PyCon 2022’s call for speakers has a little more than a month left on it, so it’s probably a good time to note that one of my past proposals is one of the examples for how to pitch a tutorial (particularly if it’s not a technical tutorial). You can see my proposal here — it’s the second on the page. If you want to see the tutorial that resulted from this proposal, I’ve posted the script and video of the tutorial on my site.
As someone who regularly submits talks to technical conferences that aren’t really focused on technology, I found the feedback from this proposal especially helpful for future talks. Here’s one highlight that has convinced me to double-down on writing lengthier proposals in order to get my idea across:
We especially liked the ‘audience’ section. The description of whom the tutorial was aimed at was excellent.
Most of our favorite proposals include clear learning goals (showing us what the audience will learn, and giving them motivation to attend). This one provides additional details, unique to the format of the tutorial itself:
“Attendees will have at least one writing sample they can share and will be better equipped to write and test their own materials, as well as evaluate others’ writing. They’ll also know about opportunities to share their writing with other pythonistas.”
I hope these materials serve as an inspiration for Python speakers, especially anyone considering putting in a talk that focuses less on the programming language itself and more on the context in which we use it.
And if you need ideas for topics that would make great talks in 2022, here are a list of ideas pulled from various Twitter threads I’ve posted over the years and updated as needed (2021, 2020, 2019, 2018). These talk ideas are, of course, not vetted by PyCon staff and are just talks I want to watch.
- Most of us have spent almost two years thinking about COVID vaccines almost constantly. Some places have done well at distribution, some are struggling. If you’re building or using Python tools to help with the vaccination effort, tell the rest of us. If there’s still work to be done, tell us about it so we can help.
- If you have any scripts or tools that make living a socially-distanced life easier, I think a lot of people are still looking for ways to make remote everything easier.
- A talk about writing Python with minimal internet access or writing programs for users with minimal internet access may seem like a counterintuitive idea. But many folks have precarious internet access, and the continuing pandemic leaves those folks with fewer opportunities to go elsewhere for better access.
- I’m not sure what the highest number of types of pythons you can reference in one talk, but I’ve seen some herpetology tools written in Python and there’s a giant prehistoric snake with the taxonomic name _Montypythonoides riversleighensis_. There’s a lot of material there.
- Was there some nuance about Python you struggled with this year? Write up an explanation — I promise that if you struggled with a Python concept, some other Pythonista has too!
- Are you working on one of the many elections happening in 2022? Empower your fellow Python programmers to take their skills and get involved in the political process.
- We need to talk about prisontech and how much technology works goes into maintaining white supremacy if we want to have even a chance of reducing structural racism.
- Las PyCon Charlas será un track de charlas en español abierto a toda la comunidad que tendrá lugar en la PyCon US. Si hablas español, ¿por qué no envías una propuesta de charla?
- With the current wave of unionization at a variety of tech companies, it’s time to talk about organizing in tech communities. Some folks may be starting out with collective action, so both introductory talks and more advanced materials are good.
- This is more a general topic for programmers, rather than just Pythonistas, but how about a talk on dealing with old computer hardware. Programs like Portland’s Free Geek do phenomenal work getting technology in the hands of those who need it, like students going to school remotely.
- As responsible consumers of data, why do we not talk more about how we dispose of data? Storage space may not be an issue, but privacy definitely is!
- Programmers need more education on how to mitigate climate change factors. Honestly, all I know off the top of my head is that Bitcoin produces more carbon emissions than the entire country of Argentina.
- What do you do if you discover that your employer provides, say, a connected thermostat to a client you don’t like, for instance, ICE? Holding employers to ethical standards is a skill set every programmer needs.
- There are Python newsletters, podcasts, blogs, books, and other media. Maybe it’s time to start talking about the Python media ecosystem. What would this talk look like? a guided tour through what’s out there? a discussion on how the different bits interact? There are so many options!
- Based on unfortunate mistakes that were made, possibly at my desk, I’d love to hear more from experienced folks on how to interact with other people’s projects in ways that won’t overwhelm a server or break other stuff. i.e. how to use an API run by a nonprofit with an all volunteer tech team.
- Fundraising for open source projects has changed dramatically in the last two years. PyCon, for instance, is usually the PSF’s main fundraiser. If you’ve successfully raised money for an open source project in the last year, we’d all appreciate you sharing with the rest of us.
- I have a dream of PyCon hosting its own fashion show some day. We deserve it. And Nina Zakharenko’s earrings deserve to be on the runway.
- What’s the absolute weirdest hardware you’ve gotten Python to run on? Currently, I think the Furby is a standout but I bet y’all can surprise me.
