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Guido blames social media for his decision to abandon the supervision of Python (revyuh.com)
91 points by revyuh 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments





Serious question: did anything good come out of paying attention to Twitter? Like, ever? I'm sure it has its bubble-living adherents here. Then again, so did Quora.

As for the claim of "questioning [his] authority", isn't that a given? With or without social media. That's pretty much human nature. It's up to you to establish the tone and medium of how people interact with you. Linus, for example, is pretty much strictly email and most things go through one of the "inner circle" who are largely responsible for areas like networking. As brash as he can be, you pretty much know what to expect and you have delegation.

Honestly, I wonder how much of this goes back to GvR's handling of Python 3. This should go down as something to be studied for years on how not to do a breaking change. IIRC Python 3 was released in 2008. Here we are in 2019 with no end in sight for Python 2.7.

My favourite Python 3ism was the removal of the s and u string literal prefixes. In Python 2.0+, u'this is a string' was a Unicode literal prefix. It was removed in 3.0 for reasons that are beyond me (I know Unicode became the default for string literals) but then added back in 3.3 for backwards compatibility. Why remove it in the first place? It makes no sense. But this just went to the perception that the Python powers-that-be were removed from reality in their hubris.

Anyway, GvR... one can't help but respect his stewardship and contribution to Python. Please make no mistake about that. The weird thing about human nature is in situations like this, if the peanut gallery senses they're getting to you it only encourages them. Sad but true.


> no end in sight for Python 2.7

That's not correct. Numpy, for example, will not be supporting python2.7 starting January 1st, 2020 (https://docs.scipy.org/doc/numpy-1.14.2/neps/dropping-python...), and there are others in the process.

Python itself will stop supporting 2.7 on January 1st, 2020. (see https://devguide.python.org/#status-of-python-branches)

Has it been poorly managed? Yes.

Will a number of companies skip upgrading from python2 to python3 and instead rewrite it in Go or Rust? Absolutely.

But "no end in sight" is not an accurate depiction of the current state of affairs.


> Here we are in 2019 with no end in sight for Python 2.7

An end is in sight, is coming soon, and it’s sort of concerning that more folks haven’t realized it yet - https://pythonclock.org/


Seriously, I wonder how many of the people who proclaim "no end in sight" for 2.7 are actually using Python. In the usage I can see, the majority of the ecosystem seems to support 3, and at least a large minority has stopped supporting 2.

For those of us in the GIS space, 2.7 will be with us for a long time, as it's the only version that is supported by ArcGIS 10.x series. To say that people aren't rushing to ArcGIS Pro (which support 3.x) is quite an understatement, I expect to be writing Python 2.7 code for 5 years at the very least.

Wait, a company is selling a library and only supporting Python 2? And 3 support is a paid tier? Wow.

No, the previous version is called ArcGIS 10, current version is called Arc Pro.

Oh, I see. That's too bad :/

I think they’re both true. People who are “extremely online” and up-to-date with technology developments are all done with Python 2.7 and can say the end is near, but they’re not the only people. There’s an entire dark matter world of businesses still on 2.7, maintained by people who don’t live in the Bay and don’t read Hacker News, and so they’re largely invisible. It will be a long time before they all switch.

Even in the Bay Area there are companies still with Python 2.7 with no real migration strategy yet. I maintain several such packages at work myself.

I don't know, we have a codebase of 100k loc of Python 2.7 and I migrated much of it in two or three weeks myself. I don't think the fact that companies don't spend some time drawing up a strategy is the language's problem.

My company is one of them: plenty of legacy Python and no plans to switch to 3.x that I am aware of.

What about the people who do read HN and comment here? My reply was to one such comment.

Most Python code being written today is almost certainly Python 2. Or at least it's close.

Google is still Py2 I believe, as is Dropbox. These are big Python shops.

I write Python. I don't see an end in sight, yet. There is, however, forward progress.


Writing code compatible with Python 2 and 3 has been possible for over 5 years.

Dropbox migrated to Python 3.[1] So did Instagram.

[1] https://blogs.dropbox.com/tech/2019/02/incrementally-migrati...


