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BA Chili Cookoff

Last sat­ur­day I at­tend­ed the 2nd Buenos Aires Chili Cookof­f. Lots of peo­ple, lots of great food. I was with my kid and he can't eat any­thing that spicy, but hey, there were cook­ies :-)

//ralsina.me/galleries/random/chili.thumbnail.jpg

How crowd­ed was it? About three times this crowd was there.

I had lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence with Chili, be­cuase it's not ex­act­ly a com­mon dish around here, so, sur­prised by the va­ri­ety, and most were quite nice, and de­spite ex­haus­tive warn­ings by the cook­s, none was uned­i­bly spicy (the dread­ed Zom­bie Chili which promised to melt my mouth? Kin­da sweet and bland.)

Favourite? Lafit­te's re­venge, which re­al­ly was a sort of bean-free bour­guignon. Al­so, the smoked veg­gie chili was quite awe­some. And the cook­ies were killer­s!

Next year, my wife is talk­ing about cook­ing for it. I have had her chili, and I trust she can do bet­ter than 80% of the con­tes­tants this year. Plus I get to be­ta test her recipes, so win/win for me.

Nikola Ideas for PyCamp

This fri­day is the be­gin­ning of Py­Cam­p, four days of python hack­ing with­out dis­trac­tion or pause. And I want to code a lot. My main tar­get is fea­tures for Niko­la my stat­ic blog gen­er­a­tor.

If you are at­tend­ing Py­Camp (or even if you are not), you are wel­come to join me in im­ple­ment­ing these in a marathon of kick­ass cod­ing start­ing this fri­day and last­ing all week­end.

I have a few ideas in my head, but I want more. These are the ones I have, please add more in the com­ments if you have any:

Code Gallery

Like im­age gal­leries but for code. Put code in a fold­er and it will be beau­ti­ful­ly dis­played. With the ad­di­tion of a "list­ings" do­cu­tils di­rec­tive, it will make show­ing code in de­tail and in con­text easy and pow­er­ful, and make Niko­la more at­trac­tive to pro­gram­mer-blog­ger­s.

Gallery Polishing

Im­age gal­leries are im­ple­ment­ed and work, but they could use a lot of pol­ish. From mak­ing them more net­work-­ef­fi­cien­t, to im­age RSS feed­s, re­cur­sive gal­leries, gallery meta­data, im­age texts, and much more.

File Pipelines

Want to min­i­mize your CSS? Tidy your HTM­L? pngcrush your im­ages? ap­ply HTML trans­for­ma­tion­s? Oth­er things I can't imag­ine?

File pipe­lines would bring the pow­er of the unix shell to a site gen­er­a­tor, let­ting you con­nect lego-­like fil­ter­s, some pro­vid­ed, some from the com­mu­ni­ty, in­to a pow­er­ful ma­chin­ery.

Online Editing (Alva)

While stat­ic site gen­er­a­tors have lots of ben­e­fit­s, they have one sig­nif­i­cant down­sid­e: you ed­it the files in your own de­vice. A on­line ed­i­tor for Niko­la lets you ed­it them through a web in­ter­face for blog­ging-from-ay­where good­ness.

Nikola Hosting (Shoreham)

Why not cre­ate a ser­vice where the us­er feeds posts to a serv­er and then the serv­er pub­lish­es them? The feed­ing can be via a DVC­S, or a file sync ser­vice, or via on­line ed­i­tors, and the out­put is pub­lished au­to­mat­i­cal­ly or at the push of a but­ton.

Drafts

I don't do draft­s. I type and that's it. But oth­ers pre­fer more cau­tious and sane ap­proach­es. So, how should drafts work? While the fea­ture may be easy to im­ple­men­t, it's a good be­gin­ner pro­gram­mer's task, where you have to think more about what you want to achieve and pro­vid­ing a good us­er ex­pe­ri­ence than about just bang­ing code.

So, is there some­thing you saw in an­oth­er stat­ic blog gen­er­a­tor and Niko­la lack­s? Any cool ideas and want a friend­ly code­base to hack them on? Do you have any crazy ideas noone would touch with a ten-­foot-pole but you think would be awe­some to have?

Well, now's a good time to talk about it!

Python is Not a Configuration File Format

There is a large thread in red­dit about us­ing Python as con­fig­u­ra­tion file for­mat. I want to be clear about that:

DON'T DO THAT, UN­LESS YOU HAVE A VERY GOOD REA­SON.

If you need to ask if it's a good idea, then you don't have a good rea­son. If you are sure that you have a good rea­son, then maybe you have a good rea­son.

There are many rea­sons for it, but I will ex­plore just two, then of­fer a sug­ges­tion.

Python is read­-on­ly, and con­fig­ur­ing is not pro­gram­ming.

Sure, it's easy to use python as a con­fig file. You just im­port the thing, and there you go, all the da­ta is there. But now your con­fig­u­ra­tion syn­tax is a gen­er­al pur­pose lan­guage that can do things like pop up di­alogs when you parse it.

Your con­fig can now de­pend on the whole in­ter­net, the hard­ware, the weath­er, and in­ter­ac­tive in­put. Pow­er­ful? Sure. Good idea? May­be, some­times. But your ap­pli­ca­tion is now not able to con­fig­ure it­self.

