This week we welcome Sebastian Steins (@sebastiansteins) as our PyDev of the Week! Sebastian is the creator of the Pythonic News website. You can find out more about Sebastian by checking out what he's been up to over on Github. Let's take a few moments to get to know him better!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
I am a software developer from Germany and live close to the Dutch and Belgian border. The internet emerged when I was in school. I have always been fascinated by computers and wanted to learn to program. Unfortunately, this was not so easy at the time, and I did not have teachers who could have supported me in that matter. It changed, however, when I got my first modem. The internet opened a whole new world for me, and I started to learn HTML, Perl and later, PHP. I built CGI scripts and small web apps back then, and it was really fun. Eventually, I took programming as my career path, although I sometimes struggled with that decision. Besides my degree in computer science, I also heard lectures on economics and had a few positions in the finance sector early in my career. Now, I enjoy coaching teams of great software engineers in architecture matters and try to pass my knowledge to junior devs.
When I'm not in front of a computer, I like to ride my road bike, learn new stuff from audiobooks and would never say no to a night out in a good restaurant.
Why did you start using Python?
I started using Python when I needed a replacement for PHP, so it was very early on. It was in the very early days of the Python 2.0 release. I immediately liked it, because it was basically like writing pseudocode. This is what I still love about being able to "talk to a computer": Expressing ideas and see results very quickly. Meanwhile, other languages have kept up and are equally expressive as Python. However, Python has become a little bit of my home base ever since.
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
What projects are you working on now?
I am working as a freelance consultant in software engineering. Besides that, I teach introductory courses over at smartninja.de. Recently I started a small project called Pythonic News, which is basically a Hacker News clone for the Python community.
Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?
There are so many great libraries in the Python ecosystem. This is another point which makes programming in Python so enjoyable. Most of these libraries are very Pythonic in a way that ideas can be expressed very concisely. I really like the Django framework, but there are also smaller packages like requests which I use quite frequently.
Bigger ones, such as numpy and pandas really proves that Python is so versatile that there is hardly a problem which cannot be solved with it.
What is the origin of your Pythonic News site?
I've built the https://news.python.sc site as a Django project. During the creation, I tried to use as many features of the Django framework as possible. This is because I created it initially as an example app for a Python training and wanted to showcase different ways of achieving things. This is also why not everything in the codebase can be considered as best practise. The goal was to show what could be done with Django, including downsides of particular approaches. For example, I used model inheritance on the core database objects which certainly is not the best choice performance-wise.
What have you learned creating the project?
Just for fun, I posted the project to Reddit and Hacker News. I got so much positive feedback that I wanted to see how it did before it was even complete. I learned that there are still places on the web which feel like the "good old days". People just like to talk about the topics they care about. The early-2000s esthetics of the site turned out to be a good fit for the audience. There was not a single issue with spam or offensive behaviour. There still is "an internet" which is happening outside the walled gardens of the big tech companies.
This made me very happy!
Furthermore, I saw strangers reacted on GitHub in a way I would never have expected. That made me think that I will create a make-of tutorial series from that project to teach more people about Python. I will publish it on my site when it's ready.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other content creators?
Just start and let the world know about your ideas and your creation. Even if it's not perfect, you'll find people that care. If it's a Python project you created, of course, you can submit it to the "Show PN" section of Pythonic News.
Thanks for doing the interview, Sebastian!
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