Python African Tour and beyond

May 23, 2010

While the Python African Tour (a.k.a. PAT) events are now underway, here is a wrap-up of some feedback and current thoughts about contributing through the organization of Python learning activities in Africa.

The New vs. the Old, again

When you talk to most people, you find that the Python language is underrated or new to them. C, Java, and PHP… it’s okay. But Python ?

Python could get a decent base of users in the medium to long term, if some influential guys in the university and entrepreneur spheres are aware of its advantages and decide to introduce it in their toolset or work environment.

Now, there is hope ; we’ve met guys from this new generation in Morocco, Senegal… and we are meeting others in Nigeria in a few weeks. In fact, these are the people who have been initiators and resource people in the process of organizing PAT events.

PAT Senegal team

PAT Senegal team - (c) DakarLUG

User Groups

The Senegal PAT event was hosted with the help of DakarLUG, a small but very active group of people spreading the Linux and Open Source message there (install parties, demos, and all that).

Seems we were lucky… From my perception, it is hard to find active local geek or learning communities, at least in the francophone world which I am more connected to.¬† Though this might be less true today, with the local barcamps, LUGs and Google Technology User Groups that have been launched these last two years.

Community is key to spreading Open Source ideas, practices and solutions, and if we can’t have local communities I am afraid this is going to be even more difficult.

We are helping to improve that situation ourselves, since in addition to the Python workshop, we have been organizing a camp day for a larger public, with presentations of interesting technologies and development practices.

Tools and applications, a.k.a. solutions

Ok, people want solutions… They have problems to solve.

While we want to not simply consume solutions, but be able to extend and hack around them, it helps a lot to quickly introduce interesting tools and applications (and platforms) to the people.

The current focus of PAT for this includes two domains where Python is really strong:

  • Web Frameworks (Django but not limited to). In the future, we should extend this with the “client” side of things (mobile, JavaScript, HTML5…)
  • Scientific tools (SciPy, NumPy)… for people coming from research departments.
Camp day - SciPy presentation by Emmanuelle

PAT Senegal / Emmanuelle Gouillart presenting Scientific tools - (c) DakarLUG

Sustaining and going forward

Last but not least, we need that students having participated to the workshop become contributors. This means they need to practice after the PAT event, so they need ongoing mentoring and small projects to work on.

One trick is to convince the head of the CS/Research department we meet in the universtity or school, to introduce Python in the curriculum, or allow students to use Python for their school projects. This gave encouraging results in Dakar.

An idea I have been nurturing is running our own kind of SoC program. This is the next phase, and more details coming soon.

Contact me if you want to share more thoughts, experiences, or contribute to any aspect of this.


Jumped in a new job and contemplating new challenges

November 21, 2009

I have recently quit Ingeniweb for a job in an international organization involved in the promotion of cultural diversity and sustainable development, to only mention two of its activity fields.

I am in charge of website projects (in the context of the Communication department). There is a lot to do, the first thing being understanding the context, the way things work here, and the people’s expectations.

As for the tools and technologies side of things, there is not currently anything Python-based here. PHP (SPIP) rules ! Well, I guess it’s perceived as easy and more importantly, skills exist everywhere (me looking in the direction of “web agencies”).
So, one of the interesting things will be to introduce Python, where it makes sense, in the not-too-far (hopefully) future. Anyway, I am confident that will happen one day. After all, it’s not always bad to be ahead of the time. You just have to wait, monitor, and talk to people everytime there is an opportunity. And you might be lucky and convince those who take the time to listen ūüėČ

Promoting Python and Plone in Africa

November 7, 2008

It seems that only South Africa had an event listed as part of the World Plone Day set of local events. As an african, I am of course interested by this fact, and I would have expected some Plone presence in another region. Hopefully, we can fix that for next year’s edition !

I am promoting an effort called Python African Tour which aims at sending volunteers, within the next couple of years, in the different regions of Africa, based on sponsoring, to train beginner developers there on Python and its related technologies. It’s a way to introduce newbies there to a programming language that helps the developer get his job done, as well as all the community practices that help us improve our daily work. It’s also a way to get new developers join the Python community.

The first country the tour will visit is Morocco, in December, from the 18th to the 22nd. Among the possible countries to plan in 2009 are Nigeria and South Africa. Obviously our plans will depend on discussions with local contacts we get, and sponsoring possibilities.

For Morocco, Amine Soulaymani, a developer living in Morocco, and Daniel Nouri have volunteered to participate as instructors for the students at Ecole Mohammedia d’Ingenieurs, ¬≠the school that will host the Python training session.
In addition to the training session during the first 2 days, we plan to have 3 days of community activities: an unconference-style open event with demos and talks related to Python, followed by a sprint that will be hosted in the offices of Nextma, a solution provider doing Python. Talks and sprint activities should cover Plone, with the participation of a PloneGov / CommunesPlone team joining us from Belgium, WSGI / Repoze and ­OpenERP with contributors from Nextma.

On a side note, I have proposed a talk with Roberto Allende for next year’s Pycon to present our ideas and actions to help spread Python in both South America and Africa.

If you want to contribute in any way, ¬≠¬≠contact us through the project’s mailing list.