20 years of Wainuiomata.com

Posted on November 6, 2023 by: Rob van der Linde
Filed under: Announcements, Developments
Tags: wainuiomata, website

This year, 2023 marks the 20th anniversary that we have been running the Wainuiomata Online Community website for. We don't remember exactly the date anymore, but the fist version of the website would have gone live some time in 2003.

The website wasn't always under wainuiomata.com, that domain came later. But we moved the content over to the new domain when we got it. In fact we moved the content a few times as we rewrote the backend a number of times from ground up.

The first versions of the website would have been pretty basic and somewhat terrible to be honest. But we had a lot of fun coding up our own solutions and did it for the love of community and open source. It was a custom PHP solution running on Fedora in our flat. I had barely been using Linux at this point, it was 2003 and I thank my friend Josh for helping us along and getting started with Fedora. We did go to a number of events, took photos and built the website up slowly. Blog posts of these events are on the site today as we have retained the full history.

We also had a few other websites we looked after, but to be honest the custom solution was becoming a bit difficult to use and something had to be done. So the next version was written in Django, I had just learned Python and Django and I started building my own Content Management System (CMS) as any newcomer to Django did in those days for some reason. Blog posts dating back to 2013 indicate that by that time I was well under way with this new version and that was around the time we built the forums. These forums were quite active for a number of years, but since the explosion of social media these aren't so active anymore today. Nothing was meant to last forever though, this new version would eventually be rewritten as well.

After many years of running the website on a custom Django codebase, we were starting to see major growing pains and were stuck on an older version of Django for some time. I had several goes at upgrading and they were mostly failed attempts, we had issues with libraries that had been abandoned for example and needed to be replaced with alternatives. In the end we abandoned the upgrade, until many years later when we discovered Wagtail. I fell in love with Wagtail and made a pretty radical decision to start from scratch again with Wagtail, and I slowly ported each module over. It took a few years as I was doing this in my spare time on the side. At some point I must have also upgraded to Python 3 but I forget when that even was now.

Another cool thing we added with the Wagtail rewrite was a proper search index and full text search support. I don't know how many years we showed a search box on the old site that did nothing, but it was a long time and a bit embarrassing. So with the new Wagtail site we now have a proper search index that updates in the background. Try searching anything and it searches for pages, blog posts, forums and gallery content, anything we marked as indexable. Here is an example that gives instant results:


This is basically where we stand today: The website has been redone completely in Wagtail and is working really well. We regularly upgrade and deploy newer versions like clockwork. Obviously it hasn't run in our flat for a long time anymore, it runs very professionally these days in a datacenter and is well managed by the processes we have developed over the years. We've made those processes run extremely smoothly through many iterations. However the design is what needs some love next, we are developers not designers. So a new fresh theme is what is needed next, the website doesn't work with mobile and is showing it's age. So onto the next 20 years then!

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