"It takes a village" the African proverb goes. Nowhere was this as apparent as in DjangoCon. It was my first technology conference and my experience could not have been better. People from the most senior developer to fellow juniors and even one of the co-creators of Django made the experience feel warm and inviting. Perhaps knowing that you are surrounded by introverts alleviates the social pressure, knowing that everyone has a common interest, or perhaps even love for programming also brought a soothing feeling to the experience.
I found several of the talks and subjects interesting, but the best part by far was the people behind the stories. It was fascinating to learn that some people are using Django to promote democracy, others to help those in need by providing them with means to access food, and even to help empower social classes by teaching them not only technology skills but also educating them in ways to manage the money they will earn. Those are the things that I took home with me as the plane door closed in sunny San Diego.
I attended the conference thinking that I would bring home solely technical skills and maybe a few new connections on LinkedIn, but I came home filled with inspiration. It was interesting seeing how people use the same tools I use every day to do so much good for society. It felt like someone using a hammer - the same tool I have at my disposal - to remove a nail, rather than hammering one. It forces me to ask myself not only why that didn't occur to me to use the tool to remove nails before, but also what other ways there are for using the tools which neither me nor anyone else has thought of yet? Simply, it expanded my horizon for what I think is possible.
Another great aspect of the conference was experiencing the conference alongside my coworkers. When one works remotely, meeting coworkers is always interesting. Since one has typically worked with them for some time, they are someone you know. However, there is often a bit of tension. They sound familiar (minus the sound effect that video-communication service adds to their voice). But it takes a bit of time for one to completely relax around them. DjangoCon was the ideal social scenario to get to know some of my coworkers a bit better. I was able to see them socialize, gauge what particular talks they gravitated towards, and sneak a bad joke in-between here and there. By the time I left San Diego, I definitely felt closer to them, it's like DjangoCon helped blur the invisible line that denotes them as a coworker or friend.
DjangoCon 2022 returned this fall as a hybrid conference- both online and in-person. DjangoCon was the first in-person conference I have attended in several years, and it was great to reconnect with old friends and colleagues in the community. I was lucky enough to travel to San Diego with several Cakti, including Ronard, Jason, and Karen, to learn new things about Django and visit with community members. It was a great experience, thanks to the organizers, speakers, volunteers, and all the attendees.
My favorite talks included:
- Nurturing a "Legacy" Codebase: @km_tracey walks through how to think about and approach maintaining large, legacy codebases. Valuable talk!
- The Django Admin Is Your Oyster: Let's Extend Its Functionality: @adriennefranke showed simple and creative ways to enhance the Django admin, including improved search performance and dynamic help text.
- Building a dev-focused learner management system with Django: @sheena_oconnell spoke about quickly pivoting the learner management system at Umuzi to be remote-first during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa.
- AyudaPy.org: From Weekend Project to Key Civic Movement During the Pandemic: @melizeche discussed building AyudaPy.org, a tool for people in Paraguay to find and offer assistance during COVID-19.
- Scheming with CSRF: When platforms manage to break things: @glasnt gave a fantastic recount of her deep dive into how CSRF_TRUSTED_ORIGINS behaved differently between two deployed environments.
- A pythonic full-text search: @pauloxnet provided an overview of using PostgreSQL Full-Text Search (FTS) on the djangoproject.com site.
- Home on the range with Django - getting comfortable with ranges and range fields: @JackDLinke discussed the value and utility of Django and PostgreSQL's range fields.
DjangoCon 2022 reminded me of the value of the open-source community and sharing the experience with old and new friends. I didn't realize how disconnected I felt over the past few years from canceling conferences and moving to remote work until I reconnected with everyone in person. And further, it is challenging to convey the value of these experiences to others without experiencing them yourself, so I hope Ronard and Jason both enjoyed their first DjangoCon experience as much as I enjoyed my return. I heard, "I came for the framework, but I stayed for the community," repeated several times throughout the conference. It captures how I feel about Django and the community, and I look forward to DjangoCon 2023 in North Carolina!