The state of the community

All ESP8266 boards running MicroPython.
Official boards are the Adafruit Huzzah and Feather boards.
Target audience: MicroPython users with an ESP8266 board.
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deshipu
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The state of the community

Post by deshipu » Sun Nov 13, 2016 7:57 pm

The recent voting in the thread next door made me think about some ways to estimate the current state of the community. Of course, any such estimation would be hugely inaccurate and fuzzy to begin with, however, I still find it interesting -- it at least gives us some idea about where we are and how effective our actions have been so far -- and which ones of them it would be the most beneficial to focus on. So here are some simple attempts off the top of my head:
  • The kickstarter campaign had 1,399 backers -- those are people who paid at least $10 to have the project happen, so they have at least some skin in the game. No idea how many of them actually participate in the community in any way.
  • The feature voting during the kickstarter collected 1037 responses. Those are the people, from among the previous group, who bothered to click on a link in their e-mail and make a choice.
  • This sub-forum has 319 topics, started by 169 different users. Many of those are just "ask and run" one-shots, though, and many active users don't really start new threads, but rather prefer to respond to existing threads.
  • I have no easy way to get to other activity statistics, but perhaps the forum admins do and could add to this.
  • The poll in the neighboring thread has 23 votes total so far.
  • A few months ago I ran a contest on hackaday.io for projects using MicroPython on the esp8266. Through the month, only 6 people submitted projects that qualified.
  • Searching the hackaday.io for "MicroPython ESP8266", and excluding my own projects, I can see 20 projects. 8 of them are from the aforementioned contest.
  • Over the last two years I ran 4 different hardware workshops with groups of about 20 people each. I keep contact with the people who participated, and as far as I know, none of them actually started a project using MicroPython.
  • There are 24 issues tagged with esp8266 open on github, 72 closed. No idea by how many people.
  • Any other ways to gauge the size of our small group?
Last edited by deshipu on Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lysenko
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Re: The state of the community

Post by Lysenko » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:03 pm

deshipu wrote: [*] Any other ways to gauge the size of our small group?[/list]
Github watches (492) and forks (871)? The latter may be largely dead, but the former is mail bombing people several times a day and they're not switching it off.

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deshipu
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Re: The state of the community

Post by deshipu » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:04 pm

Lysenko wrote:
deshipu wrote: [*] Any other ways to gauge the size of our small group?[/list]
Github watches (492) and forks (871)? The latter may be largely dead, but the former is mail bombing people several times a day and they're not switching it off.
Well, that's for the whole MicroPython repository, though, not just the esp8266 port users.

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ernitron
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Re: The state of the community

Post by ernitron » Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:27 pm

Dear Deshipu I was pretty sure somebody would have rised this topic, and I was ready to bet it would be you ;)

Indeed, it is time for a balance of MicroPython status especially with the forthcoming generations of IoT micro devices.

I am one of the guys coming from NodeMCU/LUA and Arduino development. Joined few months ago, I just witness an immense amount of great work. I am also a poor developer here to learn as I am involved more in the managemenet side of an industrial company so my interest is in the 'proof of concept' of IoT technologies rather than in home DYI devices. But it's also my beloved hobby and I cannot say if I am playing or working with it. Probably both.

Let's put this topic into a sort of 'marketing' problem and state some goals like how to scale up and have more people interested in micropython. A good and ambitious objective that maybe is shared with the original core developers (or maybe not, they will tell). This would lead to more development, better knowledge, better solutions, better ecosystem. More people can bring also more confusion (quantity is not the same thing as quality) but I don't think this is a risk here as the people managing this community and the project have high skill and can manage the growth.

I think that now, micropython is superior to NodeMCU/LUA so it could definitely attract more developers but I still know people that prefer the Arduino/SDK or NodeMCU and LUA. But there is a huge potential of people that will look for better way to solve their projects... ESP8266 (like also the PyBoard) is just one step and there will be others, so it's a long way.

Python, as everybody knows, has its own problems of popularity. Python3 vs Python 2 and the Android/Java did not help. Javascript is getting a lot of popularity and NodeJS and other technologies are there and compete very tough. Within Raspberry PI, python is very popular. And I am pretty convinced that the elegance and powerful of Python will have their role in the development of small devices and in IoT.

Recently, if I remember well, Bruno Van Rossum endorsed Micropython, so that could be something. Maybe micropython should be related to the more bigger and influencing Python community.

A 'marketing' strategy is not something I am in the position to tell the people of the project, but my humble suggestions would be:
- Go social: open to other networks, more stackoverflow, more reddit, even more Twitter, FB, YouTube, etc. Even Linkedin! I am not a fan of any social as I am pretty anti-social but something has to be considered ;)
- Get out of the specialized forum like this one and publish in other forums http://www.esp8266.com and others
- Better SEO for all the material related to Micropython, more blogs, more publishing
- Publish real world IoT projects and gain visibiliy in the media
- Have some Python rock-stars (not just Van Rossum) but influencers from the Python community that embrace micropython as THE tool for IoT devices. I would like to see a guy like Kenneth Reitz or someone like him.

So far, as Paul/pfalcon would say, are just words. Who's gonna making something? I am committed and will do the little that I can because, I have to say, I love Python and MicroPython. I guess many here as well.