Dropbox migrated their desktop client code to Python 3.

They just spoke at pycon of having 3? Million LoC using mypy. While some of that is probably using the backports (comment syntax), I'd expect that much of it uses the newer syntax and therefore python3.

I got the impression from someone at Dropbox that it was more than that. That's all I know, though.

Google Cloud Functions only support Python 3.7, so Google may be heterogeneous internally.

I had to write some 2.7 the other day - a vendor supplied docker image we needed to run a script on only supported that version. Until stuff like that goes away, we’re still gonna be stuck with 2.7.

In that sense, we're still stuck with FORTRAN, but that's not indicative of the ecosystem at large.

Lots of Google stuff runs on 2.7 (eg. even recently published build scripts) and it looks like Google is going to maintain 2.7 for themselves if necessary rather than porting tons of scripts over to 3. I can't help but agree with their utilitarian approach here.

Honestly, I view Google as a large impediment to python3. If they'd bit the bullet and spent 10MM on transitioning over back in 2012 or so, the perception that 2.7 was still 'the real python' wouldn't have persisted nearly as long.

When tensorflow was released (november 2015), it was python2 only!


No one told me someone had put an arbitrary countdown on the Internet. Well that's completely different.

Python may not officially support 2.7 in 2020+. What's to stop someone else backporting security patches and necessary fixes as needed ad infinitum? I think you're underestimating just how little impetus there is to migrate from 2 to 3.


> No one told me someone had put an arbitrary countdown on the Internet. Well that's completely different.

No idea what I did to deserve that tone. That site also gives a high level overview of the change, which is why I linked it.

> What’s to stop someone else from backporting security fixes as needed ad infinitum?

Who? I haven’t heard anyone express a willingness to take up that mantle. “Someone will probably support it by the end of the year” is not the most robust security model.


I think the point is just because there's an EOL doesn't mean everyone will be ready or even willing to jump the ship. Companies run all sorts of old software. In 2017 7% of PCs were running Windows XP[1], which had EOL in 2014[2]. Why do you think an EOL will magically stop people using python 2.7? I'm sure even new code will be written after its EOL.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-people-use-windows-... [2] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/WindowsForBusiness/end-of-xp...


Sorry, I didn't mean to direct harshness at you. It's more my continued amazement at the Python 3 debacle that drove my response.

You can tell a lot about how a project is run and the people running it by their attitude to breaking changes.

Java, for example, has taken this very seriously. I mean it also explains why generics are kind of the mess they are but they didn't really have a lot of good choices here. What's more, people can compile older code with newer compilers by setting the language version.

Rust seems to be making the right noises. Since 1.0 I'm not sure if there has been any and their plan is to save those for major versions.

Perl 6... is an interesting one. Perl 5 actually had a lot of momentum but Perl 6 pretty much drove Perl into irrelevancy.

C# did make breaking changes but did it sufficiently early and they benefitted from the second mover advantage learning from Java's mistakes. IIRC C# added generics without type erasure in 2.0?

Python 3 was I think almost Python's Perl 6 moment. The only thing that probably saved Python from sliding into history was things like numpy/scipy, ML (eg pytorch), etc. Here's where the GIL doesn't really matter and Python's interface to C modules works really well.

For other applications people have (IMHO) started to move away from dynamic languages, something I personally support. The way I like to describe dynamic languages is you end up writing unit tests for spelling mistakes.


>> What’s to stop someone else from backporting security fixes as needed ad infinitum?

>Who? I haven’t heard anyone express a willingness to take up that mantle.

Tauthon [0] kind of fits the bill here. It's a fork of 2.7 with some backported features from the 3 branch, so they're in a position to backport security fixes as well. How well that arrangement holds up once the PSF officially drops 2 remains to be seen, but if anybody is in a position to keep providing support it's probably them.

[0] https://github.com/naftaliharris/tauthon


> Who? I haven’t heard anyone express a willingness to take up that mantle.

There are many companies and projects who claims to maintain an internal version of Python 2.7. Maintaining after all is not so hard, at the end you only must make sure it compiles and connects to the neccessary APIs.


