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A look at how Caktus Group built PyCon 2015, Libya's SMS voter registration, and more

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Each July, the launch of the upcoming year's conference website is a huge moment for the PyCon team and community. It's a beacon to everyone that another PyCon is on the way, and a sign that the various teams that shape the event are already hard at work to prepare for it. For yet another year, we have a beautiful site in front of us: https://us.pycon.org/2015, designed and implemented by long time sponsor Caktus Group.

As with years past, the site is built on Django and Symposion, a conference management framework in use by several conferences in the Python community and otherwise. Caktus' prior involvement with that combination of technologies meant "we were able to concentrate on bug fixes and small features that make a big difference to the conference organizers," according to Rebecca Muraya, Caktus' lead developer on the PyCon 2015 site. Having been around the block with that stack has resulted in a higher quality site, and left more time to spend on the visual aspects of the site.

"One of the few requirements was the design should have color and energy and something that tied to the Palais [des congrès de Montréal]," Trevor Ray, lead designer, said of our request to include the vibrant colors found inside and out of the venue. Beyond the structure, what happens inside was equally as important to represent in the design, especially the talks - both on stage and in the hallways.


"Fueled by this idea, we focused on creating a design that communicated the idea of diversity, mingling crowds, and the energy you feel while you’re at a truly great conference. We wanted the colors to talk about PyCon, not only the Palais," said Trevor of the flowing snake-like colored ribbon.

Having spent nearly all of my time outside of talks the last few years, I saw this immediately. The free flowing nature of the color stream crossing back on itself, looping around, randomly appearing out of the sides as you scroll down the front page - that's a walk through the halls of PyCon to me. The size, direction, and shape of each color in the ribbon changing represents the different conversations with different groups going in slightly different directions at each step.

"It was both a great challenge and a wonderful opportunity to create a design for PyCon 2015. With the great feedback of the PyCon organizers and the input from the entire Caktus team I think the project has been a great success," said Trevor.

All the while, Caktus has been busy continuing work with iN DEMAND, one of the largest providers of pay-per-view and video on demand services. According to Hao Nguygen, through their work with iN DEMAND they've uploaded 1.3 petabytes of movies into the system. They're also working with the International Rescue Committee, a group which helped over 13 million people affected by humanitarian crises around the world. "Our portfolio really emphasizes projects that are complex and highly scalable since that, for us, is where it gets interesting, where high quality code matters most," says Hao.

One of the most interesting pieces of their portfolio is the work they've done to implement SMS voter registration in Libya. Due to the ubiquity of SMS technology in Libya, where there are 163 cell phone subscriptions per 100 Libyans as of 2013, the government mandated that registration be carried out via SMS.

In order to build the system, Caktus went with RapidSMS, a Django-based SMS framework. "We’ve implemented RapidSMS applications for UNICEF in Rwanda, Malawi, and Zambia," said Tobias McNulty, CEO of Caktus, experience which helped them build the Libyan system that saw 1.5 million registrants across two elections.

Tobias went on to mention how political instability raised the stakes not only for delivery of the project within time and budget constraints, but how that instability led to the need for a system that
didn't rely on in-person registration. A Caktus case study mentioned 78 in-person registration stations having been forcibly closed by violence in December 2013, among the many reasons why an SMS system was needed by the Libyan High National Elections Commission.

"Our software integrates with Vumi, an application focused on connecting to mobile network operators in a very scalable fashion," said Vinod Kurup, Caktus' lead developer on the registration project. The application is built on top of Twisted, with heavy use of Celery to offload their message processing. Deployment is managed with Fabric and Salt. They also got a lot of use out of Django and a host of Django libraries under the hood.


"As you can see, one of the major reasons that Python is attractive is that it can handle so many diverse aspects of the application, from the web, to the SMS backend, to asynchronous processing, to mobile network connectivity, to deployment," continued Vinod. "The combination of simplicity and power made it an obvious choice for this project."


Beyond development projects, Caktus is currently building out classroom space and curriculum for their upcoming Python and Django courses. Called Astro Code School, the three and twelve week courses are heading for a spring time launch, with plans for corporate training as well.

