Community Q&A solution and smart knowledge base
We already had experience with the government segment from building the Transnationality EU portal in 2010 and we are fans of e-government. Although we don’t get involved in tenders too often, this was a “must“ for us because the requirements and the vision of the product being made was perfectly resonating - software can help make the world a better place.
It's crucial to clearly define the vision of the product being build. This initial document is later used to finde optimal synergy and helps in harder decisions in later stages of the project.
The client’s main goal was to improve external and internal communication and to create a tool enabling collectively to find solutions to complex issues and store wisdom in an easily accessible knowledge base.
Luckily enough Czech government employs enlightened people and recently tried to omit software suppliers “vendors locks”. So a key part of the conditions was building an open source product. Good for us as we love open source and respect the approach that the job should be done by “who can do its best and with highest effectivity”.
In the idea of not reinventing the wheel we picked up well documented and easy-to-bend Askbot Q&A engine for this. One crucial part was that it had most of the features needed and was written in Python in which our favorite Django Framework is written.
Well that was the heart but what about other organs of the software beast to be born? We dove into open software oceans and started comparing the requirements against all existing open source products and technical maturity. The goal was to find another pre-made subsystem which could save time and work.
We were solving one more big requested functionality: sophisticated search. And we are not speaking about ordinary search of database content but we were aiming to search all attached documents too. And the system should allow to upload different file formats - PDF, DOCs and even images and ZIP files.
At first glance, combining two robust systems under one platform is challenging enough, but we didn’t want to build search layer from scratch. Luckily enough we could pull out another ace from our sleeve. From different projects we had great experience with Elastic search. From from our pros and cons comparison it came out better than Solr, the open source leader in enterprise search solutions.
The idea of rebuilding existing software used in public segment while opening its source code to everyone is charming. OPENode is definitely a pioneering open-source product ordered by state and it will be our pleasure to participate on its future development.
As mentioned in the beginning, we are not big fans of tenders and we don’t believe that competetive tendering which rules “minimum price” with “maximum value” is a good way to pick up right suppliers and get best product. In complex software systems it's very difficult even for specialists to pick out the best contractor. However, there are cases which shows that public sector tenders can be very well specified - at the beginning there has to be a well defined problem, outlined possible ways of solution, combined with a good tender specification.