Python Beginner Concepts Tutorial

Build Functions to Easily Perform Repeated Operations

Functions allow you to store reusable logic.

Function Terminology

In [1]:

The name of the function is the words that precede the parentheses.

The expression in parentheses is the argument of the function. Functions don't need arguments; functions can contain multiple arguments.

The result for this function is outputted below the function and called the return value. Every function returns a value.

In the statement above, our function named type takes in an argument of 32 and returns int - an integer. type is a function built into the Python standard library. So, the function has already been defined for us.

In the statement above, we call the function type to perform the function's computation and return the result.

Execution of the return statement inside a function exits the function.

Bike Trips Example

Below is a sample of data for bike trips as a list of lists. Each inner list holds the data for a trip formatted as [duration in seconds, date].

In [2]:
bike_trips = [[475, '2018-02-18'],
              [825, '2018-02-18'],
              [1034, '2018-02-18'],
              [980, '2018-02-18'],
              [1350, '2018-02-19'],
              [1880, '2018-02-19'],
              [1950, '2018-02-19'],
              [1530, '2018-02-19']

We want to answer these questions:

  • What is the average trip duration on any given day?
  • How many trips were taken on any given day?

In terms of Python, there's 3 componenents we want to create:

  1. Sum of trip durations on a day
  2. Count of trips on a day
  3. Averge trip duration on a day

We can create our own functions with logic for each component.

Sum of trip durations on a day

def is a Python keyword that indicates the start of a function definition.

The name preceding def is the function name. Python recommends lowercase letters and underscores between words - similar to naming variables.

An argument passed to sum_seconds_biked_day is assigned to a variable called a parameter. We use this parameter in the body of our function.

Inside our functions, you'll see text in triple quotes. These triple quotes are docstrings - plain text as comments to document the logic of our function.

In [2]:
# global variables below can be used in any function
index_trip_duration_seconds = 0
index_trip_date = 1

def sum_seconds_biked_day(ride_date):
    Find the sum of seconds biked on a given day
    :param ride_date: string in format year-month-day
    :returns sum_trips_seconds: sum of seconds biked on a single day
    sum_trips_seconds = 0
    for trip in bike_trips:
        if trip[index_trip_date] == ride_date:
            sum_trips_seconds += trip[index_trip_duration_seconds]
    return sum_trips_seconds

Count of trips on a day

In [5]:
def count_bike_trips_day(ride_date):
    Count bike trips on a given day
    :param ride_date: string in format year-month-day
    :returns count: count of unique bike trips in a day
    count = 0
    for trip in bike_trips:
        if trip[index_trip_date] == ride_date:
            count += 1
    return count

Average trip duration on a day

An average computation is the sum of events divided by the count of events.

We can call our two previously created functions inside a new function.

In [3]:
def average_trip_duration_seconds_day(ride_date):
    Compute average trip duration in seconds 
    :param ride_date: string in format year-month-day
    :returns average_trip_duration_in_seconds: average duration of trips in a day - units are seconds
    average_trip_duration_in_seconds = sum_seconds_biked_day(ride_date) / count_bike_trips_day(ride_date)
    return average_trip_duration_in_seconds

In average_trip_duration_seconds_day, the flow of execution is to call the function sum_seconds_biked_day and divide the return value by the return value of count_bike_trips_day.

Answer questions for February 18th, 2018

In [6]:
In [7]:
In [8]:

Present data in better readable format

It's weird to say the average trip duration for February 18th, 2018 is 825.5 seconds. You should pronounce it in days.

Let's design a function to present the average trip durations in a more typical format such as 38 minutes and 40 seconds.

I'll use Python operations for floor division and modulo.

In [4]:
seconds_in_a_minute = 60

def convert_seconds_to_minutes_seconds_readable_format(total_seconds):
    Convert a seconds value into a clean human readable format of X minutes and Y seconds
    :param total_seconds: seconds value
    :returns readable_statement: human readable string of minutes and seconds
    minutes = total_seconds // seconds_in_a_minute
    seconds = total_seconds % seconds_in_a_minute
    readable_statement = str(minutes) + " minutes and " + str(seconds) + " seconds"
    return readable_statement

We pass a function call as an argument to a function too.

In [10]:
'13.0 minutes and 48.5 seconds'

Why are Functions Important

Creating a new function gives you an opportunity to coordinate similar statements together, which makes your code easier to read and debug. Our seconds conversion definition utilizes similar concepts with seconds, minutes and math logic around time conversions.

Functions can make a program smaller by eliminating repetitive code. You'll often hear in programming the acronym DRY - do not repeat yourself. We wrapped count_bike_trips_day in a function and can utilize it to calculate just the count of trips in a day as well as the average trip duration of rides in a day. We reuse our counting logic. It is much more concise to call a function twice than to copy and paste the body!

Using multiple functions in a program allows you to easily write logic in components - step by step - just as we did with our sum, count and average functions. I find it's quicker to get to the final solution by writing out small functions and utilize them together.

Well-designed functions can be used in multiple programs. Our convert_seconds_to_minutes_seconds_readable_format can used to analyze the time it takes to repair bikes, the amount of time people spend in a bike store and more.