> What's to stop someone else backporting security patches and necessary fixes as needed ad infinitum?

Nothing, it may even prove to be a business model, and vendors like Red Hat may be forced to do that anyway.

But back-porting security fixes to core Python 2.7 is one thing, but for many 3rd party libraries? Especially if they're GPL'd? That would take a coordinated effort, which again might happen, but hasn't materialized yet. So betting on that seems risky at the moment.

Python 2.7 EOL has been public knowledge for quite a while (and even pushed out once before). True, it is very convenient to forget about, and hope somebody else will sort out your tech debt.


> Serious question: did anything good come out of paying attention to Twitter? Like, ever? I'm sure it has its bubble-living adherents here. Then again, so did Quora.

To know what's going through the USA President's brain right now? Yes.

For a leader of a technical project? I doubt it.

If anyone's got a concern about what you're working on, and can't be arsed to go to the relevant forum or mailing list and say so there... well, it probably wasn't valid anyway.

Some (even if trivally small) barrier to entry for a technical community is good and useful.

Twitter on the other hand... maybe a non-existent barrier to entry is good for political discourse (that's another conversation), but I don't see how you're easily going to distinguish the wheat from the chaff on really wide-open forums like that for technical communities.


> To know what's going through the USA President's brain right now? Yes.

Even here the utility is dubious. A main product of Trump's twitter is food for comedians or useless information. I believe it is important to keep updated on politics and to hold people in power to high standards, but few of the things Trump has to say cannot wait a day.

Actually you could say that twitter availability is a cause of Trump expressing so many controversial statements.


let's go to the source. here is the latest tweet from him. how is it hilarious?

"Today, it was my true honor to present the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy—for the second year in a row, to the @ArmyWP_Football Black Knights. Congratulations once again on your historic victories, and keep on making us proud!"

i don't want to start a political debate, but blanket statements are rarely useful and can be easily verified.


> but blanket statements are rarely useful

I agree, I was sloppy in my comment and did no good at representing a good point. I am somewhat critical of the "we need to keep updated to the hour" mindset also because I tend to selectively focus on the negative sides. Before reentering this discussion in the future I should better focus on understanding my own positions.


> Why remove it in the first place? It makes no sense.

Presumably because a tool like 2to3 could strip it out, leaving it in is confusing, and there already existed a better solution for forwards compatibility (unicode literals future flag). With hindsight, the wrong call, but not completely nonsensical from what I can tell.


> Serious question: did anything good come out of paying attention to Twitter? Like, ever?

There is no doubt that Twitter dramatically changed public dialog. It was/is revolutionary. Whether this revolution was a net positive or negative remains to be seen.

I'm highly doubtful. I actually believe that, despite the benefits, the net effect on public dialogue will be catastrophic. The overall attention span of people seems to have been limited to 282 characters, with a lifetime of perhaps 48 hours or less.

The argument that rises to the top is rarely the intellectually most valuable one, not that it would live on for more than a day or two anyway. Instead it's just the best punch line, one-uppance, or outrage fodder de jour.

Ironically, the best example of this deevolution IMO was Kara Swisher's interview of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, which was just a train wreck no one could follow [1].

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/02/its-i...


I disagree, the python 2-3 change goes down as one of the best breaking changes I've ever seen. A long documented timeline. The u thing is a perfect example of learning from your mistakes and fixing them.

Of course not having a breaking change is preferable, but that isn't always realistic.


So Best in the sense that we all have learned a lot from their failure?

Jokes aside, my uninformed opinion on how it could have been a better breaking change would have been to have the python3 able to understand properly python2. So that everyone could start using the same updated interpreter by setting appropriate flags or with thin wrappers. This way people could have moved to py3 and still run isolated bubbles of python 2.


The thing is they could have done so much more with breaking changes. They could have fixed the broken module system, removed the GIL or improved performance by an order of magnitude by removing language features that almost nobody uses but prevent important optimizations.

Instead they caused a huge rift in the Python community and 10+ years of continued pain for what? Improved unicode support and removing the ability to type "print x"?


