What is a Tutorial?
The main CFP.
The “Submit a new proposal” button is on your dashboard.
You might have been pondering a question as you finished reading my post last week. It celebrated PyCon 2016’s more aggressive schedule, which moves the proposal deadlines closer to the date of the conference. But you might have been puzzled that there are now two separate dates:
- Tutorial proposals are due: 2015 November 30
- Talk and poster proposals are due: 2016 January 3
The difference between the two dates is more than a month. Why aren’t talks and tutorial proposals simply due on the same day?
The answer is that the tutorial selection process is not as compressible as the process for talks. To understand the difference, first consider the task faced by the talk committee:
- Talks are completely free for PyCon attendees. You can walk into a talk, decide that you might be more interested in the one next door, and (quietly!) slip out.
- Most talks last 30 minutes — a few are given 45 minutes — so a reasonable amount of solid, well-organized material will usually be enough for a talk to make good use of its slot.
- The primary problem that the talk committee faces is volume. Hundreds of talks are proposed for which there are only about 95 slots available. A large proportion of the proposals are very good ones, and would make great talks if admitted to the conference.
Each talk that the program committee selects is therefore going to be a relatively low-risk choice for the conference as a whole. They will be choosing from among the many proposals that look great, for a time slot that is only a small fraction of the whole conference, and that will not cost you anything if you pop into a talk for a few minutes but it winds up not meeting your expectations based on its description.
And so the talk program committee, equipped with new streamlined review software that replaces the grueling IRC meetings that the committee previously suffered, agreed to try tightening its schedule this year by nearly two months. I am going to do my best to support them!
The tutorials committee, by contrast, faces a quite different situation.
- Each tutorial costs money for its attendees. Last year the cost was $150 per tutorial for those who signed up ahead of time, and $200 for those who sign up on-site. For many PyCon attendees this is a weighty expense, and therefore a severe blow if they pay for a tutorial but it winds up not meeting their needs.
- A tutorial lasts a full 3 hours, split into two 1½-hour segments separated by a coffee break. Each tutorial’s material must use this full amount of time effectively, or attendees will feel cheated out of the full three hours of instruction that they were expecting.
- Each tutorial proposal will cover roughly 6 times the material of a typical talk, which makes for slower reading even if the proposal summarizes their material more briefly.
The tutorial selection process therefore carries higher risk for the conference. Every tutorial needs to deliver something very close to what its description promises — there can’t be any over-the-top claims in the abstract that fail to be delivered in the tutorial itself.
This leads the tutorials committee, burdened as they are by this extra level of trust — PyCon attendees are going to pay for every tutorial they approve! — to adopt a slower and more careful process. One of the volunteer tutorial chairs this year, Ruben D. Orduz, explained it to me this way:
“The number of reviewers is not our bottleneck. The issue is that we don’t accept or deny tutorials outright unless they are truly unsalvageable or already perfect. Instead, we go through each of the proposals, carefully, and we reach out to the authors. The authors are given a week or two to fix things we think will make their proposal even better. Then we go back and re-review them.
“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.”Given these differences in risk and process, I thanked the tutorials committee for being willing to shorten their process from 4 months to 3 months this year, and agreed that they should not try to compress their schedule any further. And so the result is that, for the first time, PyCon talk and tutorial proposals are due on different dates, each as close to the conference as the volunteers on each committee can safely manage.
I think that the difference in dates make sense overall. The January deadline for talks keeps us open for as long as possible to new technology and recent developments in the Python community. The earlier deadline for tutorials reminds us that the best tutorials are likely to be about well-established topics — the subjects that will make safe and productive tutorial topics for PyCon 2016, after all, will probably not depend on software or news that only emerges in December!
To be honest, I used to ask the same question about PyCon myself. Now that I am the conference chair, I have the privilege of working directly with the volunteers who make the conference possible! They have been generous with their time in bringing me up to speed on how each of their committees operate, helping me see the big picture of how the conference schedule is negotiated each year.
And better yet, they have proved willing to accept a challenge: we have made the schedule more aggressive this year, to close some of the gap between the close of the Call for Proposals and the start of the conference itself! I am excited about the results of their hard work:
- Tutorial proposals are due on 2015 November 30, which is 25 days closer to the conference than the same deadline last year.
