Editorial September 2012
ON THE PERILS OF UNIQUENESS
The calendar says September, and the first faint hints of autumn are in the air. On campuses all across the country, a new academic year is underway. And here at Choice it’s the beginning of another volume year with all its new hopes and plans. Chief among these is the long-awaited launch of Version 3.0 of Choice Reviews Online. When will it appear, you ask? It’s hard to say, even now, but when it’s ready, we’ll let you know. Soon, I promise.
Given the unexpectedly lengthy interval that has elapsed since development work began on this latest version of Choice Reviews Online, we sometimes find ourselves discussing the “saga” of CRO3. We recognize, of course, that it’s a bit of a stretch to describe a software development project as a saga. It is one thing to seize the readers’ attention with tales of ancient Norse warriors, and another altogether to achieve the same effect with a narrative on XML tagging protocol under the NLM Archiving DTD. Ah sleep, innocent sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, why dost thou make such haste to visit me now?
But however soporific the subject matter, every project comes with a story and a set of potential lessons. And here at Choice, where the not quite finished saga of CRO3 is but one of a series of similar tales, there are two key lessons we have taken away from our collective experiences with this thing called software development.
Lesson number one: When it comes to software development, the devil really is in the details. Make that really, really, really in the details. Suppose, for example, you are the publisher of a hypothetical book review journal, let’s call it Chance, which uses a multilevel subject taxonomy to organize its reviews. And suppose that this is your initial foray into the brave new world of online publishing, and you are talking to a software developer who has already developed a platform for another publication whose content is nearly identical to yours, save for a single-level subject taxonomy. And suppose that, after explicitly discussing the taxonomic requirements of your project, the developer tells you “piece of cake.” What are the chances the developer is correct? Pick the best answer from among the following: a) zero, b) less than zero, c) even less than less than zero, or d) all of the above.
Lesson number two: In the world of scholarly publishing, Choice is a unique animal. We are very pleased about that. It confirms something we have always thought about Choice. And lest there be any doubt, we have been reminded of just how special Choice is not by one but by all of the developers with whom we have worked over the past decade and a half. Uniqueness, it’s a wonderful thing, but in the world of software development it has a bit of a downside, two small things called time and money.
That then is our experience, dear reader. We leave you to draw your own lessons from it. And we hope, we really hope, that you love Choice Reviews Online 3.0 when it appears. Trust us, it’s unique.—IER