, which we conspicuously failed to provide at last year's PyTexas. Never again. 
  •, already a Platinum Sponsor and active instigator of ideas and encouragement for PyTexas 2010, has decided to go all-out by throwing a party for the whole conference on Saturday evening evening at Fitzwilly's Bar and Grille.  Everyone gets food and drinks, including free beer.  The upstairs is reserved for us with pool tables, darts, and places to chill and sit.  You'll need to pick up your invitation at the PyTexas registration desk in the form of a dog tag.

I'd also like to mention that members of both these organizations have contributed significantly to PyTexas as volunteers, so they both deserve our thanks for helping make PyTexas an awesome conference.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

PyTexas 2011 Attendance Up, T-Shirts Nearly All Reserved

Wow. PyTexas 2011 registration has continued to grow beyond expectations, with 192 people registered, with 162 confirmed attendees, 29 tentative, and 1 "can't make it". We might double last year's attendance of 94.

There is a good chance of a last minute spike in attendance as students find out about the Blender tutorial, and Jeff's Friday morning presentation to a CompSci 101 classroom may inspire additional students to attend. Btw, TAMU's CompSci 101 uses Python to teach computer science concepts.

Seeing the writing on the wall in early August, I nearly broke the budget boosting the numbers t-shirts and swag bags. I ordered 187 t-shirts total, and 175 swag bags. Two of the Platinum sponsors requested setting aside a total of 23 t-shirts. Details on the sizes and costs of the order are publicly visible on this spreadsheet. The first sheet shows the updated order, and the second sheet shows the original order of 153 t-shirts.

What if we run out of awesome PyTexas 2011 t-shirts?

The t-shirt and swag bag will be hot items, thanks to the artwork by Dave Birch. We will have to limit these to one per person, with the exception of a couple of the Platinum sponsors who paid to have them made. Let's remember that PyTexas is free to attendees, and the t-shirts are given away for free.

The rule will be that every attendee who pre-registered as "confirmed", and who shows up before noon on Saturday Sept 10 should be given a t-shirt. After noon, the shirts are fair game for people who registered as tentative, and we'll give away what sizes we have remaining.

Disclaimer: I had to order these shirts before the registration counts were all in, and I had to extrapolate the percentage of each size based on the registration numbers. At the time I didn't expect attendance to grow this high, and thought there was some wiggle room. Most of the t-shirts are unisex, but I took the risk of ordering a few designed specially for ladies. It's possible that we will run out of the size you requested.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New PyTexas Website!

We have a new PyTexas website!

It looks almost exactly like the blogspot site (which has a new URL btw at, but seriously, it's not built using Blogspot.:)

The new site is built using the same Python-based Django/Pinax Symposion software used to create the US PyCon 2011 website, as well as DjangoCon 2011 and PyOhio 2011. This will allow us to soon start enabling many of the same features as those websites, most importantly the talk schedule.

Thanks go to Glen Zangirolami of Houston for all the technical setup of putting this site together, including creating developer environment VirtualBox machines to make it easy for others to contribute and test changes. Let us know if you're interested in helping out!

The code for the new website is in the PyTexas organization on GitHub. If you're interested in contributing, let me know and I'll add you to the team. We can help you get the development environment set up.

Currently I'm the primary maintainer of the page content of the new site, as well as the blog and the wiki. I need help! There's a lot of info about PyTexas which I simply have not had time to post in a presentable fashion. (For example, Snoball is hosting a big party on Saturday evening...that goes somewhere on the website, right?!)

Now the family of PyTexas websites has a URL organization which looks like this:

There is also an IRC on Freenode, at #pytexas.  Hey, and don't forget to join the PyTexas mailing list.

Hey, btw...we have over 150 registrations for PyTexas. This thing is becoming a monster which I can barely keep up with (I have a full time job which is running out of vacation days!). Please let me know if you can help out; there is a lot to get ready in the next two weeks!  I want to have a meeting soon with volunteers and get all the tasks documented.

