[Python-Dev] Encouraging developers

Nick Coghlan ncoghlan at gmail.com
Tue Mar 6 15:41:23 CET 2007

Georg Brandl wrote:
> As far as I recall, there has been nearly no one who asked for commit rights
> recently, so why complain that the entry barrier is too great? Surely you
> cannot expect python-dev to got out and say "would you like to have commit
> privileges?"...

I think the number one suggestion I can make to anyone who is genuinely 
interested in contributing to the Python core is to lurk on python-dev 
for a while.

It *does* require a reasonable time commitment (much more than the time 
required to fire a one-off patch at the SF tracker), but I've certainly 
found it to be a valuable learning experience (both in general and in 
relation to Python core development):
   - getting an idea of who's who (and what's what) in the Python world
   - getting an idea of what needs to be done in CPython development
   - seeing bugs and patches discussed (yes, it happens!)
   - learning various non-Python specific things ranging from good API 
design and doing object-oriented programming in C to the intricacies of 
binary floating point, Unicode and POSIX signal handling (etc, etc, ...)

I believe my personal involvement in core development followed a similar 
trajectory to Georg's - lurked on python-dev for a while, began 
participating in discussions before too long (I'm not very good at 
lurking ;), helped out with the initial addition of the decimal module, 
got tracker privileges to help out with various bugs and patches, then 
eventually got commit privileges in order to update PEP 343.

And I think this approach still works - it's just that it is mainly 
useful to people that are interested in Python core development in 
general, rather than those that are looking to get a specific bug fixed 
or patch accepted (although the latter can happen too - Lars was given 
commit privileges when it became clear that he was both willing and able 
to be the maintainer of the tarfile module).

One thing that did happen though (which the messages from Jeremy & Phil 
reminded me of) is that I got a lot of direction, advice and assistance 
from Raymond when I was doing that initial work on improving the speed 
of the decimal module - I had the time available to run the relevant 
benchmarks repeatedly and try different things out, while Raymond had 
the experience needed to suggest possible avenues for optimisation (and 
when to abandon an approach as making the code too complicated to be 
effectively maintained).

I don't know whether or not there is anything specific we can do to 
encourage that kind of coaching/mentoring activity, but I know it was a 
significant factor in my become more comfortable with making contributions.


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

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