An example of Open Source we use – Apache Lucene

This blog post includes the following very relevant thought:

Apache Lucene/Solr is used in more companies than a large majority, if not all, of the commercial vendors out there combined

I’m not sure how you can “prove” this but anecdotaly I suspect there’s a lot of truth there. Which is a good example of the use of Open Source components Vs “more Enterprise capable” bits.

Fact is, Lucene works and it works better (for our purposes) than any other search engine – commercial or open source. We’ve look at a whole bunch, both standalone and those embedded in SQL Databases.

Not only does it scale well, but it was easy for us to customise it to work with the specifics of our problem domain – for example, allowing users to search for sample IDs within the text of a document, even when they are formatted in a way that causes most text engines to treat them as “noise” words. And when a customer does have a problem, it is really easy for us to see what’s going on and tweak as required.

The only problem we have is when we meet an IT dept who is used to traditional search engines – we say “It’ll work like this, it will take this much resource, and will easily scale to X” and they don’t believe us – “it can’t be that easy surely? – you guys can’t have done this.”. Which is a little energy sapping… but nothing that can’t be resolved with a Pilot, and once we’ve reassured them about that, they tend to respect the other engineering calls we’ve made.

We’re hiring

We’re looking for an additional business development person, to be based at our UK offices in Binfied, Berkshire.

Our selling style (if you can call it that) is very “soft” and respectful, so we’re not looking for hard-charging sales people. But if you’ve an interest in helping people improve their lives in the lab, or you are a sales person and understand the concept of “Trust based selling”, do get in touch –

Configuration Vs Customisation (and Configlets)

Gloria Metrick takes on “Configuration” Versus “Customization” on The Integrated Lab.

I agree with her definitions and to some extent frustration with the mis-use of the term, as I think it causes customers to get misled – intentionally or otherwise – by the sales team.

At the risk of provoking Gloria I will confess that we’ve coined the term “Configlet” in PatentSafe, which is “One or two lines of code which do something customer-specific”. PatentSafe has a whole bunch of places where it can call these Configlets and it is proving to be a really easy way to make the system extremely flexible without being overly complex. You can do pretty much anything in Confliglets and people are, which is quite pleasing even if we do get surprised sometimes!

I wouldn’t call this kind of stuff Configuration – you’re writing code, even if it is just a little bit of code. But we don’t consider it to be fully-fledged Customisation, at term we use for “We needed to get really intimate with the product’s source code and do things specifically for this customer”. Configlets are sort of in between the two, as they are generally fairly straightforward and often portable between customers.

As an aside, we are planning to create a library of Configlets for customers to build on/copy.

Twittering from the Blog

I’ve setup to send a Tweet when I/we publish something. I appreciate this might become annoying but it doesn’t get many posts so hopefully it’s more useful than an irritation – but I am sure I’ll get feedback!