Will Heinemann

New Business Director

Wagtail conference and sprint in Philadelphia

Related post categories Wagtail Charity & non-profit
4 mins read

I'm just back from Philly, where over 70 developers, designers and content managers from four continents congregated in that beautiful city for the much anticipated, eagerly awaited, first ever... drumroll... Wagtail Space USA conference and sprint, hooray.

The event ran over three days. It kicked off with a day of talks, followed by two days of sprints (people breaking into small teams to work on a specific project or solve a particular problem). It was hosted by our wonderful friends at The Wharton School.

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The Wagtail and Django communities have a strict code of conduct and it was immediately apparent that this was going to be a friendly, welcoming and fun crowd (it helps that people in Philly are incredibly warm and friendly!). I could tell it was going to be a great event.

Wagtail Sprint USA 1

Kicking-off the talks on the first day of the conference

Wagtail is on the march!

It was wonderful to see how passionate so many people are about their work and the positive impact technology can have on improving peoples' lives.

We heard stories of how teams are implementing Wagtail (the challenges and the delights), stories of how and why Wagtail was selected in the first place and stories of using Wagtail in interesting ways. Here are some highlights:

  • Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) are early adopters of Wagtail and now have a team of over 30 Wagtail developers. They use Wagtail to power their award-winning research platform and business intelligence tools for over 40k corporate, academic, government and nonprofit clients at over 400 institutions in 30 countries.
  • The NHS is undergoing a significant digital transformation and is using Wagtail to power its flagship website, This is a massive migration project - houses thousands of pages of information on conditions, symptoms and treatments and gets millions of page views every week.
  • Caltech is using Wagtail’s built-in multisite capability to run hundreds of sites on a single Wagtail installation. This is an exciting case study for the higher education sector who often struggle to maintain their sprawling and fragmented digital estates.
  • Girl Effect, the international NGO, is using Wagtail for Springster, its global mobile-first platform, which digitally connects marginalised and vulnerable girls around the world. Springster publishes over 60 pieces of unique content every month in 17 languages, using formats from listicles and interviews to multimedia and infographics. (see the full talk here).
  •, the leading Australian small-caps financial news feed, is powering its news sites with Wagtail. They are working on some interesting ways to mirror their content production, revision and sign-off workflow in Wagtail (think GDocs in-line commenting, MS Word style track-changes etc.).
  • have implemented Wagtail as a headless CMS to power Openstax, an ed-tech initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that provides peer-reviewed, openly licensed textbooks, which are available in free digital formats and used by hundreds of thousands of students in the US.
  • The University of Chicago is powering its library archive and site with Wagtail. This is one of the biggest libraries in the US - the Wagtail site hosts almost 1 million volumes.

Wagtail USA Sprint 2

Forming sprint teams in the breakout

Why Wagtail?

There are lots of good CMS solutions around so why are so many organisations turning to Wagtail? This was a much-debated topic throughout the conference and good points were made by all the fantastic speakers. Here are the three main reasons:

Wagtail is built on progressive technology

Wagtail is built in Python, the fastest-growing major programming language. This is chiefly because Python has become the standard for data science and machine learning, alongside its widespread use in undergraduate computer science curriculums. This gives technically-savvy organisations reassurance that Wagtail will work well with the latest tech and that's it'll be around for the long term.

Wagtail provides the best editor experience

The next, important consideration is the editor/admin experience. This is where Wagtail excels against the competition (Drupal was the most-cited alternative in the .edu sector). Zarina from Columbia University cited this as one of the main reasons they picked Wagtail for the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning projects in her great talk.

Wagtail has an active global community

This fantastic conference is evidence enough that Wagtail has a thriving, growing, global community. Now watch Tom Dyson's talk about Wagtail in 2018.

USA Wagtail Sprint 3

Sprint team working on new features and enhancements to Wagtail

A big thanks!

Thank you to everyone who presented, attended, watched the live stream, and sprinted for helping to make Wagtail Space US a success!

A very special thank you to REVSYS, The Wharton School and The Django Software Foundation for their sponsorship, and Four Digits for open sourcing their beautiful site for all future Wagtail Spaces.

And, thanks to all the great speakers, watch them on YouTube:

Need help with your Wagtail project?

Whether you’re just getting started with your Wagtail project or looking for support extending Wagtail to meet the specific needs of your organisation, we can help. If you'd like to find out more, please contact me.