Last week, after two years of using and being delighted at the Django web development framework, I travelled to Berlin to meet the Django community at Djangocon Eu in Berlin.
Here are my impressions:
People were very friendly, open and quite talkative, at the opposite of what I feared for such a technical conference. From my previous life in research, I am used to people brought together to present their research material, while not that much interested about others work. This was definitely not the case here.
I did not make any survey, but I think you could put most people in 3 big categories: web freelancers, web agency employees, and students . I did not meet any other person working like me in a company using Django for internal projects, although I think this is quite common. Most original occupation I encountered : a Swiss army lieutenant. And only men except for one exception...
The level of the talks was not necessarily always excellent, but again, coming from my experience of boring scientific talks beginning with an equation, I was quite enthusiastic. That said, this type of conference is suffering from the widely different levels of skills in the attendance that makes possible to get beginner-intermediate level talks (like Honza Král talk about testing) next to quite advanced talks (like Armin Ronacher talk about wsgi). Everything for everybody I guess, but also something inadequate for each one too.
My highlights are not very original : Jacob Kaplan-Moss Keynote, and Russel Keith-Magee talk about the Django development process. I liked those two presentations because they allowed me to get a hint of the opinions of key personalities in the Django community, while enjoying their very good presentation skills. They definitely made me want to contribue and gave me the feeling that the core developers of Django are constituting a well balanced team, where no one is the real star attracting all the attention (on the opposite of the Drupal or Ruby on Rails communities for example). The egos seem to be well managed. Furthermore, their attention to the human side of the problems is really interesting. I heard at leat thrice the motto "We must avoid technical solutions to people problems" coming out of their mouth, which I found quite significant. In my opinion, this makes for a really attractive community.
One final note on the talks topic : I know that NoSQL is the big buzzword currently and I can not decide if this is the case for good reasons but I am not sure that the attendance did enjoy so much time spent talking about it.
The organization, venue and food were all really great. Kudos to the organizers. As I have read on Twitter, those little tables with electrical plugs and excellent quality wireless network were really a plus.
- Like in rock concerts, it seems cool to wear t-shirts of previous editions, the older the better.
- There is a trend to make slides with no more than 5 words per slide, where almost all the space is devoted to huge pictures, possibly unrelated to the current topic and usually taken from Flickr
- Most people were multitasking to death : at the same time talking to their neighbours, tweeting, reading web sites (generally the ones cited by the speaker, but not always), posting pictures to Flickr. It enforced to me the image of the web developper who needs to be able to swallow tons of information daily, and to switch context instantly.
- Twitter is the second venue of the conference, where questions and answers are exchanged during and after the talks.
- I think there were more smartphones than people.
I am very happy that I did the effort to go to Berlin to meet like-minded people in real life. I came back with lots of subjects I want to dig in (Hudson, Class based views, South, and so much more)
In summary, even if I definitely think that those words are hugely overused in this community : Djangocon was AWESOME!. Djangocon For The Win !
P.S.: Remember that English is not my mother tongue. I will gratefully commit all grammar and spelling patches...