Python Training by Dan Bader

In Love, War, and Open-Source: Never Give Up

I’ll never forget launching my first open-source project and sharing it publicly on Reddit…

I had spent a couple of days at my parents’ place over Christmas that year and decided to use some of my spare time to work on a Python library I christened schedule.

The idea behind schedule was very simple and had a narrow focus (I find that that that’s always a good idea for libraries by the way):

Developers would use it like a timer to periodically call a function inside their Python programs.

The kicker was that schedule used a funky “natural sounding” syntax to specify the timer interval. For example, if you wanted to run a function every 10 minutes you’d do this:

schedule.every(10).minutes.do(myfunc)

Or, if you wanted to run a particular task every day at 10:30 in the morning, you’d do this:

schedule.every().day.at('10:30').do(mytask)

Because I was so frustrated with Cron’s syntax I thought this approach was really cool. And so I decided this would be the first Python module I’d release as open-source.

I cleaned up the code and spent some time coming up with a nice README file—because that’s really the first thing that your potential users will see when they check out your library.

Once I had my module available on PyPI and the source code on GitHub I decided to call some attention to the project. The same night I posted a link to the repository to Reddit and a couple of other sites.

I still remember that I had shaky hands when I clicked the “submit” button…

It’s scary to put your work out there for the whole world to judge! Also, I didn’t know what to expect.

Would people call me stupid for writing a “simple” library like that?

Would they think my code wasn’t good enough?

Would they find all kinds of bugs and publicly shame me for them? I felt almost a physical sense of dread about pushing the “submit” button on Reddit that night!

The next morning I woke up and immediately checked my email. Were there any comments? Yes, about twenty or so!

I started reading through all of them, faster and faster—

And of course my still frightful mind immediately zoomed in on the negative ones, like

“Cool idea, but not particularly useful”,

and

“The documentation is not enough”,

or

“Not a big fan of the pseudo-english syntax. Way too clever and gimmicky.”

At this point I was starting to feel a little discouraged… I’d never really shared my code publicly before and to be honest I my skin receiving criticism on it was paper thin. After all, this was just something I wrote in a couple of hours and gave away for free.

The comment that really made my stomach churn was one from a well known member of the Python community:

“And another library with global state :-( … Such an API should not even exist. It sets a bad example.”

Ouch, that stung. I really looked up to that person and had used some of their libraries in other projects… It was almost like my worst fears were now playing out in front of me!

I’d never be able to get another job as a Python developer after this…

At the time I didn’t see the positive and supportive comments in that discussion thread. I didn’t see the almost 70 upvotes. I didn’t see the valuable lessons hidden in the seemingly rude comments. I dwelled on the negative and felt terrible and depressed that whole day.

So how do you think this story ends?

Did I delete the schedule repo, switched careers and never looked at Reddit again?

Wrong!

schedule now has almost 3,000 stars on GitHub and is among the top 70 Python repositories (out of more than 215,000). When PyPI’s download statistics were still working I saw that it got several thousand downloads per month. I get emails every week from people asking questions about it or thanking me for writing it…

Isn’t that crazy!? How’s that possible after all of these disheartening comments?

My answer is “I don’t know”—and I also don’t think that schedule is a particularly great library that deserves all this attention, by the way.

But, it seems to solve a problem for some people. It also seems to have a polarizing effect on developers who see it—some love it, some hate it.

Today I’m glad I shipped schedule that night.

Glad because it was helpful to so many people over the years and glad because it helped me develop a thicker skin when it comes to sharing and launching things publicly.

I’m partly writing this meandering post because not very long ago I found this comment buried in my Reddit message history:

As someone who has posted a number of projects and blog posts in r/Python, just wanted to drop you a line and encourage that you don’t let the comments in your thread get you down. You see all those upvotes?

Those are people that like your library, but don’t really have a comment to make in the thread proper. My biggest issue with /r/Python is that it tends towards cynicism and sometimes cruelty rather than encouragement and constructive criticism.

Keep up the great work,

Rob

Wow! What a positive and encouraging comment!

Back when I felt discouraged by all of these negative comments I must’ve missed it. But reading it a few years later made me re-live that whole situation and it showed me how much I’d grown as a developer and as a person in the meantime.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe feeling bogged down by the developer community who can be unfiltered and pretty rude sometimes, don’t get discouraged.

Even if some people don’t like what you did there can be thousands who love your work.

It’s a big pond, and sometimes the best ideas are polarizing.

The only way to find out is to ship, ship, ship.

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This article was filed under: career, open-source, and python.

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