Use it or Lose It?


Occasionally, laboratory informatics companies will contact me to ask if I want to hear more about their software. I usually tell them that I’m not interested because I won’t remember what they tell me. There are so many products on the market that all the demos blend-in together. Unless I actually use a brand of software, I won’t remember any details, at all.

By chance, a new company contacted me a couple years ago offering me a demo and I told them exactly this. Recently, I was contacted by someone I know to further discuss a new brand of software they were working with. If you guessed that that turned out to be the same software for which I’d previously been offered a demo and that I’d entirely forgotten they existed, you’d have guessed correctly. I didn’t recognize the name of the software, the name of the people writing it (who I do actually know – they aren’t total strangers), and everything else about it.

Meanwhile, I recently did some training on a different brand of software that I’d never previously used. I went through the entire course in detail and did some extra putzing-around with the software. Now, I haven’t used it for a month and I’m not sure how much I remember. I didn’t use it for a real-life implementation. I find that until I do that, I remember only limited details.

Even regarding software I’ve used for years, I don’t necessarily remember all the details of them when I’m not working with them. Right now, working with the LabWare ELN on almost a daily basis, if you were to ask me to give you details about it, I’d probably not only have a lot of details to give you but you’d have a hard time getting me to stop – working with something daily helps you to remember the details.

On the other hand, I’d been away from Thermo Scientific’s SampleManager LIMS for over a year, at one point, sat down to a new SampleManager project and felt a great big blank in my head. But, as all you technical types would guess, as soon as I sat down to it, all the details came rushing back.

The non-technical types will press us for details of products we haven’t worked with for a while and, since we sometimes draw a blank at the moment they ask us, they think we’ve forgotten it. That’s usually not the case. Even those technical people who work with only one thing seem to think it’s not possible to work with multiple products and remember the details but they just need to get out more.

Last year, I ran across some DCL (Digital Command Language) code. That is the language used for the VMS operating system. I hadn’t seen that for years and years (so long that I don’t remember how long). When I saw it, it all came back to me. The person writing it obviously knew what they were doing – it was so beautiful, so clear, so functional – I had to stop a moment to appreciate it.

In any case, when you all start looking for resources, keep in mind that those people who have used older versions of a product will more than likely remember the details once they start your project. Those people who have never done an implementation are less likely tore ember the details of the product AND have no real experience to apply to it unless they’ve implemented similar products.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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