Programming languages: Python now has its own developer-in-residence. Here's what they are going to do

Python's new developer-in-residence has a long to-do list.

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Łukasz Langa will work full-time for a year to assist CPython maintainers and the Steering Council.

Image: rootstocks/ Getty

The Python Software Foundation has appointed a new Developer in Residence (DIR) to work full-time on the Python programming language and support its developer community.

Core developer Łukasz Langa, who also acts as the release manager for Python 3.8 and 3.9, will be charged with the day-to-day stewardship of CPython, overseeing contributions to the programming language from volunteers and dealing with issue backlogs.

This includes dealing with issue and pull request backlogs, maintaining the continuous integration (CI) and test suite, and providing a steer on what parts of the Python project need the most work.

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Langa likened the DIR role to that of a Python "janitor" that works alongside the Python Steering Council and core developer team to keep the progress of the programming language flowing smoothly. "Instead of telling others what to do, the DIR is meant to be a steward, sometimes a janitor, to help accelerate existing momentum, unblocking progress and ensuring changes can be implemented in time and with sufficient quality," Langa wrote on his personal blog.

Langa will also participate in official communication around the Python project and carry out research to help understand how volunteers contribute to the project, and the funding it receives.

The position will run for a year, though the Python Software Foundation (PSF) said it could be extended beyond this "if the program is successful and the PSF raises enough funds."

Python is one of the most popular and fastest-growing programming languages in the world, yet it has been developed and maintained primarily by volunteers. 

With creator Guido van Rossum now working at Microsoft to speed up Python, there are fewer developers dedicated to working on CPython code full-time, one of which includes Victor Stinner, who is paid by Red Hat to maintain Python's upstream and downstream development.

"Now that we have a team led by Guido at Microsoft to speed up Python, just the three people involved are already visibly more active than a large part of the team who are volunteers in their free time," said Langa. By helping to field contributions and address backlogs, the project could attract a steadier stream of contributions and potentially bring new core developers on board.

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"Addressing the backlog will require creating a long-term plan for how to manage that going forward. In practical terms, there will be a lot of personal pull request review and issue triaging, as well as coordination with other core developers/maintainers of specific modules to solve issues and merge pull requests."

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The DIR role for CPython is inspired by the success of the Django Fellowship Program, an initiative through which contractors are paid to manage some of the administrative and community management tasks of the Django project that might otherwise suck time away from development work on the Python web framework itself.

This could prove especially beneficial as CPython moves towards Python 3.11, which is expected to bring a significant performance enhancement to the programming language and a lot of new changes implemented quickly.

"Providing an additional pair of hands to help discover and address regressions in rapidly developed changes, like the current push for performance, is going to have a tremendous impact on the speed of Python 3.11 but also its stability and backwards compatibility," said Langa.

"One important piece of the puzzle is improving, stabilizing, and maintaining the test suite and the CI that runs it, including buildbots. Making sure changes going in are good by having fast and reliable CI is one of the most direct ways in which the DIR can positively affect the developer experience for the rest of the team."