My experience note-taking at PyCon 2012

First off: the notes are here. I took most of them, but got some help from Roman Kofman and Alex Graveley. Thanks guys!

The rest of this post is a reflection on the note-taking experience. I’m not able to attend PyCon today so hopefully someone else will carry the torch the rest of the way 🙂

I started my notetaking extravaganza as a means of remembering what happened, and writing down interesting things to share with the rest of the engineering team at 6waves Lolapps who weren’t in attendance. I took them in TextEdit. Paul Graham’s keynote was really good so I posted the notes on this blog. I did the same for the first few sessions I attended, but the formatting was really terrible. Then I remembered seeing something on TechCrunch about using HackPad to take shared notes at SXSW, and tried it out on the next talk. It worked pretty well so I ended up taking notes at each of the sessions I went to.

Here’s my quick review of HackPad for this purpose:

  • Liked the interface – easy to type stuff pretty fast
  • Liked that sharing it is super easy. Cool to see people online in real-time.
  • Sync worked reasonably well over the conference wifi. not realtime but updated every ~second
  • Got disconnected a lot on saturday. Not sure if that was HackPad’s problem or the wifi’s.
  • Didn’t appear to be a way to delete any pads, or remove them from collections. This kept me from using a Collection for the notes – I couldn’t remove the default “Welcome to [this collection]” pad that would’ve been confusing because I already had a “home page” pad.
  • Better code formatting support would be nice. you can format things as “code” by indenting 4 spaces, but it feels a little fragile, and it’s hard to indent multiple lines of code that has its own indentation.
  • Auto-“table of contents” by looking at things that are bold was cool. Worked reasonably well here, though on some of the larger documents it would’ve been nice to have multiple layers of headings.

Some more general thoughts about the shared-note-taking experience:

  • Taking notes was pretty useful for me, to remember what was presented and force myself to stay engaged.
  • One problem with them being shared is that I feel a little awkward promoting them because I don’t really own them.
  • The notes feel the most useful and most meaningful for the talks that didn’t have as much info on the slides. There were a few talks where I found myself trying to type everything that was on the slides… that seems like an unnecessary duplication of effort. The talks where the slides were minimal or nonexistent felt better from a note-taking perspective.

All in all, this was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely do it again, especially if more people get involved. And for those of you at pycon now, go take some notes!



One thought on “My experience note-taking at PyCon 2012

  1. excellent post, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector don’t understand this.

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