Project started:



Aruna Ratanagiri : Harnham Buddhist Monastery is a traditional Theravada Buddhist community on the border of England and Scotland. The abbot, Ajahn Munindo, received bhikkhu precepts from the late Venerable Ajahn Chah of Wat Nong Pah Pong in North-East Thailand in 1976. There is an emphasis on Buddhist monastic training at Aruna Ratanagiri with facilities for approximately twelve residents. There is also an adjacent lay guest facility known as Kusala House.

Project Initiation and Duration

Our journey with the Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery's digital presence began on the 6th of October, 2014. Over the next three months, our team poured countless hours into crafting an online hub that was both user-friendly and filled with valuable resources.

Technology Stack

The initial website was a testament to the versatility of a well-orchestrated tech stack. We utilized Ruby on Rails as our server-side web application framework, PostgreSQL for our relational database system, and Redis as an in-memory data structure store. We leveraged RefineryCMS, a Ruby on Rails CMS, for managing content. All of this was hosted on Linode, providing a seamless, unified experience.

Key Features

The monastery's website was no ordinary digital platform. Here are some of the core features:

  • Fully content managed: Enabled the monastery's staff to easily update content as needed.
  • User management: Comprehensive roles and permissions system for efficient user management.
  • Dhammapada reflections and Dhamma talks: Shared spiritual teachings and reflections to benefit the online community.
  • Online donations: Allowed the global community to contribute and support the monastery.
  • Live calendar feed: Kept users informed about upcoming events and activities.
  • RSS feeds: Ensured that users never missed an update.
  • MailChimp integration: Streamlined email communications.
  • ID3 tagging of talks: Improved search and categorization of talks.

Current Challenges

Despite the website's success, we've encountered a few challenges. The tech stack, despite undergoing three upgrade cycles, is beginning to show its age, primarily due to lack of support for RefineryCMS. Additionally, the rarity of Ruby developers makes maintaining and enhancing the site more difficult than anticipated.

The Road Ahead: A New Site

In light of these challenges, we're now in the process of developing a new site. While the core features will remain, our vision for the new site includes:

  • Modern Tech: Embracing recent advancements in architecture, libraries, and deployment strategies.
  • Developer Accessibility: Ensuring the platform is approachable for a wider community of developers.
  • Open Source: Opening the codebase to the broader developer community.
  • Performance: Aiming for sub 1-second page loads on 4G.
  • Scalability & Maintainability: Implementing code patterns that are scalable and maintainable.
  • Edge Caching: Reducing latency and speeding up load times.
  • Operational Efficiency: Minimizing the resources required to run the platform.
  • Low Overheads: Keeping asset size and connections to a minimum.
  • Documentation: Providing comprehensive, easy-to-understand documentation.
  • Tested Domain Logic: Ensuring reliability through unit-tested domain logic.

Our goal is to usher in a new era for the monastery's digital presence, improving performance, maintainability, and scalability, while providing an enhanced user experience.

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