Wednesday, February 29, 2012

PyCon on The Charles: Night 2

We had the 2nd night of PyCon rehearsals tonight at the Boston Python Meetup and it was my turn to practice. My PyCon talk is Stop Writing Classes. The talk presents some examples of code that were overly complicated and how I refactored or avoided them completely. Five years ago I couldn't have given this talk because it would have been just a spleen cleaning list of things I found icky but couldn't describe. After many years of forcing myself to write constructive things in code reviews I know better why those things are icky.

I was supposed to go first but there were, of course, A/V problems[1]. I've used that same laptop in the same room before but this time - no dice. Anytime I changed slides the sound would blurp static and the picture would drop; I got a curious tingling in my hand when I power cycled the machine. Then I was supposed to go second and this time I plugged the laptop into the same ground as the projector - still no dice. Last and finally I was supposed to go third: this time with my slides (they're HTML!) on Ned's laptop which had faithfully delivered his own talk (in HTML!) Pragmatic Unicode, or, How do I stop the pain?. No. Fucking. Dice. But then he restarted his laptop a couple times and it was gravy from then on.

The official format for the event is that speakers will deliver their talk as-prepared for PyCon. For speakers that feel most comfortable delivering their talks as-prepared this is very useful rule (Ned is a beautiful fscking machine at delivering his talks as planned). For speakers that deliver their talks more ad-hockily the official format is weakened or ignored; last week Glyph gave his first best guess as a talk, and this week..

To say I spent little prep time on my talk would be unfair. To say I spent just 4 hours reformatting my research notes into a talk would be completely fair. As it usually happens I presented my notes as a talk while speaking extemporaneously [first drafts happen].

I panicked a bit when I had gone through 16/20 slides in *only ten minutes*. I had four slides left [two of which I knew I didn't really like] and fifteen minutes to fill. Two minutes a slide is a pretty good rule-of-thumb and I'd completely blown it. At this point I told all the stories about the first 75% of the slides (many of those stories were about redemption) and then reiterated a dozen times in a dozen ways why simpler things were both simpler and better. The laughs and nods were contagious and I hit my 25 minutes.

So, as in past years of dress rehearsals I learned something. And now I will get on with the usual thing of compulsively rehearsing and rewriting the talk until it is good enough that I think it won't be wasting other people's time. 40+ hours of rehersals and rewrites. Mostly because I love you guys and partly because I don't want to suck.

[1] There was a guy who complained that the A/V problems were easily avoided and as such were cutting into his personal time (his personal time attending an event with free talks, free pizza, and free beer). Multiple people reminded him that volunteers shall not be questioned[2], and many more people privately offered that they would drop the guy if he complained twice[3].
[2] Ned & Jessica.
[3] Oh, everybody but him.