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How Blackout 4.2 Turbocharges Manual Review Workflows

Blackout 4.2 eliminates the micro-delays you may know as "just a few" seconds or clicks. As most reviewers know, those small moments can add up to hours to production, document prep, and manual redaction.

Sluggish Viewer, Sluggish Review

Over the past few years, we've had the opportunity to observe review teams from across the globe place hundreds of millions of redactions on Excels. From sprawling redaction projects consisting of dozens of reviewers redacting simultaneously to Herculean efforts of a single review manager quickly marking up last-minute documents, one experience has been the same: reviewers spend a lot of time waiting on the viewer to load.

In some regards, Blackout exacerbated this viewer load. Blackout does a lot of things behind the scenes to see the correct file. This work puts an extra load on the viewer that can lead to the degradation of the experience.

Compounding that, Blackout consumes web server resources when it opens, modifies, and saves an Excel. This action invalidates the document cache and forces Relativity to send that file to the conversion agent. Multiplying this behavior for multiple reviewers can lead to a rough viewer experience.


Reducing Load Times

When discussing how to eliminate slowness, we narrowed in on a few critical behaviors that result in lost time:

  1. Refreshing the viewer after an invalidated cache results in the conversion agent doing work and the viewer waiting as if it's the first time viewing the document.

  2. Force-refreshing the viewer after placing the first markup results in a lot of time spent reloading.

  3. Prompting reviewers to "reload the viewer" after every object or chart redaction results in a lot of unnecessary waiting for the viewer to reload.

  4. Waiting on document opens, modifications, and saves can be sluggish, especially for larger Excels.

  5. Taking actions while work is occurring often leads to losing work product.

Blackout 4.2 attempts to address these issues in three different ways.

First, and most importantly, we're moving the open, modify, and save operations from the webserver to the Blackout agent. More specifically, we're creating tasks just like we do for our automated projects and letting the high resource workers, designed for this kind of work, take point. This eliminates a lot of memory overhead from Blackout modifying Excels on the webserver.

Second, Blackout 4.2 also will no longer refresh when placing the first redaction. The document preparation step now resides in the agent server. That means once the markup set is loaded, you can begin redacting right away.

Finally, we've eliminated the prompts to reload the viewer. While this means you won't immediately see boxes drawn for objects and charts, anyone that navigates to the document later will see them in the viewer. We've also updated the panes to give tactile feedback, letting you know that the markups were placed successfully or are still processing.

These three changes will drastically improve your reviewers' ability to move from document to document without losing excessive time to document reloading. Improving review time is exciting, and saving time between documents translates directly to your team's review speed, equating to real-world savings!

The Preservation of Work Product

While working with review teams, we also discovered another painful outcome of using web requests and modifying the document on the viewer:

Everyday reviewer activities could result in the loss of work product. This leads to reviewers having to repeat actions they've already taken and further reducing review speed.

This manifests in a couple of ways in Blackout 4.1 and earlier. The most inconspicuous behavior is when a reviewer refreshes the page, closes the browser, or navigates away from the viewer before the web request to create the redaction completes. If the webserver has already slowed down quite a bit, the redaction may never be applied.

The other result that was a bit more in your face was a conflict between the Blackout document save and the conversion agent having a lock on the document—the infamous "document in use" error.

Blackout 4.2 navigates these two issues by first caching the action taken by the user in the database and then queuing the task for committing the markup to the file. This shift in the order of operations also enables us to conserve work products even if preparing or modifying the document fails!

We're introducing completely overhauled diagnostic and debugging tools with this release, so head over to the release notes to learn more.

Setting the Stage

Blackout 4.2 is our first step in introducing some cool features for manual Excel redaction. It creates a foundation to reduce the viewer overhead and continue creating reviewer-first workflows.

Our upcoming two releases (Blackout 4.2 Update 1 and Blackout 4.3) will explore new features such as replaying the last markup placed and "Find & Redact" – think Excel's find and replace!

We're excited to continue to build on these tools and craft an unrivaled experience when it comes to the fast, safe, and complete redaction of sensitive information in Excel.

As always, let me know what you think of Blackout 4.2 and reach out if you want to talk more in-depth about the future of the product.



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