As for PyCon itself, Caktus is looking forward to getting back to Montreal for another year. "Aside from manning our booth, we’re hoping to attend talks, say hello to folks we know, and meet new people," says Hao, so go up and introduce yourself. They're also sponsoring Django Girls and PyLadies as well!

Django Girls Workshop @ PyCon 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A guest post by Django Girls.



Django Girls is a non-profit organization that organizes free, one-day workshops to teach women who have never programmed before how to build their first web application using Python, Django, HTML and CSS.
You are invited to the PyCon 2015 Django Girls Workshop on April 9th, just before PyCon 2015 starts, at the Palais de Congres in Montreal. As a Django Girls workshop attendee, you will be provided a free ticket to PyCon which takes place from April 10th to April 12th, so you can dive deeper into the wonderful world of programming and get to know our amazing community.
You don’t need to have any programming experience - All you need to do is bring your laptop and your motivation to learn. You will work at your own pace in groups of 4 (3 attendees and one coach) Your coach will walk you through the Django Girls tutorial (http://tutorial.djangogirls.org)
If you would like to learn how to build your first web application (a blog) with Python and Django please check out the Django Girls website and apply. Applications are now open and will remain open until February 8th. Selected participants will be notified by February 22nd. If you have questions or need help, please send an email to pyconus@djangogirls.org.
Please spread the word about the workshop! We look forward to seeing you in Montreal!

Within just 5 months, Django Girls has grown from a series of workshops into a whole new community. There have been over 15 workshops in many different countries so far, which have brought almost 450 new women into the community.

PyCon 2015 Schedule Announced!

Thursday, January 08, 2015
The wait is over: PyCon 2015's schedule is available! The tutorial schedule has been available for several weeks now, and we made poster selections a while back as well, but we've completed the biggest part: scheduling 95 talks across three days in five rooms.


It takes a lot of people to come up with this schedule, starting with those of you who submitted the 542 talk proposals we received. PyCon has always been a "what you make of it" sort of event, with so many people to talk to and things to do that it'd be hard to replicate the same experience twice, and that starts with these proposals. Thank you to everyone who submitted proposals this year.

Another huge year for submissions means another great crew of volunteers gave a lot of their time to evaluate them. As with all things PyCon, a mixture of returning veterans worked with a set of first-timers, giving a lot of different viewpoints to bring us to this schedule. Led by Alex Gaynor and Luke Sneeringer, far too many people to name deserve a round of applause for their efforts here. Thank you all!

A lot of us have been saying that we could make several full conferences out of the body of submissions we received over the last few years, and that's true. Since we only have space for 95 talks, which puts us at a 18% acceptance rate this year, the next 18% in line could also be an awesome conference as well, and on down the line. The proliferation of regional conferences over the last few years has been a great outlet for a lot of our proposers, and we encourage everyone to take their proposals to them as well. While it's too late for PyTennessee, which takes place in Februrary, there's still PyOhio, PyTexas, PyGotham, and a ton of other international conferences to come in 2015. It's going to be a good year for Python conferences, for sure.

Take a look at the full schedule at https://us.pycon.org/2015/schedule/ and register before we sell out. The last three events have sold out and we're expecting yet another!

A New Kind of PyCon Dinner: Passover Seder

Saturday, January 03, 2015

A guest post by Stephen Jacobs.
How many of you would be interested in a Friday night Passover Seder at PyCon?
PyCon overlaps this year with an eight day-long Jewish holiday (Passover) that commemorates the Biblical exodus of Egypt. For those of you who’ve never been to one, a Seder is a table-side, family run service with a period of story and prayer, a big meal and a shorter wrap up section interspersed with song and wine. The Seder is a teaching service, so you don’t need to know what to do before you get there. Non-Jews welcome :-)
If we went forward with this, we’d try to hold it at the Hyatt (walking distance from the Palais Du Congress). It would be more expensive than the other PyCon Dinners (Kosher food and wine for the Seder raises the price considerably). A similar one held in San Francisco a few years ago ran about $80 a head, and that had sponsors defraying the costs.
We can’t set it up, or cost it out, until we know how many of you would be likely to attend, so please RSVP here by January 15thhttp://goo.gl/forms/yLp8ExFrW7. If we get enough people to move forward, another post will follow.
Seder RSVP
For those wanting more info on a Seder, try this link below. It's generally aimed at one in someone’s home however, so you don’t need to bring anything, and the usual conference attire is all that’s required :-)
See you in April!

