I keep coming back to South Africa to attend PyConZA. I am from Brazil but I struggle to resist a trip to South Africa to visit amazing friends, the beautiful mountains, beaches, wine farms, great food, safaris, and more.
The South African conference, a conference ran entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers, reached its eighth edition this year. As an added success this year the conference reached an outstanding number of attendees.
The NumbersOver five days – which included tutorials, main conference and sprints – the conference received 255 attendees, boasting 100% growth compared to the last time it was held in Johannesburg in 2015.
The main event counted three simultaneous tracks – plus daily open space sessions. Collectively the conference had 41 speakers, 34 talks, 13 lightning talks and 3 keynotes. The Data Science and Typing tutorials gathered 36 people. Roughly 15 attendees with hacker spirits joined the sprints and ate pizza whilst working on various projects.
Women in Tech ZA & PyConZA gathered 13 attendees for their beginners friendly workshop "Python for Everyone".
Sponsored by 11 entities – including companies such as Microsoft and Oracle – the event had lunch daily, a lounge with really good coffee, juices and mocktails – freshly made by professionals and available at all times – a speaker's dinner and lots of swag in the Birchwood Hotel Conference Center.
If a Python conference wasn't enough, Johannesburg hosted at the same week and venue, LinuxConf and PostgresConf, bringing in yet more attendees, diversity and people walking around with three different badges.
Speakers photo <3
Running a Conference Ain't Easy!Here is what the conference organizers had to say about this year's conference:
David Sharpe, chair of the PyConZA 2017, said:
PyConZA is a conference made for the community and by the community. Getting people involved with it is relatively easy – getting people up to speed with how to run a conference is the hard part. The same team has been running the conference for the past seven years, and now our biggest challenge is to spread this knowledge and show other people the ropes, having redundancy in the committee and enabling PyConZA to move around the country more.
Adam Piskorski, chair of this year’s edition, completed:
Finding volunteers and chasing sponsors has been especially difficult when most of the organizers are based in Cape Town – a city near the south most part of the country. For the next year, we want a larger conference with more optimized planning and execution.
AfroDjangoThe talk "Python Community Development in East Africa" is proof of how the Python programming language and community is changing the world's landscape and people's life. I’d encourage you to take 40 minutes of your time and watch this, it's inspirational.
Joshua Kato (PSF Python Ambassador in East Africa), Linus Wamanya and Buwembo Murshid showed us how they are empowering the community in East Africa through training and mentoring kids, students, and people with intellectual or physical disabilities and refugees.
AfroDjango already has trained more than 3000 people since 2015, from basic digital literacy to professional software development. Projects such as home automation, online learning platforms and an online market for hardware and sensors are being currently developed by their students.
Today, AfroDjango has support from a variety of partners, including the PSF. All of this amazing work has been recognized as "Promoting ICT practical skills" by Uganda's Head of State.
Financial AidFinancial assistance is provided for those who might otherwise not be able to attend the conference. Those potentially eligible were attendees with accepted talks, attendees from South Africa and other African countries (especially those from underprivileged backgrounds) and volunteers helping the conference.
This year, PyConZA was able to provide an amount of R40.000 (about US$2.700) as financial aid for 7 attendees – 2 from South Africa, 3 from Mozambique, 1 from Nigeria and 1 from Uganda, 4 of them being women and 5 being speakers. The organizing team used a points system to reward speakers, giving priority to people from Africa and South Africa. They also wanted to choose people from disadvantaged backgrounds, but the committee mentioned it proved difficult to fairly ascertain that.
The Video TeamAnother highlight shared by all three events was the video recording crew. Everything seemed magical and seamless. The video infrastructure organization was led by Carl Karsten, a really cool Pythonista wearing hawaiian shorts from Chicago, and the Next Day Video team.
They were able to record and livestream three simultaneous tracks using open source software and even open source hardware. The recording interface was so simple that volunteers (including me) could help with the job after just a two minutes tutorial. On top of that, the videos were released on Archive.org and Youtube in couple of hours, with minimal manual intervention.
The Python Software Society of South AfricaThe PyConZA organizing committee created PSSSA – a non-profit organization – in May 2017. The objective is to support and grow the Python community and events across the country, as well as manage and run PyConZA.
Today it's being used mainly as a legal and financial entity to support the conference infrastructure, but the plans are to spread its influence and facilitate Python groups throughout South Africa.
PyConZA is awesome!
I'd like to say thanks to the PyConZA organizing committee for helping me gather all the information necessary to put this article together. It is always a pleasure to hang out with you folks.
PyConZA 2019 is expected to be hosted once again in Johannesburg, in October 2019. I hope to see you there!