An Introduction on Python Objects

This post will introduce a discussion about Python objects.

As the complexity of your programs increase, it’s a good idea to gain an understanding about object-oriented programming. This post will not examine a new skill, but rather introduce terminology that will need to know.

Python Objects

As your programs get more complex, you will need more complex data structures. Consider this example pictured below, where you construct a list, and inside this list is a dictionary. The dictionary of movies comprises the list.

Construct List

Coming up with shapes of data is part of solving programming problems. You can see in the example above, how it has been decided that each dictionary, in the list of movies, will be shaped a certain way. If each dictionary has the same shape, then you can write code that takes advantage of the consistency in shape.


As you can see in the above program, you will loop through the keys that you expect to be there.

In summary, the idea is to find ways to make data structures with consistency.

How to Talk to an Application Program Interface (“API”)

This post will focus on how to talk to an application program interface.

As you talk to APIs or web services, you have to understand how they think. You will need to read the set of rules for the API. The rules will tell you how to interface with the application.


There are a couple of choices for web service technologies. SOAP is considered difficult to work with. It is much easier to work with REST.


A nice API to learn is the Google Maps Geocoding. It is always a good idea to read the API documentation.

Run the program, and enter “Ann Arbor, MI” for the user input. The program will return the following JSON object:

This JSON data results from entering the URL for “Ann Arbor, MI” in the Google Geocoding API.

The nice thing about a REST based service is you can take the URL and paste it in a browser. You derive how to put the URL together from the API documentation.

The URL will retrieve JSON that gives you lots of data about the location. You can parse it with the JSON library in Python.

The following picture shows the entire program:

longer code

Running the program prompts the user for a location. This example showed the JSON results data for entering “Ann Arbor, MI”.

Notice the program imports the “urllib” library, which gives you power to retrieve data on the internet. The “json” library gives you power to parse data that comes back.

The “serviceurl” is the one you get from reading the API documentation, but Python is able to encode it automatically. Look at the line which calls the method “urllib.urlencode”. This line of code is what encodes the URL.

The use of a “try” and “except” checks if the data is bad. If the data is bad then the loop breaks and the user is prompted to enter in a new location.

The line “print json.dumps(js, indent=4)” will dump the JSON object into a string and print it out nicely with indentation.

The lines of code for “lat” and “lng” are a bit tricky. It parses through dictionaries inside dictionaries from the JSON object.

The data this API provides can be very valuable, so do not assume the API is always free.


JSON Serialization Format for Pyhon

This post will examine the JSON serialization format (“JavaScript Object Notation”).

XML is good at representing things that may have elements nested within elements, like documents.

JSON is not so great at representing documents, but it is very good at representing many other types of data.


JSON is a cleaned up version of the constant syntax of JavaScript. In Python, the constant syntax for a Python list looks like this:

my_list = [‘item1’, ‘item2’, ‘item3’]


JavaScript uses arrays, instead of lists, but these are just different means to the same end. Also JavaScript has objects, but Python has dictionaries. Because JSON is a cleaned up version of JavaScript, it actually looks very similar to Python. Thus, if you already know Python, it should be very natural to look at JSON.

JSON was defined by Douglas Crockford. Once he published it, people quickly started using it. JSON is now an entire industry within itself. Its pure organic growth is a testament to its usefulness.

JSON has two basic structures. They are an array and an object. It’s best advantage is that in Python you tend to make lists and dictionaries. JSON is a great way to represent those.

Look at  the picture of some JSON below. It may seem familiar to you.


  • The data represents an object inside the triple quote syntax (which technically makes it a string).
  • After the first curly bracket, you have key / value pair followed by a comma.
  • The first key / value pair is “name” : “Chuck”.
  • In the second key / value pair, the value is a whole other object.
  • The key is “phone”, and its value is another object with two key / value pairs.

If you look at the whole outer thing, there are three keys: “name”, “phone”, and “email”.

This is the basic information about how you structure data, but the main thing you need to think about is how to de-serialize the data.

Like many other thinks, JSON is built-in to Python. This is why you start your code with:

import json


The next step is to de-serialize from string to internal Python data structure.

info = json.loads(data)


The method “loads” is saying load from string, and data is the string that you are passing in as the parameter.

The really nice part is that “info” is returned as an actual Python dictionary. You pull information out of this dictionary the same as you would any other native Python dictionary. Thus, running this code will result in the following:

Run Code

JSON Representation of an Array


The array “input” starts with square brackets. This is the same as a list in Python. In this case, “input” is an array of two objects. The objects are inside curly brackets, and separated by a comma.

Examine the following declaration:

info = json.loads(input)

As you could maybe guessed, this will return a native Python list. As with any list, you can use a “for” loop to iterate through the list items.

Running this program should result in what you would expect.

Program Output

How to Parse XML with Python

This post will focus on how to parse XML with Python.

Fortunately, XML is built-in to Python. So, this makes parsing XML fairly straight forward.

Open the file In this program, the XML data presents itself as a string. Note that the syntax for the string are triple quotes. Single quotes are used, because double quotes are part of XML. The new lines are part of the string.

At the beginning of your code, you should put the following import statement to pull in the XML parsing mechanism.

import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET

Below the data string, you see a line of code as follows:

tree = ET.fromstring(data)

The method “fromstring”, in the Element Tree library, passes in the data, and makes it an object. The object is given the name tree. Now, you can look at the underlying data inside the object.

Below is a screenshot that shows the result if you run this program.


Next, look at the program. This code will parse out the list of users.


In this program, the input gets converted to an object called stuff. A list is then created for each user in users. Notice a path is specified to find all the users. Next, The length of the list is printed, which tells you the number of users.

After you print the number of users, you can loop through your list of users and print the data you want.

How XML Schema Validates XML

XML Schema is a way to describe what is valid or not valid XML.

XML Schema

XML Schema is used for validation between applications. For example suppose communication between an airline company and a hotel company suddenly breaks. The XML schema is used to check on which side the mistake was made.

Picture below is a sample document and schema contract. You can see the tags between the two match up. However, if the document had a different tag name, than as specified in the contract, it would not get validated.

XML Valdation
If XML tags in the document agree with the schema, then the XML will get validated.

In essence, a schema formalizes the relationship between applications. There are many types of XML schema languages, but XSD from W3C tends to be the most common.

Look at the picture below for an example of XSD constraints. Constraints serve to lock-in the contract between applications.

XSD Contstraints

You should also be familiar with the various XSD data types.

XSD Data Types

You need to understand the date/time format, so that you will know how to sort it.

Date Format
It is best practice to not change the date format.

It is best to stick with this format when working with dates and time inside a computer.