By the Numbers
Ohmygosh thank you all so much for coming. We had 152 registered attendees, which included 25 speakers, 2 workshop instructors, 2 keynotes, and 14 volunteers. 102 people bought tickets, an increase over last year. We are so honored that so many more of you trusted us with your energy, funds, and time.
Juliana Arrighi kicked off our weekend with an incredible representation of Bold Learning, encouraging us all to be brave, support each other, and have (secular ;D) faith that we can do it. I also loved the message that these things reinforce each other!
Our Sunday keynote, Portia Burton, gave us a fascinating view into crypto-currency and blockchain, and shared the why of it too - democratizing wealth is a really exciting idea, and as part of that, smart contracts can enact a lot of automated rule enforcement - so interesting!
Scholarships and Community
We gave away 14 scholarships and many coupon codes to help local user groups get to the conference, which is roughly three times more than last year. This will continue and hopefully expand.
Birds of a Feather
Saturday night at the end of the talks, we gathered attendees for Birds of a Feather Dinners. We put a few topic options up there from the Birds of a Feather Call For Proposals, let people put others up there throughout the day, and then people voted with their names on what Dinner they'd like to attend and discuss the chosen topic. This year, we sent five groups to five great restaurants downtown, all of which accommodate a variety of diets. The topics chosen were two Machine Learning groups, an AI group, Static Site Generators, and What I Wish I Knew. From what I gathered, most groups talked about half and half about the topic and about other things, which we love - make friends! :) We're really happy with how smoothly it went. We explained the process in the email in advance of the conference, in the opening address, and again as we organized - repeated information helps a lot, we found. And I think, like last year, folks liked it a lot. It's nice to get out of the conference space and get some good dinner with people with similar interests. And if I can be completely honest, we did a much better job communicating what the BoFs are, from putting a CFP out there just for the BoFs, to giving the same information a few different times, and I'm super proud of that.
Another thing we did again this year and codified a bit more were the Q&A cards. This is something we heard about from other conferences and we liked the idea really well. Last year, we didn't quite plan well enough and they ended up rather a wash. There were a few questions on the cards but mostly folks raised their hands, which was fine but for one exception, during which a particularly inappropriate non-question correction was issued, rather than a question. So we thought a lot more about it and came to the conclusion that Q&A cards have many, many advantages, so we worked hard to make it happen this year for every talk, as the standard and only way that questions can be asked. These advantages are the following (and there may be more!):
- People have to crystallize their question down to under 15 words or so so as to be able to write it down quickly (and we try to give time to write)
- Speakers can, and here's the important bit, review the question privately and choose whether or not to answer
- The questions themselves are better, because of the same need to focus it enough to write it on a 3x5 index card.
- Q&A goes more quickly! This was an unexpected boon of the format. The speaker reads the short question, responds if they want to, and moves on when they are ready, and there is never a conversational nature to the question, which is good - that's not what Q&A is for, that's what the hallway track is for (which we find especially rich at PyDX). Our attendees' time is precious, particularly between sessions.
However, we know it's different from other conferences - a lot of things about our conference are :) So we made sure to tell folks about it. We find that if you're changing up the norms, you have got to tell people the what and the WHY. While we told attendees, which includes speakers, about the format in the attendee email and in the opening address, and also a bit about the why, I find that we did not go into enough detail. Again, as with the success of the Birds of a Feather talk, it all comes down to communicating the same ideas a few times, because people are busy and don't always hear it the first time, and reiterating strangeness is critical for acceptance. Next year, we'll do more to explain our reasoning, because we DO know it's weird!
Speaker Demos and SURVEY SOON!
We had a number of repeat speakers from last year which makes us so happy. Speakers and attendees flew in on their own dime from Austin, San Francisco, Arizona, and a few other places, and were by a rough count, about equal in gender parity. I know I'll sound like a broken record, but I cannot express to you how absolutely honored we are that people want something like our idiosyncratic little Python conference. We'll be sending out post-conf surveys in the next week or so, please give 'em a read and send them back if you have a moment, it helps us immensely. Tell us what annoyed you! And tell us what you loved :)