Work

  • On Monday I became a line manager. My new starter arrived, I showed him around, got his kit, and dropped him off with his team. I haven’t been on line management training yet, so I’m more or less making this up as I go along.

  • I did some investigation into how we could upgrade to Elasticsearch 6. The current plan is:

    1. Upgrade the version of the ES client library to 6, without breaking ES5 compatibility (done).
    2. Spin up an ES6 cluster.
    3. Modify search-api to index all documents to both clusters (ES5 and ES6).
    4. Fix any problems with indexing into ES6, without breaking ES5 compatibility.
    5. Modify search-api to be able to query either cluster, specified by a parameter passed by the caller.
    6. Fix any problems with querying from ES6, without breaking ES5.
    7. Gradually dial up the amount of queries sent to ES6 instead of ES5.
    8. Switch off the ES5 cluster when no more queries are going to it.

    This is a different approach to the one we took for going from ES2 to ES5, where we had a second search application. That was a bit of a pain at times, I’m hoping that this will be less so.

  • We had a couple of sessions, lead by a performance analyst and a user researcher on the team, to talk about how we think people use GOV.UK’s search, and to come up with hypotheses we can try out.

    One of mine was about how quoted search terms work:

    • Searching for "tax your vehicle" finds things which contain that phrase (rather than things which contain any of “tax”, “your”, and “vehicle” in any order). It returns 31 results.
    • Searching for micropig bread finds things which contain at least one of those keywords. It returns 300 results.

    What would you expect searching for "tax your vehicle" micropig bread to return? 331 results, perhaps?

    It actually returns 95,459 results. This is because the quoted phrase logic only applies if your entire query is quoted. So "tax your vehicle" micropig bread is searching for documents which contain any of tax, your, vehicle, micropig, or bread. That’s a lot of documents.

    So one of my hypotheses was “people expect search to behave consistently, so if we make quoted subqueries work in the same way as quoted queries, then we should see less query refinement.”

  • On Friday the Platform Health team had a belated Christmas party (the previous one having been delayed due to brexit), we went out for food, minigolf, and drinks.

Miscellaneous

  • I rediscovered Interpolation Search, which is like binary search but tries to be smarter about where to split the search space.

  • I woke up on Saturday with a cold, which is still pretty bad now, on Sunday evening. Not really how I wanted to spend my weekend.