Thursday, February 09, 2017

Financial Aid deadline is February 15! But what about international travel?

The deadline for applying to PyCon 2017 for Financial Aid is this coming Wednesday, February 15th! The link to the application is on our main Financial Aid page:

https://us.pycon.org/2017/financial-assistance/

Given that international travel to the United States has become a greater risk for many in the international community, PyCon wants to make an extra stipulation this year to try to protect our Financial Aid recipients in case they are turned away upon arrival in the United States. But, first, let’s get clear about the risks and duties of those who are awarded Financial Aid.

For many people, airline tickets and nights at a hotel are never routine expenses. They are frightening blows against a bank account — large, exceptional purchases for special occasions. But what if a person becomes too ill to travel, cannot get a full refund, and the money is simply lost? What if a missed flight adds hundreds of dollars of extra expense that were not in the budget and for which they are unprepared?

While PyCon’s Financial Aid program does strive to make travel possible for a broader audience than could comfortably attend the conference on their own budget, it cannot eliminate the risks of travel. Indeed, its mechanism for delivering awarded funds — a physical check that must be collected at the conference itself — can only succeed for travelers who actually reach PyCon.

So let’s review the risks of traveling to PyCon in the hope of receiving a Financial Aid check, and then learn about the new promise that the conference is making this year:

  • Financial Aid is designed to help with travel expenses, not with your visa application fee. Financial Aid applicants have always been responsible for paying their own visa application fee, whether the visa is granted or denied. This remains true for PyCon 2017. So keep in mind that if your visa is denied, the United States will not refund your processing fee, and — as you will not be traveling — PyCon will not be giving you Financial Aid or refund your visa processing fee.
  • You should apply for your visa, if you decided to attend, right after you receive our response to your Financial Aid application.
  • As you start the visa application process, go ahead and register for the conference. You can do so without risk: we always fully refund a registration fee when a visa application is denied. We even waive our usual $25 fee for processing a cancellation — you receive back the full registration fee that you paid!
  • However, we advise you to delay any non-refundable travel purchases until after you have been granted a visa. Many applicants wait until they have their visa in hand before they even book a hotel room, and almost everyone waits until the visa arrives before purchasing airfare.
  • Beyond those guidelines, we have traditionally provided only the promise that each Financial Aid recipient, if they make it to PyCon, will receive their check. This obviously burdens each applicant with a risk: that if their travel plans go awry and they cannot reach Portland, that they will receive no Financial Aid. They will have to try cancelling their hotel room in time to receive a refund, and ask their airline if any kind of a refund is possible.
  • In previous years, PyCon assumed this risk to be a reasonable one. But we want to make a new stipulation here in 2017. First, if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, then after you pursue and receive whatever refund your airline might be able to offer, PyCon wants to send you enough of your Financial Aid grant to cover the rest of the cost of your airfare (or the whole grant, if the airfare cost more). You will need to document that you indeed arrived in the United States and were denied entry.
  • Second: if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, but used our registration page to book a room in a conference hotel, our staff will personally work with the hotel to make sure you do not receive a cancellation fee.
  • Third: if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, PyCon will fully refund your registration fee. While this is more serious for our conference budget — at such a late date, we will be unlikely to be able to register someone else in your place — we have decided to put the financial safety of our Financial Aid recipients from overseas first.

We hope that these extra guarantees beyond the normal terms of our Financial Aid program will help applicants plan more confidently and will continue to make PyCon 2017 an option for as wide a slice of the worldwide Python community as possible.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Precognitive Selected as Chicago’s Startup Row Company; Application Deadline Extended

On Thursday, January 26th, the PyCon Startup Row hosted its first local pitch event of the 2017 season! Braintree hosted the Chicago event at their headquarters in Merchandise Mart. Lagunitas donated beer, while Braintree provided food and soft drinks. ChiPy — Chicago’s official Python user group — joined as a community sponsor.

Our panel of judges included Tamim Abdul Majid, Marcy Capron-Vermillion, and Keith Vermillion. Our panel selected Precognitive to represent Chicago in Portland at PyCon 2017 — congratulations! Precognitive scans user behavior and other analytical factors to identify and flag fraudulent transactions on-the-fly.

Will your city have a company on Startup Row this year? The best way to guarantee representation of your local startup community at PyCon 2017 is to host a pitch event. We want a startup from your city to join us on Startup Row in 2017. Here’s a kit explaining what’s involved in holding a local pitch event. Contact Startup Row organizers Jason Rowley or Don Sheu with any questions — our emails are at the bottom of the Startup Row page on the PyCon 2017 web site.

