PyConVE 2012

Here i will put down some of my experience as the head organizer of the PyCon in my country. Also expose some of the lessons learned in the process.

Conferences in Venezuela, some context first:

In Venezuela, we’ve done several big conferences and install fests. For example, the Inter-University Computer Science Conference, and the Latin American Free Software Install Fest. But, we’ve done only just a couple of PyDays y two different cities and some isolated Python small conferences and developers meeting.

The Venezuelan community tries to do at least one PyMeeting monthly, sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t, but we’re almost always in touch through the mailing list, that was the way we did everything for the PyConVE 2012.

Why a PyCon anyway?, the beginning

On 2011 we did a PyDay and it was great, we has a really good time and I had a great time while organizing and running it. By the end of the year another member and I came up with this crazy idea in the mailing list and some other members told us that it wasn’t going to work, but we did it anyway, we thought that was the only way the whole community finally met and start doing something bigger.

Also, we wanted to measure how big the community is or how big it would become, how many people would be or is interested in programming in Python.

So, we decided we’ll do it around November 2011 and we started planning on December 2011. I wrote Wesley Chun to ask him if he would like to come down and speak at our event, he couldn’t make it, but he gave me a lot of contacts who would surely be interested and some of them were in South America. By the beginning of January 2013, I had 2 confirmed international speakers: Facundo Batista (Argentina) and Érico Andrei (Brazil) and another one to be confirmed: José Montes de Oca, from Google, thanks to Wesley.

I promised Facundo and Érico that we were going to cover their flight tickets and hotel, but we didn’t had any sponsor at that moment.

Then I wrote to my University to ask if they could host the event for free, the answer was a solid yes so I reserved two labs and one auditorium for the three days of the event: November 1, 2 and 3rd.

Now, we had international speakers and a place to run the PyCon, but no sponsors and no national speakers.

In the Middle

Well, we were on March 2013, I saw the Argentinians launched the website for their PyCon, we didn’t have anything, not even an Under Construction page and I had a Panic Attack. I rushed to find a sponsor to develop the website, I asked the company where I was working and we did a great job using django and twitter bootstrap, now, we had a decent website and a place where people could register to attend and place presentation proposals.

My co-organizer, Francisco Palm, made me see that we weren’t as bad as I thought, he found some sponsors to cover posters for the event and lunch for the speakers and organizers, we had a place, a website, international speakers and some national speakers already registered in the website, so, I felt better.

Now, the real deal was finding a sponsor for the flying tickets and the Hotel for the international speakers. Érico accepted staying at my place and Facundo was coming with his family, so I needed to find a bigger room. I wrote a couple of emails to several companies that work with Python based technologies and I finally got them to pay for the tickets and the Hotel for Facundo & family.

In the meantime, José confirmed, but it was too close to the event date and the tickets were too expensive, so we arranged to do his presentation via Google HangOuts.

It was about two days before the event when I finally had everything done and finally slept well.

The actual event

The first day, I got in a traffic jam with the speaker who was supposed to open the event, so it was supposed to start at 8:00, and it actually started at 9:30, pretty cool for the first day.

The other two days went OK, just a couple of issues with uninstalled software at the labs, but nothing critical, I got a lot of help from the community those days, they were in everything, if I was tired or left to sleep at some place at the university, someone got in charge of everything and solved things as good as he could.

Conclusion and lessons learned

In the end, we got only nice comments and a very good feedback for the event.

Some lessons we (or I) learned from the PyCon:

  1. There is no need to have a bank account and a legal figure to get sponsors, although for this kind of events it is a nice plus, we lost some sponsors for not having this.
  2. If nobody wants to help at first, don’t let it keep you from doing things. People is more likely to join if things are moving rather than starting from scratch.
  3. There are things that you can’t control, like traffic jams and internal politics or bureaucracy at the university that hosts the event. You have to know it and accept it, that’s the only way to relax if something happens.
  4. You can have a Plan B if something happens, but you can’t foresee everything, remember that you’re human.
  5. Don’t accept all your friend’s presentations at first, save some because always a couple of speakers will cancel late. you can’t foresee everything.

The best thing about the PyConVE, wasn’t the event itself, was the wave it left, now there is people in other states organizing PyDays and doing PyMeetings and promoting Python in their universities, it was a huge step for the Venezuelan Python Community.