How to become a proficient Python programmer

Spoiler: This post is primarily gonna be an excerpt of my bookmarks collection. That’s because more intelligent men than me have already written great articles on the topic of how to become a great Python programmer.

I will focus on four primary topics: Functional programming, performance, testing and code guidelines. When those four aspects merge in one programmer, he or she will gain greatness no matter what.

Functional programming

Writing code in an imperative style has become the de facto standard. Imperative programs consist of statements that describe change of state. While this might sometimes be a performant way of coding, it sometimes isn’t (for example for sake of complexity) – also, it probably is not the most intuitive way when compared with declarative programming.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s great. Here are some starter articles to get your mind running. But beware, it’s a little like the red pill
– once you tasted functional programming, you don’t want to go back.

Performance

There’s so much talk going on about how inefficient these ‘scripting languages’ (Python, Ruby, …) are, that it’s easy to forget that very often it’s the algorithm chosen by the programmer that leads to horrible runtime behaviour.

Those articles are a great place to get a feel for the ins and outs of Python’s runtime behaviour, so you can get your high performing application writting in a language that is concise and fun to write. And if your manager asks about Python’s performance, don’t forget to mention that the second largest search engine in the world is run by Python – namely Youtube(see Python quotes).

Testing

Testing is probably one the most misjudged topics in computer science these days. Some programmers really got it and emphasize TDD(test driven development) and it’s successor BDD(behaviour driven development) whereever possible. Others simply don’t feel it yet and think it’s a waste of time. Well, I’m gonna be that guy and tell you: If you haven’t started out on TDD/BDD yet, you have missed out greatly!

It’s not about introducing a technology to replace that release management automaton in your company that mindlessly clicks through the application once in a while, it is about giving you a tool to deeply understand your own problem domain – to really conquer, manipulate and twist it the way you want and need it to be. If you haven’t yet, give it a shot. These articles will give you some impulses:

Code guidelines

Not all code is created equal. Some can be read and changed by any great programmer out there. But some can only be read and only sometimes changed by the original author – and that maybe only a couple of hours after he or she wrote it. Why is that? Because of missing test coverage (see above) and the lack of proper usage of coding guidelines.

These articles establish an absolute minimum to adhere to. When you follow these, you will write more consise and beautiful code. As a side effect it will be more readable and adaptable by you or anyone else.

Now go ahead and spread the word. Start with the guy sitting right next to you. Maybe you can go to the next hackathlon or code dojo and start becoming great proficient programmers together!

All the best on your journey.

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Category: articles | Tags: , , 28 comments »

28 Responses to “How to become a proficient Python programmer”

  1. limist

    Very good and succinct overview of Python-fu areas to develop, thank you for sharing. You’ll probably also like this Q&A thread on StackOverflow.com, on Python skill-building: Python progression path, from apprentice to guru, especially the first answer.

  2. datt

    It’s a good article to read.Recently i started to write python program i really enjoying while writing it.

  3. Peter

    What really bugs me about Python is that there’s nothing advanced. There’s a whole bunch of short tips-and-tricks, but there is nothing that covers Python in-depth. There’s no language standard. There’s no book like Stroustrup for C++ that explains the details, the design decisions, and the rationales for those decisions.

    I’m very productive in Python, but I’m increasingly convinced there’s no such thing as a very good Python programmer.

  4. alexG

    2 Peter:
    1) How many years of experience do you have in software engineering in general – and in Python in particular?
    2) Have you tried to read/comprehend say, Django source code – and apply Django’s ideas to your specific domain?
    3) Speaking of advanced: if you think Python’s not complex (advanced) enough for you – why bother? Switch to mainframes and learn JCL, COBOL and (many) assemblers.. Or try advanced LabView (by advanced I mean Object-Oriented LabView) – possibilities are endless.. :))

  5. alexG

    2 Peter:
    Thank you dude – you’ve made my day!! :D :D
    «What really bugs me about Python is that there’s nothing advanced.»
    That’s almost exactly what one of my students told me after being “exposed to C++” for the first couple of weeks: “it’s boring and really trivial, probably not even worth learning..”

  6. Br.Bill

    I heartily disagree with the statement “once you tasted functional programming, you don’t want to go back.” It just depends on how you think.

    For some people, functional programming is a great thing. For me, functional programming is like speaking German. I know it, I can do it, very slowly and translating in my head the whole time, but it’s painful and the end result is nowhere near as good as if I was working in my natural way of thinking.

    If I immerse myself in that environment, I’ll get better, but I’ll never be able to change the way my brain works. I’ll still be translating the whole time, just faster and less clumsily.

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  8. mache

    Thanks for the tips! I’m learning Python and these will come in handy.

  9. mache

    Thanks for the tips! I’m learning Python and these will come in handy.

    :-)

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  11. Radagaisus

    The funny thing is nobody noticed the first and last link in the functional programming section is the same link.

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  22. python developers

    Nice Article! Not too technical.. Easily understandable for even beginners

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  24. wxl24life

    Great article and very useful tips especially for me – a python rookie man who is diving into it and wanting to learn more:-)

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  27. Mark

    The following link the Python idioms seems to be not working

    http://jaynes.colorado.edu/PythonIdioms.html

  28. Mark

    Forgot to say can be found using the swayback machine

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120118192448/http://jaynes.colorado.edu/PythonIdioms.html


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