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PyCon2009 Gong Show!!

So I thought of an idea for pycon2009 … A GONG SHOW!  Here’s how it would work:

  • People sign up for 5 minute slots.
  • A panel of 3 judges preside.
  • Each person gets 1 minute to get into their talk.
  • After that point, the panel is free to “gong” the person any time it gets dull or uninteresting or for any other reason.
  • Each judge will score each talk on a 1-10 scale.
  • The winner will get a prize!

Good idea?  Comments?  I think it would be a fun thing to do in addition to the normal lightning talks.  Maybe I’ll propose it for a 45 minute talk space next year.

15 Responses to “PyCon2009 Gong Show!!”

  1. David Wolever Says:

    I think that sounds pretty good… Some of the lightning talks were really, really good… But some of them… Well… Hence, the gong show.

  2. Carl T. Says:

    At first I thought, “Oh, that’s a horrible idea.” Then I began to laugh maniacally. It would definitely put the cutting back into the cutting edge. As long as people have a thick enough skin, it might make things interesting.

  3. Carl T. Says:

    Just looked this up – if you’re serious, here’s the place to pitch it:

  4. Kevin Dangoor Says:

    This may even be a solution to the vendor lightning talks issue…

    Some (many?) vendors actually have useful things to say. Those that want to get up there and read an advertisement, however, will get gonged ASAP. Works for me!

  5. Jeff Triplett Says:

    Great idea but the setup between sessions was rather painful with two screens. I have a feeling we’d go through lightning talk sessions faster then most people could set up. Maybe you could merge the sessions slides with the laser pointers and that explode their presentations if enough people point at them. That might be too much fun resulting in every slide getting blown up but that’d still be fun.

  6. philhassey Says:

    Jeff – that would be rather spectacular 🙂

  7. Kumar McMillan Says:

    oh yeah, you MUST submit a proposal for this. Thinking back to PyCon, a minute is plenty of time to detect the waste-of-time lightning talks. The setup might be challenging as Jeff mentions, but not impossible.

  8. Sean Reifschneider Says:

    This idea has already been brought up on the organizers list, literally a gong show format. I think it’s a horrible idea, brought about as a knee-jerk reaction to the vendor lightning talks.

    First of all, I don’t think our lightning talk format should require the presenters to have “thick skin”. The “gong show” sets up a fairly antagonistic environment which I don’t think as a community we should allow, or especially promote.

    Additionally, being antagonistic towards the sponsors may have the unintended consequence that next year PyCon is more expensive. The sponsors covered something around $50 per attendee that otherwise would have had to have been paid by attendees.

    Note that the “sponsor lightning talk problem” has been solved. It was an experiment tried over the last 2 years, last year it worked well, this year the sponsors weren’t properly educated about what lightning talks are. Steps are being taken so that the problem is not repeated, see the organizers list for more information.

    The gong show idea is amusing, but personally I think it should stop here, just being an amusing meme.


  9. philhassey Says:

    Sean – hehe, fair enough 🙂 I hope my post didn’t upset anyone. It was meant partially as a joke, partially seriously. Here’s more of what I envisioned:

    – Separate “sponsor lightning talk” section. I actually got a lot out of a few of the sponsor talks this year, but I’d really like them in a single group together. I dunno if that’s the solution you already worked out. I’m sure you’ve got it under control.

    – Separate “normal lightning talks” sections. The “gong show” format really wouldn’t work for everything. Some talks really do take a few minutes to get to the point. And, as you pointed out, the antagonistic format isn’t at all good for a more “serious” lightning talk.

    – Separate “gong show” section. The core idea I had was more of an “entertainment” venue. The only talks that should even be in it would be the entertainment / “WOW” sorts of talks. I guess the idea came to me in terms of what I’d find fun to participate in either as an audience member or as a presenter. To enjoy this, people would have to conciously NOT take it very seriously. As I mentioned in my post, I wouldn’t want to replace the real lightning talks with this bit of craziness!

    To wrap up, I don’t think you should replace lightning talks with this idea. I think this would be a fun light-hearted addition to the conference. OTOH – you may be right, that even trying to do this “just for fun” would have a negative impact on community.

  10. a random John Says:


    I’d be happy to write an app that explodes someone’s talk it it is shot but a sufficient number of laser pointers. In fact, if I can get cheapo pointers again I’d even be happy to bring the laser pointers.

    You’d just have to require that people have their slides as a series of .jpg files and that they all get loaded before the session starts.

    Another option would be to have monsters that “eat” slides. People can choose to kill the monsters with lasers in order to preserve the talk, or let the monsters go and destroy it.

  11. philhassey Says:

    John – that might be a more positive spin on the whole concept. Instead of getting gonged you try to “survive” your talk. The speakers would need laser-safe goggles for sure!

  12. michael schurter Says:

    I love it. I thought the lightning talks could have used an airhorn too. At 5 minutes, the air horn is blown, talks over.

    Not to be mean, just lighten the mood. 🙂

  13. a random John Says:

    I managed to not get shot in the eye during my talk, but I agree that there would need to be some form of protection. It looks like safety glasses run about $150, a small price to pay for your vision. We would also need some method of determining who gets lasers. I can only afford to give away so many. Perhaps a rotating panel of “judges” could sit up front.

    Also, people would need to make slides that don’t contain the color red, or perhaps you could purposely put red into your slides as a first line of defense against the monsters…

  14. philhassey Says:

    John – a couple thoughts:

    – if we used bruce (richard’s pyglet based presentation software), people could have pretty full featured demos integrated with the laser gong show

    – why can’t people use red? if the camera was calibrated so that the default screen was only coming in at say .. 50% of power, I’d think that the laser spots would show up as considerably brighter than the normal red

  15. a random John Says:

    I need to work on calibration. Maybe I can have better control over things with my DV camera. The lasers max out the iSight. Putting red into games leads to interesting feedback effects though…