PyDev of the Week: Mike Grouchy

This week we welcome Mike Grouchy (@mgrouchy) as our PyDev of the Week. Mike co-founded PyCoder’s Weekly along with Mahdi Yusuf (@myusuf3). He is also the creator of Django Stronghold, a fun Django package you should check out. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Mike better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I currently work as the VP of Engineering at a Startup called PageCloud I am also one of the co-founders/creators/curators of Pycoders Weekly a weekly Python newsletter. As for my background, I’m from St.Johns Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. I got a BSc in computer science at Memorial University there and then moved to Ottawa, Ontario after that to work (a short stint working in the Canadian government and startups since). In my spare time I usually am busy with my two kids, but when they are sleeping and I’m not working I spend my free time working on some open source things Django Stronghold, new initiatives for Pycoder’s, and messing around with home automation stuff. I’m also starting to get interested in the home server building thing, especially on the budget build side of things. It’s cool to see all the great things you can do repurposing old server hardware that can be gotten inexpensively.

Why did you start using Python?

I played around with Python a little bit in my teen years writing little scripts for automating things and whatnot but I started to get into Python seriously working at my university in the computer science department. The team there was doing some pretty sophisticated stuff with a Python cgi web app that was used to control, build and deploy gentoo images onto lab machines around the university. That was a pretty incredible deep dive for me into the power of Python (also really helped step up my skills in Python and C).

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Python is definitely my favorite language (and the one I am best at) but I have professionally written C, C++, C#, java, VB, JavaScript. I have also dabbled a bit with plenty of other languages but my experience is so small they aren’t even worth calling out. Of the other languages that I am experienced with, I think JavaScript is my favorite. While I am not the best JavaScripter, its one of those languages that is so ubiquitous right now in the web world that it makes sense to stay on top of it. The direction JavaScript is moving in right now is also interesting. A lot of the language improvements they have been realizing over the last few years (Like everything in ES6) really demonstrate a language moving in the right direction. (Please JavaScript haters, don’t be mad at me)

What projects are you working on now?

Right now besides Pycoder’s and maintaining my only semi-popular open source library, I’m working on a fairly simple hardware project, a Alexa controllable IR blaster. As I answered in one of my previous questions I am really interested in home automation stuff so I thought this would be a fun little project to do instead of buying a Logitech harmony hub(for my really limited use case). Mahdi(from Pycoders) and I are also working on home hackers a resource for people interested in home automation, homelab and other things like that.

Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?

If it counts, its not really a library, but Jupyter notebook is incredible. Just being able to write coded examples, inline with documentation, etc. and then share it is fantastic. Its not hard to see why its so popular.

In terms of core libraries I’m going to go off the beaten path here again and call out f-strings. Its a core language feature not a library, but I love them. Much easier to work with than previous string formatting options that were available and very readable(this is important!).

What is the origin story of Pycoders Weekly?

Its not a super interesting story, but my partner ( Mahdi Yusuf ) worked together at this small startup. We were both very enthusiastic about the Python community and were looking around for resources for keeping up and getting involved in the Python community. As we looked around we saw that while there were some Python newsletters at the time, there were none that we wanted to read. This lead to us just thinking “hey, why don’t we give this a try?”. So we validated the idea by creating a landing page with a newsletter signup form and posted it on hacker news and we got ~2k signups in a day or two. At that point we knew this thing had legs so we hurried up and figured out the issue format, etc. that week, sent the first issue 2 weeks later and we have been going since (320+ issues so far!).

Can you explain the key to its success?

I think part of it was just right place, right time and the other part is we tried to be a little bit different compared to the other newsletters that were out there. We tried to keep the content quality really high and really focus on that initial problem we were trying to solve(Create a python newsletter we wanted to read). We wrote blurbs by hand for every single article/project/news item we posted and attempted to add some personality into the mix where we could.

Do you have any advice for others who would like to do an e-zine type endeavor?

Just get out there as quickly as possible with your idea and validate it. You need to quickly find your audience and what they are looking for if you are going to be successful in a sustainable way.

Thanks for doing the interview, Mike!

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