Local European PyCons and EuroPython
There is a PyCon UK. There is a PyCon Italy. Just now I saw the announcement of a PyCon France. I understand why these conferences happen - local user communities will want to see conferences where most talks are in their own language and have a bigger selection of talks relevant to the local community.
But, being Dutch, these country-specific conferences are typically not things I'd go to, as I'm not based in these countries. I don't speak French or Italian. The Netherlands being a smaller European country, with a proportionally smaller group of Python users, I don't think I'll see a "PyCon the Netherlands" anytime soon either. The same likely holds true for many of the smaller European countries.
While I'm happy to see so much activity in the European Python community, it does worry me a little too - because it's not exactly the European Python community. There is already a conference for that community: EuroPython. EuroPython is more than for just the European Python community, in fact - it has traditionally been the most international Python conference there is. I enjoy meeting people from the larger international community. Open source is international.
The appearance of country-specific conferences is in itself a good sign: the Python community in Europe, and these countries in particular, has grown large enough to support them. It can be argued that these attract different attendees than EuroPython, people who would not have visited EuroPython anyway. These conferences, in itself, are of course a good thing. One can even argue that perhaps they will energize their local communities so much that more people will end up going to EuroPython.
But there is bound to be some overlap between the potential attendees of a country-specific conference and the potential attendees of EuroPython. Moreover, there will be an increased competition to attract international speakers for these local conferences as well, as it's unlikely these will want to go speak at four European Python-related conferences a year. So, local conferences in the UK, Italy and France may draw away visitors and good speakers from EuroPython. That would be a shame.
Analyzing the statistics of where EuroPython visitors come from doesn't tell us very much. While attendance from the Italy and UK, which had PyCons last year, was indeed down, attendance from many other European conferences was down as well, including France, where they didn't have a PyCon yet last year (though certainly they had user group meetings). The statistics don't support the increased attendance theory either, though: EuroPython last year wasn't one of the largest ones I've seen in terms of participants - against the trend of growing usage of Python overall.
One can attribute EuroPython's relatively small size to other causes. Perhaps the lower attendance is due to the somewhat haphazard organization in the run-up to the conference last year (it's not a complaint as I didn't help, and this year already looks to be better). Perhaps it was due to the location in Lithuania, which may appear to be out of the way to some people. I think if the location is the cause, people have entirely the wrong impression. I don't think Vilnius, Lithuania is harder to reach than, say, Gothenburg Sweden, where we've had the conference before. Vilnius is certainly not expensive compared to some of the previous locations EuroPython has been in.
I certainly don't want to begrudge anyone a conference in Python with their own community and own language. It would be a shame however to see EuroPython shrink further in the face of local conferences. An international conference can attract a really interesting set of attendees and speakers. We should also celebrate the international nature of our open-source community.
So, I hope my worries are unjustified and more people will visit EuroPython 2008 in bigger numbers. Speakers: prove my worries wrong and submit a talk: the call for participation is open! Local conference organizers: prove my worries wrong and visit EuroPython 2008 with a delegation. Promote EuroPython at your local conferences! Incentive: you might see speakers you will want to invite for your own local PyCon there. :)