[Chicago] Django and Rails and PHP (oh my!)

Michael Tobis mtobis at gmail.com
Wed Dec 21 07:33:58 CET 2005

On 12/20/05, Brian Ray <bray at sent.com> wrote:

> What does making a website and learning to program have to do with
> eachother? Where did learning to think like programmer even have
> anything to do with building a website?

Nice question. My answer is that it's the other way around. Building a
website has something to do with becoming a programmer.

>...  Once a student has accomplished learning to
> program the right way, they then can go on ...

Ah but this is the issue. Edsger Dijkstra once said something to the
effect that he thought the teaching of BASIC was a criminal act, as it
caused minds to form around the wrong concepts. Whether or not BASIC
has improved since then, I think PHP is the BASIC of our time. The
template is just not a promising organizing principle for interesting
ideas. Consider the namespace instead.

Building a website that DOES something is probably the first motivator
for most beginning programmers these days. PHP achieves this with
little fuss, but only by introducing a wrongheaded concept at its core
- an attachment to a way of working that entangles the concerns of
presentation and process.

Ruby is offering an alternative, but Python isn't. There are people
with amazing talents in the Python world, and there are lots of
frameworks at least as good as Rails, but none of them are accessible
in practice to the beginner, because the teaching materials are

If we get people into Python, the entire community including all the
other web frameworks will benefit. If we don't learn from the Ruby
folks and promote ourselves effectively, the community risks eventual
decline. Given all that has been achieved, and all that Python has to
offer, that would be a shame.

Right now I want to see a small, interesting Django/Python book that
takes advantage of Django's buzz, and satisfies a bright thirteen year
old with zero programming experience (except for fifty lines of PHP
most likely) without offending the spirit of Dijkstra, and I want it

If that's too much to ask I'll write the thing, but alas it won't be
ready yesterday.


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