Djangocon: Baptiste’s adventures in Djangoland - Baptiste Mispelon

Tags: django, djangocon

(One of the summaries of a talk at the 2015 Djangocon EU conference).

Baptiste Mispelon spend 2014 roaming around in djangoland.

Djangoland? Esperanto is a language invented by Zamenhoff, a polish guy. There’s a “Esperantujo” concept: “esperanto-land”. Once you meet someone who speaks that invented language, you’re in esperanto-land. It is the same with django. Once you meet people who program django or if you’re on the IRC channel, you’re in djangoland.

He told a bit about his history. Dropped out of school in France in 2009 and moved to Hungary towards his girlfriend. After a period of doing nothing, he started making php websites. Afterwards he discovered python.

He attended the djangocon in Zürich (2012). His first conference. He stayed for the sprint: this was the best decision of his whole career. He met lots of people and felt welcomed. And learned a lot. A couple of months later he got in his first pull request to core django (a one-character documentation fix).

In 2013, he started diving deeper and deeper into the code and solving more and more issues. He attended djangocon again, the “django circus” in Warsaw. Because of his many patches, he got invited to join the Django core team. He now has “the commit bit” and pushed his first pull request himself: again a one-character documentation fix.

Later that year he moved to a 5000 people Norwegian town in the middle of nowhere. His girfriend’s had a temporary job there. He worked remotely.

In 2014 it started going bad. His sleep schedule went off the rails, his work output dropped. Burnout. He tried pushing through it, but that just doesn’t work. To clear his mind, he started travelling to every sprint or conference he could go to. Meeting django people.

In February he spend every weekend in a different country. Norway, Cardiff, Krakow, Amsterdam. Sprints. The sprints were great and so was the food. Cardiff’s welsh cakes, Amsterdam’s stroopwafels.

He also went to the “writethedocs” conference, a conference for documentation writers (so for those that fill readthedocs). He met many people from outside of django. Great. And it helped him grow and learn. For instance the importance of supporting Windows, learned at a python sprint in Warsaw.

At one of the conferences, he heard the news that his grandmother died. He was thousands of miles away from any family. He stepped out of the conference room and felt very alone. He asked the organizer for a quiet room to sort himself out. On the way he told what happened and broke down. The organizer offered her shoulder to him to cry out on. And she checked up with him from time to time, seeing if he was still OK. In the end, he managed to move his flight a day forwards so that he could attend the funeral with his family.

So: he thought he was lonely, but found out that he had quite some friends in the python community. That’s what he also noticed in the rest of the year. Making new friends by a random conversation during lunch at a conference, for example. Staying at people’s homes during sprints.

From one of the random conversations, the conference springed up. He never organized a conference before, but it went very well. It was the biggest gathering ever of core developers. There was even one core developer that nobody had ever seen in real life, even the other core developers!

Another thing he helped organize was a big django girls workshop at the 2014 Berlin Europython conference, followed by a sprint. He never saw such energy and dedication at a sprint. A result from that meeting was a… workshop for teenage girls in Zagreb where he was one of the coaches. Try explaining something to a room of 12 year old girls on a subject you know well: quite humbling.

Something he noticed: once you’ve met someone in real life, interacting with them electronically is easier. You know the other person better and you can imagine him saying whatever you see electronically, which helps in understanding it better.

Productive year! One of the things he did in 2014 was to sprint with a couple of people on the new website design. Many people liked it. Of course, not everyone likes change. One person send a long email calling it “the worst website in a long time” and other even more blistering denunciations. It was bad and it even pushed him away from active development for a while. So… think before you start being an asshole on the internet.

Traveling itself doesn’t help with a burn out. But meeting friends and talking with them did help. If you’re burned out: seek out a professional to help you.

A practical advice for all of us: practice empathy. That is very important. ALso for the community. “I came for the auto-generated admin, I stayed for the community”, someone once said.

A model railway at the 2015 'ontraxs' exhibition in Utrecht logo

About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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