Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 Frank Willison Memorial Award

The 2011 Frank Willison Memorial Award for Services to the Python Community has been awarded to Georg Brandl.

Georg has been a core contributor to CPython since 2005, contributing bug fixes for compiler internals and modules such as pdb. His most widely known contributions are to Python's documentation, through writing as well as by creating and maintaining the Sphinx tool chain for converting reStructuredText input files to more easily consumed formats such as HTML and PDF.

The video announcing Georg's award at OSCON 2011 is available on YouTube.

Making Documentation Easier

Earlier versions of Python used LaTeX and a Perl-based tool-chain to convert documentation into HTML and PDF. The reliance on Perl, and the relative difficulty of contributing to LaTeX-formatted source files, came up from time to time, but Georg was the one to finally take on the problem of building the necessary tools to manage the content in another format, and then converting all of the existing files.

Georg studied the docutils project and decided that it met most of the requirements, but needed a few custom markup features and a tool to convert individual input files to a unified output document. He wrote a tool called "doctools" for Python's documentation, which was eventually re-christened to Sphinx "because of the build tool for python.org, which was called Pyramid -- and unhappily without regard to the two existing projects called Sphinx."

Over time, the user base for Sphinx grew beyond CPython's documentation team, and Georg continues to work with other contributors to make it more generally useful for other projects. For example, some of the Python-centric features have been reorganized with the recent addition of the "domains" system, allowing Sphinx to be used for projects written in C, Java, and other languages just as easily as Python.

When I asked him about Sphinx, Georg said,

Today I'm very happy and very proud of what the community has done for documentation, also thanks to Sphinx: while Python itself always had excellent docs, now extensive and usable docs are basically a trademark of the whole Python community (just look at ReadTheDocs or packages.python.org).

About Georg

Georg is a PhD student of Physics. He works at the Munich research reactor slash neutron source on magnetism, researching novel materials for the computing of tomorrow. He uses Python to control experiments consisting of dozens of individual devices, and for teaching other scientists how to do so efficiently. When he is not working on Python-related projects, Georg likes to cycle and to cook.

About the Award

Since 2002, O'Reilly Media has presented the Frank Willison Award for Contributions to the Python Community to someone who has done outstanding work for the Python community. The award was established in memory of Frank Willison, a Python enthusiast and O'Reilly editor-in-chief, who died in July 2001. Previous recipients include Christian Tismer (2010), Martin von Löwis (2008), and Steve Holden (2007).

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