The Big Python Wall

By Jeff Cogswell  |  Posted 2009-01-27 Print this article Print


Zoho's announcement of its integration with GAE was welcomed by a lot of people, and I noticed there was a common theme among many of the comments. Indeed, when I have reviewed Google App Engine, the same complaint comes up again and again: To program for GAE, you need to use Python.

I've been using Python for more than a decade, so for me, this isn't a problem. However, many people simply don't want to learn a new language, ad that's where the Zoho announcement is welcome news. Now people can effectively use Zoho Creator as a development environment for Google App Engine-without having to learn Python.

The relevant post on the official Zoho Creator blog even has this quote in it:

The process of deploying a Zoho Creator application on to App Engine doesn't require knowledge of Python. You don't even have to write a single line of code to create and deploy an application either on Zoho or Google App Engine.

But as a seasoned developer, this also gives me trouble. If targeting a platform, it's wise for a developer to know everything he or she can about that particular platform. When you port an application from Zoho Creator to GAE, Zoho emits Python code. From there you can install the Python code on your own local development server or upload to the real GAE servers.

But how can you debug your code if something goes wrong? If you don't know Python, you're going to be in a bit of a bind. You've had to assume that the Python code emitted by Zoho is, in fact, 100 percent correct. But if the application runs correctly on Zoho but not correctly on GAE, then you have no choice but to roll up your sleeves and do some debugging in Python.

From a business perspective, this could be a bad idea indeed. A company doesn't want its developers spinning their wheels fighting with a language they're not familiar with.

However, there's another factor here: Python is not terribly difficult to learn. A good, strong developer should be able to learn Python rather quickly. If a company is going to make the business decision to use Zoho Creator as the development environment for Google App Engine, it would be wise to either make sure its developers are already skilled in Python, or to get them the training needed to learn Python.

Jeff Cogswell is the author of Designing Highly Useable Software ( among other books and is the owner/operator of CogsMedia Training and Consulting.Currently Jeff is a senior editor with Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to joining Ziff, he spent about 15 years as a software engineer, working on Windows and Unix systems, mastering C++, PHP, and ASP.NET development. He has written over a dozen books.

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