E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.


I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!


Built using Django, served with gunicorn and nginx. The database is SQLite. Hosted on a FreeBSD VPS at Johncompanies.com. Comment-spam protection by Akismet.


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Stuff I Use

Bitbucket, Debian Linux, Django, Emacs, FreeBSD, Git, jQuery, LaunchBar, macOS, Markdown, Mercurial, Python, S3, SQLite, Sublime Text, xmonad

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At least 237132 pieces of comment spam killed since 2008, mostly via Akismet.

Creativity and Constraint

O'Reilly Media recently asked in their "Programming Today" newsletter:

"For many old-school software engineers, developing code has always been as much an art as a science. But as the industry focuses more on practices such as Test-Driven Development, and Patterns become the lingua franca of programming, is there any room left for real creativity in coding? Or, has it become an exercise in cookie-cutter production, putting together components in new ways, but without any real room for individual style? Share your thoughts with us..."

My response:

The idea that TDD or Patterns are in opposition to creativity in coding is a false dichotomy.

Our work is inherently about working effectively within constraints.

Those constraints may be related to the business need -- time to delivery, performance requirements, budget limits that circumscribe personnel or technology choices.

Or those constraints may be inherent in the technologies our projects use -- we may have bigger or smaller standard libraries, larger or smaller variety of developer tools, greater or lesser impediments to integration. And we have varying levels of access to the source of software products/services/components that our projects are built on.

I'd say these facts are no more an indication of impinged creativity than are the material facts of other craftspeople. A carpenter must work with the limits of wood as a material -- but a good carpenter knows and leverages its strong suits as well.

If a software shop is managed such that TDD or Patterns becomes a doctrine that must be followed without regard for its effectiveness, that's a management problem with that shop -- not an indictment of the tools and techniques being abused.

Great art and craft and science work of all sorts always has constraints. Creativity manifests itself in response to those constraints.

Those are my thoughts.

Friday, April 26th, 2013

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