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Lamson - email app coding without the palm sweat

Doing what Java never did

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Lamson actually tackles the problem of e-mail development being hard, instead of taking the pathological attitude of the Java community to leave everything as an exercise to the reader.

A good example is an e-mail list. A user subscribes by sending a message to subscribe@manpanties.com, expressing his interest in joining a list for men who prefer the comfort and style of ladies' underwear. The list server then sends back a confirmation message to which this gentleman must reply. After a successful reply, he is free to discuss silk vs. cotton with his brethren. This interaction can be modeled by a state transition diagram, which I'm sure you will remember from computer science class. A user transitions from START to PENDING to POSTING, depending on how he has interacted with the system. Lamson applications make heavy use of finite state machines and allow you to program them in a silky soft, Pythonic way.

Now, that's a clean example of the type of application Lamson encourages. The dirty example is spam, of course. Perhaps some of the greatest minds on e-mail specifications and programming have devoted their lives to selling penis pills, weight loss pills, and pyramid scams. It's possible that a framework like Lamson already exists in the discount Viagra underground, but is considered a competitive advantage, so it stays under wraps. Even so, Lamson will make it very easy for spammers to track their victims' interactions with the campaigns, but that may actually be a net positive for the internet.

As Zed explains, "I totally think Lamson will be used more for spam than for anything really useful. My hope with Lamson is that it acts like a modern sewage system for the internet. Everyone's gotta poop. You can't escape it, so why not try to do it in a clean fashion that improves the general health of everyone involved?

He adds: "With Lamson, you have a simple system for either blocking or sending spam, but more importantly for doing it in a modern high quality smart way. Rather than blasting out billions of junk ads nobody wants, I'm hoping that smart spammers will become "marketers" and start sending clean advertisement to people who might actually want it."

With easier stateful e-mail programming, it's possible that spammers will concentrate more on conversion rates than number of impressions. If that's possible, it may also be possible to convince them that you can get a cheap and quick buzz by inhaling the fumes released when you mix ammonia and bleach. Hey, a man can dream.

Lamson is yet another iteration of the Cycle of Hard Stuff. In programming, there are many protocols and standards that are ill understood by the masses. Every now and again, and alpha programmer will come along and put a nice API on top of one of these protocols, which opens the field up to anyone with a computer and enough denial power to turn that humility into self-confidence. Rails did this to web development, JQuery did it to Javascript, and now Lamson is doing it to e-mail. With a fresh tarball of Lamson and your copy of Learn Python in 24 Hours, you'll be up and spamming in no time.

Either that or you can use it to integrate your company's helpdesk system with e-mail. Take your pick.

You can visit the Lamson Project home page here. ®

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