Pycon Sei (17/19 April) – What’s new in Python or how to enjoy a bunch of friends

A few weeks ago, I received the most wonderful email – an invitation to attend Pycon Sei in Florence. Who could refuse such an invitation – not me for sure!







Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, home to some of the most classical maestros: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, Masaccio. Florence where you discover the most beautiful buildings: Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Ponte Vecchio, il Duomo, Santa Croce, San Miniato. At every street corner, you discover some wonderful sights – a statue, a building, a view on the Arno, a look at the street market (mainly leather goods). I could spend weeks there enjoying the views, the food and going mad at the number of tourists! Unfortunately Florence is loved by many people and sometime you feel that you are not going where you want to but you are carried somewhere.

bagIn Italy the Pycon meetings started in 2007 in the centre of Florence and continued until Pycon Quattro – I fell in love with Florence during Pycon Due when Richard Stallman gave a talk at the Palazzo Vecchio. In 2011, Florence held EuroPython – a partnership that lasted 3 years (pretty good when EuroPython had to move on to another city after 2 years). Unfortunately the hotel in the centre could not cope with 1000 delegates and the conference was moved to the Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, a few yards from the Arno and almost opposite to the Piazzale Michelangelo. 2014 saw the return of Pycon with Pycon Cinque. During that year, the Associazione Python Italia with Tinker Garage also organized Django Village. For 2015, they decided to combine the two conferences and produced Pycon Sei with a minimum of 4 tracks: Python, Django, PyData and Odoo. Two training tracks were sometimes added to the schedule. They were: Introduzione a Genropy with Giovanni Porcari; Building an Interpreter in RPython with Julian Berman; Creare la propria PaaS (Platform as a Service) con with Roberto De Ioris and OOP: Object-Oriented Python partendo da zero with Leonardo Giordani.

Alex M

Alex Martelli


Gabriele Bartolini

Lots of the talks were in English. My favourite speaker, Alex Martelli (Google), started the day with Modern Python patterns and idioms first in Italian and later on in English – I do not understand Italian nor Python but to see Alex’s passion is pure magic – all of his body is moving. He is the epitome of Italians, the way we like them and sometime make gentle fun of them. I must admit that his English version of the same talk is not as dramatic, at least not for the technophobe as my admiration is just about the show, the sound, the music. Other good presentations included Asynchronous Web Development with Python 3 by Anton Caceres; PostgreSQL 9.4 for Devops by Gabriele Bartolini; Odoo disaster recovery con Barman by Giulio Calacoci; Does Python stand a chance in today’s world of data science by Radim Rehurek; Packaging Django projects for PyPI by Roberto Rosario and many more.

Saturday saw a recruiting session – it was very interesting to see the different ways that companies will entice new recruits. It went from the big PR spiel to the down to earth approach: that’s the job, that’s what we want from you, that’s what you get from us. Companies hiring are: InfoCert; Zalando, Kuldat, Develer; 2ndQuadrant.

There are no techie conferences without networking and the first event was PyBeer on Friday which took place at the James Joyce Pub. This was an occasion to relax and enjoy the time together drinking, chatting and actually learning to know each other as Pythonistas. To consolidate our new friendships, on Saturday we met at the Ristorante Zazà for PyFiorentina. There you can taste the famous bistecca alla fiorentina – a T-bone steak grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, to be eaten with a glass of wonderful Italian red wine.  Just delicious!

Pycon Italy is organized by the Associazione Python Italia but I know that Develer srl spend a lot of time and resources putting the show together. You can find this lovely company between Prato and Florence. They boost of being a team of developers and design engineers who average age is just over 30 years. All Develeriani are selected through accurate tests and constantly trained to provide the most innovative technologies.


How I became a Python Programmer

Alex MartelliAround the turn of the millennium I was working on a C++ project. I had recently discovered the USENET newsgroups and I spent a lot of my time there. Back then, the life and soul of the Italian C++ newsgroup was a person who answered many questions with long, detailed and accurate posts: Alex Martelli.

After a while Alex started giving answers like “Yes, you could do it like that in C++, but in Python it would be so much more convenient” or “I’ll illustrate the idea using Python as pseudo-code, since it’s so easy to understand”. A seed was planted.

