If people are serious about trying to prototype this stuff then the easiest way might  be coming up with shell scripts that do the prompting if it's faster to iterate that way than doing a full-blown GUI. Now that WIndows 10 has WSL/Bash it means for the first time all 3 major OSs have a common shell people can work from. You could even go as far as making the shell scripts be Cookiecutter templates such that people can experiment with things being included/left out (e.g. an instructor wants to require Python 3.5, no git, and have people work from a virtual environment and so they generate the shell script everyone is told to run to get things going/verify the student's system is set up properly).

On Fri, 16 Dec 2016 at 05:52 Daniel Holth <dholth@gmail.com> wrote:
I'm also a visual studio code fan. It is the first editor I've tried that feels lightweight like Vim but has the power of many plugins. That, and the text rendering is excellent.

https://pypi.python.org/pypi/Stallion is a lovely GUI package manager.

One possibility to consider is that virtualenv itself is a bad idea. Why should the Python interpreter executable, rather than the program being run, determine the set of packages that is available for import? It is confusing and inconvenient to have to deal with environments at all. Yes, even if you are using a helper. Maybe there can be a better way to manage dependencies that is not completely disjoint from setup.py.

That just sounds like node_modules/ and I personally don't want to go down that route. If you view the interpreter as another component of an app then the disconnect doesn't seem so nutty (at least in my head; at that point it's just another /usr/local to me).


On Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 8:07 AM Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan@gmail.com> wrote:
On 16 December 2016 at 20:57, Glyph Lefkowitz <glyph@twistedmatrix.com> wrote:

Anyhow, Xcode is far from perfect - many of the places it touches the UNIX pipeline are extremely sharp edges you can easily impale yourself on (and don't get me started about codesigning) - but it nevertheless points at a different potential direction.  For example; why expose the concept of a "virtual environment" directly at all?  "New Project" could just create a requirements.txt and a setup.py for you, alongside a git repo and a virtualenv for that project.  Or, the UI could be geared towards setting up a tox.ini rather than a virtualenv, and run everything through tox so it's in an isolated environment with defined requirements.  This is a best practice anyway so why not make it easier to start early?

This might all be way too much work, but I think it's important to remember it's possible.

Yeah, I think we agree more than we disagree here. The main thing is that one of the key ways newcomer-friendly environments make themselves more approachable is to *constrain choice*.

XCode usability benefits from being Apple-centric. Ditto for Visual Studio and MS.

Linux and Python, by contrast, were both born out of a DIY culture where folks being free to choose their own tools was initially perceived solely as a highly desirable feature, rather than as a potential barrier to entry for newcomers.

That means there's an argument to be made that something like YHat's Rodeo [1] might be a better starting point for data analytics in Python than jumping straight to Jupyter Notebook, and it's also why the Mu editor [2] exists as a dedicated tool for folks learning Python by way of the micro:bit project.

[1] http://rodeo.yhat.com/docs/
However, the reason I brought up the Curse and Firefox GUI examples was to emphasise the problems they hide from the default rich client experience:

- their default focus is on managing one environment per device

In the analogous Python tool, one could replace "per device" with "per project" - and perhaps have a "default project" so something useful could happen even before you've decided what you're doing...

But we've immediately bumped the complexity level up in doing so, and it's a level of complexity that many people initially spending all of their development time on a single project may not need.

I thought this thread was already interminable, I look forward to reading the never-ending rest of it now that you've raised the grim spectre of the PyPI user-ratings feature from the dead :).

All the arguments against integrating user ratings into a service that's focused on lowering barriers to publication still hold, so I'm really just noting that that decision to create a friendlier publishing environment *does* introduce some additional constraints elsewhere in the distribution pipeline.
User-curated package sets strikes me as the _lowest_ priority feature out of all of those, if we are ordering by priority to deliver a good user experience.  I know "steam curators" have been brought up before - but we're talking about adding curators (one of my least favorite features of Steam, for what it's worth) before we've added "install game" ;-).

In many educational contexts, adding "install game" without support for institutional curators of some kind is a complete non-starter (even if those curators are a collaborative community like a Linux distribution, there's still more accountability than software publishing sites like PyPI tend to provide).

I initially wanted to disagree when I read this, but I'm not actually sure what educational contexts you're talking about, and why "accountability" is important?

Schools, mainly. Lots of administrators are still scared of the internet, so one of the attractions of things like Raspberry Pi is that the software updates come from Debian rather than directly from the software publishers.

Sometimes you can get away with "What the bureaucracy doesn't know won't hurt it", but it's more convenient when teachers don't have to do that.
"beginner" is a direction, and not a fixed position; many people more "beginner" than the current audience could be well-served by a discoverable initial project-creation and REPL UI.  While I don't doubt that some backend pieces might help (although I still don't see how the one being discussed would), I also think that it would be very hard to say that the back-end is a limiting factor in UX improvement for the Python onboarding process; the front end could move quite a bit up the value chain without touching any of the various backends it would need to interact with.

But of course, if I really wanted to make this point, I'd just write it; dstufft is certainly right that volunteer time is not fungible.  If I'm lucky, I'll have the time to do that at some point, since my efforts to convince someone else that this is the high-value target have been failing for some years now ;).

I'll confess that one of my ulterior motives for encouraging computing teachers to engage more directly with the upstream Python community is that I kinda hope we'll eventually run into one that either decides none of the current editors are good enough and creates their own, or else decides that "create the introductory editor that you wish you had when you started learning to program" might make a good collaborative student project :)

Alternatively, I've recently started using Visual Studio Code as my editor for work [1], and it seems likely that would be hackable enough for someone to create a plugin that bootstrapped a complete Python toolchain such that the bootstrapping flow became:

1. Install VSCode
2. Install the "New to Python" plugin
3. Run the plugin's "Setup Python Environment" command


[1] Oh the irony that the first cross-platform editor I've tried that I actually think looks nice and find pleasant to use on Fedora was released by Microsoft :)

Nick Coghlan   |   ncoghlan@gmail.com   |   Brisbane, Australia
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