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Gimlet v2 – Coming Soon! Really!!

Hi everyone,

It has been far, Far, FAR too long since we updated this blog — and honestly, it’s my single greatest embarrassment at the moment; life is a comedy, right? Our humblest and sincerest apologies for the radio silence here from Gimlet HQ.

However, that quiet was not for lack of effort on Gimlet v2…

Grand Ideas

When we first started Gimlet v2 we had a solid design prototype and some grand ideas. We thought we would launch Gimlet v2 as its very own application and keep the old Gimlet v1 around for clients that didn’t need all the new features.

I poured myself into the work and it was going great! I had the BIGGEST CRUSH on it. I simply adored the work. It was a complete re-write of the codebase. New front-end libraries for the UI design, and substantial upgrades to most backend features like authentication, caching, searching, and reporting. WE BUILT IT ALL. We even took this new Gimlet code out for beta testing with some close clients. Feedback was positive. Really, really, positive. We were right there on the threshold and then we stepped back.

Quiet Introspection

Re-writing a successful application is truly a great adventure. It allows you to re-learn the nooks and crannies, all the small but absolutely essential things. And while many times I think of Gimlet and I say to myself “there’s not too much code there”… but OH MY there really is a lot of nuance here. It’s very easy to mistake simplicity and complexity.

When we were almost out the door with Gimlet v2 (the first go around) we started to ask ourselves a lot of very tough questions, and the most important one was: “How hard will it be to run two different Gimlet applications?”.

We re-read the code we wrote and we hesitated. We began to fully realize we’ve essentially doubled the challenge of providing this service. We’ll need to keep two separate application environments running. We’re going to use two different search engines. We’ll need twice the application monitoring, performance monitoring, backups, migrations. For customer support, we’ll need know if Client A is using Gimlet v1 and how to troubleshoot that, and then when Client B might need help with Gimlet v2, that’ll be a whole different thing. Yikes! It should have been obvious, but happiness and momentum can sometimes mask the unmistakable.

As you know, we’re a small, independently owned, business. To be successful, we need less challenges, not more. We looked at the situation and knew we’d need to make Gimlet v1 and Gimlet v2 be the very same application. There is no G1 and G2, there is only Gimlet (sorry for the Yoda-speak).

So, long story short, we’ve done that.

Cheers to the Future!

It took more time than we wanted (or wanted to admit to ourselves), but we are nearly there. Last week, we put the first major block into place on the production server: our new search engine. This will be the backbone of the new Gimlet. In fact, we’re indexing data into it as I write this post.

Someday quite soon, after some important testing, we’ll begin dripping clients into a preview of the new interface. We want to give everyone time with the new and old interfaces, so you’ll be able to toggle back and forth between the two until you are comfortable. And, the big goal is to have everyone migrated over to the new user interface this summer.

The biggest take-away I have from all of our effort over the last year is that I strongly believe we’re a much stronger company now. Everything has been double-checked, double-thought, and double-measured.

We’ve traveled back through all the complexities we solve with Gimlet, and we’ve built a new application base that will allow us to add fun new features with much greater frequency. While that might sound a little too “PR” rah-rah-rah boastful, it’s honestly true. I’m so proud of the work we’ve accomplished.

It’s going to be a great year for Gimlet. We’ll be in touch again VERY soon. We Promise.

Sincerely,
– Eric for Team Gimlet.

May 17th, 2018  |  Published in Uncategorized

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Gimlet v2 – Question Entry Improvements

Our time-tested interface for adding questions is simple, comfortable, and super easy to use. You can introduce new staff members to Gimlet and they “just get it” extremely fast. It’s intuitive and straightforward.

Gimlet v1 - Question Entry Form

So… How do you improve on all of that goodness? We have some GREAT ideas.

Gimlet v2 Question Entry Highlights

1) Site/Location

Our new design places these least frequently changing options outside of the main data entry form. You’ll sign into Gimlet, make sure your library branch and service point are properly selected, and you’ll basically never need to change them for the duration of your shift on the desk. Time saved for everyone.

