Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jessica McKellar receives 2015 Frank Willison Award

Ask any Pythonista to name the best features of Python and they are sure to include its amazing community. For the past 15 years the PSF has recognized this important feature with its Community Service Awards and with a special annual award for outstanding contributions to the Python Community–the Frank Willison Award.
I am extremely happy to report that this year’s Frank Willison Award was presented at OSCON 2015 to Jessica McKellar (see Award Ceremony).
Jessica sharing her knowledge and skills
According to the PSF,
Jessica McKellar has served in many distinguished roles within the Python community: Director, Python Software Foundation; PyCon Diversity Outreach Chair; core organizer of Boston Python, one of Python’s largest user groups; frequent keynote speaker and tutorial presenter; board member of OpenHatch; Boston Python Workshop organizer and evangelist; PSF Fellow; mentor for Outreachy program; core contributor to OpenHatch and Twisted projects. She also has a long history as a Python advocate, as a book author (Twisted Network Programming), training author (Introduction to Python), startup founder, VP of Engineering, and MIT alumna in Computer Science.
Jessica’s tireless dedication to outreach and education created fundamental change in the Python community. In 2011, only 1% of talks given at PyCon were presented by women. Jessica’s outreach efforts included hundreds of individually targeted emails to women in technology, encouraging women to submit talk proposals, and mentoring many through the entire proposal process. In 2014 and 2015, a full 33% of talks at PyCon were given by women.
As a volunteer with genuine commitment to the education and success of others, Jessica spends a significant amount of her time on outreach, encouraging new leaders in the Python community, and sharing how Python education empowers others to change the world. She has touched many Python community members, directly and indirectly, with her grace, intelligence, and humble willingness to listen, collaborate, and celebrate the contributions of others.
The award is a memorial to the legacy of O'Reilly editor-in-chief, Frank Willison, who died in 2001. Author of the column Frankly Speaking, Willison shared his enthusiasm for programming, open-source, and, in particular, Python with his many appreciative readers. His writings and witticisms can be found at O'Reilly Archives and In Memory.
Previous recipients of this prestigious award were: 
  • Barry Warsaw (2014) 
  • Anna Martelli Ravenscroft (2013) 
  • Jesse Noller (2012) 
  • Georg Brandl (2011) 
  • Christian Tismer (2010) 
  • Mark Hammond (2009) 
  • Martin von Löwis (2008) 
  • Steve Holden (2007)  
  • Alex Martelli (2006) 
  • Cameron Laird (2004) 
  • Fredrik Lundh (2003) 
  • Andrew Kuchling (2002)
Please join me in congratulating Jessica McKellar on her well-deserved award and thanking her for her numerous contributions.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.

Monday, July 13, 2015

PyOhio Young Coders to receive PSF Funding

The PSF is always thrilled to be able to help introduce young people to the world of programming. As such, Young Coders' Workshops (also see O'Reilly) are especially close to our hearts. Young Coders, for those of you who don’t know, was started in 2013 at PyCon in Santa Clara by Katie Cunningham and Barbara Shaurette (see My Dinner with Katie). Kids ages 12-17 learn to code using Raspberry Pis, which they then get to keep. 
Recently, the PSF has granted funding for PyOhio and for its Young Coders' Workshop. The conference will be held August 1st - 2nd on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Oh, while the YC workshop will take place on Sat August 1 (see PyOhio). 
PyOhio serves as a regional conference for the Midwest with many attendees from surrounding states. Attendance at PyOhio has grown from 150 in 2010 to 400 in 2014. There will be 4 tracks of talks over 2 days and three days of sprints. This year’s schedule include a keynote by Catherine Devlin and talks by Brandon Rhodes and Brian Curtin among others. Registration is free (see PyOhio)!
Brian Costlow, Chair of PyOhio, explains that the Young Coders Workshop targets kids who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity. PyOhio organizers reach out to partners to get the word out to those beyond tech circles. They reserve 40% of workshop slots for their partner organizations' for kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Last year in 2014, the kids came from one of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in Columbus (see Demographic Info).
This year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus, OH is helping to recruit kids from poorer neighborhoods. 
According to Brian, 
We’ll pull kids from more than one neighborhood this year, but the highest median household income is $32,000 and all of the neighborhoods have at least 15% of households below the poverty line. By way of contrast, the median income for the Greater Columbus Statistical Metropolitan area is $44,000, but if you exclude the distressed neighborhoods, the household median income is around $80,000 and only 2% are below the poverty line.
The PSF is happy to be able to help with funding for such a worthwhile event. Not only do the kids get to keep the Raspberry Pis, but they also go home with the keyboard, mouse, and cable. This is especially important for underprivileged kids who may not have access to computers outside of school. 
Other sponsors of PyOhio and Young Coders include Level 12Safari, and Caktus Group, to name a few (see Sponsors). But sponsors are still needed, so there is still an opportunity to help! Please visit Sponsor Prospectus.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Correction to Micro:bit post: no internal battery!

