Python Magazine Lives

I have a confession to make: For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been leading a secret double life. By day, I’m a mild mannered system/network/database admin in academia. I also write some PHP, Perl, and Python code. By night, however, I’m an author and editor. My latest project is bigger than most. In fact, it’s an entire magazine. Devoted to Python.

I am the Editor in Chief of the newly launched Python Magazine.

Why on Earth Are You Doing This?

Python Magazine was created as a result of some rather unfortunate events in my own early experiences with Python. Getting started, of course, couldn’t be easier. It was what happened after I had been coding for a while that I had issues with. Once you needed to do something a little out of the ordinary with the language, it was hard to feel confident that the way I was going was the right way.

For example, I decided to wrap up a bunch of SQL calls in Python and expose them as an API using Python’s built in SimpleXMLRPCServer. I thought this was great, because then I could maintain a single back end API, and any language that could make an xmlrpc call could use it without me having to maintain APIs in several languages. Nice in theory, but people smarter than I questioned my decision to use the built in SimpleXMLRPCServer. The right road to take, though, was completely unclear.

As another example, I needed to get up to speed on using the python-ldap module, but found that a lot of the documentation lacked anything but the most basic of features, but I was trying to write a full-fledged LDAP management API (and accompanying command line and GUI tools). Other articles I found were outdated enough that people warned me not to bother with them, pointing to glaring issues with the code samples (which turned out to be true – some of what was in the code samples turned out to be completely deprecated!).

When I wanted to write code against a PostgreSQL server, the correct module to use was also not immediately obvious, so I had to hunt down the sites of various modules, see which ones were maintained, search for articles that weren’t 5 years old on how to use them… Gah!

What I really wanted was a resource that fed me information in a way that my brain likes to feed on information. I really wanted to learn to do things with Python the way I learned to do things with Linux, Solaris, PHP, and even non-technical things like photography, billiards, and brewing beer. I wanted a magazine.

There was no magazine. I was bummed.

How did you finagle this one, jonesy?

I have a friend named Marco Tabini. He’s a publisher. He runs Marco Tabini Associates in Toronto. He is the publisher of php|architect Magazine. He’s also a total geek. For fun he does things like writing lexical parsers… in PHP. Nobody should ever do that. He thinks it’s fun. I say pass on that if you are given the chance.

Marco and I met via email. I wrote to tell him that I had received my first issue of php|architect, and would not recommend it to a friend. I had found something like 15 errors (typos and grammatical issues) in the first two pages of the magazine. Marco wrote back and said “hey, we’re a small outfit. We’re an Italian immigrant and an Iranian immigrant, living in Canada, trying to edit technical articles written by people from all over the world with varying levels of experience with English… all for a largely American audience. Come help us out!” So I did.

Shortly thereafter I became Editor in Chief of php|architect. Now there were three of us. Oh joyous day.

Those were great times, and the magazine has since spawned its own online and on-site training, its own line of books, its own series of conferences, and even a cruise! It probably has stuff I don’t even know about because I haven’t worked directly for that particular publication since 2004.

The success of that magazine gave me the courage to go to Marco about 6 weeks ago and ask about letting me head up another magazine, this time about a topic of *my* choosing. We chatted on IRC for several hours over the course of about a week, bought a couple of domain names, settled on budgets and team members and all that, and set out to make Python Magazine a reality.

So… How’s it going?

Things are *REALLY* rolling now. There are columnists, there are tech editors, there are authors. Articles have been commissioned. Logos and trademarks are in place. The design team is rocking, the contract team is rolling, and the emails are flying. In the background, the sound of constant typewriter activity can be heard, just like on those old newscasts from the old Cronkite days. Exciting times!

That said, we still need LOTS of content. The behind-the-scenes of a magazine is that you’d really like to have something like 4 months worth of content “in the can” before “Volume 1 Issue 1″ is released. I’m convinced that this has never happened in the history of publishing, but it’s a great goal to have, and I’d be pleased as punch to be the first person ever to achieve it 😉

If you’re a writer who is doing or has done something interesting with Python, or can illustrate high level concepts from the fields of computer science, research computing, or IT, using Python, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Import This

In the end, I hope I can be a good steward to the language and community. I’ve already been in touch with a lot of wonderful people – authors and others – who’ve helped out in some way, either with the magazine, with my own buggy Python code, or both. That’s all the news that’s fit to print for now, but keep an eye here and on the Python Magazine website for more updates as they happen.

Oh yeah – and if you subscribe now, you get a discount, and a chance to win a MacBook!

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