PyCon UK 2016 - Lessons learned from organising SciPy Latin America 2016

On September 18th, I presented “Lessons learned from organising SciPy Latin America 2016” on PyCon UK 2016. You can find my slides here and a pre-transcript of my talk bellow.

Good afternoon!!!

My name is Raniere Silva and on this talk I will talk about what I learned when organising SciPy Latin America 2016 at the begin of this year. Before we went to the lessons learned I want to say five things about me.

First, you can find me online if you search for rgaiacs on almost all social networks like GitHub and Twitter. On my profile photo I have a different hair style.

Second, I’m Brazilian. I will mention a few facts about Brazil later on this talk.

Third, I started using Python in 2010. Looks like yesterday when I spent hours trying to make numpy.matrix([[1]]) works just because I didn’t type import numpy and neither sudo apt-get install python-numpy.

Forth, I’m a Software and Data Carpentry Instructor and enjoy help increase the number of Python users. For those that don’t know Software Carpentry, Software Carpentry is a non-profit organisation that organises workshops where attendees have a hands-on introduction to Python or R plus Bash and Git. Adam Obeng, another Software Carpentry instructor, is teaching a workshop at this moment on room C.

Last, I’m working for the Software Sustainability Institute. The Institute promotes better software practices in academia by organising Software and Data Carpentry workshops and advocating for more Research Software Engineers.

And I already talked too much about myself. What is SciPy Latin America? It is a conference in Latin America focus on the use of Python for science.

I discorevered SciPy Latin America last year when I was looking for the SciPy Conference in the US. Argentina Python User Group organized a conference called SciPy Argentina in 2012, 2013, and 2014. If you want to know more about SciPy Argentina you can talk with Daniel F Moisset that will speak about “Python and static types: Let’s use mypy!” on the Assembly Room right after this talk. In 2015 the organizers decided to rebrand the conference to include all countries in Latin America.

Still in 2015, I decided to attend SciPy Latin America that was hosted in Possadas, Missiones, Argentina. I had a great time at the conference and over dinner, Ivan Ogasawara, told me that he will send a proposal to host the 2016 edition in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil. On that night I promissed to Ivan that if the proposal was accepted I would help him remotely with the organization of the conference.

Ivan’s proposal was the only one and as such was accepted. After months of hard work, we deliveried the conference and in the process we learned a thing things.

Organising a conference is almost like organising a wedding. You want that your guests/attendees have a happy memorable time. Unfortunately, you can’t go to your favorite bookshop and buy lots of magazines with tips of how to organize a conference. As a organizer, you are very luck if you have an steering committee to provide guidance because, as you know, we are all afraid to show weakness.

The lesson number zero, because we start to count on zero, is that Florianópolis is a great place to host the conference. With 47 beautiful beaches and an amazing weather you can’t ask for more.

The first lesson is that you need to start early! Months passes very fast and when you less expect there is only one week before the conference.

The second lesson is that you need to find the venue as early as possible. Even if you have an idea of what you want to provide during the conference, the venue that you get will create many restrictions.

Another lesson is that there is no easy to use customer management system for the conference. Anyone that you pick will require a lot of customisation. Related with the website, provide the content in three languages (Spanish, Portuguese, and English) requires lots of translation hours.

Some companies don’t have much flexibility on their budget. This means that you need to contact them at an specific time of the year to seek for sponsorship. Otherwise you will not get any money.

Whe you got a sponsorship you start celebrating until you discovery that the accounting that supose to help receive the money is only make you spend more time.