Yesterday's blog post about the BBC Micro:bit requires a brief correction.

I said that it can be run off of another device or from its own battery power. However, the latest and final version has eliminated the internal watch battery slot that was featured on the earlier prototype in favor of offering an external battery pack that can be attached. This was done as a safety feature, especially given the possibility of 7th year school children having  younger siblings at home (BBC News).

My sincere apologies for any inconvenience my mistake may have caused.


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

BBC Micro:bit successfully launched!

July 7, 2015 BBC Microbit 
Last March, I wrote about a terrific educational project taking place in the UK, with which the PSF is proud to be involved (see PSF Blogpost). I am very happy to report today that the BBC micro:bit project has successfully launched!
The BBC micro:bit release is part of the BBC’s Make it Digital initiative, whose purpose is to prepare a generation for the challenges of a tech-driven world. The project is a collaboration of 29 partners from industry, education, and government. 
Key partners include ARM, Microsoft, Samsung, Barclays, Freescale, Element14, Lancaster University, Nordic Semiconductor, Technology Will Save Us, ScienceScope and the Wellcome Trust.
At the beginning of the school term this September, every year-7 UK student (11-12 years old) will be given a BBC micro:bit computer. Designed to inspire creativity, the BBC micro:bit is pocket-sized, versatile, and, most importantly, easy to use:
Something simple can be coded in seconds – like lighting up its LEDs or displaying a pattern – with no prior knowledge of computing. All that’s needed is imagination and creativity.
The idea, according to Sinead Rocks, head of BBC Learning, is to make using computers creatively as natural to children as using crayons to experiment with coloring. 
The micro:bit can be programmed via web-based editors capable of using several programming languages, including Python, Javascript, C++, Microsoft Touch Develop, and Blocks (a visual language). The user can then save her program, run it in a simulator, and retrieve it any time to load it onto the BBC micro:bit. 
In addition to internet connectivity, the device can also connect, via five I/O rings as well as Bluetooth, to other computers and devices, including Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, Kanos, robots, and motors. When connected, it can be powered off another device, or it can run on its own battery. The micro:bit also features a compass and an accelerometer.
BBC Learning, along with the project’s partners, are providing educational resources and tutorials aligned with school curriculum, in an effort to ensure that teachers are ready when the micro:bits are distributed to students. With open-sourced specs and plans for a non-profit to oversee further educational use of the device, the micro:bit’s initial reach is sure to grow. Commercial development of the device is anticipated by the end of 2015.
The PSF is eager to seize this opportunity to further the use of Python and to increase programming literacy. According to the BBC, 
The Python Software Foundation will be working with the BBC micro:bit to provide a code editor that will help to teach children the Python programming language. They will be working with the Python development community to produce resources and activities that children can build using Python. 
I urge Python developers to volunteer for this effort and to get involved in this wonderful educational initiative. You can read more about this project at: BBC micro:bit and BBC Learning.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

PyCon Singapore

The PSF is happy to report that the third annual PyCon Singapore took place June 17 to 19, 2015. This event, organized by the Python User Group Singapore, is a testament to the robust presence of the Python community in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to three PyCons Singapore, PUGS has held three PyCons Asia-Pacific. Congratulations to Ivan Zimine and the organizing committee for a successful conference. According to Ivan, “Feedback from the participants was mostly positive. Out of 18 responses, 7 people gave 4 out of 5 stars, and 6 people gave 5 out of 5 stars for the “How did you like PyConSG?” question."

