Some Personal History with Python

You can read more of my story in:


IronPython in Action was published on the 7th April 2009 and we sold a little over 7000 copies. 

Royalties for last quarter amounted to $25.

It took me two years to write thirteen chapters and a couple of appendices, and took Christian Muirhead about the same to write two chapters and an appendix. Jonathan Hartley did the diagrams and illustrations and the worst part was compiling the index.

It took so long because IronPython was still in alpha (!) when we started and it changed several times (including a Silverlight version being released) whilst writing!

After leaving Resolver Systems in 2010 I spent a year contracting on Line of Business apps that ran in Silverlight (Django on the server): Python code running in the browser on the client side. It was glorious.

We even had functional tests on unittest built in to the app.

Work on mock accelerated massively once IronPython in Action was complete. MagickMock was born not long afterwards.

I was also helping maintain the python.org website and adding test discovery to unittest at the time, and speaking at every conference I could find.

It felt like the glory days of the Python community. It's almost time for PyCon (online) and I'm nostalgic once again. 

My first PyCon, the second Dallas PyCon and my first time in the US, there were about 600 attendees. You could almost know everyone.

I shaved my beard to enter Dallas and wore my hair in a pony tail. All I knew was they didn't like hippies there. It was the nicest greeting at a US airport I've ever had.

I went on a road trip with Andrzej Krzywda afterwards trying to find mountains. We found the Ouchita mountains in Oaklahoma and drove back through Arkansas to visit friends of mine in Houston. Along the peaks of the mountains, which are hills really, we found a view called Dead Man's Vista and we I laughed together at Microsoft.

Not long after this the web explosion happened and Django happened, google adopted Python as an official language and the community started to explode and grow.

That was even before Python became huge as a teaching language and before Python exploded in data science too.

I once paired with Jacob Kaplan Moss at a PyCon sprint and fixed some issue by adding a metaclass to the Django codebase. Which he never committed and found a better way.

That's the closest I've come to deploying a metaclass I think, although I've removed a few in my time.

I knew Python had "made it" as a language when one bag stuffing pre-PyCon I met someone who didn't want to be there. He'd been sent by work. Before that Python was obscure, and only people who really loved it went to PyCon. Which I'm convinced is the secret of Python's success. 

It was built by passion not by money. For the sheer love and the joy of building something beautiful with other people.

I was a Mac user then and had a running joke with Jonathan Hartley about Linux and projectors. 

One time he plugged his laptop into the projector prior to his PyCon talk (Testing is a Silver Bullet), tried to fix the x-config from the terminal and rendered his laptop unusable.  He did the presentation on mine. The next year Mark Shuttleworth did a keynote talk at PyCon and running some bleeding edge version of Ubuntu also couldn't plug it into the projector system. Hilarity on my part.

The biggest conference I ever spoke at was a Microsoft one in Brighton where they demoed Silverlight and I demoed IronPython on Silverlight. They didn't tell me I would be on main stage in front of a few thousand Microsoft devs. I was used to talking to a few hundred at a time!

I had a slide deck built from S5 with reStructured Text markup and a Far Side slide mocking static typing. Which went down a bomb to an audience of C# devs. I still managed, by coincidence, to demo almost the same features of Silverlight as Microsoft bigwig Scott Hanselman who did the keynote.

It was an "interesting experience", evangelising Python and dynamic languages in "the heart of the beast" as it were. Microsoft went on to step up their involvement with Python and sincere Open Source commitments which they've maintained since.

Since I first wrote this Python has finally made it, ranked as the most widely used programming language in the world by TIOBE and PyPL. World number one.



I joined Twitter fourteen years ago and have tweeted over fifty-two thousand times. I follow 1,636 accounts, which is too many, and have 8,670 followers. I use Tweetdeck which is run by Twitter and doesn't show ads or promoted tweets or mess with tweet order and it lets me use two different accounts.

I use twitter a lot less than I did during my social media and community frenzy whilst I delighted to learn Python, but I still enjoy it.

During that time (2006-2011) I "drank from the firehose". I read all of slashdot (scanned every headline and read relevant articles), read all of comp.lang.python (every message title - read and replied to many), read all of python-dev (similarly) and all of testing-in-python, blogged almost daily and worked full time as a software engineer commuting to London four times a week and developed mock in my spare time and worked on unittest in the Python standard library. And wrote a book and worked part time doing community liaison and service development for a local charity working with the homeless and disadvantaged. I was Microsoft MVP for three years for my work with IronPython, I spoke at countless conferences and received the Python Software Foundation Community Award for my work running Planet Python and helping out with the Python.org website and mailing infrastructure.

Then in 2011 my first child was born and I started working for Canonical. Three years of large Django web applications then three years of Go and MongoDB and then a year with Red Hat testing Ansible Tower and now four years self employed.

During that time I remembered that the primary drive in my life was spiritual and I started meditating again. One hour a day of mindfulness of breathing. That transformed my life all over again.



I once rode in the back of a beaten up station wagon owned and operated by the creator of the Python programming language whilst sat alongside the creator of Bitorrent, which was written in Python. 

I also once had a pub lunch in Oxford with the creator of the Erlang programming language and the creator of the Haskell programming language.  We were all three speaking at the ACCU conference. I was speaking on IronPython.

It's been a fun journey.

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