Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature


June 2008

And so it ends

Which is the most accurate test for diagnosing genital chlamydial infections in men, DNA amplification test on a first void urine or a urethral swab?

Was the first question posted to the NLH Q&A service in November 2004. Nearly 6,500 questions later, this question closed the service:

Is there any difference in upper GI side effects with risedronate compared to alendronate?

A sad day…

From one Q&A service to another

This is the final week for the NLH Q&A service. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response from GPs and apparently there has been a lot of chatter on GP mail-lists moaning about the decision to close the service. So much so it came to the attention of a health journalist and I had a chat with them earlier this week. You can read the story here. I don’t think my opinions were fully represented, but then that’s the nature of journalism. Interestingly, the same GP chatter stimulated a call from BMJ-land.

I have mixed feelings about the end of the NLH Q&A Service.

On one hand I’m sad for:

  • The users of the service. I have been so humbled by the feedback I’ve received, it really has been great. I think it’s a missed opportunity to not – somehow – keep the service running.
  • Rosalind. She has worked on the Q&A service from near the start and has been wonderful. She made a load of brave decisions to come and work with me on Q&A. I’d like to think she’s learnt a lot from the experience. Fortunately, she’s got a new job but it will necessitate a move from Aberystwyth to London. I suppose I’m sad that I’ll not be working with her for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand I’m getting so excited by the new Q&A development (TRIPanswers) which will launch in the summer. I’ve had the website to play with for a few weeks now and have been testing it fairly extensively. I’ve just sent another batch of feedback to our web-developers, so I’m hoping the work will be as good as completed by the first week of July. However, the launch won’t happen then as I need to populate the site with data – which is a long, hard, manual task.

I’ve also been making new relationships with various Q&A providers around the globe and that will all help support TRIPanswers. I genuinely think TRIPanswers will be bigger than the TRIP Database…

Speed update

Well, the extra RAM is now in the system and there is no obvious improvement in speed. It’s invariably quicker at certain times of the day (peak times when memory was an issue).

The analysis of speed and the identification of bottlenecks is booked in to start mid-July. This will highlight code inefficiencies that can either be fixed as they go along or will need further work. Fingers crossed it’ll be the former.

TRIP speed – we’re working on it

I’ve noticed (and no doubt lots of others have as well) the pretty awful speed of TRIP in the last week or so. Just to say SORRY and that we are addressing the issues:

  • As a short-term measure we are quadrupling the memory in our servers. This should boost speeds considerably and hopefully this will be in by either the end of this week or the start of the next.
  • On a more medium term basis we are carrying out some sophisticated analysis of the site to identify where the bottlenecks are. We’re hoping that, once this has finished, we will be able to allocate resources at the problems. If we’re lucky the extra memory might sort everything out!

I use TRIP everyday so am acutely aware of the need for speed – we’ll get there….


Alexa is a leading resource for looking at the popularity of a website. Given the demise of the NLH Q&A I thought I would compare the NLH Q&A service with the NLH itself (click on image for larger size):

They say a picture is worth a thousand words!

There are some caveats associated with those figures (isn’t that always the way). But it’s certainly worth pondering.

Slow blog

I’m aware that this blog has been slow over the last week or so, the reason is simply I’ve been too busy with ‘all things TRIP’ to contemplate what to write about. Specifically, I’ve been heavily involved in 4 significant chunks of work:

  • TRIP Spain – should launch very soon.
  • TRIPanswers – I’ve been given the site to play with and/or test. I’ve started adding questions and answers and I’m very pleased. So far I’ve added 250 questions, only another 5,000 before we lauch (in about 2 months).
  • Advertising – we’ve moved to a new advertising providers, I’m having to manually assign search terms we receive on TRIP to the advertisers advertising categories. This is very labour intensive, but it’ll hopefully be worth it!
  • Winding up the NLH Q&A. Not much to do really, I’ve already started relaxing and moving my mental efforts to TRIPanswers…

I imagine I’ll start more regular posting soon(ish)

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