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What Is TurboGears (Hint: Python-Based Framework for Rapid Web Development)
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An Interview with the Creator of TurboGears

TurboGears is such a cool project that I thought we should try to get some one-on-one time with Kevin Dangoor -- the creator of TurboGears and the upcoming Zesty News product. Fortunately for us, he was more than willing to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk a little more about his work.



MR: I always find it fascinating see the progression of events that leads people to do such interesting things as creating a new framework, so before we get to TurboGears itself, could you say a little about your background? Are you a software engineer?

KD: Yeah, actually my degree is in computer science from the University of Michigan. I graduated in 1994, so it's been a while. I've been programming professionally since 1988, but along the way I've also worked jobs in management, sales, and engineering. I've also had a couple of my own companies, which is something else I bring into this whole endeavor. Interestingly enough, it's not just about the programming -- there's also a lot of product management aspects that come up when you're developing professionally.

MR: So what specifically gave you the inspiration for TurboGears? You obviously had the technical background, but where did the creative inspiration come from?

KD: Well, the inspiration for TurboGears is actually my Zesty News product. While working on that, I needed to have the tools to make the web application itself. At the beginning of the year, I started looking at the various frameworks there were available in an effort to put something together that would do what I needed. Along the way I decided to really emphasize plug-ins for Zesty News, and that was the point at which I decided that I needed to document all of the work I had been doing and put it out there so other people could take advantage of it. Rather than being a sudden flash of inspiration, TurboGears came from an evolutionary process in building Zesty News.

MR: So this effort is a full-time job then? It's not just a part-time effort that you work during the evenings?

KD: Yes and no. You could say that my day job is working on Zesty News -- that's what my company Blazing Things is developing at the moment. But I decided that I would develop TurboGears and get it out to the masses before getting back to Zesty News, because I think that TurboGears is really showing that there is a demand and a real need in the Python world for a "full stack" web framework.

MR: So why is the TurboGears stack so reliant on Python?

KD: I think Python is a really easy to learn and fun language for development, and it's not a very difficult endeavor for anyone who's ever had any programming experience. In fact, I've noticed that a lot of people on the mailing list for TurboGears said that they're new to Python so it looks like there are quite a few people that are coming to Python through TurboGears. I don't think they're finding Python itself to be a very difficult part of the learning process. I personally have been developing in Python for about 10 years, and I consider it my language of choice.

MR: How much "glue code" did you have to write to get TurboGears working?

KD: Well, for the first release, the amount of code involved in putting TurboGears together was quite small. I would say the initial TurboGears release was only around a thousand lines or so. I didn't make any notes at the time, but I really don't think it was more than that. It was really small, and the amount of code necessary to get these pieces working together was negligible because they are so nicely written and had a natural interoperability with other projects. The bulk of the code is naturally going to remain in the individual projects that make TurboGears possible, and hopefully some of the components developed for TurboGears will migrate back out into the pieces of the stack themselves. But overall, the amount of code specific to TurboGears has been growing with each release.

MR: Would you say that Rails has had any impact at all on your design of TurboGears?

KD: Well, actually, when I was starting Zesty News I considered Rails but decided to use Python because of particular Python libraries that are not readily available for Ruby. So, yes, I did look at Rails, but the specifics of Rails weren't really an influence on TurboGears because I started with different tools, namely CherryPy and SQLObject. But conceptually it has the same sort of architecture as Rails. The fact that Rails gives you everything you need for a web application from front end to back end is what was missing in open source previously, and that has been a big influence on projects like TurboGears that have come since.

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