A bit over a year ago, INFORMS took over sponsorship of OR-Exchange, a question and answer site for operations research and analytics. And when I say “sponsorship”, I mean they agreed to host the site and provide all the infrastructure for the system. It was a generous offer to a community that had been struggling to find a reliable home.
Since then, OR-Exchange has, in some ways, thrived. There are more than 600 questions, more than two thousand answers, and scores of participants. Almost every question gets some sort of answer, and often three or four useful responses. The site has avoided (much) spam through the diligence of the administrators (users who receive enough karma through their engagement with the site).
But it has not all be “rosy” (a bad pun, for reasons you will see!). The system response has been, charitably, atrocious, with countless errors, time-outs, and just plain slow days. The INFORMS people tried, but nothing seemed to help much and the open-source community that created the underlying software (OSQA) couldn’t help enough to get things working well.
So those of us who believed in OR-Exchange put up with the slowness because the system was useful. And fun. But we did hope for a day when the system worked better, hoping that would encourage more to join us.
This week, that day has come. Through the work of new INFORMS IT head-honcho Rose Futchko along with INFORMS people such as David Wirth, Mary Leszczynski, and (in earlier efforts) Herman Strom and undoubtedly others (let me know so I can add to the Hall of Heros), the problems seem to have been fixed. The system is noticeably faster and more stable. For proof, I offer the following giving the load times of the front page of OR-Exchange every hour for the past seven days (lower is better: every horizontal line marks 10 seconds). See if you can figure out when the new system went in.
Of course, it might go all pear-shaped (in a wonderful expression I learned in New Zealand) over the next days, but things are looking awfully good (“Don’t jinx it Trick, ye eejit you!”).
If you haven’t yet discovered the joys of OR-Exchange, now would be a pretty good time. You are far less likely to be greeted with a 500 error!