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Open-Source in Action

Charles Brian Quinn

A new client of ours had a big problem. The site they built was getting too many searches (a very good problem to have). The searches all used Andre’s geokit gem and the geokit-rails plugin to provide local results.

Even with the library’s multi-geocoder support (Google, with failover to Yahoo), the site was hitting the limits imposed by both services every day!

So, we quickly implemented a query caching mechanism that caches geocoding lookups that don’t change very regularly, saving the site from making all those API calls. But, the cool part is, we actually added this functionality to the open-source library itself, and the client’s application now directly benefits.

Several things will now happen, because we contributed back to the open-source library, instead of keeping this “addition” to ourself (and the client):

  • other developers facing this same problem can now leverage our code when they use geokit

  • other developers can now submit even more functionality, fixes or enhancements to our code, and even better support for problems we may have one day, meaning that we will eventually benefit from this too

  • our client now knows that the code they relied on us to develop now has even more developers eyeing it, making sure it works

  • our client (through us) is contributing to open-source, and can feel good about using open-source technologies, having fulfilled their part of the agreement they implicitly made, by leveraging the gains (and price) of implementing a solution based on open-source software

Truly leveraging open-source technology, when done right, can be a huge win for everyone: the client, vendor, and community.

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