Photo Credit Martin Brochhaus
CC 2.0
The PSF contributed to the event as a Silver Level Sponsor, and we were proud that keynote speakers included our own PSF Director Lynn Root and former PSF Director Jessica McKellar. Django core developer Andrew Godwin also gave a keynote.
The event was attended by 181 people and was held on the campus of Singapore Polytechnic. It consisted of one day of tutorials and two days of talks. Tutorials covered topics such topics as unit testing, data stores, and beginning programming with Python and Django, and were attended by 96 people, of whom 64 were students. Lynn Root’s tutorial, “How to Spy with Python,” explained how the NSA and the UK’s Tempora programs can collect data on citizens' search histories, emails, IRC conversations, PGP usage, etc. As Lynn was clear to point out, however, the talk was not an endorsement of spying or a how-to, but rather a “… way of understanding the current political environment, as well as indirectly understanding how to protect one’s privacy” (see How to Spy).
127 people (of whom 41 were students) attended the two days of conference talks. Featured speakers included Anand Chitipothu, Kristin Nguyen, Ricky Setyawan, Sacha Goedegebure, Colm O'Connor, and others covering a wide range of topics, including interpreters, data processing, educational games, data processing, machine learning, multicore processing, and film production.
A first-time feature of the conference was its edu-summit, which was attended by approximately 40 Computer Science teachers. 
The summit included a talk by Praveen Patil titled Python in my Physics classroomabout how to incorporate computer science into the science curriculum using ExpEYES, an Open Source Pocket Science Lab (https://pycon.sg/schedule/presentation/59/).
Here are some links and pictures of the event: PyCon SingaporeBlog PostGroup PhotoWelcome.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CSA goes to PSF Brochure Creators

RESOLVED, that the Python Software Foundation award Armin Stross-Radschinski and Jan Ulrich Hasecke the 1st Qtr 2015 PSF Community Service Award for their work on creating the PSF Python Brochure.

For the last several years, a dedicated team has toiled in obscurity on a task they knew to be important for the future of a programming language they loved, but at the same time, one that many thought would be a fool’s errand and would never pay off. These intrepid visionaries kept going, through thick and thin; through difficulties getting stories, legal permissions, and sponsors; through naysayers and those who said, again and again, that it was useless, since winter is coming (or something similar); through lions, and tigers and . . . ! Ultimately, they produced (drumroll, please) the PSF Brochure!
All kidding aside, the PSF brochure took an enormous amount of work and has been a huge success. It stands as a real-world ambassador for Python, for which we should all be grateful, and of which we should all be aware and proud! The next time one of your relatives, or friend of a friend, or a new acquaintance asks "so why is this open source language you’re spending so much time on such a big deal?" (see fn.* below), you needn’t break a sweat explaining; just hand them the brochure.
And beyond saving individual Pythonistas a lot of time and effort, the brochure, more importantly, conveys to “CIOs and chief developers, scientists and programmers, university lecturers, teachers and students, customers, clients, managers and employees” the benefits, functions, uses, applications, advantages, features, potential, and ease of using Python. 
Armin worked on the design and layout of the brochure, managed the visual aspects of the project, getting the sponsor ads into the brochure, managing the print runs, the project support website, ordering system, payment system, and finally all the shipping of the brochures to various conferences and user groups around the world.
Jan Ulrich was the main editor of the brochure content and worked with the sponsor story authors to create interesting stories. He also wrote the editorial parts of the brochure: the intro and the import success sections.
They both also helped with finding good success stories and sponsors, a task which took more time and effort than originally anticipated. According to PSF Director, Marc-Andre Lemburg, who headed up the project, 
Armin and Jan Ulrich both put a huge amount of work into the creation of the brochure. Armin on the visual and production side, Jan Ulrich on the editorial and content side. Without their efforts and passion, we would not have succeeded running this four year project to completion.”
You can find more information about the project on the wiki page, the support websiteand by reading previous posts to this blog: PSF BrochureBrochure Sold Out.
footnote*:  a real question really asked by real relatives!
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nicholas Tollervey and Python in Education

