Remembering Malcolm Tredinnick

Written by Adrian Holovaty on March 19, 2013

Today we got word that Malcolm Tredinnick has passed away.

Malcolm was one of the most prolific Django core developers and one of my favorite people. The Django site has a short announcement, and I've compiled the Twitter reaction into a makeshift memorial, but Malcolm deserves more than 140 characters. Here's a remembrance, from a Django perspective.

In 2005, Malcolm began appearing in the Django community, seemingly out of nowhere. From his very first mailing-list message in October 2005, he displayed a deep knowledge of programming and an incredible talent for discerning exactly what a problem was and how to explain its solution in clear, respectful prose.

He soon became a committer, tirelessly fixing bugs, adding features and answering users' questions on the mailing list. Here are a few initiatives he led over the years (and by "led" I mean "implemented nearly singlehandedly"!):

  • Template auto-escaping -- aka why it's much harder for your Django app to fall victim to XSS attacks.
  • The Unicode branch -- making Django's internals Unicode-aware and much more robust when dealing with non-ASCII characters.
  • Queryset-refactor -- a substantial refactoring of the Django ORM to make it more consistent, more easily extensible and generally better designed.

Beyond these large projects, he made hundreds of improvements and bug fixes to the framework. I never got a sense that any task was beneath him or not worth his time; you could tell he loved building good software, regardless of the work involved. That combination -- deep mastery of a craft and utter lack of entitlement -- is rare and powerful.

Malcolm genuinely enjoyed teaching other developers. How else to explain the thousands of hours he put in answering questions on django-users, his many comments on Trac tickets or the excellent DjangoCon presentations he gave? And this love for helping others stretched beyond computers; I once offhandedly sent him an email asking for chess advice (he was a devoted player) and he responded with a lengthy rundown of his favorite chess books and websites, with pluses and minuses for each.

I met Malcolm in person several times -- first on a cold winter's evening in Chicago in 2006, later in various spots around the world. He lived in Australia but traveled regularly, so we ran into each other every so often at conferences. When I visited Sydney in 2007, he graciously spent a whole day and evening with me, showing me around the city. He was a delightful guy to be around, a charming conversationalist with a warm sense of humor. If you never had the privilege of meeting him, watching merely the first five minutes of this DjangoCon presentation will give you a sense of his combination of humor and brilliance.

The Django world won't be the same without Malcolm, but we're profoundly better off having known and worked with him. May we all strive to be as competent, as humble, as friendly and as kind as he was. RIP, my friend.


Posted by Ian on March 20, 2013, at 7:18 a.m.:

I remember his talk at the first DjangoCon. Great guy, great personality, his contributions numerous and critical. It goes without saying, he will be missed.

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