Engineering this website

In its nearly-4-year history, this website has had a rich history. In addition to the content changing, over that period it has incorporated (and later removed) eCommerce, polls and email-based workflows. 

Blogging has always been separate because the website was built on Google App Engine and I could not find a suitable blogging engine. I used Wordpress for blogging. But using a separate engine for blogging does not provide a smooth transition between the website and the blog. Integrating SEO between the two is not easy either.

This latest set of changes to the website takes the work of  Ivan De Marino, which was based on Nick Johnson't Bloggart, and integrates it into the website. 

Starting from Ivan's distribution, a few additional changes were necessary:
  • Additional pages, such as Contact Us, built using the standard helloworld pattern.
  • Conversion from Python 2.5 and Django 0.96 to Python 2.7 and Django 1.2.

IT Strategy for a Web Startup

As we near the completion of a major web application for a startup, it's time to reflect on the factors responsible for the success.
  1. Cloud Computing. The hardware cost for development was less than $750 including the cost of a laptop.
    • We used Google App Engine for the most part but not exclusively.
    • For confidential documents, we used Amazon S3, preferring to go directly between the browser and Amazon, bypassing Google. Any doubts about whether Google will mine those documents were neutralized.
  2. Staying conceptual with the implementation.
    • Google App Engine was great for helping us stay conceptual. They take care of scalability, backups, OS versions, patches. All the stuff that drags you down.
    • Amazon EC2 is too low level. One has to worry about scalability, backups, OS versions, patches. We should have gone up a level by using a service like Rightscale. We haven't yet, but it's still an idea worth pursuing.
    • For the same reason, we would consider Amazon RDS over doing our own database management.
  3. Open Source Software. Most notably, jQuery. Their slogan is "write less, do more". The reality matches the slogan. A rich milieu of available software allowed us to assemble components rather ...