What of those things are implementation details that don't need a new language to fix though? Jpython has never had the GIL, there is no reason you can't remove it from python without doing a breaking change as well. (it might break buggy programs by python can carefully never promised you can rely on the GIL)

You claim there are language features to remove, if true you are correct they should have done that. That said in my experience most outsiders claiming some "rarely used" feature is the cause of some slowness don't have data to back their claims up. Often the feature is in fact used by some important subset. Often the feature isn't the cause of any slowdown.

Improved unicode support is a very good thing to have. Maybe you don't have to support users outside of Western Europe and the Americas where ascii works well enough. (this also excludes various native languages in the Americas and assumes the non-English marks on various letters can be ignored) Anyone who can't do that is glad to not have to fight Unicode in python.

"print x" is a minor thing, but it makes the language better for the stated goals.


For many of these things indeed it is about the internal implementation and not about the language itself (although the language itself has many features limiting optimizations as well).

The main problem is that modules are compiled against the CPython implementation and the CPython API. These inefficiencies can never be fixed without changing the CPython API. However, changing that API means breaking all the modules that are compiled against that API.

This is also the reason why other interpreters besides the CPython one have so much trouble supporting all modules. They basically need to either rewrite the module code or support the (very inefficient) CPython API.

They could have changed the API to allow for much more efficient Python programs when they made the breaking transition of Python 2 to Python 3. However, instead they changed only a very small part of the API (the strings/unicode part) and left everything else intact. This meant it was easier to change code to support Python 3, however, it also means the actual benefits of switching to Python 3 are very limited while still breaking every single module that was compiled against Python 2.

This basically brings us to todays situation where billions of lines of code need to be updated to work on Python 3 (many of which will never be updated), while basically barely getting any benefits for doing so.

Yes, improved unicode support is great and I won't argue that it is an improvement, but arguing that it's worth millions of hours and millions of dollars wasted on upgrading code is a very hard sell.

Breaking backwards compatibility is very, very dangerous for popular projects, and it is something that should be taken extremely seriously. The team behind the Python 2 to Python 3 transition clearly did not do that, and the entire Python community has paid the price for that. The "print x" thing makes it extremely obvious that they did not realize the huge impact of their decision to break backwards compatibility. It is a minor thing that fixes a problem that really wasn't there to begin with, but it's a minor thing that breaks almost every single Python 2 program ever written. It's just ridiculous.


>Honestly, I wonder how much of this goes back to GvR's handling of Python 3.

The on-going Python3 transition is why I decided to make the leap to either the Java or C# space. I chose C# since I'm as interested in applications (a core C# strength IMHO) as I am backend (Java dominated, but .Net is also here).

Given the technical limitations of CPython, breaking changes and general lack of wholistic support that you see from the vendors supporting Java and .Net, I am now a very happy .Net developer. Otherwise, I really loved Python. I just wouldn't use it to build anything, C# for me and Java is a fine alternative. I don't understand the hate for either, they seem industrial strength and work well for me. I can also find a job doing either of those anywhere in the country or world. Python is big, but not that big.

Guido can be thanked for forcing me to review what was truly in my best interest as I moved my career forward.


> Serious question: did anything good come out of paying attention to Twitter? Like, ever? I'm sure it has its bubble-living adherents here. Then again, so did Quora.

You could've said much the same thing of Usenet too. GvR didn't seem to have any trouble with Usenet back then, but 30 years later, at age 63, apparently now Twitter is the ne plus ultra of toxicity (which will amuse everyone who remembers Usenet). Maybe GvR has just gotten old, and it's not Twitter at all.


When did van Rossum stop participating in Usenet?

Usenet 30 years ago was a lot easier to deal with than Usenet 20 years ago. In 1996 I savored the handful of c.l.py posts per day. By 2002 I was overwhelmed, and that was after most development messages switched over to python-dev.


> Serious question: did anything good come out of paying attention to Twitter? Like, ever? I'm sure it has its bubble-living adherents here. Then again, so did Quora.

You weren't serious, "like, ever" is obvious false. Of course there are good things.

