Lawrence-born Django, which revolutionized website construction, celebrating its 10th anniversary
Ten years ago, the website framework that revolutionized how websites are built and operated was born here in Lawrence.
Known as Django, the framework has spread worldwide and has been used in the construction of tens of thousands of websites, including Instagram and Pinterest.
One of the purposes behind the creation of Django, which is free and open source, was to help web developers build database-driven websites, especially those with news content, more easily and rapidly.
It also allowed people who weren’t computer aces to be able to construct their own pages.
“There are all sorts of people who are able to build something for the web who otherwise would have had to hire outside talent or never would have built it because it would have been too cumbersome,” said Frank Wiles, a former World Company employee and president of Revolution Systems, a Lawrence business that builds and maintains customized web applications and provides consulting.
Today Django is one of the more popular frameworks for building websites. Wiles placed it in the top five in the world.
Revolution Systems is hosting the 10-year birthday party and co-creators of Django and those affiliated with it thought Lawrence would be the ideal place to hold a conference and party to commemorate Django’s birth.
Outside of Kansas a lot of people don’t know Lawrence, which is considered an island of liberalism in a state that is strongly conservative, Wiles said.
“People are always asking me ‘Why are you in Kansas? What are you doing in Kansas?'” Wiles said. “We wanted to bring some of our friends to Lawrence and show them this is a pretty cool town.”
Django was started by programmers, many of whom are now known as web developers, who were affiliated with the Lawrence Journal-World. At the time in 2005, many newspapers across the country were developing their own websites and content management systems.
Rob Curley, who was a Journal-World online operations manager, brought in Adrian Holovaty, a journalism major who also was a software developer, Wiles said. Holovaty brought in Simon Willison, who was in Britain and was an accomplished developer finishing his computer science degree. Together they brought in Jacob Kaplan Moss, who later became Wiles’ business partner at Revolution Systems.
The developers came up with a numbers of tools to standardize logins and also set up online databases for such information as government employee salaries that allowed the public to search and review them.
Holovaty, who also is a guitarist, named Django after Django Reinhardt, considered by many to be one of the world’s best guitarists.
The content management system using Django technology that was created to edit and move stories to the newspaper’s website was named Ellington, after legendary musician Duke Ellington, Wiles said.
Newspapers are known for their hard and fast deadlines, so building a reliable system was important, Wiles said.
“They had to build a system where you could build stuff very quickly,” he said. “They knew they had to build something that wasn’t just a one-hit wonder but something that would keep working for years to come.”
Later at a conference, The Associated Press made a presentation of the system they had created, and suddenly The World Company employees realized they were onto something big.
“The Associated Press came to show off their version, and it didn’t do half of what (the newspaper’s technology) did and was way more complicated,” Wiles said. “(Management) started to see the opportunity that we were building some really big tools, and there was no reason not to sell them to the rest of the newspaper industry.”
Django’s use now has spread to other industries, and Django frequently is credited with broadening the world of web development.
Jeff Triplett, who is an open source developer for Revolution Systems, said because of Django’s user-friendly framework, many more people are able to build websites.
“People around the world are actually learning how to program,” Triplett said.
It’s also being taught in universities’ beginning computer science classes.
Women have always been a minority in the web development world, but a new webpage, Django Girls, started by two Polish women last year to inspire women to become programmers, has quickly caused an uptick in the numbers, Triplett said. The women have taught over 5,000 women how to write code.
On Saturday one of the Django conference speakers, Ola Sitarska, who is co-creator of Django Girls, will discuss the increased numbers.
Her speaker’s bio says the Django Girls Tutorial that she co-authored has been visited by more than 30,000 people.
The Django Girls chapters have spread around the world.
Another speaker is Lacey Williams Henschel, who has co-organized Django Girls Portland and Django Girls Austin.
For a list of speakers, go here: https://djangobirthday.com/speakers/
Schedule of festivities
The birthday celebration for Django, the web framework that was conceived in Lawrence 10 years ago, will be this weekend.
Festivities include a block party at The Sandbar, a tasty dining experience, and a little business — a conference featuring cutting edge web developers and programmers.
On Friday night, a reception will be held at eight local restaurants.
On Saturday a conference will be held beginning at 9 a.m. at Liberty Hall, and lunch will be catered from Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue.
Speakers include several of Django’s founders and affiliates, including Frank Wiles, Jacob Kaplan-Moss and Adrian Holovaty.
Beginning at 6 p.m., Eighth Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire Streets will be blocked off for the official birthday party and will feature a mix of live music and activities for kids.
Live music begins at 7:30 p.m. Adrian Holovaty, co-creator of Django, will be playing in one of the bands.
For more information, go to: https://djangobirthday.com/