Analog.Cafe Software

What It Is, What It Does, and Why It Matters

Analog.Cafe, “a film photography publication,” started in late 2016 as an idea: to bring together quality works from film photographers, artists, and writers onto an accessible platform.

Those who, often selflessly, contribute their skills, passion, time, and money to the project are responsible for the creation and maintenance of all the reading and viewing material on this website.

We are leaning on web technology to broadcast creativity and help foster meaningful connections between the readers and the Analog.Cafe’s creative contributors.

Analog.Cafe is a blog that publishes the works created with predominantly analogue tools. By doing so we are celebrating the non-virtual tools and their products of self-expression.

There is, of course, a dose of irony that comes with storing all of the stories, guides, reviews and photo essays as data on remote servers and delivering it to the viewer’s digital devices as “analogue art.” It would be worse if we attempted to denounce the modern technology in favour of film, vinyl, tapes, newspapers, or pigeon messengers. Instead, we are leaning on web technology to broadcast creativity and help foster meaningful connections between the readers and the Analog.Cafe’s creative contributors.

Analog.Cafe is powered by the code written specifically for its unique requirements. The website has been engineered as a content management system to satisfy the need to accept, curate, edit, and publish submissions. It has been optimized to deliver images and text faster than most blogs. The database has been built to track authorship for individual articles and images for the cases when they are a product of collaboration with more than one credit per article. Offline editing and password-less accounts make submissions easy and uninterrupted by spotty or non-existent internet connections.

As the website grows, the code, design, and the server infrastructure are continuously tweaked to deliver a faster and more engaging experience. As of today, we’ve pushed over 2,236 updates; below is a short summary of the most important ones which paved the way for today’s second major software release.

Analog.Cafe 2.0: speed, offline submissions, password-less accounts, and open-source contributions.

Speed and offline submissions. One of the most common grievances with modern web applications is the impossibly-large files visitors have to download to be able to, essentially, read the text. To combat this problem, we have restructured the hardware responsible for delivering the Analog.Cafe experience, changed the shape of the application, and its behaviour while offline.

The hardware that processes the data and creates the web pages used to be hosted on two virtual computers. To give it more flexibility and to optimize the performance we’ve added two more. The logic and data servers are kept on the above machines, with images finding a new home on Cloudinary and browser-specific code migrating to Amazon S3 disks.

To get things onto readers’ devices even faster we’ve broken up all the code that needs to be delivered onto the browser into small chunks. Those pieces are then intelligently served and assembled by WebPackand React Loadable; both of which are essential pieces of software made free to use by the developer community. The images are optimized in a similar fashion by having the browser download only the best-suited ones, by size and quality, out of the eight possible versions.

For the cases when an internet connection is limited or not available, an offline mode has been created. Although it currently only works with Composer, a tool used to create and edit submissions, it has proven to be quite handy. The mode functions by having the browser download Analog.Cafe app in the background while storing the text and images created via Composer on the computer. This allows authors to create a submission without access to the internet, leave the website, then come back later, edit, and submit once the connection is available.

Password-less accounts are another tool to make writing for Analog.Cafe seem like a piece of cake. Once the time comes to upload the submission for review, an account is to be created with a click of a button. Authors can use their existing Twitter and Facebook accounts, or they could create one using a valid email address. With the latter, the system sends a secure, single-use link that grants a three-day access to the submission dashboard. Once that time passes, logging in again is just as simple.

Open-source contributions. Protecting intellectual property from copy and replication is a challenge. However, when it comes to the code produced for Analog.Cafe the stance of ownership is reversed.

All of the software that powers this website is available under open-source license to freely use, replicate, and build on. Most, if not all, of world’s code is built with the help of tools and knowledge made available for free by the people who are kind enough to share it. Expanding this resource paves the way for the technological advance which we all have been benefitting from for the past twenty years.

Analog.Cafe, as a software, is built along with thousands of other projects, connected by common requirements. Showing the code that’s been written to make something work to others opens up the door for invaluable feedback and collaboration. This way of thinking has been recognized and pioneered by companies and individuals of various size and importance, including Google, Facebook, and many others.

It’s a privilege and a pleasure to create together with businesses, developers, designers, writers, artists, and film photographers.


Originally published at www.analog.cafe.