For me: Tech support both ways, job offers, knowledge of latest releases and new developments in my area of expertise. It's awesome.


I think Python 3 isn't that relevant for this. The nastiness was way more in more recent, smaller decisions than in the Python3 migration which has been a decided thing for quite a while.

> “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” ― Ovid

It's not easy to take all the hate and ill-will day in day out. It's not even easy to ignore it, much less to deal with it.

I respect Guido's decision even though I was quite sad to see him step down. It's not difficult to see that, with Pythons growing popularity, things would probably have become even worse for him in the future.


Social media gives unfair advantage to a horde of ankle biters, influences and opinionated individuals to affect things that matter.

Even completely harmful promotion can snowball into supporting harmful behaviour. CTO or senior developer in a small company may feel the need to promote stuff they do by writing technical articles and commenting ongoing debates in the social media. Attaching comments to anything that is trending is important if you want to promote stuff. Suddenly the person is committed with his own name to something he did not thing trough and unintentionally adding side support to some hate campaign.


Not to bite any angles, but s/angle biter/ankle biter/.

It is really hard on maintainers. I think a lot of it is that old adage "It takes 10 positive things to counteract one negative one." And, for some reason, people on the Internet can choose to have any alternate persona they want, and what do they choose? The shittiest person imaginable.

There was a really good Keynote by Brett Cannon last year at PyCon about how hard, emotionally, maintaining OSS is: https://youtu.be/tzFWz5fiVKU?t=3259 -- Unfortunately the official post is buried after 50 minutes of lightning talks. He gets very emotional on stage. I was sitting with him before he gave this talk, it was a very hard talk for him to give, and so very important.

My own story like this: I took over maintenance of a module that had been abandoned, but after the better part of a decade I ran into a time in my life where I have little time for it. It had been languishing, but someone finally offered to help out on the maintenance. Great! I added them to the github project, they started triaging issues, and within a day this guy started spitting vitriol at the new maintainer.

I called this guy out, but he doubled down. I just locked the issue and moved on with my life. But this guy tracked me down and sent me an e-mail to my personal e-mail full of expletives. Followed quickly by an apology:

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to send that e-mail from my work e-mail address, please don't get me fired."

Literally: No apology for being a jerk, just begging me not to share that exchange with their employer. All of the github comments he had made were removed or severely edited.

And... That person who offered to maintain that module? That was the last time they touched it.


Clowns must be held accountable for their actions, otherwise they don't learn.

Believe the Python3 change is a bit of a red-herring, everyone learned from that.

The breaking point was PEP 572 (ie :=) which was quite controversial. The lesson here: One shouldn't attempt to reverse 25-year old design decisions, not even GvR. Python is too big now.

There was a compromise (and more congruent) alternative, reuse of the "as" keyword, that was thrown out immediately, and proponents rammed 572 thru despite significant objection. That's when things got ugly. Personally I disagreed with that decision, and tried to support the compromise design.

In the end, didn't think 572 was the end of the world (will be occasionally useful, if ugly), and tried to stay polite, but sadly many didn't. Then he accepted 572 and stepped down, as if one last poke in the eye, unfortunately.


I think you're right about 572, although even that wouldn't have been enough without all the other stuff from the past, such as the unicode strings.

I often have to write things like this:

  m = re.match()
  if m:
    do something
So I'm looking forward to the feature. I'm not sure you were fair to the process about the alternative syntax, though. They did give a well-reasoned explanation for discounting it.

It was discounted because it was less flexible, didn't handle as many use cases. True.

However, during the process Victor Stinner rewrote one large module using the new syntax as an exercise. We learned that ~95% of the time, only the simplest case was used, the form you gave above. The extra flexibility turned out not very important in real code.

We had a choice of ":=" syntax, duplicate but full functionality, and losing the BDFL, or ~95% functionality, language congruity, and keeping him. They chose the former.

Maybe Guido stepping aside will be good in the long run however, it was bound to happen eventually.


Note that Guido has been elected to the new steering council, and the council has been delegating language-design questions to him.

