In the past week, this blog has sparked a few conversations regarding openness within our laboratory informatics industry. One comparison I make is that when we need programming information regarding our databases, such as Oracle, SQLServer or SQL (Structured Query Language) formats, we can easily go on-line and find something isn’t necessarily provided by the software vendors of the databases but by lots of experts in the world that are sharing their knowledge with the rest of us. Even the tippy-toppest experts in the world get information, this way. In these areas, we don’t remain stuck on a problem for long because of the ease of finding this kind of information. But among our laboratory informatics products, we can’t get this information by doing a general web search. Today, I ponder the questions whether we SHOULD be able to do this and whether we WILL be able to do this.
Software vendors sometimes, but not always, have their own areas for people to get information on how to program and configure their systems. In a few cases, those software vendors are willing to let just about anyone have access to this information. My impression is that this is the rare case, though. Also, I do happen to know some software vendors do not offer their information to anyone that isn’t part of their “circle” (i.e., employees, partners, customers who pay their support contracts). Thus, there are multitudes in the world who don’t have access to this information. For example, all the services vendors who are not linked with the software vendor and probably those customers who don’t have or want to spend the money to keep paying their support contracts on the software as it becomes mature, which is more common in the unregulated than the regulated areas.
With the internet and ability to create knowledge bases, there’s no reason these people should be “alone” and that they shouldn’t be able to be part of their own collective and create their own knowledge base to support each other.
Unlikely. Sorry to be so definitely negative about it but I can’t see it happening and being useful. Let me expand on that.
First of all, as you’ve read in this blog and comments in the previous week, our laboratory informatics industry is teeny-tiny compared to something like the database industry. There are quite a lot of companies of a decent size that can create these knowledge bases of database commands for each of the database products and for SQL, in general. We don’t have the vast number of people available to do this. And it’s not only a problem if you don’t have enough people to create and maintain it, but also a problem if you can’t make it pretty complete. If it’s not pretty complete, it’s not that useful and won’t become the “go to” place for information.
Let’s consider that the people most likely to do this would be the largest services vendors. They’d have to have a motivation. If a company didn’t have access to the software vendor’s area, they could setup their own area but they probably wouldn’t have a motivation to share that except possibly with their own customers. On the other hand, by doing this, they could establish themselves as THE experts and draw people to their web-site if they shared it. Or, if they had lots of junior people and wanted to draw-in the senior people in the industry by opening it up to the world, that would be yet another motivation.
Will I Do It?
Nope. Occasionally, people write to me and make suggestions like this, that I should: create a database of LIMS and ELN vendors for our industry; create a database of product information for products I’m an expert in like the LabWare LIMS; build a web-site full of <fill in the blanks>. But, no, I’m not going to do it.
Strangely, even some of the large software vendors have written to me with these types of suggestions. Here’s the bottom line: if I took the time to do something like that I wouldn’t have time to do any chargeable customer work, which is what pays my mortgage and what I enjoy. Also, running a business takes some amount of effort, and it’s more than you might think if you haven’t done it. Some of these larger entities have even suggested they might seed my effort with some money but, once again, that would take me away from the work I excel in which is working directly with customers. I find it odd that the biggest companies would look to the smallest companies such as mine for these things. Yet another issue is that, since I’m an expert in some of these things, I’m not that motivated to create a knowledge base because the experts don’t really need it – it’s the junior people that really need these tools and, thus, are the most motivated to wonder why they don’t exist. Overall, I do try to provide helpful information in my blog but I have to draw the line at the point where it would interfere with my “real” work.