- Talk proposals are due on 2016 January 3, which is 59 days closer to the conference than last year — an improvement of nearly two months!
It would have been less risky to simply repeat the PyCon 2015 schedule over again, so I thank the volunteer chairs for their boldness here. In an upcoming post I will share more details about their process, and about how you can volunteer on their committees to help them achieve this year’s more ambitious schedule!
But, for now, let me introduce the whole subject by answering the question I posed — why does the CFP close so many months before the conference?
Imagine a speaker from another country who wants to give a talk at PyCon. Their salary is low by United States standards. They might have a hard time obtaining a visa. If the Python Software Foundation wants its flagship international conference to be able to welcome speakers from all over the world, what constraints does that place upon the schedule?
Unless we are going to ask speakers to undertake personal financial risk for the mere chance of getting to attend and speak, PyCon will operate under three constraints:
- International speakers are one of the constituencies we try to serve through our Financial Aid program, so after we announce PyCon’s schedule of accepted talks, tutorials, and posters, the speaker will need time to turn around and apply for Financial Aid.
- We will then need time to complete our Financial Aid process and make award decisions before we expect an applicant to spend money applying for a visa.
- It can take more than a month for the government to rule on a visa. Only once a speaker has received a visa — instead of a rejection — can they risk purchasing an airline ticket and making the other financial commitments involved in arranging travel.
If you imagine that each of these three steps takes roughly a month, then you understand why talk and poster proposals are due on 3 January 2015. January and February belong to the program committee process that chooses talks and posters. March is when the financial aid committee receives applications and decides on awards. In April the government will process and (hopefully) accept the speaker’s visa application. If all goes well, that will leave an international speaker with only a bit more than a month to purchase an airplane ticket and travel to the conference!
So the long lead time between the CFP and the conference arises from the PSF’s goal of making PyCon a conference not just for North America, but for the entire world. We make it the one event each year where the Python community sets the stretch goal of not just welcoming people from a single region or continent, but of welcoming everyone. That means we have to close our CFP earlier than any other Python conference — but we believe it’s worth it.
- PyCon has sold out 4 times in a row.
- We expect PyCon 2016 in Portland to sell out as well!
- The first 800 tickets sell with an Early Bird discount, and go fast.
- If you need financial support to be able to attend PyCon, apply for financial aid.
Financial Aid (Deadline: 18 January 2016)
PyCon offers tremendous value for both individuals and businesses. PyCon’s three main conference days offer keynote speeches, nearly a hundred talks, Open Space rooms for meetings and workshops, and an Expo Hall where you can meet dozens of sponsor companies and open source non-profits. More than 3,000 fans and contributors to Python are expected to attend the conference!
Both breakfast and lunch are included in the price of registration, along with refreshment and coffee breaks.
The two days before the main conference are our Tutorial Days. Each day, both a morning and an afternoon slate of 3-hour tutorials is offered. Each tutorial costs only $150 to attend. (The schedule should be announced by the end of February, and tutorial registration will open up.)
HotelsAvailable: right now, until rooms sell out!
PyCon 2016 in Portland is being held at the Oregon Convention Center, which is within walking distance of several hotels. And it is only a short ride away from several more, thanks to Portland’s MAX Light Rail.
We have negotiated special rates for PyCon attendees — but you must reserve your hotel through the PyCon web site to receive them! To see your options, scroll down to the “Hotels” section of our Venue page. After you have registered for PyCon, the registration page will offer you the ability to book a hotel room.
Financial AidApplication: now open!
Deadline: 18 January 2016
PyCon is among the best values for a software conference of its size. Yet the cost of registration plus transportation plus lodging is still beyond the means of some attendees. The Python Software Foundation and PyLadies, thanks to our generous sponsors, are able to offer financial aid to help make PyCon possible for more members of the Python community. The application is already available, so go read about financial aid on our web site if you want to consider applying for assistance!
Call for ProposalsApplication: now open!
Tutorial deadline: 30 November 2015
Talk and poster deadline: 3 January 2016
Our Call for Proposals is now open. As a community-driven conference, PyCon relies on you to step forward with the talk, tutorial, and poster proposals that will make the conference such a vibrant place to learn.
We need a wide array of talks so that everyone — beginner and expert, professional and hobbyist — can find something of interest in our schedule. We encourage both experienced speakers and those who are just getting started to submit a proposal if you have something you would like to share!
