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Developer Notes

This page contains important information for anyone starting development work on the DANDI project.


The DANDI archive dev environment comprises three major pieces of software: dandi-archive, dandi-cli, and dandi-schema.


dandi-archive is the web frontend application; it connects to dandi-api and provides a user interface to all the DANDI functionality. dandi-archive is a standard web application built with yarn. See the dandi-archive README for instructions on how to build it locally.

The Django application makes use of several services to provide essential function for the DANDI REST API, including Postgres (to hold administrative data about the web application itself), Celery (to run asynchronous compute tasks as needed to implement API semantics), and RabbitMQ (to act as a message broker between Celery and the rest of the application).

The easiest way to run the API along with its services is through a Docker Compose setup, as detailed in the Develop with Docker quickstart.


dandi-cli is a Python command line tool used to manage downloading and uploading of data with the archive. You may need to use this tool when developing new features for the frontend and backend, but there are other methods of faking data in the system to work with as well. You can install dandi-cli with a command like pip install dandi (then invoke dandi on the command line to run the tool), or build it locally following the instructions in the dandi-cli README.


dandi-schema is a Python library for creating, maintaining, and validating the DANDI metadata models for dandisets and assets. You may need to make use of this tool when improving models, or migrating metadata. You can install dandi-schema with a command like pip install dandi-schema. When releases are published through dandi-schema, corresponding json-schemas are generated in the release folder of the dandi schema repo. See the dandi-schema README for instructions on viewing the schemas.

Technologies Used

This section details some foundational technologies used in dandi-archive. Some basic understanding of these technologies is the bare minimum requirement for contributing meaningfully, but keep in mind that the DANDI team can help you get spun up as well.

JavaScript/TypeScript. The DANDI archive code is a standard JavaScript web application, but we try to implement new functionality using TypeScript.

Vue/VueX. The application's components are written in Vue, and global application state is managed through VueX.

Vuetify. The components make heavy use of the Vuetify component library.

Python3. The backend code is written in Python 3.

Django/drf/drf-yasg. The API infrastructure is implemented through a Django application. This means that application resources must be mapped to Django models, while Django views mediate API responses. The REST endpoints are implemented via Django Rest Framework (DRF), while DRF-YASG is used to generate Swagger documentation.

For general help with dandi-archive, contact @waxlamp.


The DANDI project uses automated services to continuously deploy both the dandi-api backend and the dandi-archive frontend.

Heroku manages backend deployment automatically from the master branch of the dandi-api repository. For this reason it is important that pull requests pass all CI tests before they are merged. Heroku configuration is in turn managed by Terraform code stored in the dandi-infrastructure repository. If you need access to the Heroku DANDI organization, talk to @satra.

Netlify manages the frontend deployment process. Similarly to dandi-api, these deployments are based on the master branch of dandi-archive. The netlify.toml file controls Netlify settings. The @dandibot GitHub account is the "owner" of the Netlify account used for this purpose; in order to get access to that account, speak to @satra.


Service(s) status

The DANDI project uses upptime to monitor the status of DANDI provided and third-party services. The configuration is available in .upptimerc.yml of the repository, which is automatically updated by the upptime project pipelines. Upptime automatically opens new issues if any service becomes unresponsive, and closes issues whenever service comes back online. is the public dashboard for the status of DANDI services.



Sentry is used for error tracking main deployment. To access Sentry, login to .

Heroku & Papertrail

The dandi-api and dandi-api-staging apps have the Papertrail add-on configured to capture logs. To access Papertrail, log in to the Heroku dashboard, proceed to the corresponding app and click on the "Papertrail" add-on.

A cronjob on the drogon server backs up Papertrail logs as .csv files hourly at /mnt/backup/dandi/papertrail-logs/{app}. Moreover, heroku logs processes per app dump logs to /mnt/backup/dandi/heroku-logs/{app} directory.

Continuous Integration (CI) Jobs

The DANDI project uses GitHub Actions for continuous integration. Logs for many of the repositories are archived on drogon server at /mnt/backup/dandi/tinuous-logs/.

Code Hosting

All code repositories are hosted on GitHub. The easiest way to contribute is to gain push access to the repositories by talking to @waxlamp; this way, you can create pull requests based on branches within the origin repositories, which in turn allows for Netlify deploy previews and Heroku staging previews to be built.

However, this is not strictly required. You can contribute using the standard fork-and-pull-request model, but under this workflow we will lose the benefit of those previews.

Email Lists

The project's email domain name services are managed via Terraform as AWS Route 53 entries. This allows the API server to send emails to users, etc. It also means we need a way to forward incoming emails to the proper mailing list--this is accomplished with a service called ImprovMX.

The email addresses and are advertised to users as general email addresses to use to ask for information or help; both of them are forwarded to, a mailing list containing the leaders and developers of the project. The forwarding is done by the ImprovMX service, and more such email addresses can be created as needed within that service.

If you need the credentials for logging into ImprovMX, speak to Roni Choudhury (

Miscellaneous Tips and Information

Use email address to log into dev Django admin panel

Once dandi-api is up and running, you can access the Django admin panel at http://localhost:8000/admin. The login page asks for a "username" but really it is expecting the email address associated with the username.

One easy trick here is to supply the username again as the email address when you are setting up the superuser during initial setup.

Refresh GitHub login to log into prod Django admin panel

To log into the production Django admin panel, you must simply be logged into the DANDI Archive production instance using an admin account.

However, at times the Django admin panel login seems to expire while the login to DANDI Archive proper is still live. In this case, simply log out of DANDI, log back in, and then go to the Django admin panel URL (e.g. and you should be logged back in there.

Why do incoming emails to look crazy?

When a user emails or, those messages are forwarded to (see above) so that the dev team sees them. However, these emails arrive with a long, spammy-looking From address with a Heroku DNS domain; this seems to be an artifact of how processes emails, and does not occur in general (e.g. messages sent from the API server to users).