Back atom.xml blog Pyrage: Static isn't just something on the radio 26 Feb 2010 opinion software development python

Dealing with statics in Python is something that has bitten me enough times that I have become quite pedantic about them when I see them. I’m sure you’re thinking “But Dr. Tyler, Python is a dynamic language!”, it is indeed, but that does not mean there aren’t static variables.

The funny thing about static variables in Python, in my opinion, once you understand a bit about scoping and what you’re dealing with, it makes far more sense. Let’s take this static class variable for example:

>>> class Foo(object): ... my_list = [] ...

f = Foo() b = Foo()</code>

You’re trying to be clever, defining your class variables with their default variables outside of your __init__ function, understandable, unless you ever intend on mutating that variable. >>> f.my_list.append('O HAI')

print b.my_list [‘O HAI’] </code>

Still feeling clever? If that’s what you wanted, I bet you do, but if you wanted each class to have its own internal list you’ve inadvertantly introduced a bug where any and every time something mutates my_list, it will change for every single instance of Foo. The reason that this occurs is because my_list is tied to the class object Foo and not the instance of the Foo object (f or b). In effect f.__class__.my_list and b.__class__.my_list are the same object, in fact, the __class__ objects of both those instances is the same as well. >>> id(f.__class__) 7680112

id(b.class) 7680112</code>

When using default/optional parameters for methods you can also run afoul of statics in Python, for example:>>> def somefunc(data=[]): ... data.append(1) ... print ('data', data) ...

somefunc() (‘data’, [1]) somefunc() (‘data’, [1, 1]) somefunc() (‘data’, [1, 1, 1]) </code>

This comes down to a scoping issue as well, functions and methods in Python are first-class objects. In this case, you’re adding the variable data to the somefunc.func_defaults tuple, which is being mutated when the function is being called. Bad programmer!

It all seems simple enough, but I still consistently see these mistakes in plenty of different Python projects (both pony-affiliated, and not). When these bugs strike they’re difficult to spot, frustrating to deal with (“who the hell is changing my variable!”) and most importantly, easily prevented with a little understanding of how Python scoping works.

PYRAGE!