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Thoughts on our sponsorship of PyCon

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We have just completed our third year as a sponsor of PyCon and I thought I'd take a few minutes to reflect on our use of Python as well as the conference itself.

Pretty much everyone I spoke to was impressed that we've been programming Web sites in Python since 1997.  Several thanked us for our support over so many years.  I'm always somewhat bemused when we are thanked for our use of Python.  Although we've always had open source sensibilities, our choice of Python wasn't so much altruistic as it was a business decision.  In fact, our continued use is a business decision.  It was and remains the best language for Imaginary Landscape.

This is increasingly so now that the language is experiencing a surge in popularity.  Historically, the biggest challenge with Python was its limited talent pool.  I could wallpaper the office with PHP resumes received in our 15 years, but competent Python programmers remained a small population.  Since we prefer to work with in-house resources, the added geographic constraint made for limited choices.  But that concern has largly vanished and once scarce talent is now plentiful.  From a staffing perspective, this has great value.

As a Chicago-based firm we became sponsors of PyCon in 2008, the year it came to Chicago.  We didn't know exactly what to expect but we wanted to raise our exposure within the Python community and didn't want to miss the opportunity to do so in our backyard.  There were more than 1,000 attendees!  All those Python programmers under one roof.  It was an amazing sight and a great opportunity for us.  That year we also assisted with the PyCon site which, for our staff, was like working on a rock star site.

2009 was again in Chicago and again we sponsored.  During that conference, we were approached by an organization that was interested in working with an outside Python/Django team to supplement their internal team for a large project.  That one inquiry led to a large piece of business for us.  I am sure that if we had not been a sponsor of PyCon we would not have become aware of this opportunity.

The move to Atlanta this year added significant cost to the sponsorship.  Airfare, hotel, food and bar bills add up quickly.  But the conference has been valuable for us and we were intent on continuing the sponsorship.  Having just returned, my sense is that this was a very successful conference for us on many levels.

First, we had significant interest in our services for supplementing internal Python/Django teams.  I believe this will lead to direct business for Imaginary and an impressive direct ROI for the event.

Second, we continued our tradition of supporting the community that has been at the foundation of Imaginary's technology stack for all these years.  It certainly helps with our "street cred" in the community.  New and familiar faces stopped by our booth remembering Imaginary Landscape from past sponsorship.

Third, it was well run.  The people behind the scenes were fantastic.  They were attentive, responsive and appreciative.  Their attention to detail was wonderful and resulted in a highly trafficked exhibitor hall.  From a sponsor point of view, it could not have been executed better.

Fourth, we had fun.  We had a lot of laughs playing around with Pony and Python humor.  We had a great time handing out our special Python keychains.  I was able to have a photo op with the large pink Django unicorn thanks to a booth stop by James Bennett.  During the sponsor appreciation dinner at Django Restaurant (not kidding), my first actual conversation with Steve Holden made me nearly fall off my chair laughing.  Everything sounds so classy with an English accent!  Good people, all around.

I look forward to the next several months as the dust settles on PyCon 2010 and we continue the conversations started there.  I'm quite sure our participation will yield direct business.  But even if it doesn't, this has been a successful conference for Imaginary Landscape.

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