April 10, 2007

Python is Not a Religion

The title of this piece is a quote from a post by Doug Napoleone on the subject of Python advocacy. Another quote: "Advocating Python for the sole purpose of promotion is idiocy." I quite agree with that one too. I don't really understand quite why one of my blog entries is referenced as ironically hypocritical, but I suppose I can live with that.

Nor am I sure who Doug is referring to as those who feel there is no need for Python advocacy. I certainly can agree, though, that there is absolutely no need for religious wars when it comes to choice of programming language, and that the appropriate question to ask is "is Python a good way to solve my problems". Anyone who sees Python as the solution to all programming problems is perceiving the language as a hammer and the problems as nails. There are many things that Python is good at (and many more it could be good at if someone wrote the right applications), but it's no more a panacea than any other language.

Doug's blog post appears to be a call for enthusiasts ("passionate people" is what he calls them) to come to the aid of the language. The sad fact is that the majority of the users of any technology (or any religion, come to that) - even users who profit vastly from its adoption - much prefer to be passive consumers than advocates, and this is the way of the world. Passion is all very well, but ultimately it needs to be directed to a goal, and shouldn't the goal of Python advocacy be helping people to solve technical problems more effectively?

While passionate people will help, I think advocacy needs planning as well as passion, and it's only when the two go together that language advocacy really helps. Support for the existing community is important, but so is increasing awareness of Python outside that community. I'm not convinced that most community members have the stomach for that task. It remains to be seen whether Python users are the best advocates for the language, but rightly or wrongly the Advocacy Coordinator position is currently planned as follows:
  • User groups how-to and content resources (40%)
  • Web site content showcasing Python capabilities (40%)
  • User group infrasructure support (5%)
  • Reactive and proactive response to queries and support requests (15%)
I am sure that the Coordinator, Jeff Rush, would love to have passionate people knocking on his door and asking how they can help him. Then he would have more time for other efforts that the PSF has asked him to back-pedal on for the moment. Ask not what Python can do for you ...

3 comments:

Douglas said...

Steve,
Sorry, your post was not 'ironically hypocritical', my sentence which contained links to your post was both ironic and hypocritical in that I was being just as snarky and alarmist as the python 3.0 criticism blog entry which your post was responding to. I was being overly critical of how the python development team and Guido in particular react to python FUD by ignoring it. I think I was being a little too cute and a little too 'meta'.

sorry for the confusion.

Steve said...

No problem. I'm glad you weren't leveling criticism against me. As you know I spend significant amounts of my time trying to support Python users - and I know you have spent a lot of effort building systems to run PyCon.

Jonathan said...

Hi Steve - I noticed that your Blogger profile says "Catholic tastes" for your favorite music. Are you a Catholic, and would you be interested in joining the recently formed Association of Catholic Computer Programmers?