"The Python Way"

Tim Peters tim_one at email.msn.com
Fri Jun 4 01:15:13 EDT 1999

[Fredrik Lundh]
> sure looks like the "community" thinks that changing the
> language is more important than using it...

[Patrick Phalen]
> Yeah; now that you mention it, the "let's fix Python" discourse
> has been approaching my pain threshold, as it does once in awhile.

That's the spirit <wink>!

> (Have you noticed that, during such periods, both Guido and Tim
> seem to become singularly quiet?)

It's just old.  python.org has archives of the pre-c.l.py days, and you'll
find many of the old-timers arguing vigorously about all the "current
issues" 8 years ago already.  There have been few notable advances in the
art of GC-- let alone whitespace --since then, and repetition is tiring.
That doesn't mean people to whom it's all fresh shouldn't have fun clawing
each others' eyes out, though.  OTOH, doesn't mean they should, either.

> Not that Python shouldn't be open to critique,

It's far too late to complain about 1.5.2 <0.9 wink>.

> but the more I use and learn about the language, the more I find myself
> appreciating the nice balance and heft Guido gave to it. Yet there doesn't
> seem to be a single document that sums up that "aesthetic," but rather it
> tends to appear piecemeal, over time, mostly in the Wisdom of Chairman
> Tim.

Eh?  I make shit up as I go along -- & Guido often appears to think that my
fabrications would be good positions for him to have pretended he had all
along too.   OTOH, after all these years, I *still* have to lecture him
about his true vision of what Python should be ... although he learns pretty
fast, for a Dutch guy <wink>.

> I'd like to suggest something as a sort of balm for those of us who
> come here to try to learn to work with, rather than against, the grain
> of Python:
> Would both Guido and TIm Peters be willing to collaborate on a short
> paper -- call it "The Python Way" for lack of a better title -- which
> sets out the 10-20 prescriptives they might offer to those who come to
> Python from other languages and immediately want to find a way to bend
> it into uncomfortable positions -- (implement closures, etc.).

And forego all those juicy Guido Channeling fees?!  Not me.

> What I have in mind is sort of a very brief Strunk-&-White-like
> "Elements of Style" for Python, which suggests fundamental idiomatic
> recommendations for operating within the spirit of the language. A
> distillation of Python Zen is what I'm talking about -- something to go
> off and contemplate when the "fix Python now" decibels become a bit
> much.
> Tim? Guido?

Clearly a job for Guido alone -- although I doubt it's one he'll take on
(fwiw, I wish he would too!).  Here's the outline he would start from,
though <wink>:

    Beautiful is better than ugly.
    Explicit is better than implicit.
    Simple is better than complex.
    Complex is better than complicated.
    Flat is better than nested.
    Sparse is better than dense.
    Readability counts.
    Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
    Although practicality beats purity.
    Errors should never pass silently.
    Unless explicitly silenced.
    In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
    There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
    Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
    Now is better than never.
    Although never is often better than *right* now.
    If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
    If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
    Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

There you go:  20 Pythonic Fec^H^H^HTheses on the nose, counting the one I'm
leaving for Guido to fill in.  If the answer to *any* Python design issue
isn't obvious after reading those -- well, I just give up <wink>.

let's-hear-it-for-lambda-in-curly-assignment-stmts-ly y'rs  - tim

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