[kwlug-disc] Python

Steve Izma sizma at golden.net
Wed Jan 11 23:38:55 EST 2012

Sorry for the delayed response; I somehow missed your message and
just came across it in the archives.

On Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 00:43:09, William Park wrote:
> > On Mon, Jan 09, 2012 at 10:49:07PM -0500, Steve Izma wrote:
> > > ... In my experience, for example, people are more
> > > likely to use spreadsheets than databases for keeping track
> > > of things like mailing addresses. I blame this abuse of tools
> > > entirely on the refusal of most businesses and institutions to
> > > properly train their staff.
> Obvious question is what should they be trained on?  That is not easy
> question in terms of functionality/complexity and cost/benefit.

You're right that it's not an easy question, because here's
where technology merges seamlessly with the economy. So the real
question is: Cost/benefit for whom? The employer will always
attempt to minimize costs, and in a climate of high unemployment
it is more beneficial to them to have office jobs that require
minimal skills so that the employee can be replaced easily (and
with minimum training). This is exactly what the Luddites saw
happening to their industry -- substantial de-skilling on account
of a technology that brought mass production, lower-quality
goods, and boring, unskilled jobs. And a new generation of
workers who had no idea how to operate the kind of craft
equipment that could produce better goods.

I prefer to work (although I really don't have any choice) in an
environment where people are encouraged to learn new skills
to improve the quality not only of the product but also of daily
working life. So if people are dealing with structured or
structurable data, why shouldn't they be taught (e.g.) SQL? Even
better (and tied into this and related threads) simple scripting
languages like the Shell, awk, etc. These sorts of things make
life a lot less monotonous. And workers who feel a sense of
accomplishment are obviously going to stay at the job longer (if
they have any choice), making more sense out of any investment in
their training.

> Why it caught my eyes is that "spreadsheet" is the basis of an
> ERP/Accounting application called Appgen (www.appgen.com).  There are
> good reasons why you never heard of it.  It's an old old Unix
> application that needs to be rewritten and repackaged.  
> ...
> After working on Appgen for a bit, despite my initial thoughts,
> I've come to realize that "spreadsheet" is not that bad. If you
> know Excel, then you can grasp the flow of data through the ERP
> system.
> Hence, my interest in your use of Python in what seems to be
> spreadsheet related business case.

Yes, I remember looking at this in the 80s, I think, but it was
much too expensive. It's probably much cheaper now. But the
concept looks good.

I'm mostly arguing that people use spreadsheets (and use them in
a fairly simplistic way) because they don't have the time or
encouragement to use more sophisticated tools for getting their
work done more quickly. So it's not that python ought toreplace
spreadsheets but rather that in the current environment I need to
use scripting tools like python very often in order "finish off",
in a sense, other people's work.

	-- Steve

Steve Izma
Home: 35 Locust St., Kitchener N2H 1W6    p:519-745-1313
Work: Wilfrid Laurier University Press    p:519-884-0710 ext. 6125
E-mail: sizma at golden.net or steve at press.wlu.ca

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