Tuesday, 20 May 2008

First Look at Django

Django is MVC... kinda

Django (and all of the frameworks I'm looking at) is based on the "MVC" software architecture pattern. Since these are largely personal notes (can't imagine anyone else reading this) I'm not going to cover the basics here. You can find that in the Django Book or on Wikipedia.

But here's an interesting quote from Chapter 5 of the Django Book:
Because the “C” is handled by the framework itself and most of the excitement in Django happens in models, templates, and views, Django has been referred to as an MTV framework. In the MTV development pattern,

  • M stands for “Model,” the data access layer. This layer contains anything and everything about the data: how to access it, how to validate it, which behaviors it has, and the relationships between the data.
  • T stands for “Template,” the presentation layer. This layer contains presentation-related decisions: how something should be displayed on a Web page or other type of document.
  • V stands for “View,” the business logic layer. This layer contains the logic that access the model and defers to the appropriate template(s). You can think of it as the bridge between models and templates.
If you’re familiar with other MVC Web-development frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails, you may consider Django views to be the “controllers” and Django templates to be the “views.” [...] Neither interpretation is more “correct” than the other. The important thing is to understand the underlying concepts.
This sounds like a subtle but possibly important distinction, particularly as I move between frameworks. I have some initial concerns about Django's interpretation of MVC but I'll keep that to myself until I've really given it time to make sense (basically, how does the split of business logic between Django "model" and "view" manifest itself in the design of your code, and can it lead to anemic domain models?).

Why Django?

Behind the 8-ball here. Not only is Django new to me but Python isn't a language I code in regularly -- in fact it's been some time since I've played with it. I like the look of Python. I've coded some trivial programs with it. The "white space thing" doesn't bother me and I don't really understand why it would bother anyone. Then again it's not the first language I've seen that does it. The first language that I saw that particular feature in was Occam, and I really liked Occam (not that I ever did anything useful with it).

So why Django?
  • It's based on Python and Python seems like it should be a really good language to work in. I'm a Perl refugee in some ways. I'm finding it hard to recruit really good Perl coders (as opposed to just plain old Perl coders) and I suspect that people who have taken the trouble to learn Python (or Ruby, or Scala, or LISP) are more likely to care about good code. Not because C# and Java programmers don't but ... well, in this market why would you learn Python if it wasn't because you cared about being a better programmer?
  • There are other Python frameworks that look very interesting: TurboGears and Pylons for example. But I have limited time and Django appears to have an edge for reasons I can't yet articulate. I'll probably drill down into TurboGears later.
  • Django is the first framework supported by Google App Engine.
  • The Django core team say sensible things about web development and the community appears active and supportive. A little smug sometimes but hey, wouldn't you be, if you were working in the One True Language too? :-)

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