November 22, 2005
London Web Framework Night

Speaking of the London Web Framework Night - I never did write that up, did I?

OK, so, first up, Catalyst. What can I say? Catalyst may or may not be a great web framework, but since I didn't understand a word of the presentation, I'm not in any position to judge. It seemed mainly to consist of a list of CPAN modules that are either part of Catalyst, or can be plugged into it. No code, no working system, no screenshots, no inkling of what's in it for me. Nothing. Awkward, opaque, and unfriendly to all but insiders - much like I imagine Perl to be. (It must be said, the Perl mongers are aware of the problem - see this post, and this one. Message for Simon Wistow re your "Show Leon's Catalyst based web debugger. I'm willing to bet that it would be largely impossible in either of the other two" comment - I give you Ajaxy Exception Catching.)

Next up came Simon's Django presentation. I may have put The Fear into Simon about presenting to so many people, but perhaps I did him a favour - despite his admitted inexperience as a presenter, it was a cracking show. Compelling, funny, enthusiastic, and giving a very good idea as to what Django does, and how it does it. Using it will be pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to putting together a CMS style site. Whether it's the right platform for database driven sites like the kind of thing that I do for my day job is another matter. There's a clear front end/back end division with Django, with editors using its spectacular "magic" admin interface, and users mainly viewing content - though you do get community features like commenting pretty much for free. Perfect for a lot of sites, but would it suit enterprise database apps like banks and insurance houses need - and I write?

Simon demonstrated both the front and back ends of Django using - one of the sites for which Django was developed in the first place. Though the God of Demos made an apprearance at one point giving Simon an SQL exception, he also had a number of "oooh"s, and outright applause at least twice.

Last up was Matt Biddulph giving us a flavour of Rails. Struggling manfully through a stinking cold, Matt gave us the phiosophy of Rails in a very punchy manner. It looks very much a case of "do it our way", but that's often the right approach. Not enough code on show to tempt me away from a Python platform, though. ;-)

Without a doubt, the highlight here was Matt's demo of BBC Programme Catalogue. I have no words for how cool this project is. None.

I missed out on the booze up afterwards - I was feeling a bit fragile after several heavy sessions on the trot - so I'm sorry if I missed any of you. It was a good night nevertheless - a big thank you to Dean Wilson for organising it all.

Me? I'm looking at TurboGears. ;-) I like the concept of tying together best-of-breed components. Getting it running on my Mac was trivial, and the 20 minute Wiki is a superb demo. As soon as I locate some of that copious free time of mine, I'll try throwing together a simple site or two to see how it hangs together.

Posted to Website construction by Simon Brunning at November 22, 2005 06:46 PM

That's spooky Simon, you must be reading my mind. After playing with Django I came to pretty much the same conclusion as you.

Because I'm such a big SQLObject fan boy I installed TurboGears and am finding that it's much more suitable for the kind of web applications that I want to write. It's kind of like Quixote with a style guide and some of the missing components supplied. I rather like it.

Posted by: Andy Todd on November 22, 2005 10:13 PM

So Simon, have you started your preparation to speak at the next meet up?

Posted by: Elp on November 22, 2005 11:27 PM

Hey Simon and Andy,

Django's very well-suited for enterprise database apps. The fact that a production-ready admin interface is bundled by default means that it's *particularly* good at solving content-management problems, but it *doesn't* mean it's *not* good for *non*-content-management apps. In fact, it kicks tail at making *any* sort of Web-based application. :)

Posted by: Adrian Holovaty on November 22, 2005 11:34 PM

Does any of the admin interface magic carry over into building user side CRUD interfaces? That's what I seem to spens a horrible amount of time doing in the Java/String/Hibernate app I'm working on.

Posted by: Simon Brunning on November 23, 2005 10:05 AM

El P,
I'd love to. I'd need a fair amount of prep time...

Posted by: Simon Brunning on November 23, 2005 12:04 PM

Simon: The meat of the admin interface "magic" -- validation and form fields -- do indeed carry over into building user-side CRUD interfaces. And work is being done now on making the entire admin app more generic, so that developers can use snippets of it within their own apps. That should be integrated into Django proper this week.

Posted by: Adrian Holovaty on November 23, 2005 02:36 PM

Top. I'll have to take a look.

Posted by: Simon Brunning on November 23, 2005 02:41 PM

One thing I forgot - I found it richly ironic that for a definition of elegant, the Catalyst guy had to resort to Google...

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