Dicussing the zen of python

Oct 7, 2013 · 416 words · 2 minute read python

Every newbie for python should have already heard of or read PEP-8 a.k.a. THE style guide for python code, which hopefully I can cover in one of the next few posts. However, there’s one more important ground for you to cover before you can become a professional. It’s The Zen of Python. You can read it right inside the python interpreter:

import this

The Zen of Python

  • Beautiful is better than ugly.
  • Explicit is better than implicit.
  • Simple is better than complex.
  • Complex is better than complicated.
  • Flat is better than nested.
  • Sparse is better than dense.
  • Readability counts.
  • Special cases aren’t special enough to break the rules.
  • Although practicality beats purity.
  • Errors should never pass silently.
  • Unless explicitly silenced.
  • In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
  • There should be one– and preferably only one –obvious way to do it.
  • Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you’re Dutch.
  • Now is better than never.
  • Although never is often better than right now.
  • If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.
  • If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
  • Namespaces are one honking great idea – let’s do more of those!

Interpretations and Confusions

The Zen of Python describes the philosophy the creators of Python hold when designing Python. However, official interpretations for these 19 aphorisms do not exist except PEP-8. This somewhat creates confusions for Python learners to understand them and to apply them, I myself included.

The vaguest one should be readability counts. I’ve seen a few people preferring packing a large amount of operations into one or two lines of codes to spreading them into several lines and maybe a little nested structures. They claimed one-or-two-liners are more simple, elegant, and clean. What they implied is that this way the codes would be more readable. I highly disagreed. IMHO, one-or-two-liners are only for those programmers to show the world how intelligent or smart they are. It doesn’t help others to understand the code more easily.

I hope to write more about this in the future. I only came to realize the importance of the Zen of Python after I had started to work with other Python developers. I used to work solo as the only back-end developer in the team. It’s critical for every Python developers in the team to have a correct, or at least coherent understanding of the philosophy behind the language we used to make a living.

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