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 :-)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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 ;-)