Coming up next are a Startup Row event in Seattle on February 22nd, and one in San Francisco with SF Python on March 8th. Currently Startup Row staff are working with WeWork and Big Apple Py for a late-February date in New York.

Coordinating pitch events in cities around the country is unpredictable — originally, we wanted to conclude all of our pitch events by today. But because we now have events scheduled out to March 8, 2017, we are extending our due date for online applications. Our new application deadline is March 8th. Startups that have already submitted applications are welcome to revise applications up to the deadline.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

PyCon Startup Row 2017 Applications Are Now Open!

Starting at the 2011 conference in Atlanta, the PyCon Expo Hall has offered a special event for startups: “Startup Row,” a row of booths that features interesting startups built with Python.

We’re happy to announce that applications to Startup Row at PyCon 2017 in Portland, Oregon, are now open!

You may have questions about Startup Row, so here we provide some basic answers.

How do I apply?

There is information about applying at the end of this post, but if you’re the “do first, ask questions later” type, go to our application form.

What do Startup Row companies get?

We give founders a unique opportunity to connect with the vibrant, diverse community of engineers, data scientists, speakers, investors and enthusiasts who come to the world’s largest Python programming conference.

Startup Row companies get:

  • Free booth space
  • Admission to PyCon for two startup team members
  • Coverage here on the PyCon blog and elsewhere
  • A couple of fun events exclusively for Startup Row companies and the community.

And in a first for Startup Row, this year we’ll be giving our companies access to the Jobs Fair at PyCon, so they can recruit from the same quality pool of engineering talent that the likes of Google, Facebook, Dropbox and other big companies have recruited at PyCon for years.

All in, if selected, your company receives a few thousand dollars worth of access to the best PyCon has to offer, all for free because you’re doing cool stuff with Python.

What are the rules?

  1. Your startup has to be 2.5 years old or less.
  2. Including founders, there have to be less than 15 people on the team at the time you apply.
  3. Obviously, you have to use Python somewhere in your stack. (Open source, proprietary, front end, back end, data analysis, devops — it all counts.)

How does the selection committee pick companies?

  • We strongly favor engineer-founders, people who can build both valuable software and valuable businesses.
  • The technology or product has to be interesting. Are you solving a tough engineering problem? Building a version control system to replace git? Using a new technology in a unique way? Something that scratches your own itch as a domain expert in some field? Great!
  • Traction. Is your company reaching a lot of people, either now or in the near future? Do you have a good sales pipeline? Lots of signups? MAU stats that would make Facebook jealous? Be sure to tell us about it in your application.

Which companies have been on Startup Row before?

In the past six years, Startup Row has featured over 75 companies, some of which you’ve probably heard of or even used.

Pandas, the popular data science library, was created by Lambda Foundry. 

DotCloud (which would become Docker), ZeroVM, X.ai, Mailgun, Mixpanel, AppThwack, and many others were all featured on Startup Row back when they were early stage startups.

I’ve heard something about local pitch events. Tell me more!

Yes, we’re hosting pitch events in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. If you’re interested in pitching or hosting your own local Startup Row pitch event, email one of Startup Row’s organizers at don [at] sheu [dot] com, or jason [at] jdr [dot] fyi for more information.

Currently, we've scheduled events in Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, and we're adding more dates. The Chicago event is on January 26 at Braintree HQ in collaboration with the Braintree team and ChiPy, the local user group. The San Francisco event is on March 8, and as of the time of publishing a venue is TBD. Finally, Avvo offered to host the Seattle event in collaboration with PuPPy, the Seattle and Puget Sound Python user group.

We’ll be announcing the local events schedule and additional dates on the Startup Row page.

Where can I learn more about Startup Row?

Startup Row has its own page on the PyCon 2017 site, where you can learn more about the history of Startup Row at PyCon (fun fact: it started as a collaboration between Y Combinator and the PSF) and just how well Startup Row alumni have performed (another fun fact: nearly 20% have had successful exits so far).

If you have any quick questions up front for the organizing team, you can find us @ulysseas and @jason_rowley on Twitter, or at the email addresses listed above.

Okay, I’ve read all this. Now, how do I apply?

First off, we commend you for sticking it through to the end! You can click here to go to the application form for Startup Row.

