[SciPy-User] A unified face for the scipy ecosystem

Thomas Kluyver takowl@gmail....
Wed Aug 29 16:20:48 CDT 2012


Hi all,

Almar Klein and I floated this idea at Euroscipy this year, to some
positive feedback. I'm posting it here to get some more opinions.

We think it's a problem for newcomers that there isn't a clear
starting point with the scipy ecosystem. We all understand that tools
like numpy and matplotlib are critical for our field, but a newcomer
searching for 'Python' will have to install these things separately.
The conferences are called 'scipy', and scipy.org has some ambition to
be a general portal for scientific computing in Python, but the name
is confounded by the scipy package, and the downloads page is for
packages, not complete distributions. Pylab is even more confusing.
EPD and Python(x,y) are more helpful, but code is often not specific
to those distributions.

This is in contrast to systems like R and Matlab, where searching for
the most obvious name turns up a complete system that's ready for
scientific work.

So what we propose comes in three parts:

- A standard: like Linux Standard Base, it would specify minimum
versions of packages for any distribution that wanted to advertise its
compliance. I envisage it would include Python itself, numpy, scipy
and matplotlib, but the exact list is open to debate.
- A name: something that we would all use to refer to the core
packages, regardless of how we installed them. If we don't use the
name, newcomers won't search for it. I'm terrible with names, but
Almar has proposed: scipy-base, unipy, pyengine, pycraft. Personally,
I'd lean towards an abstract name without 'py'. Your suggestions are
welcome!
- A website: The first thing newcomers will see when searching for the
name. It will describe the set of packages, and how to get them
installed (probably giving precedence to inclusive Python
distributions, but with instructions for separate installation as
well). It will also link in to relevant documentation and example
code, and it could have curated lists of packages for specific topics.

It's important that this doesn't obscure the identity of the
individual packages; the aim is not to stop anyone getting the credit
they deserve. But I know we do often work closely together - getting
involved with IPython, I've seen that clearly - and I think we sell
ourselves short by not presenting a single face.

Another important question is whether the standard should include a
coding interface - the Matlab built-in IDE is touted as an advantage
of that platform, for instance. As an IPython developer, I'm keen to
see IPython included, but then I know there are other intriguing
solutions, such as Spyder and IEP.

We'd love to hear what you think, whether you're an experienced
developer, a beginner with scientific Python, someone trying to
introduce others to Python, or indeed anyone else with an interest in
this.

Best wishes,
Thomas


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