So I think (and hope) the effect of these changes will be that Guido will make more or less the same decisions as before, but both be under less stress when doing so (because he doesn't have to be the final decision maker), and no longer have to be concerned about people questioning the source of his authority.


The governance model has already been decided, and the steering council elected.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj9...


PEP-8016 [1] has the details of the steering council mechanism (5 person elected council, describes their powers), and PEP-8100 [2] has the results of the election and now shows vote totals.

[1] https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-8016/

[2] https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-8100/#results



Many people here are referencing the 2 to 3 process as germane to the discussion, but it was really PEP 572 (the walrus operator := ) that was it for him. PEP 572 was _hugely_ contentious among the core devs, much more so than the 2 to 3 transition.

Citation - Yesterday at Pycon during the Steering Council meeting he stated that he tendered his BDFL resignation the morning after approving that PEP


This is not an accurate title. He is not blaming ths social media, he is blaming the developers who engaged in social politics instead of open and honest conversation.

Not that I think Guido's decision to leave his supervisory role is wrong, but couldn't he have simply not engaged with social media and just continue his role without all the negative garbage input? It's not like the things people say on Twitter without accountability is worth a damn.

For a "Benevolent Dictator", social media should be like the schoolyard for a teacher: Let the folks have their talks, their chit-chat. If there is a real issue, it's up to them to voice it. If they question your authority, so be it.

Maybe this is something you have to get used to.


It's 2019 and we're all posters now. Even the leader of the free world is involved with the kind of online disputes that internet addicts were having in the 2000s on vBulletin sites. Congress has had hearing from people mad that their posts weren't getting enough traction. It's hilarious but I'm no longer surprised when I find out someone famous is as 'online' as me now.

It’s also strange to think people who are specialized enough to keep abreast of pythons development would be online trolling people enough to get his attention.

What I don't get is if you're tired of certain forms of social media, then why don't you quit using those?

Sad to hear. I don't know what exactly he did for python project, but if we take the pudding as proof of the recipe he did a lot of things right

Edit: I meant I don't know what he did as a bdfl day to day.


He literally invented the language, and until stepping down last year (as described in this link) he was the python BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life)

I apologize if this came off snarky - I did not mean for it to, I just wanted to emphasize Guido's contributions. (edited)


Although the article was mostly about this social media issue, watching the attached video I found Guido's statements about diversity and unconscious bias in Open Source to be a much more interesting part of the interview. (around the 23 minute mark)

Quote from Guido:

If you say "our project is open, anybody can come and join us, anybody can contribute", you are really underestimating the issues. Because it is not just joining the project that's the problem, it is staying in the project.

Which means you have to feel comfortable exchanging emails and code reviews and what-all with people that you don't know personally but you communicate frequently online.

And that sort of communication requires that everybody has respect for each other, and that respect is often missing because of unconscious biases, where guys and sometimes even women, who believe that they have no bias, don't realize that there are small differences in communication styles between men and women, (sometimes they are large differences) that just make it harder for women to join a particular community.

Because it's not just about writing the code, you have to sort of stand up for your code, defend your code, and there is a certain male attitude there that is endemic in many projects, where a woman for example would just not feel comfortable sort of claiming that she is right, that she has the correct insight to decide or to choose a solution, while a guy who knows less than that woman might honestly believe more in their own being right, and so they present a much more confident image. And so they have a much easier time even when they are not all that competent. As long as they present confidence they might get their inferior solution adopted.

A woman will more likely feel that she has to have a perfect solution and a perfect understanding of the issues, why it is a perfect solution, before she will even submit a patch. I am doing a fair amount of mentoring of women specifically, and I found that sometimes women I am mentoring will ask for my approval on every step of the way. They will say "I want to file an issue on the bug tracker but I'm afraid of the negative backlash when I put the issue in, can I tell you what I want to write the issue about?" That is charming, but and I always tell them "just put it in the tracker already! your head is not going to be bitten off, you will got honest feedback, and whether the feedback is 'that is a good idea' or 'that is a bad idea' it will be fine". But I'm sure a guy of the same skill level would not hesitate to just put the issue in the tracker. It is a bit of an attitude and mentality difference which makes it much harder for competent women to get started and stay afloat in this community where the male attitude is the default attitude. Because if someone presents that uncertainty, they are much more likely to get ignored or rejected.


