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Aug. 12, 2015, 2:51 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Madeline Welsh   |   August 12, 2015

Today in open-source offerings: the Guardian has a new image management system. Grid, as the product is known, replaces a clunky, out-dated, and unnamed system in favor of a sleeker and user-aligned product that, according to a developer blog posted Wednesday, is now fully “integrated with [The Guardian’s] print workflow and is used for almost half of the images published in [The Guardian’s] digital content.”

Looking for images can be an unnecessarily arduous process. Beyond simply finding the picture, a user searching must also contend with rights, size, and previous usage considerations. Grid, which is the result of a year’s work by a dedicated team of four Guardian developers, a product manager, and a UX architect, looks to solve these problems for The Guardian by integrating all that information into a clean and organized package that integrates with The Guardian’s other existing tools.

“We had the [image management] system before for at least 15 years, so we had an understanding of how our users were using it, or what was missing from our existing integration that we needed to add,” said Sébastien Cevey, a Guardian developer based in London. “Some of the things we had in the old system, but we wanted to improve them, like ingesting images. We knew we wanted something that responded within a few hundred milliseconds —not a few seconds.”

The image management system has a dual mission. It services not only the Guardian websites — which, with two overseas offices feeding U.S. and Australian editions, is a substantial task — but also must be compatible with The Guardian’s print responsibilities. Cevey says that while there is always some concern about change, seeing how print and digital’s needs are different ultimately led to new features and improvements. “The picture desk and photo editors, particularly those who work on the News Desk, may want to review every single image that has come in today or since last night. That might be tens of thousands of images,” said Cevey. “We improved the browsing experience to load lots of images at once and browse on this infinite scrolling interface, rather than having to wait for more page views or images to load.”

The Guardian has been using Grid internally since October of last year, adding on new features as time went on before offering the open-source product Wednesday. The product was intended to serve the Guardian’s particular needs, but not to the exclusion of other users or even other newsrooms. “As with Scribe, which is a text-editing browser that we use in our CMS, we know it is used by others like the BBC or Coursera,” said Cevey. “Making Grid a component that can be plugged into other people’s needs means we sometimes get improvements from other people. Making it not completely Guardian-specific keeps the architecture maybe a bit more sane and maybe a bit more useful to other people.”

Here’s the GitHub link, should you want to check it out.

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