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

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At least 237138 pieces of comment spam killed since 2008, mostly via Akismet.

Good Python Interview Questions

When we were growing our team of Python devs at CMG, I was involved in a lot of interviews. I really enjoyed it, meeting and hiring interesting and talented engineers.

I'm not a big fan of quizzing people on technical minutiae in interviews. I do think that asking some questions about technical likes and dislikes can be very illuminating though.

For example, "What's your favorite standard library module?" (Best answer in my book here is itertools or functools, but anything that shows they have hands-on appreciation for the depth of the standard library is good.)

I've also asked, "Tell me something you don't like about Python." This can be a great gauge of someone's level of sophistication and breadth of experience. If they say "But I like everything about Python!" that's a red flag (and I say this as a bona fide Python lover and career man). It means they either lack enough breadth of experience to see Python's weak points, or they lack the confidence to answer truthfully.

My favorite answer to this question was, "I don't like that lambda expressions can only be one line." It had never occurred to me to see this as a defect, but now every time I am writing code that drives me to the same feeling, I think about the engineer who gave that answer. (We did hire her and she was great!)

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
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