On October 26, 2008, the first bits were committed to the private Courant News project repository. At the time, Rob, Paul and I were going to offer a hosted SaaS product for college news organizations, freeing them from the grasps of College Publisher and providing a stable foundation for the future. In February 2009, we decided not to pursue the project as a business, but agreed to continue development as an open-source project. On April 7, 2009, we opened our code to the public. After launching the Yale Daily News on Courant in September 2009, we finally started to pick up steam in the past month. But after deep reflection, we have decided to cease development of the project.
The key to performance for high-traffic websites is caching. Facebook is famous for being a prolific memcached user, with 28 terabytes of memcached servers as of December 2008. Part of why the Yale Daily News was able to survive massive traffic spikes during the Annie Le coverage was our judicious use of caching. Read on to learn more about the caching strategies employed by the Courant News platform.
On September 2nd, the Yale Daily News published its first issue of the fall 2009 semester. Although appearing to the casual observer to be just another issue, there was one huge difference: it was running on the new Courant News online publishing platform. Just one week later, Yale graduate student Annie Le went missing. The following ten days resulted in enormous national and international coverage of the case and a record surge in traffic to our website. Courant News played a huge role in our outstanding coverage and lack of downtime during the traffic spikes.
This past Saturday I joined Daniel Bachhuber and David Estes in Portland to talk journo dev projects. We talked about workflow engines, news wikis, virtual assignment desks, and other miscellaneous topics, but eventually Daniel and I got to work on building a simple short URL app for Django/Courant News.
As I work on the last pieces needed to launch the YDN on Courant next month, I finally got around to implementing the email engine for Courant and the YDN site.
Courant News was finally open sourced this past weekend while I was attending BCNI Philly. That included the code, documentation, and the opening of the project wiki and mailing list. While we’ve had a healthy number of people look at the site according to our analytics and logs, we’ve not really had any contributions from outside the original team yet. Granted, it’s only been four days, but I thought I’d help streamline the process of finding a way to contribute.