We’re looking forward to learning a little more about what you’re working on!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Python Education Summit — in its 5th year in 2017!

Teachers, educators, Pythonistas, come and share your projects, experiences, and tools of the trade as you teach coding and Python to your students. The “Call for Talks” to speak at the Annual Python Education Summit, which is held in conjunction with PyCon, is open until January 3rd. We want to hear from you!

Go here for more details: https://us.pycon.org/2017/speaking/education-summit/

We are looking for ideas and experiences and best practices: how teachers and Python programmers have implemented Python instruction in their schools, communities, and other places of learning.

  • Have you implemented a program that you’ve been dying to talk about?
  • Have you tried something that failed, but learned some great lessons that you can share?
  • Have you been successful implementing a particular program?

Then we urge you to submit a talk! You do not need to be an experienced speaker. We want you to share knowledge; we want to learn from your experiences.

This year, talks that focus on the challenges and triumphs of implementing code education are especially encouraged.

About the Python Education Summit

The Education Summit was started by Naomi Ceder in 2013: https://us.pycon.org/2013/events/edusummit/

The goal of the Summit was to form a coalition of teachers and educators from various walks of life who believe in teaching programming and using Python as a tool to do so. Since then, the Education Summit has become an integral part of PyCon, and 2017 will be its 5th year!

The structure of Education Summit has changed since its inception. In 2013 the Summit was by invitation only — it consisted of three discussion panels focusing on curriculum, teaching and engagement. Following lunch, the Summit transformed into a workshop where attendees could mingle and discuss topics from the morning sessions.

But from 2014 onwards the Education Summit became a whole-day event, with both morning and afternoon talks. The proposals for these were invited via a CFP. Some topics that were presented were on Teaching Data Science with Python, FOSSBox, et cetera.

You can check out the list of talks presented at Pycon 2015. Some that stood out to me were an uplifting talk about Women in Peru and how the outreach activity there is encouraging young women to take Python. Another one was how to use Trinket to create games! There is a recent article on Eliot Hauser who presented this talk, and how his product is now benefiting K-12 students and being used in schools.

In 2016, the talk list grew even further! There were two tracks, and the talks were recorded. A variety of talks were presented. This led to some great discussions, friendships, and engagements that went beyond PyCon. An excellent keynote on the Python Education Working Group and the micro:bit was presented by Nicolas Tollervey. This gave us insight on Python and Education activities in the United Kingdom. We learnt how one can attract younger minds to coding through games, with a talk on Pygame Zero and Minecraft. Teachers gave us excellent insight into their Python curricula and methods of teaching. The unconference sessions that followed further fueled the discussions and filled us all with renewed vigor and motivation to do something and make a difference!

Personally, I am full of gratitude to the Python Community and the Python Education Summit. My participation and learning has led to fruition and I was able to launch PyKids in the Summer of 2016 with the goal of teaching Python to grade schoolers. I have had much success — 7 after-school sessions this Fall with 5th graders, and a promise of new students in early 2017!

We hope to see you at the Education Summit this year. Hurry! January 3rd is the Talk Submission deadline — so pen down your thoughts and ideas and send them to us now.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Talk, Poster, Education Summit proposals due January 3rd — but feel free to submit them now!

With the holidays nearly here, this is the moment to ask yourself: are you really — when you return groggily to work on Tuesday January 3rd following the “New Year’s (Observed)” holiday on Monday — going to remember to write and submit your Talk, Poster, and Education Summit proposals for PyCon 2017?

Waiting until the last minute is very tempting. After all, the whole reason that we worked with the Talk and Poster committees to move the deadline as close to PyCon as we dared was to let you submit as current and as up-to-date a proposal as possible.

But — are you sure that you want to risk starting your first work day of the New Year (if your schedule even puts you back at work by the 3rd!) with a conference deadline looming only hours later?

I myself am adopting a safer approach this year: I will be going ahead and submitting all of my proposals this week, ahead of the holidays. Then, if I do remember the deadline, I can always log into the PyCon web site on January 3rd and use the “Edit” button to make all of the last-minute revisions that I want. But if I forget? Then at least an early version of each proposal will be in the system and can be considered by the Program Committee!

As was true last year, our schedule is designed to allow Financial Assistance submissions to include any Talk, Tutorial, Poster, or Education Summit proposals that you get accepted:

  • January 3 — Talk, Poster, and Education Summit proposals due, as long as it is January 3rd Anywhere on Earth (AoE).
  • February 1–12 — Talks, Tutorials, Posters, and Education Summit schedules announced.
  • February 15 — Financial Assistance applications due.
  • March 3 — Financial Assistance grants awarded.
  • March 30 — Your deadline to respond to offer of Financial Assistance.

