Here is what I learned and need to research more after attending half of day 2 at PyCon Israel 2022.
Keynote: Yam Peleg
This morning I caught the early bus to Ramat Gan and was there not only in time for the keynote but also for some light breakfast. Yam Peleg’s claim to fame is that he was in the top 5 of several different categories on Kaggle, though he got there not by doing his own work, but by training some ML to post and solve challenges for him. Though he doesn’t say it explicitly, this approach got him banned from the platform. He used the rest of his time to explain some of the powerful things language-based ML can accomplish, including full academic-type papers and impersonating an Elon Musk who is cool to Dogecoin. He also had a well-illustrated presentation, I’ll try and link to it once all the lectures are posted to YouTube.
Concepts/models to research: GPT-x, Beam Search, RoBERTa, TOPP
Why Does “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen Make Us Happy? Feature Analysis
To be honest I chose this because it was the least of three “bad” offerings in this time slot and it was in the “Data” track and being primarily a data scientist I figured I should go to the data track offering. Luckily, I made the right choice. This was probably among the better presentations I attended over the two days of the conference. She made it fun, she had a great comparison song for a sad song (Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word“). I learned what those squiggly patterns on graphical representations of sound files show (it is called a frequency graph) and came out with three libraries to look into.
Libraries: Librosa, Hilb transform in Scipy, MonkeyLearn
What are we busy about? (That was the title)
While Layla may have been the only (can’t say for sure) Muslim/Arab speaker at the conference, there was decent representation from the Muslim dev community at the conference, and I’m hoping there will be more at future conferences both in terms of attendees and speakers. Layla spoke about how they overcame complex scheduling issues using ML and stuff to make sure they always had doctors online to help their customers. Her presentation was clear, and practical, and will possibly also help me in some of my work as I try to triage calls to the correct individual in our call centers. The funniest moment of the speech may have been when she unequivocally stated that “Healthcare in the US [United States] is very bad”.
Data Class Serialization The Right Way
So until yesterday, I had never really heard of serialization, or at least never heard it called that. Then came yesterday’s presentation about Protobuf and then this presentation today. Basically, it is trying to solve the problem of how to save state either in your data or in the program. It ends up that base Python is actually terrible at this and you need some additional packages to really up its game. The one they suggested was Pydanctic, which when combined with Type Hints, really changes a lot about what Python is able to do to save state. For those wondering, Pickle is not a good choice because it stores the logic and data in a single object whereas Pydantic will separate these which will pay benefits as your project grows.
I had to leave early in order to attend end-of-the-year ceremonies for my children so I wasn’t able to make it to the presentation about JSON (sometimes after a conference you look at the titles and you’re like, “this sounds boring”). Overall I had a great time. It was definitely worth what I paid (NIS 350, or a little bit more than $100). I hope next year the organizers take into account that the last week of June is not the best week for developers with families as it was like playing frogger with all of the different events my kids were having this week to squeeze in the conference and make sure that all my kids were properly supervised at all times. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, it seems like in some areas we are outgrowing the space. It was very hard to interact with the vendors because it was very noisy in the lobby, and when food was being served you just couldn’t move around.
I almost forgot about the swag! What is a conference without swag? As attendees, we got a reusable shopping bag, a t-shirt, a mousepad and mouse, and some stickers. Obviously, there was much more to be had at the vendor tables but:
- My aforementioned issue with the noise in the lobby made it difficult to learn about the products, especially when trying to understand and speak in Hebrew when it is not my first language
- I am also concerned about “gneivat da’at” issues. Is it ethical for me to sign up for marketing or make them give me their whole pitch when I’m not looking to buy their product?
- I get enough junk mail that not even two separate raffles for an Oculus would get me to sign up for your marketing
So with that being said, I left a lot of swag on the table. Maybe next year if there is a proper vendor floor I would be more willing to discuss with the product ambassadors.
All in all, it was an enjoyable change of scenery for a few days from my typical desk and computer chair (workstation review coming soon). See you next year, PyCon!