Every leader throughout history has had to put up with the discontent of the governed. Being thick-skinned and ignoring the barbs is part of the job.

Social media is a red herring here; this sort of thing has happened on all forms of social media since the dawn of computing. It used to be on mailing lists and Usenet. Now it's primarily on Twitter.

After 30 years of leading a project, anyone is going to get worn down.


The psychological feedback loops and self-affirmation have been tweaked to perversion and addiction by social media. There are notifications, +1, heart, subreferences, everything, everywhere. It has become much more overwhelming.

yes, it's sickening. I do my best to filter out all the like and upvote stuff, but it doesn't really help because it changes the entire atmosphere of a platform and thus affects me too.

No offense to Guido, and I love Python, but the transition from Python 2 to Python 3 is a reference point for me in terms of how NOT to update a programming language. Noone should ever be attacked, but surely someone deserves some criticism.

What was your issue with the transition? Basically both are still usable, and python3 is a huge improvement over python2. I used python2.7 for years before switching and realizing python3 is strictly better, but it was nearly seamless transition (sure legacy projects might have a little pain, but how else can you make fundamental language changes?)

I like the print function style of print, but unfortunately many of the "My First Hello World in Python" tutorials available online broke when the old print was removed. Those tutorials usually don't make a point of saying they're only valid in Python 2, and of course all new users just learning a language for a first time will download the latest version to try.

For a new programmer, it can be a very discouraging experience having to debug even your first hello world program even though it perfectly matches the code in the tutorial.


What would you have done differently? Frankly, it seemed pretty principled to me -- enough to where I wouldn't be comfortable Monday quarterbacking.

Make the 2 vs 3 language decision be module-specific with a single Python executable supporting both languages, allowing you to freely mix Python 2 and 3 files and libraries and thus not splitting the ecosystem.

I believe that would have been much more expensive to develop, and the Python dev team didn't have the resources for it.

The easiest things can be done by automatic translation, like 2to3.

The remaining parts get increasingly difficult, because Python 2 objects have to know how they are interpreted in Python 3, and vice versa.

A simper step would be to write an AST transformer to instrument Python 2 code and identify the non-Python 3-compatible uses of, for example, keys() and values(). That's almost as hard as writing a Python 3 implementation in Python 2, and I couldn't convince myself that it made financial sense given that it would still miss a lot of corner cases.


They did that where possible (from __future__ imports, forwards compatibility changes to a bunch of internal apis (the C extension api, as well as stuff like the code object)), but there's not a cross-compatible way to handle the unicode/bytes change. Python2 has, essentially, a single text-bytes str type. Python3 has different ones. You can't cross that boundary from 2 to 3, because the runtime has no way to know which of text or bytes a given str is.

What you can do is use libraries like six to make code run just fine in both versions, and six-ify on a per file basis. This works pretty well.


It is universally acknowledged that the strategy prior to 2.7/3.3 was wrong, and that this delayed the transition by several years.

the := PEP stunk badly of cargo cult programming, you see knee-jerk proposals like that every time a blog makes the rounds and Guido deserved the pushback

I had to look this one up. PEP 572 [1] introduces "the walrus operator". Your claim that it "stunk badly" made me think that perhaps it was proposed and rejected, however it's listed as 'accepted' and among the new features from CPython 3.8. I suppose if you're the BDFL you can get your PEPs approved ;)

AFAICT it allows for optional binding. I suppose it might seem like 'cargo cult' because Rust and Swift have 'if let'?

[1] https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0572/


It was accepted but that PEP caused the whole kerfuffle correct? It became fashionable to have a strong opinion on assignment vs equality.

A dictator that can’t stand to others questioning your decisions is a weak dictator. Python is mature enough to have the current governance model, but his exit could have been less noisy.

a "dictator" is still human. I think you might underestimate how annoying people can be online.



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