One final note: more than 90% of our Early Bird tickets are now gone, with only a few dozen remaining. If you have hoped to purchase your Student, Individual, or Corporate ticket at our discounted rate, then your time is almost up — register as soon as you can, and we look forward to seeing you in Portland in May 2017!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The new, simpler Tutorial proposal form closes tomorrow!

This is the time of year when the upcoming PyCon really starts to feel closer, with the close of our earliest CFP (Call for Proposals) tomorrow on November 30. This is the first of several milestones for the conference that start arriving more and more frequently through the late autumn and winter. Each milestone ratchets PyCon one step closer to its arrival.

Our earliest CFP is for our Tutorials, which closes tomorrow — at the end of the day on November 30 anywhere on Earth. So if it is still November 30 in your time zone, then the CFP will not yet be closed!

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What are the main features of Tutorials?

  • Tutorials are 3-hour-long courses that pack the first two days of the PyCon conference schedule.
  • Students register ahead of time and pay separately for each 3-hour tutorial they attend.
  • We end the Tutorials CFP a full month earlier than for Talks and Posters, so the tutorials committee has extra time to fully vet each proposal and to generate a solid line-up of valuable topics that will repay the students’ investment to attend them.
  • In return for providing this value to the conference, we compensate each instructor. The amount can vary each year depending on the conference budget, but in 2016 we were able to reward them each with $1,500 for the instruction they provided our attendees.
  • You can learn more at our Proposing a Tutorial page, which includes links to long lists of topics in case you need inspiration!

If you proposed a tutorial last year, you will be happy to learn that we have streamlined the form to only four fields beyond the title itself:

  1. The Description is the public advertisement for your Tutorial and will be visible on the PyCon web site — replacing what used to be separate Description and Abstract fields. The other fields below are private and shared only with the committee.
  2. The Audience field lets you write a free-form description of who you think will be interested in and benefit from your tutorial. It replaces the old Audience, Category, and Perceived Value fields.
  3. The most detailed information, as before, belongs in the Outline that you write up for the committee.
  4. Finally, the Additional notes let you describe your previous experience as an instructor and mention any special setup or materials that your tutorial will require. It replaces the old fields Additional Notes, Additional Requirements, More Info, and Handout.

Hopefully the new form means that you spend less time puzzling over what the difference between a Description and an Abstract is, and more time focusing on your ideas about your course!

Does teaching at PyCon interest you? There is only one day left to submit your proposal! Head on over to the Proposing a Tutorial page and get your idea submitted before the end of the day on November 30 anywhere on Earth.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Tutorial proposals are due in three weeks

The PyCon 2017 call for proposals (CFP) first opened about a month ago, and the team who will be bringing the conference to Portland have been excited to watch the first wave of submissions roll in. Exciting topics from across the PyCon community have already been proposed for our talks, tutorials, and poster schedules.

But we know that many of you are brimming with ideas that you have not yet submitted, so we wanted to remind you of this year’s deadlines:

  • Talk proposals will be due on 2017 January 3.
  • Poster proposals will be due on 2017 January 3.
  • Tutorial proposals are due on 2017 November 30.

Yes, that’s right — tutorial proposals are due in three weeks!

Last year we explained the one-month difference between the talk and tutorial deadlines in a detailed blog post that we invite you to review this year if you want to understand why the Tutorial review process takes more time for its committee. Entrusted with the one PyCon schedule for which attendees pay an individual fee per course, the Tutorial Committee takes extra time to make sure that courses are going to live up to the conference’s high reputation. As the Tutorials Chair, Ruben Orduz, reminded us last year:

“It’s a very time-consuming process, but it helps in selecting the best lineup while making sure every tutorial that had potential was given a fair chance. Compressing the timeline would mean only selecting from the top well-known proposers and forgetting the rest. That would be against our philosophy of giving chances to new instructors and increasing diversity.”

So we hope those of you with dreams of offering a tutorial will find the time within the next two weeks to get your proposal written up and submitted. Just visit our “Proposing a Tutorial” page for a guide to writing up your idea and getting it submitted — before November 30, when our Tutorials CFP will close once it is midnight and the day is over in every time zone. Good luck!