Life Of Navin

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Review: Pycon India 2015


Another year, another Pycon India. Pycon India 2015 was held in Bangalore at the (usual) NIMHANS convention center. Keeping in tradition with the last few years, I was part of the volunteer team for the event (Pycon India is a complete community effort). The event comes at the fag end of pretty messy period for the Indian Python community and the last few months have been dotted with tonnes of arguments, unconstructive criticism of community members, widely varying views on how grassroots level python events should be organised (in schools, colleges and so on), and an extremely rigid, unnecessarily bureaucratic approach to things by the PSSI. And somewhere, I think this all reflected on the quality of the conference itself. This was the fifth Pycon India I've attended, and I must say, this was the first year when I didn't have an absolute blast. 

Multiple things were off the mark at this year's Pycon. The talk selection, which has always been a topic of contention, basically took a nosedive this year with most of the talks being either surface level at best, and downright boring at worst. This was perhaps the first time I excercised the law of two feet, and chose to walk out a couple of talks which I felt were a waste of time.

The internet and video recording, which was usually handled by the guys at HasGeek, was not this year, and the difference in quality in both of these was immediately evident. HasGeek has always set the bar high with it's events, and their absence at Pycon was clearly felt.

I usually do a list of my 5 favorite talks at conferences, but the speakers were so dissappointing, I could come up with only 3:

1) Solving Logical Puzzles with Natural Language Processing by Ashutosh Trivedi: Ashu, who was my classmate at IIIT-B, delivered a crisp talk on the state of the art of NLP, and how machine learning techniques can be leveraged to bring together more meaning and logical consistency to plaintext sentences. While NLP was a popular topic amongst speakers at the event, Ashu's talk was by far the most researched and well presented.

2) How to detect Phishing URLs using PySpark Decision Trees by Hitesh Dharmdasani:
Hitesh delivered a fun talk on the different characteristics of phishing URLs and the work that went into creating a PySpark decision tree to detect if a url is valid or a possible phishing URL. Work like this goes a long way in ensuring that people don't get fooled in this day and age where even tech savvy people are caught unawares by social engineering and phishing attacks.

3) Keynote: Education Education Education by Nicholas H.Tollervey: Nicholas, who was one of the keynote speakers at Pycon India 2015, gave a really thoughtful talk about education and python. He spoke about teaching as a means of self improvement as well as community involvement, and also did a cool demo of the micro:bit, which is an ARM based RasPi like system which is being used for computer education for kids in the UK.

The Python logo made from Rubik's Cubes at Pycon




I couldn't exacly put my finger on it, but something definitely felt missing at this Pycon. All in all, there was a sense of too much familiarity at Pycon this year. So I'm glad that next year Pycon is happening at a brand new location, New Delhi. The pythonistas from New Delhi have played a firm role in organizing Pycon over the last few years, and I'm sure that they'll cook up something outstanding next year. Definitely looking forward to it :)

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Prologue

Finally after all these years, here's to the beginning of what was there, what is there and hopefully what will remain!! So here are my thoughts & words -Online!!