Python is an amazing programming language that makes software development productive and fun. Python is open source, was created by a community of thousands of developers world-wide, and is used by about 14% of all programmers today. These are my thoughts as a user, advocate, co-author of an IDE for Python, and a director of the Python Software Foundation.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Python Success Stories, Volume III

O'Reilly Associates is going to be printing the third installment of its Python Success Stories. Please consider contributing your story.

This collection is helpful to Python advocates making a "sales pitch" to an audience that is looking for concrete proof of prior success in a particular domain. Existing stories cover applications ranging from feature-length movie animation to air-traffic control.

The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2005. The deadline for completed, approved stories to be delivered to the publisher is June 1, 2005.

For more information, please contact me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Case for the Python Software Foundation

PyCon is coming and part of my job there is to help present the "What is the PSF" talk after the keynote on day two. The goal is to let people know what the PSF does and, hopefully, to generate some additional support in the form of donations, sponsorships, and volunteer time.

So why give to the PSF?

1) The PSF keeps Python free. It does the grunt work to make sure that Python's open source license is legally valid. Unfortunately, it takes more than just slapping a license on some code to make open source. You also need to make sure that contributors to the project formally sign over the rights to the code that they provide. This is a pain in the butt, but it's important. The PSF takes care of this and related legal head aches, which cost some money and a lot of time to deal with. For some details on licensing, see the PSF License FAQ.

2) The PSF is giving grants. This year a smallish initial grant program gave $40K to three out of more than 60 applicants. The grant program is designed to help in areas that the open source community cannot cover well. A great example of this is Jython, which has been falling behind Python in features. A grant called Moving Jython Forward (PDF) was was funded this year. Unfortunately, the available $40K was much too little money to fund enough of the proposals, and quite a few good ones went unfunded. With about 750,000 Python programmers in the world, it would take only $10 per year from 10%, or more realistically $100 per year from 1% to create a fantastic grants program to fund significant portions of Python's development.

3) The PSF funds other activities. Not all projects funded by the PSF exist in the context of the grants program. Some are projects that the PSF defines and makes possible through funding. One example is a project that aims to update both the framework behind and the look and feel of the site. Another that has not yet been funded would build a better framework for the Python Job Board, which due to increasing volume has become a burden to the volunteers that support it. Both are, clearly, very important resources for the Python community.

4) The PSF makes PyCon possible. The annual Python developers conference, PyCon, is 100% community run. But it wouldn't be possible without the PSF, which takes the responsibility for the fixed costs associated with the venue before enough registration money is collected to pay for them. So far the PSF has been able to make a modest income from each event, but there is never a guarantee that this will be the case, especially as the event continues to grow and a larger venue may become necessary.

In short, the PSF does a whole lot of good in the world of Python. If you benefit from Python, please consider giving back the community by volunteering and/or donating to the PSF. We can accept credit cards, checks, and payments made via PayPal.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Python's Niche?

A few years back I started as a way to try to help new users pick up Python, particularly when they needed material to convince management that Python is a good choice. Together with the launch of this partially neglected site, I created a now-inactive mailing list marketing-python. Bold ambitions were announced, but not much happened in the context of "marketing" Python as you might market, say, Java or .NET with a boat load of vigorous hype.

The consensus seemed to be that Python needs a "niche" like those that catapulted Perl and PHP to comparatively wild success. But Python is terrific for many things so it's hard to focus on one or another. With no killer app and no hefty marketing bank roll in sight, we were told that little open source Python could never succeed by herself in the mainstream.

But here we are in 2005 and something curious has happened -- InfoWorld tells us that 14% of all programmers use Python, up 6% from the previous year. This almost doubles the number of Python programmers world-wide. Microsoft and Google are providing two out of three keynotes at the upcoming PyCon conference. Many other big companies are using Python, more and more of them openly on mission critical projects (see for example, Python Success Stories).

So it seems Python is succeeding without any organized marketing effort from the community. Does this mean it has a niche after all? I think it does and it's really quite simple: In a world where more and more companies want to avoid proprietary traps, Python is the solution they are turning to. Python represents the only really viable, robust, scalable, and mature open source alternative to broad-based proprietary technologies like C# or Java. In fact, Python is a heck of a lot better than either of these heavy-weights, in some areas where its standard libraries and third party modules really shine (or theirs really suck). For examples, see this overview.

If I'm right, I and my fellow dysfunctional marketeers can rest at last and enjoy the ride, because the push for technological freedom is - especially outside of the USA - a largely unstoppable force. And Python is, I can say with confidence, quite ready for the crush.