As many of you know, the use of Python in education has grown tremendously in the past several years (see PSF Newsblog).  The Python community celebrates this trend, and continues to strengthen our connections to the world of education. PyCon’s first education summit at PyCon 2013, initiated by Naomi Cedar (who was recently elected to the PSF Board of Directors), has been followed globally by many Python conferences holding education tracks and getting involved with community teachers and education leaders.
Recently PyCon UK and EuroPython announced their upcoming education tracks.
After attending the Education Summit at PyCon2015 in Montreal, I was inspired to read Nicholas Tollervey’s wonderful booklet, Python in Education
(MAS reading and learning)
Here Tollervey summarizes and explains Python’s use in education, recounts the history of the Python programming language, provides a case study of the amazing Raspberry Pi, and describes the important role played by the Python community in the language’s popularity and ability to meet and adapt to users' needs. 
After reading his booklet, I had some questions for Nicholas: 
Q: What was your motivation for writing this book?
NT: during my 20s I was a senior secondary school teacher in the UK - I taught music to teenagers growing up in areas of great poverty and deprivation. As a result I’m passionate about teaching and learning - especially as a vehicle for emancipation. Unsurprisingly, I see programming and technical literacy as such vehicles. This is reinforced because I also have three school aged children.
Q: How long were you thinking about and/or writing the book? 
NT: I’ve been thinking about programming and Python in education for quite a number of years. Given all that’s happening regarding computing education in the UK at the moment, I’ve also had a lot of opportunity to discuss the subject with a large number of teachers and developers and develop my outlook as a result (a process that is ongoing). The first draft of the report only took a weekend to write - although I made time during the following weeks for tidying up and editing (re-reading with fresh eyes is such a useful thing to do).
Q: Did you have the book’s contents in mind or did you discover it via research? 
NT: The philosophical outlook was very much the result of the discussions mentioned in the previous point. I also spent a day at Raspberry Pi Towerschatting with Eben, Carrie Anne and Ben [Editor’s Note: Eben Upton, Carrie Anne Philbin, and Ben Nuttall of the Raspberry Pi Foundation; Carrie Anne was recently elected to the PSF Board of Directors]. 
The case study in the second section is the result. The rest of the book just wrote itself (as it were) and I, of course, was very careful to ensure I was reporting the correct information while referencing others.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background in Python in education?
NT: I was a senior teacher. I also have an MA in Philosophy of Education and a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). For the last 4-5 years I’ve organised the PyconUK education track: last year we had 50 teachers and 90 kids turn up. This year will be bigger still. I also founded and help to run the London Python Code Dojo where developers come together to teach and learn from each other (see: http://ntoll.org/article/how-to-run-an-awesome-code-dojo for details of what a dojo is). I also collaborate with teachers on an ad hoc basis - for example, tomorrow I’m at a school in Nottinghamshire to help teach teachers to teach programming. This will be followed by some practical workshops helping a bunch of kids take their first steps as the tame programmer in the room along with all these hopefully newly enthused teachers. ;-)
Q: Anything else…? 
NT: YES! I always try to imagine who I’m writing for. In this case it was programmers who need an easy to remember source of arguments in favour of Python in education and teachers, students, parents and school board types (i.e. policy makers) who know nothing about computing but who need information in an easy to digest format. I wanted to write a kind of manifesto (but without explicitly calling it one because that has all sorts of connotations) that would expose all the amazing work and progress the Python community has made in the world of education. It’s all about helping people join the dots, make connections and collaborate. By the end of the book I want the reader to want to teach and learn Python. ;-)
An e-copy of Nicholas’s book can be obtained for free from O'Reilly. I highly recommend reading it, giving it to others as an introduction to this increasingly important topic, and getting involved in the education tracks at PyCons and in CS education activities in your communities.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Mark Hammond Receives Distinguished Service Award

Like other community-based open source software, volunteers from around the world are to thank for Python's existence. When it comes to Python on Windows, the crew overseeing it are much smaller in number than those involved in other platforms, and one person in particular stands out among them with contributions that have helped shape Python's existence on Windows: Mark Hammond. Mark's efforts in supporting the Microsoft platform have been so influential that the CPython Windows installer contained a message thanking him in several versions in the 2.x series of releases. It is my pleasure to announce that Mark has been chosen to receive our Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to our community.

Not only have Mark's efforts been seen within CPython itself, from the winreg and os modules to the PEP 397 "Python launcher for Windows" and other areas, but also outside of it through his creation and maintenance of the pywin32 package. That project has made so many things possible for developers building software on Windows. If it weren't for pywin32 and its ability to manipulate Excel spreadsheets, one of my first jobs would have went a very different way than it did. The ability to easily take care of those tasks meant I was able to move on and explore different things both within the products I was working on as well as Python itself, and it's because of this productivity that I was able to shift my focus and ultimately take on what turned out to be a better career path for me. I've talked to several others who have shared this same experience, and have seen it around the web for years.

