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April 27th, 2010

My Django Talk at LinuxFest

Apparently i neglected to let Blogos readers know that i was speaking at LinuxFest Northwest this past weekend: my bad! My talk was a basic practical intro to Django, the Python-based web application framework, entitled “From 0 to Website in 60 Minutes – with Django“. Since Django is touted (rightly in my view) as a highly-productive way to do web development, what better way to demonstrate that than to actually build a functioning database-backed website in the course of the talk?

It was a pretty ambitious goal, and i had to take a few shortcuts to pull it off (like starting past the boring stuff, with Python/Django/MySQL already installed, and data ready to go). But i think i can fairly claim to have delivered what i promised. We walked through an application that’s been a side-project for the Whatcom Python Users Group, a web version of Sustainable Connection‘s Food and Farm Finder brochure. It’s a nice simple learning example, well-suited to tutorial purposes. I’d say there were at least 40 or so in attendance, many the kind of beginners i was trying to focus on. And even though the time slot turned out to only be 45 minutes, I finished with several minutes to spare (in retrospect, i could have gone a little slower).

Slides are here, along with the data you need to follow them on the main page for the talk. I have audio of the talk that i’ll post in the next day or two once i’ve cleaned it up a bit: then it will be almost like being there (though without the ability to make sense of the “skeleton” joke). I was glad to have the opportunity to shine a little light on Django and repay a tiny portion of the debt of gratitude i owe its creators, since it’s been a major productivity boost in my work at Logos.

The Definitive Guide to Django Here’s another reason why i give talks whenever i get the chance: you always learn more when you teach others. As a concrete example, i was reminded while prepping the talk that Django’s template framework, while primarily designed around HTML generation, is quite general and therefore capable of generating other data formats as well. At work, i’d built up an entire module of custom code around serializing Bible Knowledgebase data as XML for internal hand-off to our developers. Re-reading the Django book gave me the idea of using Django templates to do this instead. In fairly short order, i was able to rewrite my test example, 80 lines of custom code, with a single clean template and 20 much simpler lines instead.

April 2nd, 2010

A Python Interface for api.Biblia.com

Last week Logos announced a public API for their new website, Biblia.com, at BibleTech. Of course, i want to wave the flag for my employer. But i’m also interested as somebody who’s dabbled in Bible web services in the past, most notably the excellent ESV Bible web service (many aspects of which are mirrored in the Biblia API: some previous posts around this can be found here at Blogos in the Web Services category). Dabblers like me often face a perennial problem: the translations people most want to read are typically not the most accessible via API, or have various other limitations.

So i’m happy with the other announcement from BibleTech last week: Logos is making the Lexham English Bible available under very generous terms (details here). The LEB is in the family of “essentially literal” translations, which makes it a good choice for tasks where the precise wording matters. And the LEB is available through the API (unlike most other versions you’re likely to want, at least until we resolve some other licensing issues).

I don’t want to do a review of the entire API here (and it will probably continue to evolve). But here are a couple of things about it that excite me:

  • The most obvious one is the ability to retrieve Bible text given a reference (the content service). Of the currently available Bible versions, the LEB is the one that interests me the most here (i hope we’ll have others in the future).
  • Another exciting aspect for me is the tag service. You provide text which may include Bible references: the service identifies any references embedded in it, and then inserts hyperlinks for them to enrich the text. So this is like RefTagger on demand (not just embedded in your website template). You can also supply a URL and tag the text that’s retrieved from it. One caveat with this latter functionality: if you want to run this on HTML, you should plan to do some pre-processing first, rather than treating it all as one big string. Otherwise random things (like “XHTML 1.0” in a DOCTYPE declaration) wind up getting tagged in strange ways (like <a href="http://ref.ly/Mal1">ML 1.0</a>).

I’ve just started working through the Biblia API today, but since i’m a Pythonista, developing a Python interface seemed like the way to go. This is still very much a work in progress, but you can download the code from this zip file and give it a whirl. Caveats abound:

  • I’ve only implemented three of the services so far: content() (retrieves Bible content for a reference), find() (lists available Bibles and metadata), and tag() (finds references in  text and enhances it with hyperlinks). And even with these three services, i haven’t supported all the parameters (maybe i will, maybe i won’t).
  • This is my first stab at creating a Python interface to an API, so there may be many stylistic shortcomings.
  • Testing has also gotten very little attention, and bugs doubtless remain.

If you’re interested and want to play along, let me know: we can probably set up a Google group or something for those who want to improve this code further.