Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sydney Python Meeting at Atlassian Sydney

On Thursday I attended the monthly meeting of SyPy, at at Atlassian's Sydney offices. This was a well run user group style meeting, with free drinks and pizza before the talks and just enough formality to keep things running smoothly.  There were two main talks and a number of lightening (five minute) talks. PyPy use the clever approach of listing short speaking slots on their meeting booking page as sub-events with one ticket, to simplify the organization: if you want to give a short talk you simply see if a speaking slot is free and reserve it.

The first main talk by David Lockwood gave an excellent overview of MOOCs and how they could be of use to Python programmers. There was also plenty of good advice on which were the better MOOC consortia and where these Massive Open Online Courses were headed generally. David looked at udacity, edX, Coursera and Class Central. The last of these is a relatively new course aggregator, providing an index to courses available from the different consortia. I was relieved that David rated edx highest for course quality (my own institution, the ANU recently joined edx and I am intending to contribute a MOOC on ICT Sustainability). David commented that Python was very suited to implementing MOOCs, but did not go into detail (this would be a good topic for a later talk). He recommended Harvard edX CS50x: Introduction to Computer Science and MIT edX 6.00x: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming. He commented that MOOCs are about "just learning", not chasing a certification, although I think that level of idealism will soon change. The MOOCs are currently free to take part in, but a show of hands indicated that about 30% of the audience would be willing to pay for a MOOC.

Samuel Marks considered that Stanford's open-source software for MOOCs Class2Go would be useful, but needed some more time to mature. I see there is an Introduction to Class2Go Course. One difficulty I have had with edX is a lack of information about how it is implemented and how to construct courses. 

After David, I gave a short talk on "MOOCs with Books" (after a talk on the same topic at the Sydney Educational Technology  Group).

Samuel Marks talked on "OAuth2: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love stateless deployments". This included a critique of the way the relevant standard was written (rfc6749) and the difficulty of interpreting ACSII art diagrams.

The last presentation was on a proposal for the open source community to sponsor young professionals to attend international conferences. The speakers and attendees then adjourned to a nearby pub for more discussion.

Even without the free food and good talks, it was worth attending just to see Atlassian's offices in the historic former Bank of New South Wales head office building at 341 George Street, Sydney. You are escorted by Atlassian staff through huge bronze doors and walk through the marble banking hall to the lifts. Atlassian's offices upstairs are not quite as grand, but the polished floor of the original bank offices remain.

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