Mark also authored "Python Programming on Win32" in 2000, a book I stole from my dad and still have to this day, despite it being warped and actually slightly moldy from being in a flooded basement. The book states "Python is growing in popularity; based on download statistics, there are now over 450,000 people using Python, and more than 150,000 people using Python on Windows." It's hard to know exactly how those numbers were discovered, but I was able to pull off of the old website infrastructure that in 2013, Windows installers for Python were downloaded nearly 35 million times. Although you can't really compare the two numbers, we know that Python has experienced a huge amount of growth over the last 15 years, and it's thanks in part to contributors like Mark.

On behalf of the Python Software Foundation: thank you Mark!

Monday, June 08, 2015

Sponsor Election Results!

Last month, in addition to the election for the Board of Directors, a separate election was held asking PSF members to approve three new sponsors. Here is Ian Cordasco’s announcement of those results:
… we had 198 voters out of 426 which is ~46.48% of the voting membership (at the time). The results are here.
In short, Intel and New Relic both were overwhelmingly approved. Pickaweb less so but they still received (of the ballots cast) 56% approval (111/198). 
So, according to the bylaws (Section 4.6), all three sponsors were approved! Thanks to Ian and everyone who participated. And to the new sponsors, congratulations and welcome aboard!
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Election Process and the new PSF Election Administrator

Background: 

As those of you who have been following recent events in the PSF know, there were some difficulties and disagreements surrounding the election for the 2015-2016 Board of Directors. The initial attempt at an election for Board members was cancelled due ambiguity concerning candidate nomination deadlines. 
Then, as possible solutions were discussed on the PSF voting members list, it became apparent that there were additional aspects of the previously used system (E-vote) that were considered less than ideal by some members.
The Election Administrator at that time, due to newly undertaken professional commitments, was unavailable to relaunch the election or to modify the procedures to satisfy the desiderata expressed by many. Fortunately, Ian Cordasco agreed to step into the position, and he has been hard at work since the beginning of May getting the recently completed election back on track and exploring long term solutions to newly identified problems.
Already some important changes have been made: First of all, with the hard work of the Board of Directors and many volunteers, a precise and unambiguous deadline was set for nominations, for the issuing and for the receipt of ballots for both the Board election and the Sponsor election (See New Board Election.) That election has been successfully conducted and we have a new Board of Directors (and some new sponsors) as a result. (See Congratulations.)
Secondly, an Elections Working Group was formed to study the desirability of an enhancement to the E-vote software developed by Massimo DiPierro and David Mertz that had been used by the PSF for the past several years. An alternative solution, switching to another system like Helios, is also being explored. For those who wish to participate in this discussion and/or to contribute to this important evaluative study, please subscribe to  Elections-wg@python.org.
I recently had an email chat with Ian about his new role which I’d like to share with you:

Q: Why did you get involved?

Ian: There was a lot of conflict over the last Board Election. Unnecessary conflict is something I really don’t want to see in the Python community, so I stepped up to attempt to deescalate the situation.

Q: What is your background/interest as election administration?

Ian: I have no background in running elections. The software is intriguing to me. The way of verifying votes and ensuring anonymity is also intriguing.

Q: What are some of your goals as election administrator?

Ian: To run elections well and improve the software we use to run our elections.

Q: What are the criteria for a good election process?

Ian: This list is probably incomplete, but,
  • User friendly: The nomination process should be easy as should voting.
  • Transparent and Verifiable: Nominations and votes should be verifiable by any one observing the election.
  • Secure: It’s unlikely someone might try to attack a PSF election, but users should know that their votes aren’t being altered when casting them and that the ballot they received was correct.
  • Well documented: Voters and candidates should know the schedule. The software should be well documented for all involved - candidates, voters, and election administrators alike.
  • Cooperative: I have the great pleasure of coordinating with Ewa Jodlowska who helps in the election process. Massimo DiPierro and David Mertz have been very helpful in learning and navigating E-Vote.This whole process would have been a lot more stressful if not for their help and support.

Q: I understand that recent election yielded a tie in the number of votes for the eleventh Director’s seat. How was that resolved?

Ian: I spoke with David and in the past, ties have been broken with code such as:
if random.random() < 0.5:
    print('Candidate A')
else:
    print('Candidate B')
So in following with that, I ran that code and came up with the 11th… For some amount of verifiability, I recorded the run of that script.

Q: How can we (PSF members) help?

Ian: Join the Elections WG! We’re trying to improve the whole of the PSF elections process. There are a few known issues with the current process. Many hands make light work.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at msushi@gnosis.cx.