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LoveIntros Uses Python to Help Northwest Singles Click

Category:Business, Software Development
Keywords:ECommerce, Web2.0
Title:LoveIntros Uses Python to Help Northwest Singles Click
Author: Greg Unrein
Date: 2004-05-29
Summary:Northwest singles community loves Python for rapid development of clean, readable code.


LoveIntros is an online singles community for people living in the Northwest United States. The LoveIntros Web application allows members to create personal profiles, send and receive anonymous e-mails, create private Web journals, perform advanced profile searches, and execute many other functions. By providing a safe and effective way for individuals to find each other, LoveIntros makes it easier to meet new people who have similar interests and values and who live in or near one's own community.

LoveIntros Screenshot

LoveIntros is an online singles community that provides a safe effective way for Northwest singles to find and meet each other Zoom in

The Architecture

As a software project, LoveIntros contains several different modules: The end-user's Web application, the administrative interface, the anonymous email daemon, and a cross-platform GUI component for editing some of the site's content. Together, these modules provide all of the functionality needed by users and administrators. The system is deployed on FreeBSD, but is portable to other operating systems. In fact, most of the project's initial development was done using Windows 2000.

The LoveIntros Web application allows users to create profiles, search for others who interest them, and communicate with these individuals in order to explore the potential for a relationship. This application is based on a three-tier architecture. Data is stored in a PostgreSQL database, and psycopg provides database connectivity. The middle tier is coded in Python and is driven by mod_python running under Apache 2. The user interface is rendered as HTML using the SimpleTAL template library.

The administrative interface to the site is written using the Quixote Web application framework, and employs mod_scgi behind Apache 2. This interface provides the site administrators access to all of the functions they need to interact with user's profiles, process log files to provide reports about site activity and issues, and update site content. Quixote and mod_scgi have performed extremely well in this application, and plans call for them to replace the current SimpleTAL and mod_python implementation of the user site.

Another important module of the LoveIntros project is its anonymous e-mail daemon. This daemon strips the senders' e-mail addressed from correspondence sent to other users, then forwards the e-mails on to their intended recipient. As a result, members can communicate without the risk of accidentally divulging their actual e-mail addresses. Because of the power of Python and its associated libraries, this daemon consists of only a few hundred lines of code, which include several response e-mail templates that are sent to notify senders in the event that an e-mail could not be forwarded successfully.

Finally, LoveIntros includes a GUI application used to create a domain-specific XML editor that allows nontechnical users to edit LoveIntros' FAQ files. This was written using PythonCard, a rapid GUI development tool based on the wxPython GUI framework. Inspired by Apple's HyperCard, PythonCard was impressive in its ability to quickly and easily create a responsive cross-platform GUI.

Implemented in Python

The LoveIntros implementors chose Python for its expressive, easy-to-maintain nature and its rich set of built-in libraries and excellent third-party modules. Java and Jython, the Java-based implementation of the Python programming language, were both considered as well, but were not chosen because of the added complexity introduced by either approach, without appreciable added value. Ultimately, Python's flexibility, coding speed, solution quality, and libraries made it the language of choice for this endeavor.

The LoveIntros project consumed approximately four months of full-time development work, with one developer working on the Python code, and one designer working on the UI. These four months of work were spread over more than a year of actual part-time effort. Python helped the programmers sustain this development rate in several ways:

First, Python is a very expressive language. The syntax is clean and easy to read, and basic data structures are built in. It is amazing how much less typing goes into Python code, since braces and type declarations are not used.

Second, the standard library and third-party modules available for Python are breathtaking in their coverage. Almost every time a problem was encountered, a Python library that helped speed the solution process was found. These libraries, both standard and third-party, were high-quality and tended to have helpful communities of users.

Finally, the ease with which code can be read and comprehended quickly, even months after being written, has helped to keep LoveIntros' feature set growing and maturing more quickly than any other project with which its developers have been involved.

Python has been a major factor in the success of the LoveIntros software project. It has proven to be a great choice, and LoveIntros' developers have only happy experiences to relate regarding this excellent language.

About the Author

Greg Unrein cofounded LoveIntros with his wife, Junel. Greg holds a degree in computer and information science from the University of Oregon. He has been in the technology industry for almost a decade, with years of experience in Java and C++, and he has found Python to be the best tool for creating a superior dating site for Northwest singles.