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.


Pile o'Tags

Stuff I Use

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

Spam Report

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

How did I get here?

(I recently posted this on Quora in response to a question along the lines of "Engineers, when did you decide to study Computer Science?")

I have been a full-time software engineer for the last 7 years, and a part-time one for ten years before that.

I have never formally studied computer science.

It wasn’t an option before college (small high school in rural Vermont). And at the otherwise excellent small liberal arts college I attended, it wasn't one of the available majors.

I learned to program because that was the most interesting thing to do with a computer in the 1980s. Every computer shipped with BASIC. I wrote a lot of programs. I played with every computer I could. I taught computer workshops at the local college. I read computer magazines and manuals.

In college I took the few classes that were available, including one with a disciple of Niklaus Wirth. I learned C, Modula-2, and Prolog. On the side I taught myself some assembly language, FORTRAN, and Forth.

When the web arrived in the ’90s, I started making pages; eventually I realized I could apply my old programming skills to this new medium, and started learning PHP.

After a few years of this I wanted to get more rigorous; I started learning additional languages (most notably Python) and good software engineering practices. I’ve done a few online classes and stints of self-study to help fill in the gaps in my education.

I’ve become a big fan of functional programming. I imagine I would have loved taking a Programming Languages class as part of a CS degree.

These days my focus is not so much on CS, but on being a good engineer: expanding my ability to design, develop, and maintain mission-critical web applications. That’s what I talk about when I guest-lecture for classes in our regional university’s CS department.

That’s my story.

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

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