Note that the tutorial deadline is about one month earlier than the talk and poster deadline! Tutorial attendees make a bigger commitment — they pay for each tutorial separately, and spend 3 hours in each one — and so we give the tutorial committee extra time to vet their proposals and put together the best schedule possible.
Sponsoring PyConApplication: now open!
The conference would not be possible without the help of our generous sponsors.
PyCon provides its sponsors with a unique chance to reach out to the Python community. In return, sponsors provide essential support without which our low prices and financial aid would not be possible. Read our sponsorship prospectus to learn more about how your company or non-profit can become a partner. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
We are excited about all of the attendees, speakers, and sponsors that are coming together to make Portland 2016 happen!
Or of teaching a several-hour PyCon tutorial, that gives you the opportunity to lead an audience deep into the details of a technology so that they emerge with new and useful skills?
Or have you wanted the chance to present a poster, regaling passers-by with the details of your project while being able to answer their questions one-on-one instead of under time pressure in front of a big group?
Then know that the PyCon 2016 conference has issued its official Call For Proposals!
PyCon 2016 — Call For Proposals
Everyone, from veteran Python community members to newcomers who might never have attended a conference, is welcome to propose their idea for a talk, a tutorial, or a poster that will help share ideas, technologies, and experiences with the conference and the wider community.
Note that the tutorial deadline this year is earlier than the talk and poster deadline. Because tutorials are 4 to 6 times longer than a talk and are a more weighty investment for the conference, the instructor, and for the students — who pay individually to attend a tutorial — our tutorial deadline this year will end about a month before the talk deadline. This will permit the tutorial committee the time that they need to interact with their field of proposals, while giving normal talk and poster presenters an extra month in which to put together proposals that are as cutting-edge as possible in those cases where they involve current technology.
Links from the Call For Proposal page lead to the details of proposing talks, tutorials, and posters. Good luck as you conceive, write up, and propose your ideas, and please ask us any questions that you find we have left unanswered!
The conference takes place at the Witwatersrand University on the 1 & 2 October, with sprints at JoziHub on the 3 & 4 October.
Schedule highlights include:
- Pragmatic Programming for Social Change by Greg Kempe from Code4SA
- Python in Production -- a panel discussion on deploying and using Python in production environments
- Python @ CloudFlare by Gideon Redelinghuys
- Boost.Python by Bruce Merry, recent winner of Google's first Distributed Code Jam
- How PyPy runs your Python Programs by Maciej Fijałkowski
- Pycon Montréal in 30 minutes by PJ van Rensburg
- ... and, of course, lightning talks!
The new PyCon 2016 website is now live! The conference volunteers have worked hard to include all of the essential details about the schedule, venue, and hotels ahead of the Call for Proposals next week and the opening of Registration in mid-October.
Our launch-day sponsors this year — those organizations that have already pledged support toward keeping PyCon affordable for as wide a range of attendees as possible — are from a broad array of fields that illustrate just how widely Python is used in today’s world:
Our launch-day Diamond sponsor is the Caktus Consulting Group, a Django consultancy who not only supports the PyCon conference but who built our new site! Their designer Trevor Ray drew upon the colors and depths of the Portland skyline for the site’s look, while their engineers made numerous back-end feature improvements that will help our volunteer staff.
- At the Platinum level are two sponsors.
Our launch-day Gold sponsors range from household names and social media giants to small startups and consultancies who create custom solutions for a wide range of customers:
Already listed as Silver sponsors are:
For more details, see the detailed sponsor descriptions on our Sponsors Page. We look forward to seeing every one of these sponsors at the conference.
In the meantime, the PyCon volunteer staff will be busy rolling out new information about the conference every week here on the site as well as on our social media accounts — so stay tuned!
- September 28 — Call For Proposals for talks, tutorials, posters, and the Education Summit
- October 14 — Registration opens
- October 17 — Financial aid application opens
- November 30 — Tutorial proposals due
- January 3 — Talk, poster, and Education Summit proposals due
- January 18 — Financial aid applications close
- January 31–February 10 — Financial aid grants awarded
- February 22 — Talks, tutorials, posters, and Education Summit schedule announced
- May 28–29 — Tutorial Days
- May 30–June 1 — Main conference plus Expo Hall, Job Fair, and posters
- June 2–5 — Sprints
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