Monday, August 8, 2011

10 Reasons You Should Attend PyTexas 2011

Registration is Now Open

Please do stop by the registration page and fill it out ASAP.  PyTexas is free and open to the public, and the form takes less than a minute to fill out!  Even if you can't make it this year, please register to let us know you count yourself as an interested party for future years.

10 Reasons You Should Attend PyTexas 2011

If you're on the fence about attending, here are 10 reasons you should attend PyTexas, in no particular order:

Excellent variety of presentations and topics. The schedule has a lot of awesome talks planned. Here is the current draft of the schedule, and we're continuing to work to make it even better. Watch for some surveys coming up to gauge your interest in various talks, panels, sprints, etc.

Socialize with the Texas Python community, and experience the kind of energy and ideas that PyCon and PyTexas are known for. This is a very friendly community animated with lively ideas, and I'm confident everyone will have a great time.

Receive a free PyTexas 2011 t-shirt, which has a great design by Dave Birch of College Station. Here's a near final draft of the front and of the back (the Enthought logo is missing but will be added). If you're a youngster confused by how the imagery relates to Python, go watch an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the groundbreakingly absurd British sketch comedy which inspired the name of the Python programming language.

One free O'Reilly ebook per attendee. You'll receive one free ebook of your choosing from the O'Reilly complete catalog. O'Reilly ebooks are DRM free, and you can read them on a wide variety of devices. Thanks to O'Reilly Media for this generous gift to each PyTexas attendee!

Prizes drawings. So far we have plans to give out print books from O'Reilly Media and No Starch Press.  In addition we'll give away a Wing IDE license from Wingware. However, additional ideas are in the offing; if we have sponsor money left over we might add a nifty additional prize or two. For the latest, check out our prizes page on the tab at the top of this page.

Open Space slots in the schedule allow you to create ad hoc discussions or informal presentations of your own choosing, unconference style (similar to BarCamp). Bruce Eckel has created a screencast explaining the PyCon Open Space concept, what they are, how they work, and how to make the most of your time. It is a must see.  So make PyTexas yours by using an Open Space to create an event on whatever topic you wish.

Sponsor Expo. We have a lot of excellent sponsors this year who have generously contributed financially to PyTexas, several of whom will be setting up booths and tables at the conference.

Lightning Talks. These are five minute presentations crammed together back to back, and are frequently one of the most popular and entertaining events at PyCon and PyTexas.

Strengthen the local Python community. When we come together as a community, we can accomplish great things and provide mutual support in areas such as professional development and networking, fun projects, and general socializing.

Supportive Venue. Texas A&M provides a great environment to meet and is interested making PyTexas a successful conference. Python has become an important part of the curriculum, and we expect involvement from both faculty and students. Their willingness and interest helps make PyTexas possible. TAMU will provide free wifi access, and even allows food and drink in the halls and classrooms! PyTexas can run till 10pm in the evening if we want.

PyTexas 2011 general registration is now open!

Please do stop by the registration page and fill it out ASAP.  PyTexas is free and open to the public, and the form takes less than a minute to fill out!  Even if you can't make it this year, please register to let us know you count yourself as an interested party for future years.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Which O'Reilly Books Should be PyTexas Prizes?

This year, O'Reilly Media will sponsor PyTexas 2011 by offering both ebooks and print books as prizes.

  • Every attendee will receive one free ebook of their choosing (DRM free!)
  • We will have prize drawings for the print books

O'Reilly has asked which print books to ship to PyTexas. Please fill out this survey to provide feedback on which print books should be included.

This survey has no impact on which ebook you receive personally for attending PyTexas--you will pick that out separately after attending PyTexas. This is for our prize drawings of printed books.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

PyTexas 2011 Grab Bag: News, Help Wanted, and Jeff Rush Alert

There's been a lot of PyTexas activity over the past week and I've barely had time to post details about progress and plans. The new website/blog has been an indispensable tool for building our public presence and sponsors are continuing to step forward.

Registration Starts Mon Aug 8

Next Monday Aug 8 I'm planning to open attendee registration; several surveys will follow soon after. Sponsor logos will be prominent alongside the registration forms and surveys, and I'm pushing to get sponsors signed up before that date to maximize the visibility of those logos.

