Shoebot started as an academic project during my MA studies at Piet Zwart Institute. It was created as a rewrite of Nodebox running on GNU/Linux on the Cairo graphics engine, geared towards server usage through a command-line interface. I've written a bit about the history of Shoebot here.
In the meantime, it grew to become a proper community project, with a group of interested developers and users providing feedback and improvements to the source code.
Visit Shoebot's website for more.