Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Notes from a Fish Out of Water

As promised, I went to DjangoCon. I wasn't the only non-programmer there, but I was close.

One of my favorite moments was when, during a totally over my head technical Q&A session, I ran out of laptop batteries and relocated closer to some electricity. After plugging in and diving back into email/blogging/watching the score of the Phillies' game, the dude sitting next to me introduced himself.

He told me he ran a web development shop and loved Django and pretty much wanted to marry it. I told him I wasn't a programmer but that I, too, loved Django, for I work with programmers and Django makes them happy, which, in turn, makes me happy.

We acknowledged that it was nice to meet each other.

He turned back to the stage and started listening again. I looked down and continued fretting about paying The Carrot Project's bills and the declining effectiveness of the Phillies' bullpen.

A few minutes later, my new friend leaned over and offered some commentary on the Q&A session we were (he was) watching. Technical commentary. I nodded.

He continued, equally technically. I continued nodding, equally confused.

And on it went. For a solid five minutes. He made what I'm sure were totally insightful comments, and I smiled and agreed and pretended that I was with him all the way.

The dude was so enthusiastic, I just couldn't bring myself to remind him that he might as well have been talking to the wall (and that I had, already, as I mentioned, warned him that I wasn't a programmer).

That enthusiasm is what I enjoyed most about the conference. Everyone seemed excited to share. People had great ideas, great projects, great plans for how to make Django better, and I got the feeling that everyone wanted to bring everyone else into their minds. Collaboration makes for a great atmosphere, even if most of the collaboration is way over your head.

I did try to offer what I could, however. I agreed to play on a couple of people's in process sites and give feedback. I gave people rides from the conference to the hotel. And I took a shot at a lightning talk.

Certainly not my most impressive public speaking work. The best man speech I gave a few weeks ago about eating sheep's lip in Mongolia was far more of a crowd pleaser. But I felt a little out of place introducing The Carrot Project at DjangoCon. I got the feeling the audience wanted technical details, and I had nothing for them.

I gave the talk, though, embarrassed and stumbling or not. I wanted to give a quick mention of The Carrot Project and see if anyone wanted to learn more. I wanted to throw out there the fact that I really do appreciate the Django community and its collaborative spirit. And I wanted to make sure everyone knew that if, for whatever reason, a set of project manager eyes would somehow do them good, then I'm happy to help. Django has been doing good things for me lately, and I'd love to reciprocate.

So, Django community, in case you too were getting worked up about the Phillies on Sunday rather than paying attention to my lightning talk, let me know if there's anything I can do for you, and I'll do my non-technical best.

Note: Late on Sunday night, Wiley sent me a little follow up email unveiling a discovery he'd made. He'd looked through a big list of DjangoCon tweets, and he'd found this:

@rbp: #djangocon I'm waiting for jdegrazia to say "hey, don't tase me, bro!"

I have no idea what that means. None. Any ideas?


9a said...


Jake de Grazia said...

Hmmm. Ok. But I'm still not sure what the tweet was trying to mean.

Some possibilities:

A. The dude (@rbp) thought that I, because I'm not a programmer, must have been totally bored and disapproving, and so he was waiting for me to snap and express my disdain. Don't tase me bro!

B. He thought the minor technical difficulties I encountered when I tried showing a Carrot Project screenshot during my little presentation had me frustrated and thinking the world was against me and thus ready to beg it for mercy. Don't tase me bro!

C. He considered me, like the University of Florida student that made the line famous (famous?), an impostor or troublemaker of some kind, and he was waiting for Google security to realize that and chase me down and corner me. Once cornered, he figured I'd probably plead my case. Don't tase me bro!

Dantaniel said...

That is INCREDIBLE. I think it was just a comment about how you seemed out of place.

Jake de Grazia said...

I'm def giving another lightning talk at DjangoCon 2009. And we'll time it so you (from Chicago or New York or Buenos Aires) send a series of exclamation point filled tweets to the world celebrating my brilliant talk and The Carrot Project and how perfectly I fit in with an auditorium full of programmers.