Python backend projects


This document describes the common practices that are used in our Python backend projects. It is not meant as an encompassing development standards document. Within the backend team developers are free to choose the best tool for the job.

How we use docker and docker-compose

A lot of the open source code software of the City of Amsterdam uses Docker containers. Separate tasks are normally organised in separate Dockers.

In general we follow common community guidelines:

Preferably use docker-ce and docker-compose, most recent version

.dockerignore files are used to exclude files that are not relevant to the build. Ideally this file starts by ignoring everything (*) and then explicitly add the files that belong to the build by means of exceptions (e.g. !**\*.py to include all python source files). Most often you will however find .dockerignore files that only specify files that are not part of the build.

How we use Python

See Python Style Guide

What you can expect to find in our project structure

How we test

All of our projects require (unit) tests which are integrated in the continuous build process.

For testing we prefer using pytest, following its corresponding good practices

However you may find the use of unittest in some (older) projects.

About testing

Every bit of code code should be committed and PR’ed accompanied by the relevant tests. Good tests both test the code as well as describe what the code is meant to do. Tests also serve as documentation. Be sure to document your tests adequately. Tests can often be referenced later in order to understand the intent of a commit.

Tests should not rely on (simple) copies of production data. This data is just the normal flow. The tests should use data in the format of production data but with it’s own contents, without any reference to existing data (especially when it concerns data of persons). The tests should test the normal behavior (happy flow) as well as the behavior in unexpected conditions.

The tests should concentrate on the software that has been developed. The test should not test if a library that is used is working OK. If for instance an Oracle client or HTTP library is used then this library should be mocked. External libraries should be considered as tested and proven.

Use both module tests and integration tests and try to avoid mixing these two up. The closer a test is to the source, the easier it is to find the source of any errors and to fix it. Integration tests are required to test the composition of modules, not the modules itself. They should be tested at a lower level.

About code coverage

In earlier projects code coverage was normally not checked. Absolute code coverage requirements and enforcement thereof in these projects exist only in very rare cases.

In newer projects code coverage is however normally checked. Absolute coverage requirements are part of these projects. Please check the README of the project for more information about specific test requirements.

Code coverage is a measure to define the quality and completeness of the test suite. The coverage should normally be at least 85% of statements and functions in each file. To get at least 85% code coverage requires significant test efforts. Individual projects might specify higher percentages. It is not uncommon to require 100% code coverage, especially for complex modules.

But beware: high coverage is not an absolute measure. Good tests may execute the same lines multiple times, both for the happy flow as for unexpected situations. Testing for just a high coverage is considered bad practice.

How we assure our code quality

All code is reviewed by a colleague and subsequently accepted in the acceptance environment, before it is released to the production environment.

Deployment to production is a manual action in the Continuous Integration (CI) environment.

Linting tools (pylint, flake8, pycodestyle, …) and the inclusion of these checks in the CI cycle are rarely done in our projects. Most of the linting is expected to be done by the IDE. Code quality checks are normally not part of the build process.CI

How we build our API’s

Our API’s are documented using swagger. Each project is able to serve a swagger json or yaml file. The endpoint is included in the catalog project and so exposing it to our clients.

Swagger first is preferred. This means that the swagger specification determines the API service.

Common practice is however to start with the development of the API and generate or write the swagger documentation afterwards.

Which frameworks we use

Django and Flask are used alternately. Projects that are tightly connected to databases normally use the Django framework. Other (mostly smaller) projects often make use of the Flask framework.

In recent projects the aiohttp asynchronous HTTP client/server is used.

Recently we also use [golang]( The specific practices for these projects will be described in a seperate guide.

How we share code between our projects

We are in the process of packaging our shared code. Links to relevant packages will be included in this guide when they become available.

However, you will also find shared code that has been included in other projects by simply copying its contents.

Template project

A real template project that is used to bootstrap a new project does not exist within our repository. There exists however a project that serves more or less as our showcase project: Monumenten. The setup and layout from this project can be taken as a starting point for new projects.

Which DataBase Management System (DBMS) we use

PostgreSQL. In Flask projects the SQLAlchemy library is used to access the database.

How we use github


Issues are registered in Jira or Taiga. Git issues are not used. Other github users will normally not be able to check for any solved or open issues. Neither is any procedure in place to respond to new issues that are registerd in github.

Feature branches

Normally not used, all code resides in one branch; the master branch.

Pull requests

Pull requests are rarely used. Updates are normally directly pushed onto the master branch.

Protected branches

Branches like master or development are not protected against direct updates.


Reviews are on the basis of commits. A review task is taken from Jira or Taiga. In the review task the reference to the commit is included. The commit description and the description of the original task is taken as input for the review. There is normally no description of how the modification can be tested.

Merge or rebase

Common practice is that commits are rebased. Rebasing not only keeps the master history clean, it also ensures that each commit in the master history has been tested, reviewed and works.

All Guides


How to contribute to this City of Amsterdam Open Source project

Python backend projects

The style guide to the way we organize our Python back-end projects

How to code for humans

What we should think of when writing code so the most important computer we work with—the human brain—can parse it effectively

How we create cleaned, reproducable data for use in projects and apps

The way we make reusable data etl pipelines

How we create a docker environment for data analysis

How we set up a docker environment for analysis

How we code Python

The style guide to the way we code Python

How we track Open Source health

Understanding the impact and health of Open Source projects

How to write a README

The goto file to see what a project is and how to use it