Monday, January 14, 2013

Web.py: Aaron Swartz

A web framework

I've mentioned web.py a few times on this blog. It is a great web framework that doesn't get in your way.

I've done several presentations on the framework both in talks (PYPTUG web.py presentation) and as part of workshops. The latest workshop was this past saturday, for building a quick interface to a webcam on a Raspberry Pi. It will be online at some point this month.

Aaron Swartz


Little did I know as I was doing this workshop, that the author of the web.py framework had lost his life the day before (the 11th of January).

Although Aaron Swartz passed away, web.py being open source, will continue to have its impact on the world wide web.

Public domain


For open source works, I publish my source code under an open source license. But Aaron published web.py as public domain, about 6 years ago. That was bold.

This is probably one of the reasons why web.py is popular amongst the lightweight frameworks.

Even though there is no obligation tied to the code, there are a few that acknowledged web.py (and thus Aaron) publicly, such as this quote from the webpy.org web site:

"[web.py inspired the] web framework we use at FriendFeed [and] the webapp framework that ships with App Engine..."
  —  Brett Taylor, co-founder of FriendFeed and original tech lead on Google App Engine

Low key


There is a web.py google group. It is low volume (a lot of answers are off list, unfortunately), and I don't remember Aaron posting more recently than some time in 2011. This is mostly because web.py is a framework that is pretty trivial to use. Once you get it, you get it.

"The web.py slogan is: "Think about the ideal way to write a web app. Write the code to make it happen."
This is literally how I developed web.py. I wrote a web application in Python just imagining how I wanted the API to be. It started with import web, of course, and then had a place to define URLs, simple functions for GET and POST, a thing to deal with input variables and so on. Once the code looked right to me, I did whatever it took to make it execute without changing the application code -- the result was web.py."  Aaron Swartz
It is also because, for most people, the kit is complete. But there is another reason people don't need to ask that many questions.

Plenty of examples


Beside the webpy.org examples and cookbook, between the various open source repositories out there (sourceforge, bitbucket, github, gitorious, launchpad etc), there are a few gigabytes (GB!) of source code available out there, providing plenty of examples, ranging from feed aggregators, to blogs, to mp3 servers, etc. My own source is here as an hg repository

New audience


Due to the extremely short time required to be productive (minutes), web.py has been used quite a bit in the Raspberry Pi community. I personally use it in workshops because of that. Even without much background in Python or web programming, everybody seems to get it.

Conclusion


It is as good a time as any to conclude by pondering on this:

Behind every open source project, there are humans with their faults and qualities, their likes and dislikes. And perhaps tomorrow, they will be gone. Show your appreciation for what they do, today.

@f_dion

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