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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

PyCon and the Python Community

Socially, I can be pretty dense. This made it possible for me to arrive at a startling revelation at PyCon this year, one that significantly changed my perception of the Python community, and my view of my place in it.

I've always loved going to PyCon and working with people in the community. But it wasn't until I heard David Goodger's opening remarks on Friday that it finally dawned on me how important Python is to many of its members as a community and circle of friends. Or for that matter, how important it is to me as well.

Here's the back story: In the early days of PyCon, in 2004, I heard that David couldn't come to the conference for lack of funds. He'ld been laid off. I sent an email to the docutils mailing list and within hours had enough pledges to pay for his travel and accommodations. One anonymous donor gave over $200.

That was more or less the last I thought of it until I heard David speak about it this year. What he said was that he was not just out of work but also depressed and this show of support from the community ended up meaning a lot to him. It was clear from talking about this with others afterwards that he's not alone in his perception of the community as very personal indeed.

Even if you're not the type to get teary eyed by such stories of unselfish giving from members of our far-flung community (and I admit I do), you can't argue with the sheer brilliance of this approach. As an investment in our collective future, this gesture turned out to pay off handsomely. As many of you may know, David has served as Director in the Python Software Foundation, where he has done a fantastic job as Secretary, and he has worked intensively this year as the PyCon Chairman.

So now I've figured it out, and I am all the more confident of the health and vigor of Python. The motivations run much deeper than I thought, as do the rewards.

This is also why I'm not much concerned about some of the criticisms of this year's PyCon. These things will be fixed next year, and we'll move on.

Every community has its problems. It's just a question of how (and whether) the community comes together to solve them. Like the small rural town where I live, one that strongly resists 21st century corporate intrusions into our 19th century village, I have a feeling that the Python community is not going to be building a Walmart any time soon.

I hope this is useful to those that share my social denseness, or that it may inspire others to practice spontaneous kindness as a way to build community.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wing IDE 3.0.4 and 3.1 beta1 released

Wingware released two new versions of its Python IDE this week.

Version 3.0.4 is a bug fix release, most notable for reducing debugger overhead by about 50% per Python instruction executed. The threaded debugger in 3.0.4+ should now be about as fast as the old non-threaded debugger in Wing 2.x. About 16 other bugs were squashed. Details are in the change log.

Version 3.1 beta1 adds some new features including support for pkg_resources style name space merging (used in setuptools and with eggs), stepping through code in zip and zipped egg archives, doctest and nose unit testing support, inline form snippets that appear in the auto-completer, quick navigation to files in the project or symbols in the current editor by typing fragments of their names, and simple word list driven auto-completion in non-Python files.

If you try the beta, be sure to run Check for Updates from the Help menu after you install. Some patches have already been released to fix a couple of problems caused by build issues.

Last PyCon pre-registration day

Today is the last day to pre-register for PyCon. After that it's just on-site registration, starting next week. Don't delay, because the venue could reach its capacity of 1200 -- currently there are 963 paid registrations, with another 40 or so pending payment.

Last year we had about 560 attendees, and it was 400 the year before that so we're looking at a pretty nice growth curve.

Hope to see you there!