26 November, 2007

Django and Gantt Charts

It has now been almost a full week since I started the complete inkedmag.com site and infrastructure redesign in Python using the Django web publishing framework on FreeBSD, and I am happy to report that it is awesome. Mind you we're talking version .96 of the product, yet it truly is a dream with which to work.
I only recently started working with (and writing about) Cheetah, a wonderful python template engine, and had to very quickly learn yet another (Django's own template system). I must admit that Cheetah is easier to ready and learn quickly, but Django's system is considerably more agile in terms of conditionals and modifiers inside the template itself. There even happens to be a simple mechanism for cycling through a list continually changing on each iteration of the loop within which the cycle conditional resides. Simply put, it is wonderful for automatically changing the background colour of a row in a list.
For those unfamiliar with Django, it is simply one of the better web frameworks for content publishing on the web these days. While learning curve can be a little steep for some pieces of the framework, as a whole the speed at which once can produce working pages and applications is staggering. The ease and elegance of the system truly makes one enjoying creating new applications within the framework.
The first application I chose to migrate from native python into the framework was a simple store locator. The new version not only is considerably less lines of code, the database management was done for me at application creation/initialisation. I then simply exported the data from my existing application and imported it into the new table(s) Django created.
I could go on waxing poetic about every little bell and whistle, but I'd just be paraphrasing what many others have already pointed out online and otherwise. Don't think of it as Ruby on Rails because it isn't, though that isn't to be taken as an insult to Ruby. It is much more focused, cleaner and far simpler to setup and get running, including all of its own admin interfaces for the applications you create, as well as its own standalone development web server. Check it out, you won't be disappointed. This is going to save me a considerable amount of time.
Which brings me to my second point; Gantt charts. They are simply not something I find myself utilising on any regular basis, though I think that is going to change. I'm my own boss and have found that gantt charts produce the easiest visual way to show people the various pieces necessary for a project, when each portion can be expected to start and finish, all in parallel with the other projects for which I'm responsible (and/or coordinating).

I feel that the use of this tool more than others really gives a great method by which to see which projects will take the bulk of the time, and what projects overlap, etc. We have a system rewrite to produce and a whole server to replace, not to mention migrating certain custom software into the framework all before the new year. This is doable, but only because we've clearly set realistic (though tight nonetheless) goals and time frames. Consider using a gantt chart if you have more than one project or component of a project which needs to be done in a given time frame. Use one if you need to share with one or more people your schedule and need them to understand as quickly and clearly as possible that with which you are juggling or dealing. You find yourself quickly addicted to its usability.