Richard Boulton home

Weeknotes 3 and 4

13 April 2014

I missed writing up week notes last week due to a nasty bit of flu, so I'm combining notes for weeks 3 and 4 together; I only managed to get about a week's worth of work time in that period anyway.

The main focus of the past couple of weeks has been working on a stripped-down search interface, which gets rid of the separate tabs and instead just returns a single stream of results. This involved building a new interface to our search engine with a clean API, which has turned out very nicely. I've received a lot of helpful code review for this work, which I'm very grateful for - this code has historically been worked on just enough to make it function, and isn't in a terrible state given that, but it's good to be making it cleaner as we modify it.

Morale and enthusiasm feels to have taken a big leap forward recently; we've removed the wall that I mentioned in the last week notes, and the space feels so very much better. I've got to know a few members of the other half of our team better, and have had lots of spontaneous chats about future planning as and when things come up (without being too distracted by such things, either). I've also been pairing quite a bit with other members of my team on the new search stuff, which feels great.

The new search interface is not yet deployed to production, but will be shortly deployed behind a query parameter, so that we can let user researchers and others start testing it. The interface is a very simple list of results, and the next steps are to add some features to allow filtering and sorting the results in custom ways.

The new API uses elasticsearch's facet operator for the first time, to build a list of organisations that a search result could usefully be filtered by. Work is in progress to add organisation filtering to the interface, but the user interface for that still needs a ton of work. I'm mainly expecting to focus on improving the relevance ranking next, which I'm looking forward to lots. I have lots of ideas to try out, and also this week I'm attending a large conference on information retrieval ( http://ecir2014.org/ ) so I'm hoping I can pick up some tips!