Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's the point of Planet Python?

One of the PSF's servers hosts planet.python.org, which collects postings from a long list of weblogs and displays the most recent ones. (Not to be confused with www.planetpython.org, which does the same thing but was doing it first. www.planetpython.org is run by Ryan Phillips and has a slightly different list of weblogs.)

Right now I'm the only maintainer of the list of weblogs. People occasionally send e-mail to <webmaster at python.org> asking for their feed to be added or moved. I read planet.python.org myself, and if someone notes they're abandoning a weblog or moving it, I make that change too. The editorial decision is sort of random on my part; there's no stated policy about it. Recent events make me think it's time to be more explicit about the rules.

Last week I changed the feed for Phillip J. Eby's weblog, from his full weblog feed to his programming-related feed, which is a subset of posts from his full weblog. Phillip sent in a note pushing back against this change, suggesting that he gets a significant number of readers for his non-Python postings through planet.python.org; this means that some Planet Python readers like these non-Python posts.

Back in 2003 when projects first started running Planet aggregators (Planet GNOME was one of the first), programmer weblogs were mostly focused on what-I-did-today with the odd digression. Reading a Planet therefore let you see all the activity in a particular development community: what's being developed? what's getting committed? what's being discussed?

Today weblogs have more digressions -- photos, political griping, cutesy memes, here-are-10-songs posts -- and Planets therefore contain all sorts of off-topic things. This isn't necessarily bad -- it can be interesting to see what your fellow developers have as other interests. But is it what people want? I'd like to see some discussion of this question, whether in the comments or on your own weblogs.

Question: should Planet Python be "posts from Python programmers" or "Python-related posts from Python programmers"? I've always leaned toward the latter view and chosen feeds with this in mind, but not everyone has a Python-specific category in their weblog and the selection of posts is therefore very imperfect. Should I try to be stricter about this?