What I learned at PyCaribbean

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Python, a relatively new programming language compared to C++ , that’s loved by many, but just a puzzle to others, has always been one tool that I find intriguing. Maybe it’s the simplicity behind it; the short but expressive syntax, the easy readability or just the whole philosophy behind it, known by its users as “pyhtonic”. As a college student and a programming tutor a couple of years ago, I was always trying to encourage my colleagues to try Python. I gave workshops and was always evangelizing the language. Now years have passed and my toolbox has become more extensive and versatile; it felt like Python was this weird extra wrench that I once needed but just forget that I had it.

That’s why when I heard about the PyCaribbean, I knew that it was the right moment for me to take it out and try to use it to fix the sink or something. The PyCaribbean is a conference intended to gather the Caribbean community of Python developers with the rest of the world and was started on 2016. I thought that Python wasn’t big enough, compared to Java or C#, because most of the local professional opportunities revolve around those. Was I wrong. The first lesson I learned, as early as arriving to the event, was that it had a lot of support; people around the world gathered to share their knowledge, experiences, and stories. It was an enlightening experience. I met people from California, New York, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, among other places. Being part of the PyCaribbean inspired me in an almost ineffable way. The atmosphere was so simple and elegant, the people around treated each other with so much respect but with openness, like we were friends since forever.

Apart from all the perks that came from the social aspects of the activity, the most rewarding part was the talks. The event was planned efficiently; there were three different topics to choose every 30 minutes during the day. I wanted to go to all of them but had to decide, and went to the most generic talks. The objective behind my plan was that I wanted to receive information at a general level, so I can apply it to my professional career regardless the programming language. The first talk was labeled as a Keynote given by José Padilla; he discussed different ways to use Package Managers, and mentioned the benefits of using Yarn over npm. With the Node Package Manager (npm), installing packages is not fast or consistent enough, and there are security concerns, because npm allows packages to run code on installation. He also mentioned a package manager for Ruby and of course for Python, and that he is supporting a new project that’s intended to be a Yarn-like package manager for Python.

After the first Keynote, I went to a talk about Click, a Python library that makes console tools development simple. A couple of days before the event I was tinkering with a node.js module called yargs that works like Click. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences the libraries have. For the second talk, I decided to go to one that was called “Why do you need an async web server?”. The speaker went over different cases and examples presented with python but the ideas are applicable to other languages and tools.

For the fourth talk, I went to the one with the catchiest name; “A Python Ate My GUI”. Of course, the reason to attend to this one wasn’t the name. As a Front-End enthusiast, the GUI part just called me. The presenter showed real-time tweets within a 3D-World environment and how he used physics to simulate each tweet, formed as cubes, falling from the sky. Afterwards, I attended a talk about Django Widgets out of curiosity, because I had no previous knowledge of the Django Framework. Finally the last talk, which was the most valuable one, was called “Writing Clear and Interesting Technical Content and Documentation”, the speaker of this talk was the writer Tracy Osborn. She mentioned something I will never forget; “When someone needs your help, instead of sending them to read some ambiguous instructions, teach them how to do whatever needs to be done.” I couldn’t agree more. Finding myself on the side of having to learn something new with some level of complexity, I’ve experienced both approaches and it is now obvious to me that when someone takes the time to teach, the results are evident and prosperous.

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