An Outsider Visits PyCon

I'm at Guido's keynote.

Totally surrounded by Pythonistas.

As usual, I'm the odd man out.

The staff tees have an xkcd panel about python on the back.

Aaaaaaand the wifi's not working.

So here's a great example of how I think. Just now, an irritating buzzing noise intruded on Guido's keynote. He was going over some of the cool new features coming in Py3k. Somebody closed a door or something, and it went away. It wasn't particularly loud. Not loud enough that Guido had to stop talking. But for one or two sentences, radically fewer of the people present were paying full attention to what Guido was saying. I know I couldn't focus on the memes he was trying to transmit. I'm pretty sure I did not grab any important information out of that part of the meme stream. How many other people didn't?

And what effect will that have on the future? This is a pretty important conference. Imagine a graph of pythonistas, showing who has lots of influence, who acts as a maven, etc. I'll bet, even if 1000 (that's how many are here) is a tiny percentage of all the people using Python, that more than half of the... I don't know the graph-theory term; mass or something... more than half of the total mass of the pythonista influence graph is here in this room. So, suppose uptake of a particular new feature had a big impact of the future of Python development (and, let's face it, on the future of computing as a whole, and thus probably on the future of humanity, and heck, let's be bold, the universe; if you don't believe me, I ask you, how different would your laptop be if its ancestors had used something other than punched cards?) then what memes got into the heads of these people here, especially during that particular slide, is a relatively big knot in the grand tapestry.

If I were some benevolent or malevolent entity (or even a neutral entity) trying to command history for good or evil (or for the heck of it) the repertoire of tools I'd use would probably include making a buzzing noise, not too loud, during the New Features slide of Guido van Rossum's keynote at PyCon 2008. From my subjective vantage, I have no clue whether that event had big import or almost none. But if I hop into the simulator part of my brain and try out an objective vantage for a moment, I imagine that if some real-darn-smart-but-not-omniscient being were nudging history, that fact would manifest itself to my subjective vantage as that buzzing noise.

Ah, crap, is that just paranoia?

I suppose, given the just-because-you're-paranoid rule, that that question is irrelevant. The real question should be: Does this observation give us anything? What could I do with it? What could anyone do with it?

How do I know what's really important?

Maybe the answer is not something that's available to my subjective vantage. Ever.

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