- If you struggled to learn any concept related to Python, consider giving a talk about that concept — I can guarantee that if you struggled with something, other folks in the Python community struggled too!
- I’ve seen dozens of tarot and astrology apps at this point. Getting a developer’s perspective of building systems that (I assume) need to work in an element of chance or intuition world make for an amazing talk.
- I’m getting kind of tired of talks on automation scripts for businesses. How about some household automation scripts? Did you write a script for generating a shopping list or managing chores?
- Have you tweaked Python IDEs & other programming tools to make programming in Python accessible? In the past, talks covered tools for programmers with low vision and teaching Python in ASL, but there must be other accessibility hacks worth sharing.
- I have seen some truly amazing Python-driven sensors for temperature, moisture, and other environmental factors. I have to believe someone has put them all together into an amazing gardening system. If you are that person, you should tell the rest of us how to do the same!
- I’ve heard more than once that Python is used on every continent, but what exactly are Antarctic Python users up to? That’s a talk I’d listen to, for sure!
- I think every conference organizer has seen several versions of “How to make your first contribution to open source”, so it’s time for talks about how to make your second, or third, or hundredth contribution to open source. Tell us what comes next.
- There are plenty of talks out there about programming with security in mind, but it’s a struggle to find anything about programming with privacy in mind. We have a responsibility to keep users’ information private, so we need tools and techniques to ensure that privacy.
- Finding data sets to train machine learning projects on can have unintended consequences. Any ML enthusiasts out there who can explain what to look for when choosing data sets?
- If we’re honest, we could all probably use a talk on how to create bug reports that will actually result in fixes.
- We clearly need a Python game arcade during the conference. I will happily bring a bunch of quarters if someone brings the games.
- Python has been deployed to help during several recent emergencies. What’s it like to use Python in those scenarios? Is there anything you’d do differently or wish you had in your toolbox?
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has this lovely open data discovery portal. Let’s talk about the weather (especially the growing number of extreme weather events).
- There’s one poster that I would love to see: a guide to what Python programmers are expected to know at different experience levels, at least in terms of what hiring managers are looking for.
- Building a Python app can be a matter of hours — but scaling that same app could take the rest of your life. If you’ve gone through the process, please let the rest of us learn from your experience.
- IoT / connected devices have enabled a lot of people to customize their homes to better suit their needs, like by using lights to create visual warnings for folks who can’t afford fully accessible alarms. Talk us through what that sort of project entails.
- Given Python’s educational usage, we may need to spend more time on Python’s user experience. I’m not sure if this topic would be best as a talk or as an open space.
- Several open source communities have experienced controversies over limiting the use of their work based on ethical concerns. It seems worth discussing what ethical concerns Python contributors have, as well as what Pythonic ethics might look like.
- Using Python to change your online browsing experience (i.e., filtering out abusive content on reddit) could make for a great talk.
- I would love to know how to effectively assess libraries and frameworks when choosing how to build a project. How do you vet tools so you avoid components that won’t be supported a year from now?
- Can someone demo some hiring exercises that don’t require whiteboarding? Ideally those exercises can actually show an applicant’s Python skills without asking for an unreasonable amount of work, but I don’t want to be, you know, too optimistic.
- We have about a decade left to make meaningful progress on climate change. Are there any projects out there that require Pythonic assistance? Talk us through the onboarding process and then maybe set up a sprint on that project.
- I continue to maintain that not enough programmers are terrified by the words “intercalary periods.” Time zones aren’t anywhere near the only difficulties in implementing time into code worthy of a talk.
- How we got to Python 3: I don’t think I’m the only one who likes a good code archaeology talk, so an overview of how Python has evolved over the past 20 odd years could be awesome.
- Python for writers (fiction and otherwise) could be an awesome talk. I could see coming at this topic from a couple of different ways, like dissecting some of the scripts writers have shared on GitHub.
- How to improve search in your projects, especially when you’ve scrapped a giant pile of websites, PDFs, or other data and that pile is just sitting there, silently judging you for not already working with it.
- I’m sure someone out there is going to be running 2.7 for years to come, so talks about maintaining and using legacy code are great. If you’ve got any particularly well-aged code still in production, tell us about what it takes to keep that code working. (I have literally written a short story about the consequences of running 2.7 for far too long, so I’m obviously thinking about this topic a lot.)
- Could someone with experience in anonymizing data sit us all down and talk about how to anonymize data and what potential issues we need to look out for?
- Okay, I’m pretty sure that most conferences don’t want talks about gambling, but I did read an interesting paper about predictive modeling for horse racing and there’s definitely a talk in there. Maybe stay away from talking about betting and focus on the math and horses.
