About that Guardian Website
A mini-Q&A with Guardian developer manager Matt Chadburn
Late last week, a good-sized chunk of the newsroom developers I follow on Twitter linked to the Guardian’s open sourced front-end code for their website, documented in full on GitHub. I contacted developer Grant Klopper to ask about the project and he noted that the code for the site has been open source from the project’s beginning, in early 2012, as a matter of course. He put me in touch with developer manager Matt Chadburn, who referred me to the Guardian’s 100+ public projects on GitHub and culture of open data, open development, and open journalism—and who agreed to answer a few questions about his experience leading open source projects for the newspaper.
Q&A with Matt Chadburn
Chadburn: Making the code open is quite easy if you’ve got a consensus in the team. We’ve obviously taken care to separate the private parts of the project from the public parts. Probably most newsrooms, and certainly most news websites, are built on top of open/free software, so it’s good citizenship to give things back to the community you are benefiting from.
Q. What benefits have you seen from open sourcing your code and working in public?
Chadburn: Some smaller parts of the project have seen external contributions, which is helpful in improving the quality of the project.
I think it’s led to a few speaking gigs for people. Beyond that it’s just nice to be able to have conversations with other organisations about techniques, etc., out in the open.
Q. Do you have any advice for newsroom developers who are trying to convert their organizations to open source as a default, or who are struggling to find the time to document and share their work?
Chadburn: Start small.
You don’t have to make something Open Source to make it open. Split out something uncontroversial from your main project, write a README, write some tests and just stick it up on the Internet somewhere. Nothing bad will happen. At worst someone will ask you to take it down again. (Actually, at worst, you’ll be sacked for breach of your employment contract—so best find a friendly engineering manager first.)