New place, new time, same great Dojo

Last night, the London Python Dojo were the guests of Mendeley on the Clerkenwell Road. I was pleased to discover while chatting over the pizza and beer that I wasn’t the only one to have wandered round the area a few times before hitting on the right spot. Although I had a map of some sort, I’d forgotten just how cluttered central London is: how many passageways, tucked-away building and unlabelled streets.

But it was worth it. Mendeley have larger offices than our usual host, Fry-IT. And while there were slightly fewer of us than normal (low 20s as opposed to the usual high 20s) it was still great to have a bit of breathing space. Thanks very much to the guys at Mendeley for hosting us (and providing pizza, drinks & snacks).

Jonathan Hartley was making his debut as compere and managed very effectively. Well… fairly effectively. (I shouldn’t laugh: it’s my turn next month). He’d lined up three “lightning” talks to kick off with. First up was Ian — who’d arranged for us to use the place. He explained what Mendeley does (a sort of social network for research students) and how they use Python (mostly as a scripting API) and demo-ed some fairly nifty visualisations and tools which people had built on top of their product. Jonathan himself spoke last to ask for help with a Django concurrency issue. Which he promptly got. In between was Robert Rees who showed-and-told very effectively the recently-added Heroku support for Python. This enlarged into a wider discussion of Heroku itself and of its competitors in the Django/Python world.

Then the Dojo itself. As usual, we had a whiteboard available beforehand for people to propose ideas which were then voted on. The Roman Numeral Calculator remained top of the list of unchosen ideas, but the surprising winner was Robert’s suggestion of an ASCII Art Streetfighter clone. (Chosen only after a second round of voting with a Multiple Transferrable Vote). Once this was settled, it was a simple matter of dividing into teams and hitting the editor.

Or almost. We initially failed to be able to count up to 5 in order to divide into teams. Having finally achieved this intellectual feat, we encountered the opposite problem to the one we normally face at Fry IT. There, the office is so small that you’re squeezing into space. At Mendeley, there’s so much space that you’re wandering around for ages trying to find the best spot. And then you’ve got to find the WiFi (which Ian had considerately explained about). And then you’ve got to manually set your DNS Servers to something (as the DHCP wasn’t handing out DNS). Slightly geekily, the WiFi password is mathematical making it easy to remember but still quite long.

And then, in our case, you had to find the Pygame curses emulation which someone knows exists but can’t quite remember the name of. Having got there (with about 20 minutes left now to do the actual coding) you basically scramble your way through a stunted version of Streetfighter (whatever that is; I have no idea), getting a basic solution on which you layer colour and fonts in the manner of lipstick and pigs :)

Finally, the endgame; and it’s the usual hilarious collection of imaginative approaches, stylishly-designed code, and desperate hackery. We saw: elegant ASCII art; flying bullets; gratuitous use of decorators; and many entertaining attempts to achieve an equilibrium between using classy and best-practice code and actually coming up with a solution within the timeframe!

I don’t know where we’ll be next month, but stay tuned to the python-uk list where stuff is announced.