If your ap­pli­ca­tion wants to store any kind of set­ting, it won't be able to. So most in­ter­ac­tive, desk­top app­s, just should not use python for this, ev­er.

But what about non-in­ter­ac­tive tool­s? Well, us­ing python means that oth­er tools can't write to the con­fig file, ei­ther, which makes the tool less pow­er­ful. The pow­er to have tools use tools is one of the cor­ner­stones of mod­ern com­put­ing, and you just cut your app off that ecosys­tem. De­pend­ing on what lan­guage the tool us­es it may not even be able to parse your con­fig file.

And what hap­pens when some­one is told "use this con­fig frag­ment to achieve X"? Well, odds are, if the re­cip­i­ent has done any­thing that takes ad­van­tage of us­ing python as a con­fig for­mat, then the frag­ment will not work. It would be like do­ing copy­/­paste from ran­dom code in github in­to your own pro­gram and ex­pect­ing it to work.

So, you can't write to it from the ap­p, you can't get con­fig­u­ra­tion tips from the in­ter­net, you can't use oth­er tools to mod­i­fy con­fig files, and oth­er tools have a hard time pars­ing your files.

Al­so, it means that to han­dle the gen­er­al case of con­fig­ur­ing your ap­p, you need a pro­gram­mer. That is al­most cer­tain­ly overkil­l. Very few apps need that kind of thing. If your app can on­ly be con­fig­ured by pro­gram­mer­s, you may have failed at mak­ing a good app (ex­cep­tions ex­ist).

And what's the ad­vice? Well, the ad­vice is "don't do that" and the corol­lary is "con­fig­ure us­ing data, not code". use IN­Is, or XM­L, or YAM­L, or JSON, or plain text files, or what­ev­er. But not code.

PS: My lat­est pro­jec­t, Niko­la us­es python as a con­fig­u­ra­tion lan­guage. I thought I had a good rea­son. I did­n't.

The Future of PyQt by Example

Three years ago, I start­ed a se­ries of long posts called "PyQt by Ex­am­ple". It reached five posts be­fore I aban­doned for a se­ries of rea­sons that don't mat­ter any­more. That se­ries is com­ing back start­ing next week, rewrit­ten, im­proved and ex­tend­ed.

It will do so in a new site, and the "old" posts will be re­tired to an ar­chive page. Why? Well, the tech­nolo­gies used in some of them are ob­so­lete or don't quite work nowa­days. So, the new ver­sions will be the pre­ferred ones.

And while I am not promis­ing any­thing, I have enough writ­ten to make this some­thing quite longer, more nice­ly lay­out­ed, more in­ter­est­ing and make it cov­er more ground. BUT, while do­ing some checks on the traf­fic sta­tis­tics for the old post­s, some things popped out.

This was very popular

About 60% of my site's traf­fic goes to those five post­s. Out of about 1200 posts over 12 years, 60% of the view­ers go to the 0.4% of the pages. That is a lot.

It's a long tail

The traf­fic has not de­creased in three years. If any­thing, it has in­creased

https://p.twimg.com/Aw0MHhoCAAAXmro.png:large

A long and tall tail.

So, all this means there is a de­sire for PyQt doc­u­men­ta­tion that is not sat­is­fied. I am not sur­prised: PyQt is great, and the rec­om­mend­ed book is not free, so there is bound to be a lot of de­mand.

And, here's the not-­so-rosy bit: I had un­ob­tru­sive, rel­e­van­t, out­-of-the-way-but-vis­i­ble ads in those pages for more than two years. Of the 70000 unique vis­i­tors, not even one clicked on an ad. Don't wor­ry, I was not ex­pect­ing to get mon­ey out of them (although I would love to some day col­lect a $100 check in­stead of hav­ing google hold my mon­ey for me ad eter­num).

But re­al­ly? Not even one ad click? In more than two years, thou­sands of peo­ple? I have to won­der if I just at­tract cheap peo­ple ;-)

PyCamp Starts This Week

This fri­day marks the be­gin­ning of the 2012 Py­Cam­p. What's Py­Cam­p? It's a lot of python pro­gram­mers (this year, about 50) gath­er­ing in an iso­lat­ed place for a long week­end, with noth­ing to do ex­cept code. We will have our meals catered, there are no TVs, there is hard­ly any­thing with­in walk­ing dis­tance, and it's go­ing to be very cold.

So, it's go­ing to be awe­some. It's a rare chance for me to spend a few days hack­ing at my own per­son­al pro­ject­s, un­in­ter­rupt­ed by more im­por­tant things like fam­i­ly, work, cook­ing, or so­cial­iz­ing ex­cept be­tween nerd­s.

Sure, there is the oc­ca­sion­al mono­cy­cle rid­ing, or jug­gling lesson, or shoot­ing prac­tice, but re­al­ly, three or four sol­id days of hack­ing.

I in­tend to work on projects re­lat­ed to Niko­la my stat­ic site gen­er­a­tor, so if you are in­ter­est­ed in that and go­ing to py­cam­p, I want to talk with you.

And if you are in­ter­est­ed but not go­ing to py­cam­p, there is no rea­son not to join in a vir­tu­al sprint. We'll have in­ter­net. There is IR­C. I will have time. It's a week­end! Please share any in­ter­est­ing ideas you have about stat­ic site gen­er­a­tors in the niko­la-dis­cuss group and we'll see how much can get im­ple­ment­ed or at least start­ed.


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