Thanks

pfalcon
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Re: The state of the community

Post by pfalcon » Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:49 pm

ernitron wrote: So far, as Paul/pfalcon would say, are just words. Who's gonna making something?
Indeed who would do something? Let's look who did majority of new uPy version announcements on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/search?q=micropython . And that the source of the majority of new github stars, and sorry, while it's vanity fair, it's the only adequate feedback source of finding out if there're *new* people who keep finding uPy cool. I'm telling myself that I stop doing this PR (I personally don't get much out of it) when we collected 2000 stars, 3000 stars, now there's one notch to 4K stars. Who'd be doing it, let's guess?

Who'll be posting new announcement to python-ann list? I stopped doing that regularly, as it brings little new stars (everyone in Python community knows about uPy). It still needs to be done from time to time.

Who'll be posting on HackerNews? I stopped doing that, because conversion is too low - there's ~10% chance that during an initial hour there will be enough votes for it to be on first page to go viral. Someone doing that would need to raise a "flashmob", like shout "tomorrow I'll post on HN, watch forum for announce of that and go upvote at once", and there should be enough upvoters who actually do that (my calls usually lead to 2-3 votes, that's too few).

Good luck guys.
Awesome MicroPython list
Pycopy - A better MicroPython https://github.com/pfalcon/micropython
MicroPython standard library for all ports and forks - https://github.com/pfalcon/micropython-lib
More up to date docs - http://pycopy.readthedocs.io/

Lysenko
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Re: The state of the community

Post by Lysenko » Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:59 pm

deshipu wrote:
Lysenko wrote:
deshipu wrote: [*] Any other ways to gauge the size of our small group?[/list]
Github watches (492) and forks (871)? The latter may be largely dead, but the former is mail bombing people several times a day and they're not switching it off.
Well, that's for the whole MicroPython repository, though, not just the esp8266 port users.
True. I didn't realise you were only focussed on just one SoC. It's clear from what you wrote, I just didn't read closely enough.

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wminarik
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Re: The state of the community

Post by wminarik » Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:02 pm

Another measure of the Micropython community:
Of the posts to the micropython.org forum, over 55% have been generated by 15 individuals. Three of those are Damien, Paul, and Pycom.

I suspect that there are many other lurkers ('guests') like myself, frequently, trying to get up to speed. For us, these 15 individuals have been invaluable, both to learn about the current state of micropython and the philosophies driving its development.

Unfortunately, the learning curve is a bit steep when moving beyond the tutorial examples. One needs to know Python 3, microcontrollers, and to sort through the various places that parts of the documentation resides. Different platforms have different default modules installed, and sometimes the module usage differs too. I've not yet figured out how I can help to bring order to the documentation.

I fully intend to use micropython as a teaching tool; I suspect others do as well. These projects probably don't show up on searches, as they may be as simple as getting 10-year olds to blink an LED or make a temperature sensor/display combination. Yet micropython is invaluable for this, since there's no IDE or compiling needed -and the feedback is instantaneous.

Bill
P.S. let me make it explicit: thank you to the frequent contributors and question answerers on this forum!

greentree
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Re: The state of the community

Post by greentree » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:23 am

Hello all,

I've been using teensies and the like for teaching a mixture of technology and environmental science at the University level and also in middle and high school classes. My goals are to entrain the many students for whom hands on learning works better than listening to lectures. This includes K12 settings sometimes where half the students don't even show up on a typical day. Many of those students come to class, even stay late, when it's sensor building day.

A year ago I hadn't even held a python-based microcontroller in my hand. I took a big chance and switched my University course starting in a few days to use pyboards, because I thought python was intrinsically a much better tool in a teaching environment. It was a real scramble but I think it was definitely worth it. Having an interactive, intuitive language makes it far easier for students to get useful devices working without just handing them lots of "don't touch this" code. It also fits into the overall evolution of my department, which is increasingly python-based except for in large scale scientific computing.

I haven't contributed a lot to this forum because my skill set in this area is fairly limited. However I have used it a lot, and many students and teachers building python-based environmental sensors have benefited from your contributions. This year we'll try using ESP8266's in our teaching program. Hopefully there will be hundreds of our ESP8266-based sensors out there in a year's time.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the developers and also to the many forum contributors. The rapid evolution of this project, and the versatility and effectiveness of the technology, are truly amazing to me.

As an educator, the facts that these sensors cost so little and are so easy to work with enables me to make new learning and employment possibilities available to students who previously did not have any way to crack the door to the technological world. As an environmental scientist, putting environmental sensing in the hands of local communities could really augment our understanding and responsiveness to issues like climate change. So, from my individual point of view, I see micropython as a whole and the ESP8266 branch perhaps especially as a societal and environmental movement as much as a technological development.

This is all thanks to you. Please keep it up!

Danny

stijn
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Re: The state of the community

Post by stijn » Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:59 am

Lysenko wrote:True. I didn't realise you were only focussed on just one SoC. It's clear from what you wrote, I just didn't read closely enough.
To be fair the OP started using 'the community' as the subject so I was also a bit surprised by the 'just the esp8266 port users.' response. Maybe I'm misunderstanding things but I fail to see how splitting the whole uPy community into something smaller - 'the community but only XXX' - is going to help with making the community bigger.

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kfricke
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Re: The state of the community

Post by kfricke » Mon Nov 14, 2016 9:06 am

I think the OP was a little mistaken and probably misleading on this. He did argue a little "away" from the global MircroPython community by just an example of bad an example of community building in the context of the ESP8266 port.

But I do also think that you are right and we should not take that single platform and the recent problems in that area as granted for the whole community!

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