Real Python Is One of the Largest Python Learning Platforms Around

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In this episode of Running in Production, Dan Bader goes over how he built Real Python from scratch with Django which is a web framework written in Python. The site gets 4 million+ page views a month and it’s hosted on Heroku which costs about $700 USD / month.

What’s really cool about this project is Dan coded the site himself and his deploy process is very by the books which includes performing 1 person code reviews which I found to be great. We covered a lot of ground in this episode! Spoiler alert: he’s using the built-in Django admin.

Topics Include

  • 1:47 – The history of Real Python and how Dan ended up taking over
  • 3:13 – Replacing a PHP back-end with a custom Django app from scratch
  • 3:48 – Dan is the sole developer but he wants that to change soon
  • 4:11 – Django has been a happy developer experience and it’s very effective
  • 4:47 – Motivation for switching to Django and a break down of Real Python’s features
  • 5:46 – Dan tries to keep the code base on the latest stable Django release
  • 6:29 – Real Python has been using Python 3.x from day 1
  • 7:06 – Staying up to date often takes effort, but it saves time in the long run
  • 7:53 – Automated and manual ways to keep your dependencies up to date
  • 10:29 – Real Python is mostly a monolithic application by choice
  • 12:28 – 19,000+ lines of Python code spread across ~23 Django apps
  • 13:44 – A high level break down of the Django apps
  • 15:16 – The challenges of trying to break up your apps too early in the dev process
  • 18:30 – Server side rendered templates is allowing Dan to be quite efficient
  • 19:50 – Django was specifically built to display documents (news articles)
  • 20:23 – Real Python uses the built-in Django admin and it’s working great
  • 21:48 – Multiple ways to have an admin back-end without an admin dashboard
  • 23:21 – The site doesn’t use Django channels or any type of websockets
  • 23:51 – Docker is being used locally for development but only partially with Docker Compose
  • 24:26 – The Python app is not using Docker mainly due to volume performance issues
  • 25:05 – But all local tests are run inside of Docker (even the Python app)
  • 26:00 – Dan wishes Docker were faster on MacOS, it would be nice for other developers
  • 27:00 – Huey is being used instead of Celery for background tasks
  • 28:50 – Huey even supports running periodic scheduled tasks on an interval
  • 29:20 – You might need custom code to deal with retries and guarantees
  • 30:37 – There’s a lot of responsibility to make sure Real Python stays up
  • 31:34 – Dans likes Heroku because it’s easy to get notified of availability issues
  • 32:33 – Papertrail provides log access and alerts him over Slack on errors
  • 32:48 – For up time monitoring he’s using Freshping
  • 32:58 – All errors and notifications get piped to Slack to keep it easy to glance
  • 34:16 – What happens if Heroku or AWS goes down? You kind of have to deal with it
  • 35:12 – The “up-time value” in building a custom platform / app for your content
  • 36:36 – Payments are handled with a reseller called Paddle, they handle taxes and more
  • 38:11 – They take a few percent more than Stripe but it’s worth it for Dan
  • 38:56 – Dealing with taxes is very complicated and soul draining
  • 39:23 – Sometimes these services end up being better on all fronts (even price)
  • 40:22 – Paddle supports credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay through 1 API provided by Paddle
  • 41:58 – SendGrid is being used to send out all types of email from the platform
  • 43:10 – SendGrid’s batch API endpoint lets you send 1,000 emails in 1 API call
  • 44:22 – CloudFlare is being used to convert images to webp (image re-compression)
  • 45:20 – CloudFlare (he’s using the paid plan btw) also uses HTTP / 2 in supported browsers
  • 45:32 – It also helps with rate limiting because Real Python has been getting attacked
  • 45:56 – SSL certificates are handled with CloudFlare and Heroku together
  • 46:12 – Real Python is using gunicorn
  • 46:25 – How Heroku deals with running and configuring gunicorn
  • 48:01 – (4) standard-2x Dynos and (1) standard-1x Worker powers the whole site
  • 48:47 – CloudFlare’s CDN helps to offset the dyno’s load by serving all of the static files
  • 49:32 – Static files are initially served by WhiteNoise for 1 request then CloudFlare caches it
  • 50:59 – A tiny microservice proxy called RuboCrop resizes images to different sizes
  • 52:24 – Lots of images and articles require alternate ways of organizing things
  • 54:07 – There is a full text search feature built into the site but it might not be enough
  • 54:48 – The Heroku add-ons being used are Postgres, Redis, Scheduler and Papertrail
  • 55:31 – Hosting costs on Heroku is about $700 / month (including a staging environment)
  • 56:36 – It’s totally worth it for Dan, the value he gets is massive
  • 57:32 – As a solo developer you need to think about the time vs money vs sanity trade off
  • 59:03 – Walking though a code deploy from development to staging to production
  • 1:00:36 – Heroku’s metrics dashboard makes it easy to rollback if things look off
  • 1:01:52 – 1 person code reviews are awesome and it allows for scaling up devs later
  • 1:02:30 – Heroku handles database backups and user uploaded files are sent to S3
  • 1:03:45 – Dan thinks he can rebuild everything very quickly if disaster struck
  • 1:04:18 – Vimeo is being used to host videos and provide the video player
  • 1:05:37 – Best tips? Embrace the golden age of the solo web developer being viable
  • 1:07:00 – It’s so easy to initially get caught up in building something super difficult
  • 1:08:27 – One of Dan’s biggest mistakes at a previous company was going microservices
  • 1:10:26 – Before it was released Real Python ran on WordPress but Dan decided against it
  • 1:11:19 – Philosophically it kind of sucks to have a big Python site running on PHP
  • 1:11:55 – Building your own tutorial platform helps you come up with tutorial content
  • 1:12:34 – Find Dan on Twitter @dbader_org and his personal site. You can also find Real Python on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram as well as
📄 References
⚙️ Tech Stack
🛠 Libraries Used

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Dec 02, 2019

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