Financial Aid Applications Due January 1!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
While PyCon has some of the more affordable ticket prices around, at rates that haven't changed in a million years, a lot of other expenses go into conferences. For a lot of our attendees, travel and hotel costs add up. For that reason, we offer financial aid!

When we include all types of attendees - tutorial, conference, and expo - there were 2660 people registered for something at PyCon 2014. Around 715 of them registered at the hobbyist rate and 185 at student rate, together comprising a third of our delegation as people paying their own way. Even some at our corporate rate end up footing the bill beyond their entry ticket.

While some of them may be local, a significant majority of our attendees have to travel and stay in a hotel. When you look at where everyone's coming from, 10% of our attendees are from one of 50 countries outside of the US and Canada. Last year, 14 people came from literally the other side of the world: Australia. That's not a cheap flight.

If financial assistance would make a trip to PyCon possible, we encourage you to apply. The full details of how our program works are available at https://us.pycon.org/2015/assistance/, and the application form is available in your dashboard.

The form asks a few questions about what you do, how you use Python, what you aim to get out of PyCon, and some details of your travel plans and costs. From there, our committee evaluates all of the applications and distributes grant awards around January 15.

You only have until Thursday to apply, so check it out!

Looking for volunteers @ the PyCon 2015 Education Summit

Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The Third Annual Python Education Summit, held during PyCon on Thursday April 9th 2015, is coming together. We are gathering some excellent talk ideas (click here to see some of the proposed talks). Thanks to those who have summited talks so far. As with any event, the Education Summit can't be pulled off alone, so we are asking for volunteers. Some of the roles that you can help with include:
  • Keynote Speaker Team: help us identify and invite Keynote speakers(s)
  • Call for Proposal Manager: help us support the call for proposal process (answer questions, process submissions, etc)
  • Emcee: help emcee for our second track in the afternoon
  • Publicity Rep(s): support us in advertising via the twitters/facebooks/etc
  • Ushers/go-fers: help ensure that the actual event runs smoothly
If you would like to help, please contact Chalmer Lowe or Jessica Nickel
NOTE: Even if your schedule doesn't allow you to support through volunteering, please feel free to sign up for the Education Summit to meet with your peers in education to learn more about combining Python and Education.

PyCon 2015 Tutorial Schedule Announced

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tutorials Schedule

After a busy few months of competitive reviews, the tutorials team within our program committee has completed their process and have come up with an awesome schedule… ta da! https://us.pycon.org/2015/schedule/tutorials/
Led by Stuart Williams and Ruben Orduz, a fantastic team came together to shape this schedule, including Carol Willing, Ian Cordasco, Harry Percival, Allen Downey, Richard Jones, and Kenneth Love. Thanks to everyone for their efforts, both in reviewing and in submitting!

Register for Tutorials

On April 8 & 9, the two days preceding the conference talk dates, attendees have an opportunity to attend up to four different tutorials. Each day offers both a morning and afternoon session, each providing three hours of learning split by a snack break, with lunch in between the sessions. Our instructors come from a variety of backgrounds, including full time educators or trainers, authors, domain experts, and in a lot of cases, they've created the project they're teaching a session on.
Each tutorial costs $150 USD, which is a steal for what our instructors provide with these hands-on courses and the materials you'll get out of them. You can register for the conference and add tutorials to your existing registration profile at any time.

Accepted Talks

Over on the conference talks end of the program committee, they've recently chosen the list of talks that will make up the schedule! Work is underway to fit each of those talks into schedule format, but for now, the list of accepted proposal is available here.

 

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