Short summary of PyCon... seemed much bigger this year. It was bigger, but I think it seemed bigger still. I guess what I found surprising was that the conference felt more dense despite its larger size. Most of the people were pretty well informed and quite invested in Python. In other years it felt like there were a larger proportion of people who were just checking out Python, or would have liked to do Python but weren't able to. I think of them as tourists, and this year there weren't that many.
Probably the location had something to do with this too, as there wasn't a lot of local attendees. You have to be a little more serious to actual fly somewhere; in D.C. there were a lot of people there on a lark. So next year in Chicago I expect more local beginners.
Another thing I like is that people seemed to really be using Python to do useful things. There wasn't nearly so much time spent talking about Why Python Is Good, or How To Sell Python To Your Boss. That's kind of silly anyway -- if you are at the conference, you don't need to be sold on it. But even so, the language seems to be in a much more self-confident place, and the users don't need to spend so much time justifying their choices. It's also good because Python's utility in the world isn't defined by its own attributes but instead by the things people do with it, and a lot of people are doing good things.
Something I've noticed in general is that the term "ready for the enterprise" isn't being talked about as much; not just at the conference but generally. I'm happy about this -- there was a tedious period of open source advocacy when people were way to obsessed with the enterprise. I think we have the Rails narrative arc to thank for some of that shift. Really "enterprise" means "boring and obtuse", which in turn means "someone will pay you to do this". And that's fine and well, but certainly not something worth fighting for, and definitely not what I want to see at a conference.
I also feel like I've self-defined too exclusively with Python. It's a nice programming language, but it's just a programming language. And it's a nice community, but I should be part of other communities besides it. I'm not 100% sure what communities, or what conferences, but I guess I have to stretch a bit more.
If you are looking for another language community to join, consider Haskell.
We are still pretty small, but the discussions on the list and IRC are always interesting and low-heat.
That, and Haskell is the opposite of Python in many ways. So (without applying too many prejudgements) it is likely to stretch your mind more than other languages might.
Personally, Python and Haskell are the languages that have had the most influence on my skills as a software developer. Although, I still haven't learned a lisp flavor, so it might be a little early to judge.# Alan Falloon
I'm not so much looking for another language, as a community that isn't a language. Or a pan-language community. To a degree "the free software community" might be that community. But I'm not sure what/where that community is. I think GNU used to be a community, but I'm not sure if it is anymore. That mission is either lost or satisfied.# Ian Bicking