Sponsor News

Sponsorships have continued to build; the money has started to roll into the PSF as several pledges sponsors utilized the PSF payment gateway for PyTexas. New sponsors have joined:
  • Wing IDE joined at the Silver Level and will also be offering prizes.  
  • O'Reilly Media will be offering prizes
  • Enthought, the major sponsor of SciPy, and a significant Python employer in Austin, TX, has joined the roster of Platinum Sponsors. 
The t-shirt design will also be finalized on Mon, Aug 8. After that it will be too late for additional Platinum Sponsors.

Volunteer Help Wanted

So far several volunteers have tested the registration page and we haven't had problems reported.

Does anyone have any feedback on additional form elements which need to be added to the registration page? (Bear in mind there are several separate surveys planned

I could use some help on the Sponsor Descriptions page, which is not yet published. I want to follow the same concept as on the new PyCon website (, which is awesome by the way.  Anybody want to help with it?

Also, if anyone wants to contribute to the PyTexas blog, let me know and I can give you a login.

Overall the new site still needs work, and I have a number of specific ideas in mind. I could use some consultation, as I want to point to the new site, but set up some form of URL redirection to make sure the legacy links pointing to can still go back to the wiki at  My web experience is limited, and time is short; can anyone advise?

Bonus News Flash -- Jeff Rush Alert

Jeff Rush has offered an extensive list of presentation proposals, which we'll all soon vote on by survey.

I'm personally a fan of Jeff's presentations from past PyCon, PyTexas, and DFW Pythoneers events, and it's great to have a wide selection of interesting topics for the community to choose from. Jeff's presentations are often encouraging to beginners yet teach new things to advanced Python developers, and all have been excellent.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

PyTexas 2011 Status -- 6 Weeks To Go

Here are a few notes on how things are going with regard to PyTexas 2011
  • I'm strongly leaning toward using this blog as the primary website for PyTexas; it looks better and has most of the needed functionality which the wiki lacks. There are still a lot of pages linking to the wiki from the outside so I'm not going to shut it down; it still has uses that this blog does not yet fulfill.  It might make sense to point the domain to this blog, and keep for the wiki for legacy reasons. I have already setup and hope everyone can use that going forward when linking to the wiki.
  • The Sponsor Prospectus has gone out, the PyTexas Sponsor payment gateway has been set up, and sponsor donations have started to roll in.  Thanks go to Kurt Kaiser of the PSF for getting the payment gateway set up. 
  • We now have sponsor pledges for $3925, though not all have completed payment. Thanks to OpenStack, BitBucket, Snoball, and ZeOmega for stepping up to Platinum Sponsorship. Thanks to Luna Data solutions of Austin agreeing to sponsor at the Gold level. Likewise, thanks to FreshBooks of Canada for buying a Silver Sponsorship even though they are nowhere near Texas. Fish Technologies of Dallas has also sponsored at the Silver level. Even some individuals have started to donate at the $25 "friends" level.  Not all the sponsors are yet displayed since I'm still lacking logos.
  • There is a good chance we'll have video recordings of PyTexas this year...stay tuned.
  • The submarine battle programming competition will not be ready to run in time for PyTexas, so we'll have to save that for a later event. That means that Sunday can be filled with additional presentations, tutorials, sprints, etc.
  • We have a decent variety of talks planned, and I have some ideas about filling out the schedule further:
    • Workshops aimed at helping beginners and intermediate developers expand their skillset around installation, building, and distribution of Python packages.  I'm confident we can get experienced volunteers to help out running such workshops, provided they can be done in an ad-hoc manner with little preparation required.
    • Jeff Rush mentioned an idea about having panel discussions; a web framework "hot seat" might prove popular.
    • "Open social" timeslots to make sure people have time to interact with the attending sponsors, eat snacks, etc.
  • The draft schedule is not yet posted but I plan to have that done soon.
  • I've decided to use Google Docs for surveys and registrations, in the name of expediency. I have several surveys planned and general registration is ready for testing.
  • If anyone wants to help out with managing the design/layout of this site, or contribute blog postings, please let me know.

