London Python Meetup May 2008

Thanks as always to Simon Brunning for organising another meetup at Thoughtworks, who generously funded the beer & pizza as well. Whether by planning or force of circumstances I’m not sure, but we started with half-a-dozen lightning talks before moving on to the main speaker of the evening. Simon made it clear up-front that overrunning was not an option and indeed we had six quite different brief presentations: Michael demoed the Google App Engine; Tim Couper put in a plea for involvement with PyConUK 2008 while Trent Nelson did the same for the Worldwide Bug Sprint this weekend; Peter, fresh from Grokkerdam, abandoned his laptop in favour of an explanation of how Grok makes the power of Zope3 easily available; Julius gave a humorous but heartfelt moral tale from his own experience as a Python programmers among Java-ites: don’t be too happy; I finished off with the entirely non-scientific micro-survey whose results are below.

The key speaker of the evening was Jacob Kaplan-Moss of Django fame who very generously took a bite out of his holiday over here to come and talk to us. As his vacation is decidedly low-tech, he didn’t bring a laptop but instead spoke to us about the history of Django and what their plans are for the future. (For my money this is a far better approach to presentation: watching someone generate code on a screen using a tool you’re unfamiliar with can range from bewildering to simply boring!) Even though I was aware of at least some of what Jacob was talking about, it was all the more fascinating to hear it from someone really on the inside of Django.

So, with about 50 people there yesterday, I decided to conduct an absolutely non-scientific mini-survey. When I spoke about WMI (a Windows-specific technology) at the first Thoughtworks Python meetup, I had anticipated that I’d be looking at, say, 30% Windows developers and the rest on various flavours of Unix. In fact, there were about two other Windows developers! This time I thought I’d find out where a few other loyalties lay.

The numbers below are out of 50 people and are rough estimates from the number of hands waved. I only counted exactly where there were less than 10 hands.

Where do you principally use Python? (Only put your hand up once, please)

Commercially: 30
Hobby: 15
Education: (handful)
Playing around / Don’t use Python: (handful)

On what platform do you principally use Python?

Windows: 12
Unix (not Mac): 25
Mac: 12
Other: (handful)

What version of Python do you principally use?

2.2: (none)
2.3: (handful)
2.4: 15
2.5: 30
2.6: (none)

What’s your approach to Python 3? (can answer more than one)

Following what’s happening? 20
Looking forward to it? 20
Python 3.what? (none)

Which of these Python techniques do you naturally reach for? (as opposed to simply knowing about them)

Generator expressions: 40
New-style classes: 40
Metaclasses: 10
Subprocess module: 20
Lambda: 30
Nested functions: 15
Decorators: 25
With: (handful)

Which web framework do you principally work with?

Django: 10
Turbogears: 4
Pylons: 6
Zope: 1
Raw or Cooked WSGI: 5
Other (JonPy, CherryPy): 4

After I’d finished, someone called for a vote on IDEs, but I think Simon preferred not to have a free-for-all break out in his company’s offices. I did wish I’d thought to ask how many people there use Python as their principal language (as opposed to, say, Java) and how many work in the City / Canary Wharf, ie in Financial Institutions.

Overall, I don’t know that the results indicate very much. There were more Windows developers this time than the when I gave my talk, but I doubt that represents a growth of any sort, merely the shift around of people who turn up to these things on any given month. I was surprised that there were even a handful of people still using Python 2.2/2.3 and I’d be interested in knowing what the story is there. Other than that, the fact that Django’s out on top of the Webservers isn’t surprising but — in this extremely limited survey — it’s still only got 30% of the market which is still quite fragmented.

Anyway, there it is. Thanks to everyone who came last night and made for a nice atmosphere. Hope to see you all around the next time.