ontolo Blog

Major Update Coming: The Prospector and More: Feb 2, 2016

After a few weeks of delays, this will be released tomorrow, March 1, 2016.

I had anticipated releasing this a week ago. Then I got pretty sick before it could be rolled out. I’m still fairly under the weather, but able to start working on wrapping up this release. Assuming I don’t get worse, this will be out next Tuesday, February 2nd.

As a number of you might know (and have contacted me about it), getting this part of the tool out is about a month late. This was for a few reasons, but the largest reason was the desire to get this piece of the new ontolo toolset done right.

Here’s what I mean…

When developing software, it’s a common choice to release something quickly, or take some extra time and do it “right.” Of course, it’s not always tell what’s the best design decision to make, but you can usually feel if the path you’re on isn’t quite right. And not being “quite right” means that you’re going down a path that might be easier now, but will cause problems later.

And I made the decision to take some extra time to get it done right. I thought it would be an extra couple of weeks, but getting sick (for the first time in about 18 months) definitely affected that.

What this means for you, as an ontolo user, is that future updates and additions (of which the list is growing…I’ll get to that in a second) are able to:

  • Be implemented very, very quickly. Far faster than if I had gone down the path I was originally planning.
  • Scale much, much more easily. Ontolo is already fast and, in its current iteration, scales very, very well. But as the additions of prospecting sources grows, it was clear there would be a bottleneck somewhere not far down the road. Rethinking this piece of the design now allows ontolo to use a (virtually) unlimited number of prospecting sources and it won’t break a sweat, no matter how many other customers also sign up. This solution wasn’t obvious, and a lot of other decisions were weighed for quite some time. But the end decision – to value scalability over ease of development – I think that’s going to be a great decision for everyone and well worth the wait.

This brings us to what’s coming up and a bit about why these decisions (and extra development time) were so important.

The Three Updates

There are three major updates coming next week. The CSV exports, additional search tools, and The Prospector.

CSV Exports

CSV exports are pretty self-explanatory.

Additional Search Tools

Additional search tools… Right now, there are a couple-dozen search tools you can use to find things like affiliate opportunities, link opportunities, content marketing opportunities, etc. That number will jump to around 100 next wee and they all sort really well into a few, clear categories.

The Prospector

The biggest update, though, is The Prospector. This is the tool I get the most requests about, and the most customers following up on it. (Really, thank you all for being so patient.) In the previous version of ontolo, The Prospector essentially just pulled search results from, let’s say, one of the major search engines into a database for you.

What’s coming next week is a prospecting tool that aggregates data from multiple different sources. While I don’t expect to ever reveal those sources, you can expect about a half-dozen to be included in next week’s release. It’s a pretty great set of sources and, on top of that, the queries used on those sources is being expanded to accommodate the scale of prospects that ontolo can now handle in your account.

But here’s where it gets interesting, and where the extra development time went…

Scaling The Prospector

With the way the new Prospector is designed, adding new sources will take less than thirty minutes after a new prospecting source has been tested and identified. Obviously we would run a number of tests against the data and that would take longer than a half hour. But to actually implement the new set of code across the several dozen machines in the network, would be very fast and very easy.

This is important, because in the process of seeking out new sources, I have a list of over 200 more to run through that have passed my initial qualification.

On top of that, we would need, quite literally, tens of thousands of prospecting sources and a huge number of customers for the prospecting network to become bogged down due to resource usage. If I had continued down the path I was on, ontolo would surely be buckling and require a complete rewrite of the Prospector very, very soon. And until that rewrite happened, it could be a pretty bad experience for you. So I decided to avoid all of that and get that work done now, and push the release back a bit.

The One Caveat

There’s one caveat here. And that’s that, as fast as ontolo is, we’re still at the mercy of politeness. Some of our sources in the future are not as robust as the huge sites out there that you know the names of. So there will be sources where prospecting will simply take longer. Along the same lines, there is a limit to our ability to prospect from sources given the size of our network. Depending on how quickly folks use it, I’ll start scaling up the network as needed.

This ability to scale the network with minimal effort was another piece that took a fair amount of time. In essence, the question becomes one of “how do you introduce an untrusted computer, with no code, into an existing network, and have it all just work and work with a minimal amount of time and effort in getting it set up?” Or, in other words “How do you add 100 computers to a network, just as easily as adding one computer to a network?” So that’s taken care of, too. And I’ll begin scaling out the network as I see more how folks are using the Prospector.

Even with that caveat, it will still be very fast. The previous version of the prospecting tool took about 5-10 minutes to run a report that might have up to 10,000 prospects in it, exported to CSV. That new set of prospecting queries could now run in as little as 20 or 30 seconds. And, instead of just spitting the data into a CSV, it’ll go into your search index, allowing you quickly find those prospects that matter most to you, without having to spend so much time sifting through prospects.

What to Expect Next Week

This will all be rolling out next week. I expect it to be out Tuesday morning, though it could be as early as Sunday night.

On top of that, some of you have noticed that documentation has not been finished. This is due to all of these changes and it becoming clear that it would be much faster to roll everything out at once, rather than incrementally. That’s a limitation of the current design, which is also resolved in next week’s update. Updates will be much easier to incrementally implement.

Thank You

I really want to say thank you for being so patient. I know this has taken longer than some folks were willing to wait, and I really, really understand that. I hate that it’s taken this long, but I feel much better that it’s being done right for you.

One thing I could have done better was to properly set expectations with this. I went dark on communication because it wasn’t clear what the updated information would look like or when it would be out. I’ve also brought someone on board who will be helping with support emails, which is an area that’s personally challenging for me. It might be a more personal post I write about later, as I’d imagine some other folks might struggle with similar things. But for now, I think that’s about as much as I’d prefer to say about it. And the person who’s starting, she’s fantastic, super kind, caring, and helpful, and will be starting next week when the new update is pushed live. If you end up needing any help with your account, etc, I think you’ll really enjoy working with her.

Additionally, future announcements will now be released /after/ updates have been made, implemented, and available to you. Exceptions to this will be major releases, which I expect to occur about once a year. For those, there will be pre-announcements to help people understand what to expect.

That said, be on the lookout next week for the announcement on this. And stay tuned as new updates are made. There are a number of features and updates I’ve never mentioned publicly. And you’ll begin seeing those showing up on a regular basis. I likely won’t announce each new, individual source added to The Prospector, but I’ll find some way to let you know when they’ve been added via a status page, etc.

Thank you all again. I’m looking forward to getting these major features out to you soon.