Learning Python

Fifth Edition

During a trip to the US I bought myself a copy of ‘Learning Python’, by Mark Lutz and David Asher – not only a very good introductory book, but also one of the few available at the time! Those were the times when Python bore a ‘1’ as major release number and the Java implementation was still called ‘JPython’.

Another encouragement came from winning the O’Reilly prize draw at an ACCU conference, awarded by my kind host, Josette. I believe I chose just about every Python book they had in their catalogue at the time.

Python in a Nutshell

Second Edition

Alex started posting less and less on it.comp.lang.c++, and started gaining fame on the comp.lang.python newsgroup, where he soon earned the ‘martellibot’ nickname, for the number and quality of his posts. And their length. When I heard that he was to write ‘Python in a Nutshell‘ I thought that it would be no smaller than a coconut shell!

Around the same time several people drifted out of the newsgroup, to resurface a little later on the newly-founded Python one. Some of them are among the founders of Python Italia, regular speakers at conferences, and contributors to popular Python projects.

Guido van RossumA few years later I met Guido at an ACCU conference. I still don’t know where I found the guts of to impose myself at his breakfast table, counting on his being too polite to send me off. I actually exploited Alex’s name as an ice-breaker, and we went on to talk of topics as diverse as build automation and exchange traded funds.

Python cookbook

Third Edition

One day, I received an email from O’Reilly asking me where should they send my complimentary copy of the second edition of the ‘Python Cookbook‘. Now, I am not above accepting unsolicited presents, but I really could not understand why they decided to send it to me. When it arrived, it was accompanied by a letter saying that it was meant to thank me for my contribution. I was even more puzzled, because I’d never even posted any recipes to the online cookbook, then hosted by ActiveState. After a while I remembered mentioning the ‘stateless proxy‘ pattern in a comment to Alex’s ‘borg‘ recipe. I bet not even Stephen King ever got paid that much by the word! It was totally undeserved, considering that I had actually heard of the ‘stateless proxy‘ pattern from one of Alex’s posts on it.comp.lang. moderated.

Years passed, versions of Python came and went, and Python 3k became reality. Now rumours about Python 4 are starting to spread… As for me I’m still a rather sporadic Python programmer, even though I find it an invaluable tool. I even managed to collect a few modules I tend to reuse and put them on SourceForge. You can find them here.

not orginalRereading what I just finished writing I realise that it sounds almost as an O’Reilly advertisement, but all these things really happened and it is a fact that O’Reilly has been publishing valuable Python resources consistently for over a decade. This is not to say that theirs are the only worthwhile Python books: years ago I enjoyed Dave Beazly’s ’Python Essential Reference‘ as a reference and lately Wesley Chun’s ‘Core Python Programming’ helped me better understand some of the recipes from Dave’s ’Python Cookbook’, third edition”, but the people who led me through my career as a Python programmer are undoubtedly Alex… and Tim.

Nicola Musati 1Nicola Musatti has been working both as developer and sysadmin for longer than he cares to admit, occasionally falling to one side or the other. He loves Python because it lets him tackle system administration tasks with the developer’s mindset. Other than Python he has programmed professionally in C, C++, C#, Java and various shells.

The 2013 Frank Willison Memorial Award

AnnaCongratulations go to Anna Martelli Ravenscroft who has been presented with the Frank Willison Memorial Award this year for her outstanding contribution to the Python Community, which includes her volunteer work at both PyCon and OSCON and her public speaking.

Anna has a background in training and mentoring. She brings a fresh perspective to software development with a focus on practical, real-world problem solving, usability and the concrete benefits of diversity. Anna has spoken at both PyCons and at OSCon about diversity and outreach efforts in the Python community and in open source communities more generally. She tirelessly volunteers as an organiser at many of these conferences and is a familiar face at their registration booths. She has also served on the PyCon and OSCON programme committees.

Anna, who graduated in 2010 from Stanford University with a degree in Cognitive Science, was the first woman member of the Python Software Foundation.

Alex and AnnaShe has published several articles and co-authored the second edition of the Python Cookbook with her husband, Alex Martelli.

Python is not her only interest.  At the last EuroPython Anna was spotted knitting a lovely hat for her step-daughter and on another occasion gave Josette a great recipe for sauerkraut.

The Frank Willison Memorial Award for Contributions to the Python Community is given annually to a person judged to have made an outstanding contribution to the Python community. The award was established in memory of Frank Willison, a Python enthusiast and O’Reilly editor-in-chief, who died in 2001.