- How to triage and understand Python code bases someone else wrote. Honestly, I could probably use some advice about understanding the code Past Me wrote, too.
- How to do due diligence on an open source project before using it: There are definitely security factors we need to think about, but we also need to talk more about project sustainability and deciding if it’s worth supporting projects with questionable approaches to inclusion.
- While a lot of us use GitHub, there are other version control apps out there (including other git-based options). When does it make sense to use other options for Python projects and is it important to reduce reliance on a single app?
- Python in a hurry: what tools and techniques can help get something / anything into production? But you’ll also want to cover the tradeoffs and technical debt accrued along the way.
- There are some serious pros and cons to doing genetic testing through 23andme and similar tools, so maybe it’s time to talk about how to do our own analysis of our genetic history (including using some of the Python tools that already exist in this area).
- I know NASA uses Python and I just want to say that I am here for *any* talk about using Python to launch stuff into space. (Non-NASA space talks are also super cool.)
- What’s the life cycle of a Python library? What should we know before we decide to create new libraries? (Bonus points if your slide deck illustrates concepts using the life cycle of a python!)
- Benchmarking the different hosting options for Python-based projects would make a great poster session topic (and I would probably ask for a copy of that poster for my office).
- Software testing on a shoestring budget would be great. There have been a lot of “Python for activism!” talks lately, but one of the results have been some projects thrown over the wall without any testing, because testing seems hard and expensive.
- Another technology archeology idea: what old hardware can you get running with a more modernish interface? And let’s go old-school: if you have access to, say, a Jacquard loom, what can you do with it with a modern programming language?
- Building local mapping systems, especially in ways where data can be shared. As a for instance, being able to map warming shelters (especially the informal ones, like churches) as they open and close in real time would be so useful during freezing temperatures.
- Anyone with a generative art project should write it up, in my opinion. First, because all conferences need more art. Second, because there is some AMAZING art coming out of human / tech combos right now.
- Augmented reality is a thing right now. There are amazing museum installations (more art!), accessibility upgrades, etc. out there that we’re not seeing a lot of in talks yet. (I’ve seen several “I made an app for other techbros!” talks, so anything else really would be nice.)
- One take on the standard “make your API actually useable” talk I’d love to watch: how to prep your API to work with platforms like IFTTT or Zapier. What does it entail behind the scenes and how many different ways do users find to break things?
- Building Python tools for non-programmers would be a useful talk. I’ve seen a couple of great PyQt walkthroughs, for instance, that could really be followed up with another talk on how people actually use GUIs after they’re built, necessary upgrades, unexpected edge cases etc.
- Oooh, someone could totally do a talk on code review best practices, especially around what parts can be automated and what bits a human needs to do. If you’ve got some ideas for adding empathy to code reviews (especially for the bits that are automated), that would be great!
- There’s some really interesting technology built around religious needs (often with Python). For instance, some Orthodox Jewish business owners take down their websites for the length of the Sabbath. Kosher technology is fascinating and talk-worthy.
- I’m so here for data spelunking talks, especially from data journalists. Had to go to absurd lengths with a FOIA request, munge together data sets from old scans, or otherwise work with dubious data? What’s your workflow?
- Would someone please give a talk with “How to Teach Your Daughter to Code” as the first slide and “Exactly the way you’d teach your other children to code” as the second? You could follow it up with an actual talk or submit it as a lightning talk.
- I’m not sure what the oldest Python code still in use is, but if anyone’s running software using, say, Python 2.0, what does it take to keep that kind of well-aged software up? Even better if you didn’t write the code initially and had to read the previous programmer’s mind.
- There are tons of talks on building tools to track and improve health, but very few on tracking and improving mental health. I don’t believe for a minute that none of y’all are tracking mental health data on yourselves, so put in a talk if you’re comfortable talking about it.
- If anyone is hardening systems using Python to prepare for natural disasters (or man-made disasters, as the case may be), that’s definitely a thing you should put in a talk on.
- I’m always in favor of community-specific trainings about how to work with the community’s code of conduct. Ally and bystander training around PyCon’s Code of Conduct would be particularly nice.
- Python has impacted how a bunch of other programming languages have evolved. A talk on those impacts in other languages, along with an exploration of anything those languages have improved upon would be super interesting.
- There are entire series of books dedicated to using what you know about one programming language to learn another. What about a talk that uses the same approach to introduce a couple of Python frameworks? What do they have in common? How do they work differently?
- How about an intro to building linters? Maybe some best practices, tips on making linters more accessible, that sort of thing?
- An annotated discussion of all the Monty Python jokes in the Python language, especially for everyone who did not grow up with the antics of said comedians.
So you have 75 ideas to get you started and roughly a month to write your proposal. What are you waiting for?