2) Difficulty

Difficulty is an optional category in Gimlet and it will also be optional the Gimlet v2 — if you’re interested, an account administrator can toggle this feature on or off.

In Gimlet v1, the difficulty option was a set of radio button options below our tagging feature. In Gimlet v2, we’ve moved difficulty into the main form entry area, which makes using the option faster, and allows you to better label your difficulty levels. It streamlines the entire form, making it the same type of input as the other main categories. Again, this change will help to speed up data capture significantly.

3) Time and Date

It might not be well known, but Gimlet v1 has this feature where you can enter time as a spoken phrase: “1 hour ago”, “15 minutes ago”, “yesterday at 3pm”, etc. We also auto-increment the time of day per second, which is pretty nice most of the time, but it hides that today’s date is the assumed date.

No more. Enough being cute.

We’ve separated time input from date input in Gimlet v2. Now time works all by itself. You won’t get one of those silly data entry errors saying Gimlet doesn’t understand the time you entered. The date input also includes a native calendar picker, too. These changes will keep you accurate and raise your confidence as you enter data.

4) Tagging

Tagging helps everyone keep their data terse and accurate. A nice set of promoted tags helps make Gimlet easy and quick to use. Because of it’s importance, we’ve given the tag input area more prominence. Free-text tag entry is disabled by default, which will help cut down on all the “dvd” versus “dvds” tags in your data. And, if you do enable free-text entry, tags will now be comma separated (because that’s how most of us assume they’ll work). We’ve simplified the tag auto-suggestion and entry process, too.


So, ultimately, what is already a quick system to use at the desk today, will be a much, much faster system to use in the future. Sound good? Let me know what you think and drop a comment below!

Okok, that’s all for today. I’ll return next week to write a post about search improvements in Gimlet — something I’m thrilled about. Stay tuned!

Cheers,
– Eric

April 28th, 2017  |  Published in Gimlet #2

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Gimlet: Now with the Power to Forget

The Internet never forgets. Starting now, Gimlet can.

In Gimlet, we’ve always encouraged our clients to keep their data free from sensitive or identifying information. But from time to time, we’ve noticed personal data slip in to the database. And once it’s in, finding it and cleaning it out by hand is nearly impossible. So! To help you keep your (and your patrons’) digital lives free of radioactive sludge, we’ve added a new feature: the Gimlet Privacy Guard.

With this feature, you can choose an amount of time (between 30 and 365 days), and after that time, we’ll automatically clear the Question and Answer fields from your entries. After 28 days, our backups are automatically purged, and that radioactive data will be gone. Completely.

Other fields (your stats categories, tags, and timestamps) won’t be touched — so you’ll still be able to see reporting trends dating back to the dawn of time. The main thing you’ll notice is that, since the question and answer text has been cleared, the search feature won’t find these questions anymore.

A bit more background

As we go through our online lives, we leave behind a trail of data about our personal lives. In our Gmail inboxes. Our Amazon purchase history. Our Facebook profiles. The catalogs of the libraries we visit.

Tech companies are terrified of losing this data, because losing customers’ data is bad for business — but also because this data is valuable. Data lets companies train machine learning programs, so they can tell which emails are spam, make better guesses at what you want to buy, and know that you always want to read the status updates from your secret Facebook crush.1 And a large segment of the tech industry is built around selling data about your behavior to the highest bidder. (We here at Gimlet will never, ever do this. Your data is yours.)

All of this data piles up endlessly. One person aptly compared this data to the radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants. As long as it stays safely contained and no one uses it for evil, it’s safe enough. At some point, however, private data is going to escape its confines and bad things will ensue.

For example: Did you know all of the data in Gimlet is available to the United States government, without a warrant, through a National Security Letter? If we were to receive one of these letters, we wouldn’t even be able to tell anyone except our lawyer. These days, trusting your online data will stay private means trusting the United States government — whoever may be in charge.

We take the custody of your data very seriously, and we know that giving clients this option means someone might accidentally delete something important. At the same time, part of taking care of your data means giving you the power to clean up the sensitive patron data that might slip into your database. Every online service provider should give you this ability. It’s the right thing to do.

