Python Big Data Tricks

I’ve done a fruitful book camp recently based on the Python Tricks book by Dan Bader. There were 81 tricks that were new to me or which I found highly remarkable. It would not be very practical to list all of them down here. And it would probably not even comply with the publisher’s copyright. Luckily, I had my data-driven glasses with me during the five-day book camp.

Dan was so good to mention from time to time which Python Tricks have an impact on memory, speed and performance when data is processed on a large scale. This is how the Python Big Data Tricks compilation was born.


There are several ways to create a copy in python

a = ['foo', foo]

b = a.copy()
c = a[:]
d = list(a)
e = copy.copy(a)
f = copy.deepcopy(a)

Creating deep copies is slower and requires more space. In this benchmark it is 270 times slower than the slice approach:


namedtuples are great for creating immutable classes in python and they are more space-efficient than regular classes.

from collections import namedtuple
>>> Goodie = namedtuple('Goodie', [
... 'url', 
... 'followers', 
... ])

>>> goodie = Goodie('', 5765776523764)
>>> goodie.followers

A beautiful benchmark on space efficiency:


  • generators work like list notations but are streams of data
  • they allow for maintainable pipelines of data processing
  • use generators for memory efficiency because generators produce values on the go, e.g.
    >>> # use a generator to go from 
    ... sum(x * 2 for x in range(3))

Iterator Chains

  • create data pipelines with iterator chains (


There is a huge variety of arrays in Python

  • go for a generic array structure like a list when you begin your project and then change to a more efficient data structure as the data load get becomes critical
  • use NumPy/Pandas for a great choice of fast array implementations for scientific calculations and data analysis

  • use array.array for more space efficiency (strictly typed)
  • tuples require less space than lists

  • bytes are immutable, bytearrays are mutable. The conversion from bytearrays to bytes is super slow

  • you can turn regular primitives in binary blobs with struct.Struct. Doing that you can keep more data in memory or send it in a package over a network.


  • you can use lists as stacks using append() and pop() to add and remove the latest element at the end of the list
  • collections.deque great for push/pop at the end AND at the beginning (both O(N)), but performs poorly at random access O(n) complexity
  • in distributed environments queues can be used to either define elements as synchronously or asynchronously mutable
  • for priority queues use queue.PriorityQueue. Or use heapq in distributed environments

Measure Performance

  • deconstruct your functions and data-structures with Python’s Disassembler

Please let me know if you have other great tricks and code examples to make Big Data development with Python more efficient.

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