Friday, October 02, 2015

Python in Cameroon a Success!

It is always a pleasure to report on the success of PSF funded projects. Recently we’ve heard from Ngangsi Richard about the Python Cameroon initiative. As you may recall, last March the PSF sponsored a one-day workshop in Bamenda, PyCon Cameroonfor the purpose of exposing women and girls to the power of Python programming. This latest project further extends programming accessibility to those previously denied the opportunity.
Python Cameroon  was a month-long intensive course offered in August, free of charge, to beginners, and largely funded by the PSF. According to Ngangsi, Program Coordinator and Instructor, there were 18 students in this first session: three men and fifteen women. An additional ten people could not be accommodated. All were total beginners. As Ngangsi describes them, 
Most of them had no idea about programming. Most of them have never been taught anywhere how to write programs. Some of them were not even familiar with a computer.
Because of this lack of basic computer skills, Ngangsi had to adapt the course to allow students enough time to absorb and practice what they were learning. By the second week, he had settled on a schedule that allotted two days to introducing new material in lectures, two days for the students to practice the exercises, and an extra day for questions and review. 
Ngangsi at the board
Photo credit: Ngangsi Richard 
Additional challenges that had to be contended with included frequent power outages, a too-small classroom that was shared with other groups (resulting in some loss of property), and a shortage of computers and even chairs. Since there was one computer for every two students,  the time needed for exercises and practice was also increased. Ngangsi, as the only instructor, bore the entire burden of preparation and teaching. Those of us who are or who have been teachers know how exhausting full days in the classroom can be. 
But, amazingly, given the obstacles, the students succeeded in learning. Ngangsi taught them many standard introductory topics (including data-types, statements, lists, tuples, variables, and expressions). Of course, some concepts, like functions, proved challenging; still, the students persevered and made it through to the complexities of dictionaries, recursion, classes, modules, and exceptions. 
After the first day of lecture, I saw some improvement. Most of them started figuring how to do some of the basic stuff like writing very simple programs with the Python interpreter.

By the end of the month there were some real successes, including two women Ngangsi mentioned who were writing more complex programs and planning to continue to learn more.
Some of the students
Photo credit: Ngangsi Richard

Ngangsi recently expressed his thanks to the PSF for funding this instruction so that it can be offered to the students free of charge. This fact has surprised and excited the students and has generated a great deal of interest.
Just this week I had another six girls who heard about the program and they came to find out. They were excited about joining, but I had to tell them to wait since we don’t have enough space and resources.
He also reconfirmed his commitment and shared his plans to continue and expand this work.
My vision for this program is to be able to start a new community of women developers from Central Africa using the Python programming language… . With the amount of interest we have already about this course, we should be able to educate 300 girls in two years and possibly even more with Python programming and computer science.
You can see some videos to learn more about this project at: 
And I’m sure that I speak for the entire PSF in sending a big 'congratulations' and 'thank you' to Ngangsi, his students, and everyone involved with this worthwhile project!
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New PSF Community Mailing List

Last year, the Python Software Foundation adopted an open membership model, allowing anyone that uses and supports Python to become a member of the foundation. Furthering our efforts on this front, the historical psf-members mailing list has been retired, and two new mailing lists have been created in its place: psf-community and psf-vote.

Unlike the old psf-members mailing list, the new psf-community mailing list will be open to all community members, and will have public archives. The new psf-vote mailing list will only be used to administer elections. A more detailed summary of the mailing list changes can be found below, along with the related resolutions from the PSF board meetings.
  • The psf-members mailing list has been retired:
    • This list will be locked to new posts.
    • This list will no longer accept new subscribers.
    • The archives will be open to existing list subscribers.
  • A new psf-community mailing list has been created:
    • All community members may subscribe.
    • The archives are public.
    • This list is expected to be an active list with courteous, productive, and respectful conversations about community issues and news.
    • Example topics: PyCon announcements, PSF board meeting minutes, PSF board member nominations, community awards, outreach and education initiatives, etc
    • All current PSF members have been sent an invite to join this mailing list, and anyone is welcome to subscribe to this list (after signing up for a basic membership).
  • A new psf-vote mailing list has been created:
    • All PSF members with voting privileges may subscribe to this list. This includes the following membership classes: supporting members, sponsor delegates, managing members, contributing members, and fellows.
    • The archives will be open to list subscribers.
    • This list will be used to administer PSF elections. We have automatically subscribed all current PSF voters. If you unsubscribe from this list, our secretary will reach out to you to confirm that you wish to relinquish your voting rights.
    • This list is expected to be a low volume mailing list, containing election details, and discussions that require some privacy and discretion (such as a potential corporate sponsors).
We hope to see you on the new psf-community mailing list – thank you for your contributions to the community!

Approved on July 9, 2015 (meeting minutes):
RESOLVED, that the Python Software Foundation adopt these mailing list actions to further support the Python Software Foundation bylaws, improve governance, and provide greater transparency for the membership:

a) RESOLVE to retire psf-members mailing list where the psf-members mailing list will be locked for new posts and new subscribers and the psf-members archives will be open to list subscribers as of July 9, 2015

b) RESOLVE to create a new psf-vote mailing list where all Python Software Foundation membership classes with voting rights granted by the Python Software Foundation bylaws may subscribe to the mailing list; posting privilege will be subject to the Python Software Foundation Code of Conduct and moderation; and the archives are open to list subscribers
Approved on May 20, 2015 (meeting minutes):
RESOLVED, that a new psf-community mailing list be created, with public archives, open for all PSF members, including, in particular, all the basic members

Monday, August 31, 2015

CSA Awards to Tollervey, Stinner, and Storchaka

Greetings Readers, 
I apologize for the hiatus I’ve taken recently from writing this blog -- other commitments temporarily got in the way. But during this time the PSF has been hard at work, and I intend to catch you up on their activities in the next few posts. 
First of all, the Community Service Awards have been given out for both the second and third quarters of 2015. I am extremely happy to announce that the second quarter award went to our good friend, Nicholas Tollervey, for his excellent work in education and outreach. You can read more about Nick in a recent previous post to this blog (Tollervey), so I’ll forgo saying more about him here, other than congratulations,  and will turn to telling you about our third quarter award recipients.
RESOLVED, that the Python Software Foundation award the 2015 3rd Quarter Community Service Award to Victor Stinner and Serhiy Storchaka (PSF CSA).
Both Stinner and Storchaka are extremely active Python core developers. In the past three years, Serhiy has contributed well over 2000 commits, while Victor comes in a close second with almost 2000. Their hard work and dedication have helped increase Python’s vitality, relevance, and amazing growth -- a fact that the PSF wishes to recognize with this award.
In addition, Serhiy Storchaka is active on the Python tracker, taking the time to help other contributors by reviewing and committing their patches.
Victor Stinner’s work additionally includes 20 PEPs (see PEPs) as well as active participation in the Python community. You can view his PyCon 2014 talk here. He is also one of the developers of the tulip/asyncio project which provides asynchronous I/O support to Python. It was Victor who ported tulip/asyncio to Python 2; its usefulness has resulted in its recently being included as part of the Python 3.4 standard library.

Victor Stinner
Please join me in congratulating our latest CSA recipients and in thanking them for their important work.
I would love to hear from readers. Please send feedback, comments, or blog ideas to me at

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

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

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

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 (
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

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

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: 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