See the documentation for more details on how to turn your Data Cleaner on and add a bit of ice from the river Lethe to your Gimlet.

If you have any questions or comments, let us know.

  1. Yes, Facebook knows.

April 18th, 2017  |  Published in Uncategorized

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Gimlet v2 – Development Update

Gimlet #2

Hi everyone,

For the better part of a year, we’ve been hard at work building the next version of Gimlet. Internally, the project has a lot of nicknames — “G2” or “#2” or “Version 2” or “the next Gimlet” — and it is pretty much all I work on outside of customer service and support these days.

Last spring at the Public Library Association conference and last summer on this blog we shared some demonstration screenshots of G2 and we were extremely excited about a design prototype we had created. Since that time we’ve worked to write the actual application code that will power our new design. We are quite a ways toward that goal now, with the hope we can begin testing an early-release of the application with a few select clients very soon (more below).

My ten favorite things Gimlet #2 actually can do today, that Gimlet #1 cannot:

1) Hide the free-hand, tag-entry form
2) Support bulk tag-editing
3) Edit text using Markdown
4) Perform faceted searches
5) Run a date comparison report
6) Download embedded charts as images
7) Perform a three-level, pivot-table report
8) Mobile interface
9) Separate time entry from date entry
10) Highlight search result text matches

SO! Our next steps for Gimlet #2 are to lock down a preview branch of the project and start collecting feedback from current clients. That step will happen later this month (April 2017).

We have already identified a few clients that are interested in helping with this next stage of the process, and we’re extremely grateful for their offer to help. If your library uses Gimlet #1 and you’d like to help us complete Gimlet #2 by previewing your data in the new interface, and providing us feedback, please contact us. We unfortunately don’t have the capacity to offer every current client a preview, but we’ll try hard to help the first handful of clients that reach out.

We’ll be back in touch with additional Gimlet v2 details each week this month. Stay tuned.

Cheers!
– Eric for the Gimlet Team

April 13th, 2017  |  Published in Gimlet #2  |  2 Comments

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New Report Option: Promoted Tags

When we launched Gimlet, our tagging option was completely free-form. “Power to the people!” we thought, “Let the best cataloging scheme arise spontaneously from each individual’s work!”

Chaos, of course, ensued.

As a salve for the unfettered free-tagging going on in everyone’s Gimlet accounts, we introduced “Promoted” tags: Gimlet administrators can define some “approved” tags, and people using Gimlet are strongly encouraged to stick to that list.

And thus, the chaos decreased.

The problem, though, was: What can people do about the past chaos — especially in reporting data? Even after setting up your list of promoted tags, reports would still show the effects of the previous free-wheeling days. And we really wanted people to be able to leave those days behind them without the work of cleaning up all the original data.

So! As of now, you can limit your tags in the Detail report to only show the promoted tags. Select the “Tags (promoted only)” option for either Rows or Columns and you’re set. It’ll change your reports from looking like this:

Uncontrolled tags screenshot

to this:

Promoted tags screenshot

September 13th, 2016  |  Published in Uncategorized

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Gimlet – Improvements Coming!

Today we’re excited to announce a series of feature improvements coming to Gimlet. I’m thrilled about the future of Gimlet and you should be, too.

We’ve spent a great deal of time analyzing customer service requests and we’ve talked directly with several clients to build a solid vision for how we can add the most value back to the software.  This post is going to provide an overview of the work we’re undertaking, with more posts to follow providing detailed information on each of these major new features.

Okay! Here’s the list of coming improvements:

Improved Search

One of our principal design goals in this round of updates is to give you better access to your data in Gimlet.  To that end, we’re adding a faceting search engine to allow you complete control over how you query your data.

Features

  • Facets for limiting your results to particular category values
  • Full support for complex, nested Boolean queries
  • Improved phrase and proximity searching

Search Results


Improved Reports

Our new search engine will also power our next generation of reporting tools.  Doubling down on this new technology will allow you to query and facet directly within reports, providing you all the means to analyze your data in great detail with rich, ad-hoc control entirely at your command.

