Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PSF Community Awards

A little-publicized feature of this year's PyCon was the first ever PSF Community Awards. One of the issues with being a Foundation of part-timers is that sometimes we do something important without finding a way to give it the right prominence. If I were able to borrow Guido's time machine and go round PyCon again these awards would have been made in front of the first keynote speech.

Even the recipients of the awards were blissfully unaware of their elevated status until our outgoing Chairman, Stephan Deibel, informed them by email. So let me list these unsung heroes (in alphabetical order). If you have benefited by their work it would be nice if you could find time to add a (short) comment to this post to let them know how much their hard work is appreciated.

Matthew Dixon Cowles Matthew has been a tireless (and unfailingly polite) responder to the many users of python-help list, used by those seeking assistance not readily available through other channels. This assistance covers not only elementary questions but also quite advanced ones. Matthew has been a member of the Python community for many years, patiently answering questions and enlightening those who seek to get more out of the Python language.

Brad Knowles Brad has managed the e-mail since I can remember, and it's down to him that our lists and newsgroups are so blissfully free of spam. It's hard to appreciate the sheer volume of mail that Brad handles, and he is fiercely defensive of our domain's status on the Internet. Keeping the e-mail flowing is essential not just to the PSF but also to all the users of mailing lists and newsgroups. Brad does all this not because he is a big Python user, but because it needs to be done. This is the community service ethic at its best.

Peter Kropf and Martin Thomas Peter and Martin are probably best known to those people who want to employ Python programmers, as they have jointly been almost the sole workforce behind the Python Job Board for the last several years. The fact that the Job Board exists, and is available free of charge to anyone looking to hire people with Python skills, is possibly more central to Python's rise in popularity than we appreciate. PyCon chairman David Goodger paid tribute to the Job Board as helping him out of unemployment in his opening remarks this year, and I know there are dozens if not hundreds of others who should be similarly grateful to Peter and Martin.

We should also not overlook those who answer the elementary questions we get on the python-tutor mailing list. The list is often overlooked by the more advanced Python users, but this is where anyone can come and get their first questions about Python answered (and often learn programming along the way). The friendly courtesy they meet there sets the tone for future Python community interactions, which may be one reason why comp.lang.python has such a reputation for courtesy. Apologies to the python-tutor list members for an earlier mistaken attribution of Matthew's affiliation.

The PSF Board has been discussing (and, when I dropped the ball, failing to discuss) an awards scheme for some time now, and these first four awards represent the beginnings of a way to regularly offer some recognition to people who tirelessly support Python and its community year in year out. They will not just be made at PyCon but at intervals throughout the year, and future nominations will come from the membership at large.

The award comes in the form of a free registration to a future PyCon, $500 towards conference expenses, and a handsome (but yet-to-be designed) certificate. Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of the whole Python community, guys! One of the benefits of the awards is that now I know I'll be able to see you all at PyCon next year!

Steve Holden