Yes, I flew to Dublin again, following my previous week at the Dublin Marathon. I’m not sure why I am so drawn to Dublin, but it’s true that this was my fourth time to the city. This time, I went there for PyCon Ireland 2023.
It was a great experience, though the time was too short due to weekend chores.
My first time there was in 2019 and it was hosted at the same venue. I was glad to see
old familar and new faces at the conference.
It is hosted over a 2-day period, and most of the time, two talk and workshop sessions were run in parallel. The topics still cover the following technical areas
- Core Python
- Machine Learning
- Data Analysis
The organiser fought hard to strike a balance across various backgrounds of attendees, so a diverse range of topics was included. For example, one of the keynote talks was “Child Prodigies and 6 Figure Salaries? Discussing Realist Methods and Goals in Python Education” - 6 figure salary is the highlight of the day.
Pizza night still remained on the first conference day for attendees to network, while it seems that the pub quiz night was too exhausting either for the organiser to host, or the attendees to ponder after a long day with beers. At least, I can avoid the faux pas moments of being brain-teased.
Observations in PyCon Ireland 2023
1. Still Machine Learning But Also LLM
Machine Learning remains a hot topic at most PyCon events. Thanks to OpenAI and ChatGPT, NLP and LLM have started to dominate. Apart from talks, the NLP workshop was quite full as well. I must admit that I am one of those rushing to this new gold mine.
A 2020 report showed Dublin ranked as the top European Headquarters location per capita. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to often encounter with engineers from FAANG or other multinational corporations. Although Ireland is no longer considered a tax heaven under the new BEPS 2.0, an English speaking capital still attracts a diverse background of engineers.
3. Not Solely Software
An interesting trend is that several talks and workshops focused on Python in cloud service and Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC). When I spoke with some attendees, I learnt that one of the common use cases is Python scripts in AWS Lambda. Many reflected that they now shoulder more responsibilities in cloud deployment and infrastructure than before. This aligns with my understanding that the trend in software engineering is - software is no longer the plat in the menu. The term “application” has been replaced by “service”, indicating a full stack in the correct infrastructure. But, why still AWS? To be fair, why are GCP and MS Azure less mentioned in PyCons?
4. No more PowerPoint
Honestly, I dislike M***t’s products, so I am pleased to see no one using PowerPoint for their presentations. Now, the speakers have adapted better alternative to PowerPoint. These alternatives are more powerful and engaging than the dull and tedious PPTX. I used a product derived from RemarkJS and it still excels in both presentation and editing. So, please, let’s not use PPTX anymore, especially when Google Slides is available for free.
Live Conferences Go Virtual?
It is my first live PyCon after the pandemic. I recall the PyCon IE team running a successful 24-hour virtual PyCon, called PyJamas, in 2020. A few PyCons, e.g. PyCon SG, seem frozen in the history of 2019. I spoke with a few organisers, and they mentioned the difficulty of securing enterprise sponsorships post-pandemic. Not to mention, most corporations are relunctant to open their offices to host these public events, even when the office are at least half-empty on Fridays. Do most live conferences move to virtual formats due to lack of funding? Or, are the enterprises cutting their conference sponsorship budgets as they observe a trend towards staying online? It is a chicken-and-egg question.