Skip to content



NeoDB is a Django project, and it runs side by side with a modified version of Takahē (a separate Django project, code in neodb_takahe folder of this repo as submodule). They communicate with each other mainly thru database and task queue, the diagram demonstrates a typical architecture. Currently the two are loosely coupled, so you may take either one offline without immediate impact on the other, which makes it very easy to conduct maintenance and troubleshooting separately. In the future, they may get combined but it's not decided and will not be decided very soon.


  • Python 3.12.x
  • Docker Compose v2 or newer

Prepare the code

When checking out NeoDB source code, make sure submodules are also checked out:

git clone
cd neodb
git submodule update --init

Install rye package manager, packages and pre-commit hooks:

curl -sSf | bash
rye sync
. .venv/bin/activate
pre-commit install

To develop Takahe, install requirements(-dev) and pre-commit hooks for neodb-takahe project as well, preferably using a different virtual environment.

Note: the virtual environments and packages installed in this step are mostly for linting, the actual virtual environments and packages are from NeoDB docker image, and they can be configured differently, more on this later in this document.

Start local instance for development

Follow install guide to create .env in the root folder of NeoDB code, including at least these configuration:


Download docker images and start pgsql/redis/typesense before initializing database schema:

docker compose --profile dev pull
docker compose up -d

Initialize database schema:

docker compose --profile dev run --rm dev-shell takahe-manage collectstatic --noinput
docker compose --profile dev run --rm dev-shell neodb-init

Start the cluster:

docker compose --profile dev up -d

Watch the logs:

docker compose --profile dev logs -f

Now the local development instance is ready to serve at http://localhost:8000, but to develop or test anything related with ActivityPub, reverse proxying it from externally reachable https://NEODB_SITE_DOMAIN/ is required; https is optional theoretically but in reality required for various compatibility reasons.

Note: dev profile is for development only, and quite different from production, so always use --profile dev instead of --profile production, more on those differences later in this document.

Common development tasks

Shutdown the cluster:

docker compose --profile dev down

Restart background tasks (unlike web servers, background tasks don't auto reload after code change):

docker-compose --profile dev restart dev-neodb-worker dev-takahe-stator

When updating code, always update submodules:

git pull
git submodule update --init

To save some typing, consider adding some aliases to ~/.profile:

alias neodb-logs='docker compose --profile dev logs'
alias neodb-shell='docker compose --profile dev run --rm dev-shell'
alias neodb-manage='docker compose --profile dev run --rm dev-shell neodb-manage'

Always use neodb-init, not python3 migrate, to update db schema after updating code:

neodb-shell neodb-init

Run unit test:

neodb-manage test

Update translations:

django-admin makemessages --no-wrap --no-obsolete -i .venv neodb-takahe -a
# edit .po files, run the following to make sure edits are correct
django-admin makemessages --no-wrap --no-obsolete -i .venv -i neodb-takahe -a
django-admin compilemessages -i .venv -i neodb-takahe

Development in Docker Compose

The dev profile is different from production:

  • code in NEODB_SRC (default: .) and TAKAHE_SRC (default: ./neodb-takahe) will be mounted and used in the container instead of code in the image
  • runserver with autoreload will be used instead of gunicorn for both neodb and takahe web server
  • /static/ and /s/ url are not map to pre-generated/collected static file path, NEODB_DEBUG=True is required locate static files from source code
  • one rqworker container will be started, instead of two
  • use dev-shell and dev-root to invoke shells, instead of shell and root
  • there's no automatic migration container, but it can be triggered manually via docker compose run dev-shell neodb-init


  • Python virtual environments inside docker image, which are /neodb-venv and /takahe-venv, will be used by default. They can be changed to different locations with TAKAHE_VENV and NEODB_VENV if needed, usually in a case of development code using a package not in docker venv.
  • Some packages inside python virtual environments are platform dependent, so mount venv built by macOS host into the Linux container will likely not work.
  • Python servers are launched as app user, who has no write access to anywhere except /tmp and media path, that's by design.
  • Database/redis/typesense used in the container cluster are not accessible from host directly, which is by design. Querying them can be done by one of the following:
    • neodb-manage dbshell
    • neodb-shell redis-cli -h redis
    • or create compose.override.yml to uncomment ports section.
  • To expose the neodb and takahe web server directly, in the folder for configuration, create compose.override.yml with the following content:
      - "8001:8000"

      - "8002:8000"

Development with Github Codespace

At the time of writing, docker compose will work in Github Codespace by adding this in .env:



Main Django apps for NeoDB:

  • users manages user in typical Django fashion
  • mastodon this leverages Mastodon API, Threads API and [ATProto}( for user login and data sync
  • catalog manages different types of items user may collect, and scrapers to fetch from external resources, see for more details
  • journal manages user created content(review/ratings) and lists(collection/shelf/tag/note), see for more details
  • social present timeline and notification for local users
  • takahe communicate with Takahe (a separate Django server, run side by side with this server, code in neodb_takahe as submodule), see for customization of ActivityPub protocol
  • legacy this is only used by instances upgraded from 0.4.x and earlier, to provide a link mapping from old urls to new ones. If your journey starts with 0.5 and later, feel free to ignore it.

Miscellaneous notes

If models in takahe/ are changed, instead of adding incremental migrations, just regenerate takahe/migrations/ instead, because these migrations will never be applied except for constructing a test database.

A libsass wheel is stored in the repo to speed up docker image building process in Github Action.