Isso is a web application written in Python. If pip and virtualenv mean anything to you, continue with Install from PyPi. If you are running Debian/Ubuntu, Gentoo, Archlinux or Fedora, you can use Prebuilt Packages. If not, read the next section carefully.

Interludium: Python is not PHP

If you think hosting a web application written in Python is as easy as one written in PHP, you are wrong. Unlike for PHP, many Linux distribution use Python for internal tools. Your package manager already ships several python libraries, but most likely not all required by Isso (or in an up-to-date version – looking at you, Debian!).

That’s why most Python developers use the Python Package Index to get their dependencies. The most important rule to follow is to never install anything from PyPi as root. Not because of malicious software, but because you will break your system. easy_install is one tool to mess up your system. Another package manager is pip. If you ever searched for an issue with Python/pip and Stackoverflow is suggesting you easy_install pip or pip install --upgrade pip (as root of course!), you are doing it wrong. Why you should not use Python’s easy_install carelessly on Debian is worth the read.

Fortunately, Python has a way to install packages (both as root and as user) without interfering with your globally installed packages: virtualenv. Use this always if you are installing software unavailable in your favourite package manager.

# for Debian/Ubuntu
~> sudo apt-get install python-setuptools python-virtualenv python-dev

# Fedora/Red Hat
~> sudo yum install python-setuptools python-virtualenv python-devel

The next steps should be done as regular user, not as root (although possible but not recommended):

~> virtualenv /opt/isso
~> source /opt/isso/bin/activate

After calling source, you can now install packages from PyPi locally into this virtual environment. If you don’t like Isso anymore, you just rm -rf the folder. Inside this virtual environment, you may also execute the example commands from above to upgrade your Python Package Manager (although it barely makes sense), it is completely independent from your global system.

To use Isso installed in a virtual environment outside of the virtual environment, you just need to add /opt/isso/bin to your PATH or execute /opt/isso/bin/isso directly. It will launch Isso from within the virtual environment.

With a virtualenv active, you may now continue to Install from PyPi! Of course you may not need a virtualenv when you are running dedicated virtual machines or a shared host (e.g.

Install from PyPi


  • Python 3.5+ (+ devel headers)

  • SQLite 3.3.8 or later

  • a working C compiler

For Debian/Ubuntu just copy and paste to your terminal:

~> sudo apt-get install python-dev sqlite3 build-essential

Similar for Fedora (and derivates):

~> sudo yum install python-devel sqlite
~> sudo yum groupinstall “Development Tools”


Install Isso with pip:

~> pip install isso

Don’t have pip?

~> easy_install isso  # cross your fingers

For easier execution, you can symlink the executable to a location in your PATH.

~> ln -s /opt/isso/bin/isso /usr/local/bin/isso


To upgrade Isso, activate your virtual environment again, and run

~> source /opt/isso/bin/activate  # optional
~> pip install --upgrade isso

Prebuilt Packages

Build a Docker image

You can get a Docker image by running docker build . -t isso. Assuming you have your configuration in /opt/isso, you can use the following command to spawn the Docker container:

~> docker run -d --rm --name isso -p -v /opt/isso:/config -v /opt/isso:/db isso

Then, you can use a reverse proxy to expose port 8080.

Install from Source

If you want to hack on Isso or track down issues, there’s an alternate way to set up Isso. It requires a lot more dependencies and effort:

  • Python 3.5+ (+ devel headers)

  • Virtualenv

  • SQLite 3.3.8 or later

  • a working C compiler

  • Node.js, NPM - required for frontend

  • sphinx, sassc (for compiling .scss to css) - optional - only for docs

Get a fresh copy of Isso:

~> git clone
~> cd isso/

To create a virtual environment (recommended), run:

~> virtualenv .
~> source ./bin/activate

Install JavaScript modules using npm:

~> make init

Build JavaScript frontend code:

~> make js

Install Isso and its dependencies:

~> python develop  # or `pip install -e .`
~> isso run

Install sphinx for generating docs:

~> pip install sphinx

Generate docs:

~> make site

Init scripts

Init scripts to run Isso as a service (check your distribution’s documentation for your init-system; e.g. Debian uses SysVinit, Fedora uses systemd) if you don’t use FastCGi or uWSGI:

If you’re writing your own init script, you can utilize start-stop-daemon to run Isso in the background (Isso runs in the foreground usually). Below you will find a very basic SysVinit script which you can use for inspiration:

# Provides:          isso
# Required-Start:    $local_fs $network
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Description:       lightweight Disqus alternative

EXEC_OPTS="-c /etc/isso.cfg run"


start() {
  echo 'Starting service…' >&2
  start-stop-daemon --start --user "$RUNAS" --background --make-pidfile --pidfile $PIDFILE \
                    --exec $EXEC -- $EXEC_OPTS

stop() {
  echo 'Stopping service…' >&2
  start-stop-daemon --stop --user "$RUNAS" --pidfile $PIDFILE --exec $EXEC

case "$1" in
    echo "Usage: $0 {start|stop|restart}"