June 6, 2011 Knowing Things

By Jeff Schenk


Way too much heckling and too many comments from one person who kept taking him off topic so I asked Jeff to not take so many questions. That did not go over well with the hecklers, but actually asking on the mailing list uncovered a serious problem in the user group. Now things are better.

Ad.ly’s story

  • Kinda knowing things is easy
  • Really knowing with certainty a lot of complex things is maybe harder
  • Need to know things with precision is really important

Thing Types

  • Integers (how many people clicked)
  • Strings
  • Booleans
  • Bling (money)
  • Time


Do you want to misplace money and get fired? No? Use Decimal:

from decimal import Decimal
moneys = Decimal('100.01')

Decimal oddities in rounding so use quantize:

>>> moneys  / 2
Decimal('50.005') # Copied something wrong here..

# so use quantize
>>> (moneys / 2).quantize('001')
Decimal('50.005') # ... or maybe here cause these numbers are the same


  • Timezones suck
  • Computers like integers
  • So they use hours since epoch
  • all the work is done in about 10 lines of Python code.


  • SQL

    • Joins are death
    • If you join, you will die
    • intelligent index are super
    • if you’re going to group bu it or filter on it, you probably want it indexed.
  • Pre-Aggregate

    • When you’re working with a lot of data, you need to aggregate chunks as you go.
    • My Guess: A lot of Celery tasks!
    • Spooned into a single report table that breaks normalization


They use itertools a lot!

  • itertools.chain is your friend
  • itertools.tee is also your friend


Algorithms makes merging of iterables really powerful:

import heapq
for result in heapq.merge(query1, query2):
    # merge results and know they are in order

Caching is key!

  • They need flexibility to slice and dice the data
  • Once its been sliced, they want to be able to view, page, and sort the data
  • Redis gives the speed of cache with the power to sort and page
  • They use redis-py as their library


  • Test coverage?