@TheKeyBoard

“Lies I Told My Kids” – Python + Flask + GAE

As many of my readers know, I’ve been slowly expanding my Python skills over the last 18 months or so. First, I fooled around with Django on my laptop, really liking what I saw. Next, I started using it to write scripts for pre-calculating fantasy point totals at my old job. Finally, I had been looking at Google App Engine and seeing what it would take to put a very simple Python site up there. I had a few options.

I could use the web application framework Google provided in Python called webapp, but I decided I wanted to learn a framework I could use outside of GAE as well. I really like Django but, until recently, there were a whole bunch of hoops you had to jump through in order to get it to play nicely with GAE. It’s easier now, but I started this project a while ago and it’s been bitrotting on my laptop. Also, I was frustrated with Django because the application I was trying to build with it just wasn’t a good fit and someone beat me to it. Not Django’s fault, and I would gladly use it again to build something else.

Finally, I decided I wanted to use a very lightweight framework because I felt that my lack of Python expertise meant a lot of the magic going on in Django (like any awesome full-stack framework) was difficult for me to understand as a PHP guy who was trying not to write Python code like a PHP guy. So, after hashing things out via IM with my friend Kevin I chose Flask, which bills itself as a “microframework for Python based on Werkzeug, Jinja 2 and good intentions.”.

I found Flask very easy to use, and the documentation helpful to a beginner like me. I could easily start to see where a more advanced developer could create things just the way he wanted. Once I found an awesome template for running Flask on GAE I was off and running.

The application itself was very straight-forward: collect user submissions about the little white lies parents tell their kids, and show them in a paginated fashion. The twists? I was going to store them in the GAE datastore (so I had to learn their API) and I also wanted to use Defensio to pre-filter submissions and identify ones that might be spammers trying to get stuff in there. Pro-tip for you developers out there: if the library you want to use has tests, that is the first place you should go to see how to actually use the library.

So, in bits and pieces over a few months (basically whenever inspiration struck and there was nothing I wanted to watch on TV with the wife) I put the application together. It’s functioning the way I want it to (although I admit I didn’t do a ton of testing of the pagination, so maybe I’ll hack at that later) but needs some help on the UI side. Feel free to check it out and add your submission.