June 6, 2011 - Socal Python meetup at Dreamhost


Arrived 30 minutes late so my notes are woefully incomplete

Asynchronous programming techniques in Python


My normal answer is to use Celery + Redis/RabbitMQ to handle this stuff. Is that cheating? ;)


  • Walked in the on the part about Twisted…

  • Threads vs processes are a debatable issue.

  • Cost of using Python to create new processes is considered slow

  • Blocking and memory access issues

  • Async is a problem in Python because not all libraries support it

  • Someone mentioned a library called pystates

  • GIL

    • Multiple threads in Python are OS processes and you can get blocking on memory objects
    • On large processes on things like dict hash-tables you can get blocks/locks on the wrong thing


  • Called ‘giant hack’

  • Looks likes the threads API

  • Uses a messages system to use OS processes to share data between processes/threads

  • Uses pickles to share data via messages, which means anything that is deserialized executes the code

    • Which means you should watch out for code injection!

Communicating Sequential Processes

  • Title of an academic paper
  • A system of sharing tasks and data


  • Wonderful monkey patch that does the bulk of the work needed for multi-tasking.
  • Does not use threads, replaces certain libraries on the fly.
  • Uses co-routines, built on lib-eb
  • I’ve played with it, and it is fun.
  • See:

Metaclasses: Look behind the curtain

by Dreamhoster John LaCourt


Great talk, with presenter is saying it’s not magic, I agree. However, IMO, 95% people use Metaclasses, they have no reason to do so. So I listen to this talk with concern because debugging bad Metaclass code is a pain.


If you use Metaclasses badly and I have to debug your code I reserve the right to complain loudly in all public venues.

What does a class do?

  • Class constructs are called instances

  • What does it really mean to construct an instance?

    • A class provides an instance with it’s namespace
    • Attributes of a class define the namespace of the instance
    • Example of a class:
class Person(object):
    greeting = 'hello'

    def greet(self, who):
        print self.greeting, who

j = Person
print j.greet('SoCal')
'hello SoCal'

Example libraries

  • SQLAlchemy
  • FormEncode
  • Django ORM

What is a metaclass?

  • A metaclass is a class of a class
  • A metaclass is a class whose instances are classes
  • This is called metaprogramming

The type metaclass

  • If the instance of a metaclass is a class, can we insubstantiate the class just using type
def greet(self, who):
    print self.greeting, who

Person = type(
    {'greet': greet, 'greeting': 'Hello'}


j = Person
print j.greet('SoCal')
'hello SoCal'

First metaclass:

class MyFirstMeta(type):
    def __init__(cls, name, bases, ns):
        cls.uses_my_metaclass = True

    def mystery_method(cls):
        # All methods in metaclasses are metaclasses, which is why
        #       the variable is 'cls' and not 'self'
        return 'I am a myster method'

# the grungy way of building that class
MyClass = MyFirstMeta(
    {'greet': greet, 'greeting': 'Hello'}

# the easier way of building that class
class MyClass(object):

    __metaclass__ = MyFirstMeta

Practical example

Enforce all the things, like in Java

class Field(object):

    def __init__(self, ftype):
        self.ftype = ftype

    def TODO(self): #get this method

class EnforcerMeta(type):
    def __init__(cls, name, bases, ns):

        cls._fields = {}

        for key, value in ns, items
            if isnstance(value, Field):
                cls._fields[key] = value

class Enforcer(EnforcerMeta):
    __metaclass__ = EnforcerMeta

    def __setattr__(self, key, value):
        if key in self._fields:
            if not self._fields[key].is_valid(value):
                raise TypeError('{0} is not valid'.format(key))
        super(Enforcer, self).__setattr__(key, value)

class Person(Enforcer):
    name = Field(str)
    age = Field(int)

Great! Now be @#$%ing careful!!!!

  • Because they are constructing classes on the fly, bugs in your metaclasses will often happen during import statements
  • Please, please use them judiciously

Approaching Technical challenges as a Startup

by David Litwin


  • Website to connect and organize the entire production community

  • Allows people to connect with each other, share work, and find jobs

  • Transcoding uses zencoder

  • Uses amazon ec2

  • Details:

    • 10K lines of Python
    • 1K of unittest
  • Needs to justify the cost of everything that they do. Startups have small budgets!

Video transcoding

  • Priority feature

  • Need to be able to handle high load

  • No tolerance from users about failure

  • Needs to be fast:

    • 1 minute of video needs to be done in 1 minute.
    • 10 minutes video in 10 minutes
  • Chose zencoder rather than ffmpeg probably because they’ve got dedicated resources and experiences

Real-time feeds

  • Tornado + MySQL triggers?!?
  • Needs to get something working, doesn’t have to be too fancy
  • Uses Tornado with long polling
  • Uses Django signals instead of triggers :o

Slow ORM queries

  • Django ORM sometimes slows things down so you have to optimize.

    • 95% of the time it’s not an issue
    • 5% of the time he hits a bottleneck
  • Sometimes you have to break it out into SQL with the .extra() method.

Lessons Learned

  • The biggest technical challenge is determining which technical tasks take priority.

  • Stay focused and excited

  • Took 6 months to develop:

    • Learned to program for this project!!! Wow!!!

    • Choose Python because…

      • Wanted an enthusiastic community that isn’t crazy
      • Community answers questions nicely