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PyCon 2011: Interview with Armin Ronacher - “Opening the Flask”

By Brian Curtin

It’s not often that “April Fools” jokes go past the joke stage, especially in the Python community. PEP-3117 didn’t make it, and Uncle Barry’s PEP-401 takeover hasn’t yet occurred. However, we’re still seeing the work of an April 1, 2010 joke in the form of Flask, Armin Ronacher’s micro-framework.

For a fake project, it certainly got a lot of attention. Within days after announcing the joke Denied micro-framework, 10,000 people downloaded the fake screencast, 50,000 people viewed the website, and the project had 50 followers and 6 forks on github. “The great thing about being part of a vibrant open source community like the Python one is that you learn a lot more about people and yourself than you do about the project itself,” said Ronacher. The joke was an exercise in project judgment, and people seemed to like the idea and bought into it right away, many without noticing the quality of the code or lack of documentation, but the flashiness of a screencast.

His talk “Opening the Flask” hopes to give an inside look and draw some conclusions from the year of work to make the real project what it is today. When asked what turned the joke into reality, he says, “My original frustration that lead to the April Fool's joke framework was the fact that some frameworks chose to re-implement WSGI […] just to be able to claim ‘no dependencies’.” From there, he decided it was worth a shot at creating a real framework based on his Werkzeug and Jinja2 projects. After all, people seemed to like the joke micro-framework idea, and a year later, people love it, so he’s doing something right.

Extensions are one of the key topics of the talk, and Armin recently announced the 30th extension had been created by the community. Asked about his favorite extension, he says “I love relational databases and I adore the design and implementation of SQLAlchemy so I would say Flask-SQLAlchemy is the one I use the most.” Another of his favorites is Flask-Script, which is similar to django-management in the Flask world.

Armin is one of the younger Python hackers out there today, getting his start into development around 2002 by writing games at school using QBasic. After finding a Delphi book and ignoring most of the contents, he and a friend “wrote a horribly developed game called ‘be a bee’.” They ended up taking that game to the under-19 ARS Electronica festival in 2003 and won second prize.

He found Python by way of Gregor Lingl’s “Python fuer Kids”, then shortly joined the German Python Forum. After getting acquainted with Ubuntu, he spent time working with the ubuntuusers.de forum, which ended in the creation of the Pocoo project. “Having something to work for and a Python core developer on board (Georg Brandl joined the project very early) is a great way to learn the language.”

While this will be Armin’s first US Pycon, he’s been to EuroPython and a number of Django conferences, and he’s no stranger to speaking there. To him, one of the best parts of the conference is “talking to other developers in the hallways and sharing experiences.”

We’re looking forward to his talk in Atlanta - it should be a great time, and Flask is another great addition to the Python web ecosystem. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting more interviews with upcoming speakers, authors and others involved in Pycon 2011, so stay tuned - and get registered!

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