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Renovating the Website

Hello, DayKnights! By way of introduction to the new site, I wanted to write down a bit about the changes, and overall direction for the site. We plan to be putting up more dynamic information here than we have in the past, and in general, it will be a community effort, working with the awesome volunteers who donate their time to this and other events. However, at least this once, I’m going to be talking as myself here.

When I started coordinating the DayKnight Festival, I wanted to get a site out there that would serve a couple purposes. First, it needed to communicate what the event is about, and tell people how to get into the event. I didn’t want to rely solely on the Day9tv forums for this. Second, I wanted a framework to start developing some of the long-standing projects we as a community had been discussing. Third, I wanted something that would serve as one of a few central meeting grounds during the event. After the first festival I ran, I added a fourth use, communicating with the streamers and their own volunteers and staff.

I’m not a web-developer by training or profession, and most of what I’ve done with sites comes from my background as a particle physicist. A lot of what we do is already Python-based, so building things in Django was a natural fit. Despite the first generation page being static and limited in scope, it was still being generated through Django.

More interesting, from an integration standpoint, was the second generation of the site. This site provided, mostly unknown to most users, a glimpse at some of the development efforts going on behind the scenes. Most notably, it had additional areas for streamers and volunteers that had access permissions based on Twitch username. The system used OAuth against Twitch’s user system to allow streamers and volunteers to sign up for the event. The information they would need during the event was then accessible from the site when they’d been added to the program.

Another benefit of this was that we were able to embed streams on the page based on who was live at the time. Most attendees at the Winter 2015 event probably didn’t use this too much. However, it was a big win for me to get these things integrated, because this was a first step to getting my take on the DayKnight Community Calendar off the ground. This calendar would need a way to keep track of when members of the community were streaming, and working out how to get at this information was a key box to check.

However, after this event (though unrelated), Twitch changed some of their data retention policies when using the API. This didn’t break the site, but it did make it easier to start thinking about other approaches when I began preparing for the 2016 event.

2016 and WordPress

2016, especially during the last quarter, saw a dramatic increase in activity in the DayKnights. Day9tv returned to streaming full-time, we moved the DayKnight Discord server into a more formal and visible role as part of our efforts to build communities, and Twitch announced their Twitch Prime program as part of Amazon. Additionally, I had a great deal of interest from volunteers from the previous festival. In short, we have a significantly larger active population in the DayKnights, and a lot more people wanting to get involved. Add to this limited time on my end, and it made sense to make a switch.

The math here is as follows:

  1. Website traffic is just one way to get people to attend the festival. Social media, promotion on Twitch streams, and word-of-mouth (on Discord) are equally valuable. Spending an extra amount of time on back-end technology (eg. ripping out the Twitch API stuff) doesn’t make sense when we could be focusing on other areas as well.
  2. I want volunteers to be able to help. I want the festival and other DayKnight events to be group efforts. Running a site in Django presents a pretty big barrier to entry for many people who would like to help us.
  3. I want the festival site to not be a single-visit page, and I’d it to have content like articles and such that don’t really fit on the Day9tv forums. I’d like a way for people to contribute writing or content, and for us to be able to review and publish this material on the site. (Article #1: What you’re reading right now)

All of this meant that going to WordPress was a natural fit. My hope is that you’ll find something of interest here occasionally (outside of the date and time for the next event), and that this can be a framework to grow on. If you have any questions, or suggestions, you can either reach me or the volunteers from the contact page.

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