/ April 20, 2011

Kaizen and the Art of Software Development

AgileWe’re launching a small upgrade this week to citation lookup. From any search page, you can search for a citation by simply entering the volume, reporter, and first page of a case (for example, 158 F.3d 693). You can also search for a bunch of cases by entering the citations separated by commas.

Until today, the citation lookup was very literal, looking only for cases that start on the page quoted. But that also means that if you searched using an internal pincite, such as 158 F.3d 694, or just got the first page wrong, you’d get no results.

So we’ve upgraded Fastcase’s famously forgiving search box by allowing pincite search as well. If you search for a case using the citation to any page in the case, now you’ll get the case you’re looking for, instead of a message saying that no cases start on that page. (You’ll also get a short message saying, “There is no exact match for this citation – nearest match shown.”)

This is a small upgrade – but it reflects something important about Fastcase and agile software development.

Fastcase is an agile development shop. So instead of releasing huge software updates every couple of years (think Windows 7 or WestlawNext), we roll out new software every couple of weeks. In agile development, we break up revolutionary change into two or three-week sprints of software development. We complete a project, test it, then roll it out – continuously, all year long.

kaizenThis allows us to stay nimble, and to build a culture of innovation. The Japanese call this process Kaizen, roughly translated as “continuous improvement through small changes.” The five main elements of Kaizen are teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles, and suggestions for improvement, and that really captures our ethic for continual improvement at Fastcase.

Because Fastcase is web-based, we can do this seamlessly, without an additional purchase or download, or any interruption at all. Fastcase is just better every time you log in.

That means that every few weeks, you’ll see new features, content, and data types on Fastcase. We’re scanning about 100 books a day right now to build the world’s most extensive caselaw library. We’re investing in infrastructure to ensure that the world’s smartest legal research system is also the fastest and most responsive. And we’re innovating to make Fastcase powerful, elegant, and smarter than any other legal research system in the world.

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