O’Reilly Media presents the award annually at OSCON, the O’Reilly Open Source Convention. The recipient is chosen by O’Reilly Media in consultation with Guido van Rossum and delegates of the Python Software Foundation.

“Contributions can encompass so much more than code. A successful software community requires time, dedication, communication, and education as well as elegant code. With the Frank Willison Memorial Award, we hoped to acknowledge all of those things.”  – Tim O’Reilly


The videos from the talks at EuroPython 2013, Florence are now available on YouTube. Thanks to the organisers, I am able to show you some of these talks. To start with, we have Alex Martelli’s keynote “GOOD ENOUGH” IS GOOD ENOUGH! As I am sure you are aware, Alex is a key person in the Python community.


You are looking at this video with the permission of Python Italia, organizer of EuroPython for the last three years.

Goodbye EuroPython, Goodbye Florence

goodbye florenceIt is now time to say goodbye to Florence, the city that hosted EuroPython 2013. I would like to tip my hat to the PyCon Italia team for putting on such a fantastic conference. EuroPython has been hosted in Florence three years in a row now, with this year being the biggest and best – in my opinion – of the seven EuroPythons that I have had the pleasure of attending.

EuroPython has always been the conference to attend if you would like to learn of new technologies, tricks and libraries in the Python community through the varied talks that are on offer. Most of the talks are practical in nature, giving you an overview of how to employ a library or system, or how a particular technical challenge was addressed. Personally, I will be using material I learned in the talks on password handling (T. Waldman) and ElasticSearch (D. Matthews), while I found the talks on the use of IPython in the classroom (A. Lehman), static analysis (D. Jemerov) and machine learning (S. Shankar) to be informative and interesting.

The talks were chosen by a community voting process that took place online via the website. As a consequence, talks that have practical value and present information of interest to the Python community will do well here. I submitted a talk myself, which was ultimately – and understandably – rejected due to being oriented towards pure research. The talks that made the cut covered a very wide variety of topics, ranging from web development to augmented reality, from security to education.

EuroPython 2013 had a relaxed and amiable atmosphere. The attendees like to have a good time, so most people don’t take things too seriously. There is entertainment a-plenty to be had from lightning talks, amusing anecdotes between talks, and presenters doing generally nutty things to ensure that they and their products are remembered! I recall Larry Hastings’ lightning talk in particular in which he laid out an ambitious plan to address CPython’s GIL, prompting Alex Martelli to lead the audience in a chant of ‘The GIL Must Go!’

Besides the talks, the hallway track gave everyone the opportunity to meet and socialise over coffee. For the past three EuroPythons this has been excellent Italian espresso that I will miss sorely now that I am on my way home. Many attendees – myself included –  consider the hallway track to be one of the most valuable parts of a conference, as you can discuss material more directly related to your own work with fellow Pythonistas. It’s also the place to meet potential employers, collaborators or business partners (probably the best place in Europe for such meetings, come to think of it). It is always a pleasure to make new friends and go to dinner with them in the evenings.

The PyCon Italia team members have always been extremely competent in the art of putting together and running a fantastic conference. Everything worked smoothly; the website was easy to use – it’s designers could teach a lot of web developers a thing or two – and admission on Monday morning was quick and easy. After that everything was smooth sailing. The conference Wi-Fi worked well too; an impressive accomplishment when you consider the challenges involved in providing wireless internet access to 900 net-addicted computer geeks. The venue was fantastic, providing ample space, along with an overflow room with TVs and headphones for over-subscribed talks; a nice touch I thought. Besides fantastic Italian espresso, the food and wine provided at lunch was great; easily the best conference food I have had. The conference meal this year was an outdoor barbeque. I thought that this was a very appropriate choice of event, as it gave people plenty of space to mill around and socialise. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if outdoor events became a regular occurrence (hint hint) :)

It’s all done now so – sadly – it’s time to say good bye to Florence after three fantastic years. Next year its ‘Guten Tag Berlin!’ I am excited to experience EuroPython in a new location and venue in 2014, and I hope you can join us!


Geoffrey French

I am currently a research associate / assistant tutor at the University of East Anglia, where I work on a historical document management system. I have been an avid Python programmer since 2005. My interests centre around programming tools and 3D graphics. I am the author of the gSculpt 3D modelling program and ‘The Larch Environment‘, a software development environment research project.