Thursday, November 02, 2017

Eric Floehr, Community Service Award 3rd Quarter 2017 Recipient

When Eric Floehr was a child growing up in Ohio, he had three interests: space, dinosaurs, and the weather. One day, his dad brought home a computer to make video games. Eric and his dad worked together copying code from magazines, thus beginning a lifelong interest in programming.

After getting his bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Ohio State, Eric worked as a software engineer, all while nurturing Python hobbies built on his childhood interests. He now works for the company he founded called Intellovations whose primary product is ForecastWatch, a tool that helps weather forecasters be more accurate. Eric has also been a consistent leader in his local Ohio Python community, all while spreading the Python love by encouraging others to get involved and create groups of their own.

The Python Software Foundation has awarded Eric with the Q3 2017 Community Service Award.
RESOLVED, that the Python Software Foundation Q3 2017 Community Service Award be given to Eric Floehr for his work chairing the PyOhio Conference. He is the founder and co-organizer of the Central Ohio Python User Group. COhPy has served as a resource for Python programmers in Columbus, OH. Eric's efforts to "spread Python love" via discussions with leaders of PyNash and IndyPy lead directly to the creation of the annual PyTennessee conference and the Pythology quarterly mini-conferences.

Contributions to the Python Community


While large events like PyCon US are incredibly important for the Python community and bring diverse groups together, it could be argued that smaller groups with more frequent events provide even more benefit. Here attendees are more likely to meet a potential employer/employee, find someone to talk through a problem at work or fun project idea, and socialize with like-minded locals. Eric works from home, which is one of the reasons he enjoys engaging socially with his local Python community. He started by attending PyOhio, a free annual regional Python conference, and quickly wanted to help out. “The first year I helped with pizza, cleanup, and video”, he recalls. By the second year, he was a full-on organizer, “you don’t really need to have any particular skills to organize, just jump in there and do it.”


In 2010, when he realized there was no Python group in Columbus, he started The Central Ohio Python User’s Group (COhPy). COhPy hosts meetings once a month where people can listen to talks and chat with local Pythonistas. It also holds networking events and offers other services for the community such as a Slack channel. “Eric's efforts as an organizer of PyOhio and COhPy have given hundreds of Python developers the opportunity to teach and share with thousands of other Python developers”, says Brian Costlow, fellow PyOhio and COhPy organizer, “It gives people the opportunity to grow into speakers and teachers in a small, safe venue, and for many, myself included, to make new and lifelong friends.“ Jason Green, a PyOhio organizer, credits Eric’s gregarious and inclusive nature with his own integration into the Python community. Not only did he welcome Jason to the group, he encouraged him to get involved. “As a leadership mentor, for the last several months,” Jason says, “he has made a point of having me introduce the speakers and welcome new guests.”

Spreading the Python Love

Eric encourages others to get outside of their comfort zone, try new things, and start groups in their own areas. For example, at the PyOhio 2013 conference, Eric put out a call for more regional Python conferences. This struck Jason Myers, a PyOhio attendee, as something that would benefit his Python community in Tennessee. Jason approached Eric with the idea of starting a PyTennessee conference, and Eric immediately offered to help. “Over the course of our first conference planning, call for proposals, and the event itself, Eric was always there with guidance.” Eric’s support didn’t stop there, Jason goes on, “for all four years that I ran PyTennessee, Eric was our best supporter, cheerleader, and advisor.” Jason credits Eric for PyTennessee’s success explaining, “I know without a shadow of a doubt that there would be no PyTennessee without him, and I am eternally grateful for his wisdom, assistance and his friendship.”

Python for Fun

Eric’s love for Python does not end with work and community but is a large part of his hobbies as well. Perhaps his most interesting hobby combines his love of Python and the weather. He set up an old digital camera out his window at home with a Raspberry Pi to take photos every 10 seconds for 3 years. Not only was he able to capture beautiful and dramatic images of weather events, he collected 6 terabytes worth of pictures and metadata that he used Python to analyze in interesting ways. When his analysis was complete in 2015, he gave a fantastic talk on this project at PyOhio.

Time-lapsed images from Eric’s digital camera and raspberry pi

When asked why Python is his language of choice, Eric beams, “Python is a great enabler. It allows people to do more in less time and to build amazing things. From creative works to scientific research, from scratching personal itches, to helping solve critical problems, Python is an incredible tool for growth and exploration. But more than the tool itself,” Eric goes on to say, “it's the community around the tool that I have really fallen in love with. Its focus on inclusivity, tolerance, and respect has been a model for other communities, and it's not only a community I love but one that I'm proud to be a part of.”

What’s next for this Python hobbyist? “Have you seen Westworld?”, he asks. “Like the piano playing by itself in the opening sequence, I’d like to make a mechanical xylophone with 30 keys and 30 hammers that plays itself like a music box.”

Community Service Award Winner Q3 2017 Eric Floehr