PyCon Videos Online

Editor’s Note: If you’re training budget looks like my training budget these days, upgrading your skills is something that has to be done on the cheap. Education doesn’t have to be expensive, however. I’m going to try to hit on good free/cheap educational opportunities when I run across them.

Like Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror, I’m a scripter at heart. While I don’t agree with the differentiation he makes between programmers and scripters, I can see what he’s getting at.

I don’t like to code anywhere near the metal. I can grok C if I stare at it for a while, and compiling code from source doesn’t make me blanch. Given enough time and swearing, I can write code in the most anal architecture-astronaut invented programming language, sometimes to the point that it will actually compile. It just isn’t fun to me, and the fun factor is why I code in the first place. I have a ton of respect for, say, linux kernel hackers or device driver writers, without any great desire to be one myself. In general, I prefer scripting languages that hover far above the metal.


Which brings me to Python.

My first brush with Python was an illuminating experience. Many Ubuntu releases ago (Dapper?), I downloaded an extension for Amarok (music player) that would take the playing track and look up the tablature at It was a Python script, and it wasn’t working. Since a python script is just a text file, I pulled it up and took a look at it, figuring I would quickly shrug at my ignorance of the language and close the file - all I knew about Python was the significant white space bit, which I admit to thinking of as a terrible idea at the time. I was stunned to find that although I had never looked at Python before, I:

  • Understood exactly what it was doing at a glance.

  • Was able to look through 200 or so lines of code and pinpoint exactly what the problem was in a matter of minutes.

  • Fixed the problem.

All with no Googling whatsoever. I decided at that moment that I really, really liked Python. When ESRI added Python as a scripting language in ArcGIS I was very happy about it, and it looks like with 9.4 that integration will become even tighter. And it has been and will continue to be an important language for open source GIS software (GRASS, QGIS, GeoDjango, MapServer, etc.). Python is a great language to add to your toolkit.

Whether you are an experienced Python user or you’re just getting started, the PyCon conference wrapped up its week long annual festivities in Chicago last month and has released a ton of videos from the conference (they are also now available on Miro - just search for “pycon”). When I say a ton, I mean a ton - I had Miro grab the sessions I was interested in and it amounted to ~2GB. The best thinkers in Python speak at this conference, and the talks cover every topic you can think of, from testing to deployment to App Engine to game creation. There’s even a 120 minute session looking specifically at “Geographic Information Systems in Python”.

This is a great, completely free training opportunity. Even if you are only slightly interested in Python, I’d give some of these videos a look. You might find Python becoming your language of choice for a future project. Kudos to the PyCon conference for sharing these great vids with the community.