DjangoCon 2009

DjangoCon in Portland, Oregon, is now over for 2009, bar the sprinting, which I’m not taking part in. It was a great conference, with generally excellent talks, and a great chance to meet some new people as well as see old faces from the last DjangoCon.

I’m not going to recap the whole conference, but I thought I’d mention some of the highlights (and a lowlight).

The most thought-provoking talk was the keynote given by Avi Bryant called ”Django is obsolete (but so is everything else)”. Although Avi comes from the Seaside web app framework world (and Seaside is written in Smalltalk), his message also applied to Django. The key point is that shipping HTML from the webserver is on the way out; increasingly, the client that web (app) servers are talking to is Javascript running on the browser, and the data transfer format is JSON. Of course, the Javascript client will eventually have to spit out HTML (and maybe CSS) for the browser to display, so that hasn’t gone away. So this means that Django will be increasingly used to “render” JSON, rather than HTML templates. Oh, and those of us who’ve avoided learning Javascript probably need to catch up now.

Curiously, another talk with a similar theme was the worst talk of the conference (in my opinion, and the opinion of the hoards that were complaining about it on the #djangocon IRC channel during the talk) — the talk on SproutCore, excuse me, HTML5, given by a guy I’m not going to name. (I’m sure you can look it up if you really want to.) The talk was titled ‘Are HTML 5 clients Django’s “killer app”?’, but it was really just a thinly veiled infomercial for SproutCore, an “HTML5 application framework” being used heavily by Apple (among others). Now, there’s nothing wrong with SproutCore as a technology, but it’s not what the conference was about; furthermore, the talk title did not reveal that it was so heavily focussed on that topic. But perhaps the most annoying point was the speaker’s complete insensitivity towards the Django community, in particular those members in his audience; his various derogatory comments about Django and implications that we were foolish for choosing to develop and use Django were way out of line. Combined with his arrogant demeanour, I was distinctly unimpressed with the talk.

Between the best and the worst talks, the ones in between were generally excellent as well. However, I thought the keynote on the second day titled “Toward a new self-definition for open source” was uninspiring. I would much rather they’d used that keynote spot for the talk on “Fighting Malnutrition with SMS and Django”, which I missed, but from the sound of the applause from room, and the positive comments on Twitter and IRC, was a really inspiring and worthwhile talk.

Django Pony attacking Alex Gaynor

Django Pony attacking Alex Gaynor

Of course, any conference on a Python-based technology is going to have a thread of silly humour permeating everything, and it really brought the conference alive. It started with the opening of the conference by the Fake Jacob Kaplan-Moss (actually James Tauber, since JK-M couldn’t be there), which was an investigation into the D^Jango Code (based on some book by Dan Brown) and the links between the various core developers’ names — there’s a video of some of it, which should give  a taste before the official videos are available. Then there was the ever magical Django Pony (seen here at a different conference), who was later joined by the Python snake. The Pony was perhaps the most helpful stuffed toy conference assistant ever, functioning as a meeting place, a decorative scarf or headgear, and as a lightning talk alarm.

So that was DjangoCon 2009. I have some work to do going through my notes, and may post some followup items at a later date. Next up in the Django community calendar of events are EuroDjangoCon 2010, which is going to be in London I believe, and DjangoCon 2010, in Portland again. I hope I’ll be able to put together some talks, or make some other contribution to the community so that I can justify (to myself) attending one or both of those.

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