Features

  • New downloadable charts and graphs
  • Compare data between date ranges
  • Facet or query directly within reports

Comparison Report


Awesome Mobile Support

We know a lot of Gimlet use occurs at a traditional service desk, using a standard desktop computer. We also know your staff use Gimlet throughout your library on a wide variety of devices.  We’ve designed the next version of Gimlet to be mobile-first, and fully responsive, to create a user experience that’s natural and optimized for any device.

Features

  • Use Gimlet on any device, anywhere.
  • All the power desktop Gimlet on your phone
  • Speech-to-text entry on mobile devices
Mobile question form

Mobile question form


Speed Entry

New clients are always worried about how much time it takes to use Gimlet.  It’s dreadful for them to imagine typing each question verbatim into the question form. PLEASE DON’T.

It’s always been our recommendation that people only write question and answer text into Gimlet if it’s worth searching for again in the future.  Many times (perhaps most even?) it’s not worth adding that text, but you still need to record the transaction.  Enter speed entry.

Here’s how it’ll work:

  1. Choose a question type
  2. Add tags (optional)
  3. Save! 🙂
Speed entry

Speed Entry – Choose a question type, optionally add tags.

That’s as quick as entering data can be.  You’ll be able to switch between Traditional Entry and Speed Entry on-the-fly, so select whichever makes the most sense for you at the time of need.


Okok, that all sounds wonderful! When are these updates coming?

That’s a really good question.  The new search engine is a large and important update for us.  We’ll be moving that tool into production first and before we release any other changes. In fact, when the new search engine upgrade occurs you won’t even see anything different in Gimlet.

All of the user-interface improvements described here are next. These upgrades are significant, so we’re stilling working on the details for how we’ll release them. More information will follow in the coming weeks, but for now, we felt it was high-time we shared a glimpse into the future of Gimlet.

Do you have any thoughts, concerns, or feedback? Please drop a comment below! Thanks.

July 19th, 2016  |  Published in Gimlet #2  |  2 Comments

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Top 10 tags used in Gimlet

  1. printing
  2. holds
  3. books
  4. dvds
  5. computer_help
  6. libcard
  7. renewals
  8. checkout
  9. book
  10. supplies

Okok, this isn’t very interesting, but it’s pretty true of any reference shift I ever had.

January 20th, 2016  |  Published in Uncategorized

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2025

I just set a reminder in my calendar for 2025. Ten years in the future. My oldest daughter just started kindergarten; she’ll be learning to drive when Google emails me about this.

Recently, we took the plunge, spent the money, and registered a trademark for Gimlet. (In retrospect, we probably should have done this sooner, but no harm has come from waiting, either.) With our fancy trademark certificate came a reminder that our registration needs to be renewed after ten years. Into the calendar it went.

It’s a little strange to think that whoever wins the American presidency in 2016, we’re planning to still be around when they’re long out of office.

September 24th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

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Fifteen Million

Just a little shy of our sixth birthday, our database has crossed the “fifteen million questions” mark. 15,000,000. That’s a 15 followed by six zeros. A bit more than the population of Istanbul. At the rate we’re going, we’ll pass the population of Shanghai in less than two years. It’s a big number and it keeps getting bigger.

I thought I would have something big — something profound — to say about this, and how it feels, but I don’t. More than anything, it’s a reminder that libraries are vital, living places with librarians helping thousands and thousands of people every day.

Here’s to another fifteen million.

Also! As a small reminder, next week we’re headed out to ALA. We’re set up at booth 3243. We’d love to see you.

June 18th, 2015  |  Published in Gimlet

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Come see us at ALA!

That’s right: After missing out on Las Vegas, we’re headed to San Francisco for ALA 2015. Come visit us at booth 3243.

If you’d like to set up a time to talk in a more in-depth way about how you’re using Gimlet and how we could make it work better for you, send a note to support@gimlet.us and we’ll set up a time with you.

May 14th, 2015  |  Published in Gimlet