Python’s Users

One of the reactions we sometimes get to various things we work on for Python is one of incredulity: “Why on Earth are you wasting your time on X? Problem Y is far more important!”.

The answer is typically “because the relative importance of X and Y depends on your point of view, and I currently consider X to be the more important of the two” (although “because I find working on X to be more fun and interesting than working on Y” is another common reason).

Assessing the relative importance of different changes to the language involves making assumptions regarding the way the language is used. As core developers, we actually have a pretty decent view into how it gets used in practice, and many of us also have the experience and contacts to know how it gets used by the silent majority of developers operating behind corporate and government firewalls (of both the civilian and military variety) rather than participating in the open source development community.

However, we don’t make a habit of articulating the different users we’re trying to design for, so it’s not surprising that the common answer of “this is not for you” isn’t recognised in advance.

The various sections of this essay try to go over the different groups I keep in mind when working on CPython, my current perspective on how well I think those groups are served by the Python community (as of 18 March 2013), and where I see support for those groups currently heading.

Optimise for Maintenance

One of Guido’s key insights into language design is that code is read far more often than it is written, so it makes more sense to optimise for software maintenance than it does to optimise for starting from an empty file. This means that readability is highly prized in the language design, and brevity is favoured only insofar as it improves readability.

Individual Automation

These users represent the classic “scripting” use case that gives scripting languages their name. Traditionally associated with system administrators, this role encompasses any individual that uses Python to automate aspects of their own activities, without necessarily sharing those tools with anyone else.

The line between individual automation and system integration is a complex one. Often a script may start life as an individual automation tool and then later become a critical workflow tool as it is shared amongst a group.

There are many characteristics of CPython (such as the large standard library) that are useful for this group

System Integrators

Scientists and Data Explorers —————————–s

Internet Application Developers

Corporate Internal Developers

Educators and Students

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