E-Scribe New Media

Paul Bissex • Web Developer


Selected projects 2002–2011


Hallmark Alumni

Launched: January 2006

Technology: Django, MySQL, Apache mod_python

Goals: Provide a social and information hub for alumni of the school. Facilitate alumni connections through searchable and browsable directory. Provide editable member profiles with automatically resized images.

Notes: Replaced a PHP site created by an outside vendor, retaining the legacy database schema and active data. Originally built with then-current Django 0.91, later upgraded to Django 1.0 without downtime.


Hallmark Housing

Launched: January 2007

Technology: Django, MySQL, Apache mod_python

Goals: Help enrolled students for the upcoming academic year find rental properties in the local area. Collect data via a detailed questionnaire to help students evaluate roommate compatibility. Give housing coordinator ability to track communications with students and review questionnaire data. Handle images in various formats submitted by landlords.

Notes: Migrated landlord and property data from existing desktop database. Added group-email system for sending news and help to selected groups of users.

Hallmark attendance and equipment loan system

Launched: September 2007

Technology: Django, MySQL, Apache mod_wsgi

Goals: Allow flexible attendance recording and reporting. Deliver report data in needed formats (daily emailed summaries; CSV for import to parent-company’s multi-school system; web reports of per-class attendance detail). Replace a third-party application for tracking photographic equipment checked out by students. Manage other student-specific data, such as vehicle parking permits. Allow relevant administrative staff to easily view, add, edit, and delete data as needed.

Notes: This is a mission-critical system: attendance data is a linchpin of accreditation, and the equipment inventory is worth over $1 million. Availability has to be 100%. Interface has to serve busy non-technical instructional staff. Data has to be accurate and complete and available for daily reporting to parent company. System was successfully adapted, with no downtime, to the mid-year addition of a second class.

Restricted-access application, no screen shot available



Launched: November 2006

Technology: Django, SQLite, Apache mod_wsgi

Goals: Provide a programmer pastebin with high availability, streamlined interface, and custom syntax rendering tailored to Django development. Expire the postings within a week, but offer a longer-term option: a “held” posting will expire when it has not been viewed for 30 days.

Notes: Created an open REST API. The site’s database is SQLite, but special optimizations in the application code minimize the chance of write conflicts, which are otherwise a SQLite weakness for a busy application. The database is cleaned nightly of postings that have expired.



Launched: August 2010

Technology: Python, Google App Engine

Goals: Offer a URL shortening service not based on redirection. Use little-known tricks to shorten URLs from sites like Amazon and eBay — making links that point to those sites directly. Also offer a redirected-link introspection service, answering questions like “What does this bit.ly link really point to?”

Notes: The engine of the site is a database of regular expressions. The regex match patterns are run against the submitted URL, and if a match is found the replacement pattern is invoked. Includes a bookmarklet that allows users to process the URL of any page they're on with a single click.


Yiddish Book Center

Launched: January 2002

Retired: September 2009

Technology: PHP, MySQL, Apache

Goals: Upgrade the website of the largest and fastest-growing Jewish cultural organization in America. Allow richer and deeper content. Allow administrative personnel to edit web content easily in their browsers. Provide a platform for integration of sales of books and event tickets, book content search, and other third-party services.

Notes: After their successful 25th-anniversary campaign raised over $25 million, the Book Center stepped up to using a larger team to produce and manage their web presence. I served as a consultant in this process, evaluating vendor proposals and helping plan content migration.



Launched: April 2011

Technology: Django, nginx, PostgreSQL, RabbitMQ, jQuery

Goals: Create an engaging Penny Auction e-commerce site. Produce responsive, continually updated pages. Accurately handle customer transactions. Enable customer support staff to monitor site activity in real time. Enable managers to adjust operation of the running site.

Notes: Five-member core development team did ongoing code review using Review Board. Heavy use of Git branches in development process. Extensive automated tests.