Control Over Formalisms

(Ref Id: 1430060549)

When discussing DIY-LIMS expect to be confronted with the old question, 'to customize or not to customize?' There's an appropriate old saying that comes to mind that goes like this, 'if you ask the wrong question, you are likely going to receive the wrong answer.'

The real question doesn't actually have anything whatsoever to do with customization, its merits, costs, etc. The real question is whether one should accept, unreservedly, externally created/managed formalisms for laboratory and related business operation. Those formalisms come as algorithms immortalized in software code.

Your LIMS Droid

Using a software system it is a bit like hiring an android. You give it instructions and it handles them according to the preconceived modes of operation. These modes are imbued in it by its developers and maintainers -- oftentimes the vendors. The formalisms of which we speak make up 'how' the android will operate. They guide what it does when it stores and retrieves your data as well as in computation. The prerogatives of the vendor are paramount in the android's design and maintenance. They are primarily economic and they ask: 'how can we maximize profitability without noticeably altering perceived quality?'

The classic question about whether or not to customize comes when the financial prerogatives of the customer come into odds with those of the vendor. The vendor maximizes profitability by selling a highly generic and repurposable droid. Specialization damages this and as such the classic outlet has been the customization option. Essentially it says, 'here is a system (droid) that many other laboratories use; anything that it can't handle you can add yourself through customization.'

If one loses sight of the original question about maximization of profitability then current happenings in the industry will appear altogether baffling. Now it seems that vendors no longer want you to customize the droid. The argument is that the systems are advanced enough to handle all of your needs and as such you needn't worry yourself about customization anymore. Which is more likely to be true: a) LIMS are so useful as to no longer need any form of customization or b) that somehow your ability to peruse/modify/discuss the formalisms that you are adopting for your laboratories may also hinder the vendor's efforts to maximize their profitability? We, the purveyors of DIY LIMS as a discipline, believe that the answer is unquestionably the latter.

The Less You Know

Remember that the question is, "how can we maximize profitability without noticeably altering perceived quality?" The crux of that question rests in a single word: 'perceived.' If the purveyor of a system can convince you to reduce your perception, either by consistently changing the subject to silly arguments, by ignoring the issues, or by blatant coercion, they can increase profitability by switching to inferior parts. The old way of saying this is that they can achieve their aims by 'dumbing down the market.' The less you know the easier it is to sell you gold-plated pot metal jewelery, so to speak, for full price.

Shifting Gears: The DIY Culture

DIY is pervasive in that it crosses disciplines. It is cellular in that it is distributed and components are purposefully released in various states of completion for others to utilize in their own works. The quality of those parts, their manufacture and utility, now becomes paramount because the consumer is paying attention. And when people, en masse, are paying attention it is a lot harder to fool them.

For a live example, consider the giant Ikea where you can purchase the parts to build virtually any home fixture, unpainted and unassembled, for use in your own designs. Yes, it is a bit more difficult to purchase an unassembled chair or parts of a chair and put them together than going to the store and buying one outright. Helping you get over that hump is what DIY is all about. When DIYers band together, communicate, and most importantly share these obstacles can be overcome.


The question is not whether to customize or not -- the question is whether you realize the risk of letting some outside entity make all of your decisions for you. There are competing profit motives with the LIMS -- yours and the vendor's -- and the classic way that issue has been settled was through customization. Lose that and you surrender your ability to control your destiny so that a vendor can achieve higher profits. DIY is not some unproven business model. Giant corporations like Ikea bank on the consumer's desire and ability to control their own environments. The same can be applied here in laboratory informatics.

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Citation: Control Over Formalisms. (2015). Retrieved Wed May 23 11:00:21 2018, from;iid=readMore;go=1430060549