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A technological breakthrough – from PHP to Python

The beginnings of the project

The idea of a full rebuild of the TopChretien portal is not new and a deep thinking has started in early 2011. At this time, we were also developing the core engine of what would become TopFormation. The development of this new tool was for me the occasion to test new technical choices but still being compatible the technologies used on TopChretien. This test was to validate on a real project that this choice would be a good one for the new TopChrétien portal.

The TopCodingParty

We organized in in september 2013 a « TopCodingParty » competition, where we invited Christian developers and web-designers to come to our premises and develop projects for Christian organizations. During this event, we made good connections with several of them.

Le point of no going back

The development of TopFormation was successful. So I decided that this choice would be the good and less risky one for the future of TopChretien. We were approaching the point of no going back. Indeed, the time where the development of the new portal would start was approaching quickly. And once the work is started, it is very difficult to change, because it would mean to do everything again from scratch.

It was also during this period of time that we tried to recruit people to help us on this heavy task. We sent several job offers to people that we met during the TopCodingParty. We knew there would be little chance that it would lead to something because everyone of them was very devoted to their job.

An answer

We rejoiced when someone answered positively. He already wanted to become an independent and the contract we proposed would be a good help to start his company. This is Mathieu.

An annoying detail

Among all the conditions imposed by the project, one was annoying him particularly: the choice of the technology. Indeed, PHP was the choice we made. Even though this langage is used in a lot of large websites, PHP is in some ways considered as amateurism and not widely used by large companies (which usually prefer .NET or Java).

Mathieu was proposing Python instead. It is not the most widely used langage on the web but it is used by a handful successful startups (youtube, instagram, pinterest…)

After several discussions, Mathieu accepted to go with PHP despite the hindrances of the language. If it would not have been for TopChrétien, he answer would simply have been « NO WAY ».

An unexpected word

During a time of fast and prayer we had as a team, we prayed specifically for this project (few people were aware of the question of the technology choice). After this prayer time, Muriel came to me to share some words she had on her heart and wanted to share them with me. In this words, God encourages us not to fear new things and to create new paths in the field of new technologies.

The mental torture

Until then despite all the discussions, the choice was fixed on PHP. But my mind was not still about the choice of technology. After another long talk with Emmanuel Schulz (the other engineer here), we made comparative chart of the different technologies to help us make a more objective choice. The criteria were not only linked to the technology itself but also about the planning, risk taken,… After this study, PHP came out first (not by far though) before the other languages.

One of the most blocking element was the delay. Indeed when we speak about a new language, we also speak about learning curve. Considering the fact that Mathieu had to: resign, train us, help us artchitecture and start the development. This could not be considered because we would then lose 3 months on our already very short planning.

Mathieu’s visit

Mathieu was interested in the project. But before he resigned we wanted to meet face to face to give him more details about the project and to both be sure that we wanted to work together. We reconfirmed him the choice of PHP.

Before he leaves our premises to meet his employer, I said him this half-joke : « If you start on Monday, we may go on with Python ».

The meeting with his employer

The day after, he met his employer to give him the good (bad?) news that he was leaving and the interview went well. You have to know that for his position in France, you have to give your notice 3 months before you leave your job (I know it can sound crazy for the Americans). And Mathieu has not been forced to respect this delay. He also has been allowed to take a two-weeks time off starting the following Monday !

So we proposed him to come the week after. He had then two weeks to convince us than Python is better than PHP.

And now

At this time when I write this blog, Mathieu finished his job with his previous employer and choosing Python revealed to be relevant. See you in a a few months for the launch of the site!

You can read the point of view of Mathieu on his blog.

Intense workshop

This week, we hosted several of our international partners. Two of them came from Agapè Nederland and one from BGEA. We intensively worked three days on the new version of the, this site is the US equivalent of, it is managed over there by BGEA (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association).

That has been a very productive week and the site should be launched in the coming weeks.