Guido van Rossum steps down as Python's BDFL, thoughts?

Announcement here

Lots of quotable items, but it's a short letter so you should just click through and read. Very notable for the software community, what are your thoughts on the matter?

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DISCUSSION (17)

Community management and cultivating a positive developer culture is such a critical part of keeping F/OSS projects healthy. I don't monitor the Python dev lists, but I'm sure this wasn't a one-off thing; my bet would be that GvR has had a fair amount of unpleasant discussions over the last few years, and this PEP discussion was the breaking point. As a point of evidence, the thread on HN about the PEP being accepted immediately becomes a thread about people attacking the decision: HackerNews "PEP 572: Python assignment expressions has been accepted"

In my opinion, one of the biggest misconceptions about F/OSS is that it's always "all about the code". There are indeed some projects that start out this way - especially those that truly require a brilliant mind to solve the initial technical challenges. But, even in those cases, once the project is established it must grow a community around it to be successful. For most projects, the community and developer base are arguably more valuable than the code. When a project's community (or even a sub-community like a dev base) falls into the "it's all about the code" mentality, it can quickly become a trap where divisiveness and toxicity are tolerated in pursuit of "the best technical solution"; a justification that becomes self-defeating.

tl;dr - <3 your community, thank your developers, thank your users, and thank the people that maintain the projects you use. The best projects are the kind ones.

So true, Ben! Open-source is, and always will be community driven. Once toxicity seeps into a community, it can frustrate people!

Well, I didn't see that one coming...but then, reading it, I'm not surprised. Having to fight tooth and nail with the community to get stuff done sucks. Good for him for taking care of himself. The Python community is strong, I have little doubt they'll pick it up from here and be awesome.

OSS burnout is real. This reeks of the feelings that are certainly very common across many projects.

I'm more involved in following the activities of the Ruby and Rails communities and I find the dialog in that community with regards to health and burnout to be pretty good at the top. I think it helps things not get so bad.

...not that people didn't unnecessarily shit all over the team and DHH for ActionCable etc.

I didn't see this one coming.

Python's community is definitely a very opinionated one (but which one isn't?). It's not the first time that Guido indirectly mentions how stubborn and divided the community becomes around some PEPs.

I didn't follow closely but it seems like the process around PEP 572 has been taxing for everyone in the core team and especially Guido.

I definitely didn't see this one coming. I thought he would leave for old age or something.

Agree with @rhymes, definitely didn't see this coming. I was honestly surprised to see how divisive the PEP572 announcement was.

After attending my first PyCon this year, I was pleasantly surprised at getting confirmation of how welcoming and great the community was in general, especially after seeing a lot of toxicity in other communities. Sad to see such stress for Guido and his permanent vacation happening on a negative note vs a friendly, open transition plan.

I'm very curious what the community will look like in 2019 after a governance model and PEP approval process will be in place (hopefully?), as well as the 2.7 EOL schedule in 2020.

If you have to fight tooth and nail to get something into your own language, are you really even its "dictator" anymore? Seems that it has very nearly transitioned to being a community project already. He is just making it official. I hope he enjoys retirement. He has earned it.

I'm excited for the positive change that will undoubtedly come in his life as a result of this choice. Project ownership is exhausting and frustrating, and I'm familiar with the way it can overwhelm a project owner's life if they aren't extremely diligent about taking time for rest and renewal. I hope he writes about his experience some day!

As a Python developer (my first language was Python and I use it daily for my job), this is surprising. I would have at least expected him to appoint an successor. Reading the thread, it's interesting the discussion hasn't leaned towards finding another BDFL but instead finding a different governance model. It'll be interesting to see where this goes and how the language will be affected. Python is by far my favorite programming language. I'd hate to see it implode or the like..

For those who are curious, I looked up PEP 572. It's about adding an assignment expression (think in JS, while (token = loop()) {}. It's been approved. Having learned that Python didn't support that construct on purpose, I can see why such a PEP would be controversial. It makes me wonder how hot the debate got to lead to this...

The core team is pretty strong and Python has a lot of interest from big companies.

In 2010 they were even talking about merging a branch of Python created by Google into the mainline: python.org/dev/peps/pep-3146/ and Guido himself worked for Google for a while, now he works at Dropbox: techcrunch.com/2012/12/07/dropbox-...

As Guido hints the core team is pretty independent from himself. I like the idea of democratizing a little bit more the PEP governance, which could also help in lowering the burnout for a single individual in charge.

In India, we have a saying that "Even the gods cannot please everyone". Given that Python community is so huge and Python is being used for multiple niches like web-dev, ops, data science, embedded scripting, infosec etc many major new features may not be received in the same way. Language development is a trade-off between developer productivity and performance. Some features may increase the learning curve or be seen as against the Zen of Python.

GvR has done a great job guiding the development of Python for over 20 years. Python has probably "scaled" in the sense that it needs more people managing its future mission and goals. It will be a challenge because different people will have different visions for its future. Now that there is no BDFL, we will need to see how the PEPs are approved. Python can take some inspiration from Rust which has very active community participation in their "RFCs".

There has to be more to the story with this than what's being said in the announcement.

First of all, I'm grateful to Guido for his leadership so far and for giving us what is (in my completely objective opinion) the best language. I hope whatever method of governance is adopted will be less taxing on his successor(s).

It sounds like the core devs are committed to working together to figure out the new governance model, rather than at each other's throats, so that's good. Will things continue as they are? Will it become stable but stagnant? Or will this result in different forks competing for dominance? Time will tell.

It seems to me an advantage of the BDFL model is that, with one individual in charge, they can follow one vision for the future evolution of the language, rather than several. On the other hand, Guido has said that Python's design couldn't have become what it is if he had just worked on it alone. PEP's have been a thing for as long as I've been familiar with the language.

I'm curious what other projects have done when their BDFL steps down (or the L runs out), and how it turned out.

I'm not a Python dev, but it's a bit sad to see the way he leaves, with some bitterness it seems ... although I completely understand him - at some point enough is enough, and he wants (needs) at least a long break.

What's bad is that people get so fanatical in their opinion about some issue, that they forget to show respect. Some people are so self-absorbed that they really don't "see" this ... lack of ability to empathize with others.

The point is not to worship the leader, it's just about treating people (everyone) with respect - that's what makes or breaks a community.

Wow, just a roller coaster of swinging opinions reading through the note.

  • It's sad that he left on a less-than-happy situation
  • interesting not suggesting predecessor and I sort of like it
  • Putting total trust in the community seems counter to his sentiment at first, but clearly he sees a very opinionated/strong community which is cool
  • It'll be fascinating to see how the community reshapes itself without him
  • I'll always love the crap out of the guy for naming his language after Monty Python

Some said he was the bottleneck that made the transition from v2 to v3 awkward, but as someone who have created and maintained an open source project, I have nothing but respect for Guido. It should have taken a lot of patience and resilience to maintain Python.

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Ben Halpern
A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny.

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