A brief history

Romanesco is the result of years of trying to make something reusable for myself. First as a starting point for new projects and later as a pattern library for making it easier to exchange components between projects. It's been a long journey and often not an easy one. It's not the kind of success story where "I would do it all over again if I had the chance". I made so many mistakes that I don't know anymore if all the effort has been worth it.

One of those mistakes was to try and turn it into a big website factory with a sales team and a "strategic partnership". It soon involved a lot of things I wasn't all that happy with and the partners' strategy also turned out to be mostly about filling their own pockets first. So I was out and tried instead to set up a small website factory, with a small team (called WebsiteLikeThis). That didn't work out either. Technically, we had everything set up. People could create a website on different datacenters in the world all by themselves, but the effort involved with launching that as a paid service turned out to be immense. Training, support, payment, etc. And then you need to market it, which is a whole different beast by itself. So all of that failed, fortunately rather quickly. Btw: if you find some of the content here a little commercial-y, then it probably came out of the WebsiteLikeThis bin.

So after years of trying to make it leave the runway (as my good partner and friend Holger would say), I let go of the ambition to turn it into something big and impressive and went back to doing freelance work. That's been working out well over the past few years and it gave me the time and space to focus on other (more important) things like starting a family, a food forest, to think more, read more, write a little... It was a chance to get off the technology treadmill and pay attention again to what is really happening in the world. The way we (humans) have organized things for ourselves isn't exactly doing life on this planet any good. In fact, we're on a very destructive trajectory, so I'm joining the rapidly growing group of concerned Earthlings in trying to do something about that.

Meanwhile, Romanesco is still here! I am using it for most of my freelance projects and it seems I'm maintaining it well enough for them to still share the same patterns. This keeps development hours somewhat manageable (it's still the web...) and allows me to work on fixes and features collectively, benefiting all projects at once. For me, it just works. I've also been pushing it to Github for years, complete with changelogs and version numbers. And I briefly engaged with a few fellow MODX-ers some years ago to see what they'd make of it, but we never really got past the installation stage. Combined with a fair bit of imposter syndrome, it faded away into obscurity after that.

It does feel like a waste though sometimes, to have something stable and production ready on the shelves that's not doing anything useful except for me. Clients also keep telling me: "I tried so many other things, but your platform just works so much better!". So: time to set it free. The biggest hurdle has always been installing Romanesco, which is indeed a big mess. But back in the "move fast and break things" days we had already hackathonned some scripts and bots together to take care of that for us. I just needed to detach those mechanics from our specific infrastructure so other people could use it too, and recently I was finally able to do that with Romanesco Seed.

So there you go: a "brief" history of Romanesco.

A little help

One of the reasons I'm putting Romanesco out there now is that other activities (two young kids in a neverending lockdown, a permaculture farm, environmental activism) are demanding more and more of my attention. I'm still managing, but I'd very much welcome a little help sometimes. My clients would very much appreciate that too, so [insert once in a lifetime business opportunity here] ;)

  • If you're genuinely interested in using Romanesco, please let me know. I'll gladly show you around and figure out how it could help you.
  • If you're just playing around with it and find a bug or have an idea... Please create an issue on Github.
  • If you don't intend to use Romanesco because you've also created some kind of base platform for yourself, I'd still enjoy sharing notes and learning from each other. Please send me a link!

You can also follow Romanesco through a mailing list.

Create an issue on Github Contact the developer

Community support

There is no dedicated support channel for Romanesco, but you can often find generous and kind-hearted people in the following locations, to help you with MODX / ContentBlocks related questions. And if you mention Romanesco there, I will definitely chime in!

MODX forums ModMore forums MODX community on Slack

Words of appreciation

I see Romanesco mostly as something I tied together from software written by others, rather than something I created myself. I therefore feel deeply indebted to a lot of people:

  • The MODX core team, for developing (and sticking with) the most versatile CMS out there.
  • The MODX community, for bringing the technology to life, always with kindness and humour.
  • Mark Hamstra from ModMore, for his endless devotion to helping everyone out and creating high quality software.
  • Thomas Jakobi (Jako), for silently maintaining so many nifty little extras, without which MODX would not be the same.
  • Bruno Perner (bruno17), for creating MIGX, which becomes more brilliant the longer you use it.
  • Bob Ray and Susan Otwell, for being our teachers and shepherds throughout our MODX journeys.
  • Vitaly Friedman, for your legendary talk and workshop at MODXpo, which left me wired for days (as in: I literally could not sleep as I kept pumping out ideas).
  • Jack Lukic, for creating the the only front-end framework that lets you talk to your HTML.
  • The volunteers behind Fomantic UI, for keeping the Semantic flame burning.
  • Brad Frost, for bringing pattern libaries to the masses with the atomic design principles.
  • Jop Berkhout and Marten Wilmink, for giving me the freedom and support to explore these ideas during my time with Qaraqter.
  • Holger Hahn, for teaching me how to think like a software architect.
  • My clients, for using Romanesco and showing me where to go (and for their patience).

Goodness, this is starting to sound like an Oscar speech. Well, to stick with the methaphor then: I probably forgot a lot of people still (your mom, dude), but a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you. This one is for you!

Follow Romanesco

Receive information about the project in your mailbox.

The mailing list is called Fractal Forest and sent by Fractal Farming.