Screenshot of PyCon US homepage

I had the opportunity to attend PyCon US, which was held entirely virtually. Though an in-person experience is impossible to replicate (the last time I attended PyCon in person was in 2018), I found that many aspects of the live conference were still available in an online format. Here are some of my highlights:

Favorite Talks

Like with the in-person event, it was great to learn new things about Python and to hear about how others are using it, through the subject-specific talks, the keynote addresses, and the lightning talks. There were 100 different sessions to choose from!

It was also great to see a lightning talk from my colleague Jeremy Gibson on how direnv could change my life.

You can also now watch all the PyCon US talks on YouTube.

Informal Conversations

The conference platform made it possible to have informal conversations with others by jumping into a group video chat. While not the same as an in-person conversation, I did find that it was easy to jump in and converse with folks in a group. Smaller conversations were difficult to plan, but a virtual call also avoided issues with not being able to hear everyone during an in-person chat in a large room.

Job Fair

I also had the opportunity to participate in the virtual job fair at Caktus's booth, which allowed me to speak to a number of folks about positions at Caktus or in web development. While one-on-one virtual conversations still feel more formal than someone stopping by an in-person booth, I found that it was possible to have engaging conversations without them turning into a job interview.

Virtual Versus Live Conference

While I prefer attending conferences in-person, it was interesting to experience one virtually. There were definitely some differences between the live and virtual versions of PyCon. Besides not being able to talk to people in the chairs next to me, I found the following aspects interesting:

  • I didn't encounter any audiovisual issues, such as not being able to see the screen from the back of the room, or not being able to hear when people next to me were talking
  • I found it much easier to ask questions in the chat, with the speaker present to answer in real-time
  • Q&A time with the speaker was still available after the talks
  • Though attending the talks didn't feel the same as doing so in person, I found that many of the key aspects were still available virtually

This is the second virtual conference that I’ve attended, and I am thankful for the planning that went into making PyCon more than just watching videos online. Though some in-person aspects are difficult to replicate virtually, I'm looking forward to seeing how future conferences will incorporate the virtual experience — perhaps a virtual component is here to stay. You can see more highlights from PyCon US on their website, also the next PyCon US is being planned as an in-person event in Salt Lake City, UT!

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