I was given this task as an interview coding challenge and was wondering If the code is well structured and follows Python guidelines. I chose to sort the houses based on a similarity metric and then return the first N. I'd love to know if there are better ways to handle this.

I decided to use pandas to store and query data. I wrote a small Model class to encapsulate all the integration with pandas so that it can later be switched out with calls to a relational database if needed.

__author__ = 'Franklyn'

from pandas import Series, DataFrame
import pandas as pd

class Model(Series):
    """Base Class of Models, Used to represent the structure of data and define behaviours.

    This base class handles tasks that are common to all models such as serialization and saving objects in a collection

        Objects: Store of model objects created from their respective class.
    def __init__(self, data, fields):
        Series.__init__(self, data, index=fields)

    def read_serialized_object(cls, path):
            cls.Objects = pd.read_pickle(path)
        except Exception as e:
            print "Could not read serialized objects: {0}".format(e.message)
        return cls

    def write_serialized_object(cls, path):
        except Exception as e:
            print "Could not write serialized objects: {0}".format(e.message)

    def sort_by(cls, sort_callback, limit=10):
        """Sorts the collection using the callback function and return limit number of elements"""
        return cls.Objects.ix[cls.Objects.apply(lambda x: sort_callback(x), axis=1).argsort()[:limit]]

    def save(self):
        if self.__class__.Objects is None:
            self.__class__.Objects = DataFrame(columns=self.index)
        self.__class__.Objects = self.__class__.Objects.append(self, ignore_index=True)

I feel like the use of __class__ here to assign and initialize a static member is a bit grubby and would love to get feedback on how to handle initialization of static members that will be inherited.

This model was then inherited by a House class:

__author__ = 'Franklyn'

from pandas import DataFrame
from collections import namedtuple
from Model import Model
import math

class House(Model):
    """House model defines the attributes and behaviours of a House
    DWELLING_TYPES = {'single-family', 'townhouse', 'apartment', 'patio', 'loft'}

    POOL_TYPES = {'private', 'community', 'none'}

    # Weighting coefficient for the dwelling type similarity

    Listing = namedtuple('Listing',
                    ['num_bedrooms', 'num_bathrooms', 'living_area', 'lat', 'lon',
                     'exterior_stories', 'pool', 'dwelling_type',
                     'list_date', 'list_price', 'close_date', 'close_price'])

    def __default_similarity_callback(self, house_to):
        """Default similarity metric used by the class if no similarity callback is provided.
        Computes similarity between house1 and house2, similarity is based on the distance between them and a weighted
        cost of the similarity of dwelling type.
        :param house_to:  Series object of second house to compare to
        :return: similarity error between the two houses, lower numbers are more similar
        similarity = self.distance(house_to)
        similarity -= House.DWELLING_COEFFICIENT*int(self.dwelling_type == house_to.dwelling_type)
        return similarity

    def __init__(self, listing):
        Model.__init__(self, listing, House.Listing._fields)

    def get_similar(self, num_listings, similarity_callback=None):
        """Returns the n most smilar houses to this house.
        :param num_listings:   Number of houses to return
        :param similarity_callback: A function that compares the similarity between two houses, must take in two parameters
        and return a number where smaller values are more similar.
        :return:    DataFrame of similar houses.
        if similarity_callback is None:
            similarity_callback = self.__default_similarity_callback
        return House.sort_by(similarity_callback, num_listings)

    def distance(self, to_house):
        """Computes the distance from this house to another house using the equirectangular approximation.
        reference: http://www.movable-type.co.uk/scripts/latlong.html
        :param to_house: The house to computer distance to
        :return: distance in kilometers
        lat1 = self['lat']
        lon1 = self['lon']
        lat2 = to_house['lat']
        lon2 = to_house['lon']

        earth_radius = 6371
        x_coordinate = (lon2 - lon1) * math.cos(0.5 * (lat2 + lat1))
        y_coordinate = (lat2 - lat1)
        distance_km = earth_radius * math.sqrt(x_coordinate*x_coordinate + y_coordinate*y_coordinate)

        return distance_km

I'm pretty content with the House class, but would love to know if there are any glaring faults here.

Here's how the class is used:

except Exception as e:
    print "No test data available, Generating dataset: {0}".format(e.message)
    for k in range(0, NUM_LISTINGS):
        house = generate_random_house()

house = generate_random_house(dwelling_type='single-family')
print house.get_similar(10)

1 Answer 1


was wondering If the code is well structured and follows python guidelines.

I can help with this. However I cannot with the other concerns. I have not done enough static class programming to make a sound review.


  • Lines should be limited to 79 characters. The exception to this is comments and docstrings at 72.
  • It would seem that some people really dislike the use of name mangling, __.

    Method Names and Instance Variables

    Note: there is some controversy about the use of __names (see below).

    Designing for inheritance

    If your class is intended to be subclassed, and you have attributes that you do not want subclasses to use, consider naming them with double leading underscores and no trailing underscores.


    Note 3: Not everyone likes name mangling. Try to balance the need to avoid accidental name clashes with potential use by advanced callers.

  • Operators should have a space either side of them: 2 + 2. The exception to this is to show precedence: 2*2 + 2.

    House.DWELLING_COEFFICIENT*int(self.dwelling_type == house_to.dwelling_type)
  • Non-class names should be snake_case, not CamelCase. This avoids confusion about whether it is a class or not (is Objects a class, for example).

    Listing = namedtuple(...)
  • Python has very strict indentation rules, even for vertical alignment:

    Aligned with opening delimiter.

    Listing should be defined like this:

    Listing = namedtuple('Listing',
                         [ #...
                          'list_date', 'list_price', 'close_date', 'close_price'])
  • It is normal to not have blank lines unless PEP8 tells you to. You have too many in some cases, constant declarations in House, and too few around your classes.

    • Surround top-level function and class definitions with two blank lines.

    • Use blank lines in functions, sparingly, to indicate logical sections.


  • Your one-line docstring is good, but it needs to be all on one line.

    The closing quotes are on the same line as the opening quotes. This looks better for one-liners.

  • Most of your multi-line docstrings don't have a summary line, followed by a blank line.

  • :param house_to: is not the way PEP257 says to document arguments.

    Positional arguments:
    house_to -- Series object of second house to compare to

Overall, your code is nice, apart from the character limit. Your docstrings need work, and you need more of them. But it is very good.


Using super is better than calling a class' __init__:

super(Model, self).__init__(data, index=fields)

I feel like the use of __class__ here to assign and initialize a static member is a bit grubby and would love to get feedback on how to handle initialization of static members that will be inherited.

I have little experience here, and so I am just speculating. But it seems that Objects is a variable, not a class. And you want it to be predefined to DataFrame(columns=self.index), but only to a specific class.

For a simple case where you don't want to reference self, this SO answer should help.

However, as this is more complicated, we can look at the docs for what __class__ is. After a quick read, it would seem that you would want to use type(self) rather than self.__class__.

type(x) is typically the same as x.__class__ (although this is not guaranteed – a new-style class instance is permitted to override the value returned for x.__class__).

def save(self):
    if type(self).Objects is None:
        type(self).Objects = DataFrame(columns=self.index)
    type(self).Objects = type(self).Objects.append(self, ignore_index=True)
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot for the comments Joe, Theres a lot of great aesthetic and structural stuff here for me to learn from. super() and type() are much better ways of expressing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – franklynd
    Jul 14, 2015 at 4:04

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