A little while ago I started looking into Django, a pretty recent Python framework that’s already very polished and garnering praise and more and more coverage. It’s got a number of similarities with Ruby on Rails: built by a few programmers within a project and then “extracted” at a pretty advanced stage so they both have a central vision (vs other open source projects that tend to be pulled in all directions), blogging team members evangelise the platform, good designers were part of the mix from the start, they have polished sites (the projects that birthed the frameworks) already online, are based on “cool” languages that programmers can fall in love with, evolve pretty quickly and are supported by people using the code profitably in real world environments.
To really really simplify the comparison and try to separate them, I’d say Django feels more like a platform to build content sites (it was used for an online newspaper site initially) while Rails is more oriented towards building web applications (it was first based on work done for Basecamp). That kind of gives you an idea on orientation and mindset but both cover a lot of ground, are very versatile and actually have quite a bit of overlap (i.e. can do pretty much anything) in their potential use.
If you are at all interesed in using either one, you should take the time to watch Snakes and Rubies where you can hear both “leads”, Adrian Holovaty for Django and David Heinemeier Hansson for Rails.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Django since I’ve been following it has been reading the blogs of some of the guys involved with it. Jeff Croft has written a number of good tutorials and most recently expressed what I’m sure a lot of web standards/css geeks have been thinking about for a while; has accessibility been taken too far? Be sure to also read his follow up where he tries to dot some more Is to fight off the zealots attacking in the comments. I agree with every point he makes, good reasoning.
I’ve already mentioned Adrian and what finally prompted me to write this thing about Django and it’s community is his post on the fundamental way newspaper sites need to change it covers some of the stuff he mentions in Snakes and Rubies, i.e. how newspapers should think a lot more about the data contained in their articles, “semanticize” it and in doing so open up huge possibilities in the reuse and mashupability of their content. Interesting directions to think about.
The last guy I’ll mention is James Bennet who’s been writing post after post of great tutorials about Django, I’ve actually stopped bookmarking them, I’ll just search his archives when I need details on something. I also just noticed that he’s got some funny tag lines randomly changing in the title of the blog; “The long-lost 38th signal”, “Bringing Web 2.0 out of beta and into VHS” (tshirt material), “I’m not Getting Real, I’m Getting Down”, “Filed in the 44th Folder”. All of those give you a pretty good idea of what he reads and thinks about.
Those are just three of the guys but they’re all very good starts if you want to start following that platform and learning more about it.