Lastly, I'd like to show off Dave Birch's design for this year's t-shirt graphic, inspired by Monty Python:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

PyTexas 2011 Status --12 Weeks To Go

Here are this week's notes summarizing PyTexas 2011 organizational activities.

Road Trip to College Station

My wife Bonnie and I travelled to College Station on Friday to scope out the venue, and meet the local volunteers. Dr. James Caverlee of the TAMU Computer Science department greeted us and showed us around. Soon after, Jeremy Kelley and Dave Birch joined us, and we had a good brainstorming session about how best to make use of the space, content for the conference, options for sponsors, t-shirt design tweaks, and how to provide beverages + snacks.

Afterwards, Bonnie and I joined Benjamin Liles and his family for dinner. Benjamin works at TAMU as a web developer, and he had coincidentally just joined the PyTexas mailing list to inquire whether anyone had started a Python user group in College Station. His timing was perfect, as Jeremy Kelley chimed in that he had been thinking the same thing. With College Station volunteers for PyTexas coming out of the woodwork, prospects for a local user group are excellent.

The Liles made for wonderful dinner company, and they provided a lot of useful insights into local resources such as the city visitor's bureau, GIS user group interest in Python, and where we can get access to TAMU's spare power strips and extension cords.

Enough Info for Sponsor Prospectus

While visiting TAMU, we took some measurements, and Bonnie has drawn a nice scaled map of the space we have for registration and sponsor booths. At this point I have a good idea of what we can offer sponsors, and expect to have the sponsor prospectus ready soon.

Kurt Kaiser from the PSF has sent me the info required to handle PyTexas-specific donations to the PSF, and Jeremy Kelley has also mentioned that his company provides an easy way for individuals to donate the PSF.


Earlier this week, we determined that the t-shirt does not pose problems related to copyright or trademarks, based on general guidance provided by a certain helpful intellectual property lawyer. The design is a mix of original work and public domain clip art, so will not violate copyright. Also trademark is not an issue here, because we are not using Monty Python's name, or logo, or anything from them. To be on the safe side, we need to avoid any suggestion in our materials that we are affiliated with, sponsored by, or otherwise associated with Monty Python.

We are leaning toward maroon as the t-shirt color, since that seems to be the favorite color of Aggieland. I've confirmed the availability of this color with our t-shirt manufacturer.

Swag Bag

We're looking for ideas on this; it doesn't seem likely that sponsors will have an interest in putting their logo on swag bags, since they tend not to receive much exposure post-conference.

Jeremy suggested putting a picture of large wooden badger on the bag.

I'm still checking into pricing and options for swag bags.

Proposals, Presentations, Etc.

With the Call for Proposals due July 16, we still have several weeks before it's time to consider the formal proposals. However, in the meantime, I'd like to find out who is considering putting forth a proposal, just to get a sense of where we stand. Please contact me and let me know what's on your mind proposal-wise.

Professor Caverlee said that faculty may be able to offer presentations, especially since two classes in the curriculum use Python as the teaching language. We may also want to think about selecting presentations about content which may be complementary to their curriculum, if they can provide feedback on any pain points their students might be experiencing.

Please help me with recruiting speakers; if you know someone with strong expertise (or just opinions) about topics of interest to the Python community, or someone who is a lively presenter/teacher, please talk to that person about the possibility of proposing a presentation, tutorial, lightning talk, or open space session. If they seem interested, urge them to contact me about it.

Preparations the Day Before

The Friday before PyTexas 2011, we will need to assemble volunteers to help with a few things. I will be there, but hope to lean heavily on the local user group to help with posting signs, laying out power strips, and stuffing swag bags. We may have student volunteers as well.  Hopefully this means that those of you travelling from other cities can focus your effort checking into a hotel, rehearsing your presentations, etc.


We are still lacking volunteers to manage the prize drawings.

Attendee Registration Site

The registration site works, but does not yet have all the required functionality or volunteer administrators. Volunteers to work on it have not materialized. Jeremy and I need to have a bit more discussion to determine whether it will be suitable for use this year.