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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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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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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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New Prices and Terms of Use

More than six months ago, we announced Gimlet’s new pricing: $20 per month for your first branch, and $10 per month for each additional. As of September 1, those prices have been in effect. If you’re billed on a monthly cycle, you’ll see the increase in this month’s receipt; if you’re billed annually, you’ll see it on your next invoice.

With this change, we needed to update our Terms of Use document, as it mentions prices. Among some legan and readability tweaks (no more all caps paragraphs!), there are a few other changes of note in there:

  • You’re now formally allowed to be billed annually and pay by check.
  • We clarify our right to talk publicly about aggregated statistics on Gimlet data — trends and the like.

We’ve actually done both of these things since early on in Gimlet’s life (see, for example, the question count on our homepage), but it’s nice to make this more formal.

As always, if you have questions about any of this, please let us know.

September 5th, 2014  |  Published in Uncategorized

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We’re Raising Our Prices!

What’s this all about?

We’re raising the price of Gimlet. Starting on September 1, 2014, the first branch for an account will be $20 per month; each additional branch will be $10 per month. More details will be up soon at our pricing page.

Wait, what? Why are you doing this?

Gimlet is our first product — indeed, our first foray into the business world. When we launched more than four years (and seven million questions!) ago, $10 per month was our honest best guess of what we’d need to charge to cover both ongoing support and continued development of Gimlet. We knew technical and billing support would take some time, but greatly underestimated it.

What we’re working to balance is this: We want Gimlet to be cheap enough that no one ever needs to keep reference stats by making marks on paper again. At the same time, we need to charge enough to build a sustainable business.

What about existing clients?

Existing clients may stay at their current price until September 1, 2014. While we’d like to make that a permanent offer, we can’t afford to.

At the same time, we don’t plan to make a habit of raising our prices. We know you have budgets and plans to prepare, and that changing prices complicates those. We know that the more data you have stored in Gimlet, the more it would hurt to migrate to another service — and we absolutely do not want to take advantage of our most steadfast clients.

What if we’ve paid ahead with an annual invoice?

If you’ve paid ahead, we’ll charge you the new price on your first invoice after September 1.

This makes us really sad! Or: We have questions!

Talk to us. Send us a message at support@gimlet.us, or email me directly at nate@gimlet.us. If you want a public discourse, post in the comments of this blog entry. If you’d like to talk over the phone, send us an email and we’ll set something up.

From us: Thank you.

We can’t express enough gratitude to everyone who has made our success possible by signing up for accounts, talking to us at conferences, sending us feedback, and telling their friends about us. We’re honored to be helping so many libraries do business.

February 24th, 2014  |  Published in Uncategorized

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One more exhibition musing

Next time you’re at a conference, look at the big booths. They’re paying between $15 and $25 per square foot for space. And $200-ish per hour (plus materials costs) to build their displays. And for all of the staff they have on-hand to talk to you and run informational sessions and whatnot. It’s pretty easy to come up with a ballpark figure on what that exhibition costs.

Interestingly, one vendor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while exhibiting at possibly the biggest booth at the conference. Wow.

July 23rd, 2013  |  Published in Uncategorized

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Happy Holidays from Sidecar Publications!

photo

Whether you’re buried in snow like us or out basking in the sun, we hope your holidays are full of warmth and joy.

 

December 23rd, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

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Moving Up!

Here at Gimlet, we’re thrilled to be heading past two milestones.

First: As of this evening, we’ll have passed a million questions. That’s a one, followed by six zeros. 1,000,000. Each of those questions is a memory of a patron talking to a librarian — via phone, email, or in person. In each case, someone needed help, and your staff provided it. Together, you’ve helped a million people since we launched; to say we’re humbled is an understatement.

Second: With that million questions, it’s time for Gimlet to move to a bigger server. Since we launched, Gimlet has been running on a server shared with fifty other clients (managed by the most excellent RimuHosting). We’ve worked hard to keep our code lean and mean and our overhead low, but there’s only so much blood we can get from this stone.

Therefore, we’ve just taken out a lease on our very own dedicated server. In addition to being used only by us, this server is newer and faster than our current hardware, and has fully-redundant power supplies — we actually have two separate generator backups. Power outages like we had this summer will no longer be a worry.

Over the next days and weeks, we’ll be migrating to this new server. We don’t expect much, if any, downtime during that migration process; we’ll keep you notified server if hiccups are possible.

Thanks again for making the first million questions in Gimlet a reality. We’re excited to have room for you to grow to the next millionl

January 11th, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

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More power woes

Hi all,

Our hosting provider is currently experiencing a power outage. Gimlet will return when the electrons flow again. There seem to be rapid updates on this twitter stream.

We sincerely apologize for the downtime.

August 10th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized