Recently, I said in a post that I urge people to use tools such as Google for their on-line information searches. That was a general statement and there are times when that’s not the most efficient way to search for things: http://outonalims.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/finding-laboratory-informatics-resources/
I noticed that one of the search phrases that got someone to my blog was “how to dispose of samples in labware lims.” Here’s an example of something that actually doesn’t benefit from a Google search, which is product-specific laboratory informatics information.
For a different example, most of us have stopped carrying around or subscribing to books for tools like Oracle and SQLServer because we actually can do an on-line search and find free tips. After some trial-and-error, we figure out which of the links are paid resources versus free, and which ones are good versus the not-so-much. In fact, I was working with a database expert on a project, last year, and surprised that he also just goes on-line for tips when he can’t remember a bit of information, and that he and I pretty much were using the same links for information. I was surprised because I, like many of the product experts, am not really a database expert, because being “extremely knowledgeable” about something so that you can easily use it with a software product isn’t the same as being an “expert” who can do database administration (an important distinction to make).
However, the products we use for laboratory informatics are not just proprietary but not even used by all that many people, relatively speaking. For example, although Oracle is a proprietary product, a huge number of a the world’s database users are using it. Compare that with the number of people using things like the ERP systems like SAP and you’ll find that the ERP user base is actually rather small, in comparison. Then, compare that with the user base of any of our large user base systems like the LabWare product and it’s really quite tiny, even though it’s a large amount within our laboratory informatics community.
Thus, the technical information you’d need for a laboratory informatics product just won’t be out in the public domain to easily find. You might find a tip or two, but no great base of information. For that, you need to do one of the following:
- For those of you who are paid users or who are “LabWare Consultants,” you need to use the LabWare discussion boards.
- For everyone else (essentially, people like me who are totally independent of the LabWare consulting community and wouldn’t have that kind of access), we all know we have to find a timely way to get this information and keep working on our projects. If you are part of a larger community, like a large consulting company, you could develop your own in-house knowledge base. Or, if you’re smaller like my company, find people you can ask or find places where you can publicly post those questions.
- Don’t assume you can’t get into a software vendor’s discussion board community. Every software vendor has a different policy so find out from the software vendor whose product you are working with whether you can join their community or not. Maybe my situation is different than yours, but I find there are some vendors that offer to let me join their communities even though I don’t use their software, possibly to get me excited about the software or just to be helpful but maybe it’s because they know who I am. Still, it doesn’t hurt you to just ask and find out because all they can say to you if they’re not going to let you in is “no” and then you’ll know.