Mobility & Complexity

Mobility & Complexity

Neota Logic Server 7.6

When Google says it’s so, it’s so. On April 21 this year, Google Search “expand[ed] our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” In other words, if you ain’t mobile, you ain’t anywhere … because you’ll drop off Google’s first page of results.

The International Telecommunications Union has numbers to prove the point. From 2007 to 2015 the number of mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants rose like this:

International Telecommunications Union 2014

Mobility

Our clients increasingly build applications that will be used by employees and customers on the move. So that our clients can do so easily, we have rebuilt the end-user interface of Neota Logic applications to use the latest responsive design techniques, based on the Twitter Bootstrap mobile-first front-end framework and the jQuery JavaScript library. Applications detect the device on which they are appearing and adapt layout, navigation, and content to optimize for desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

In addition, we have simplified branding and other customization of the user interface. Now, most customization can be done without editing (or understanding) Cascading Style Sheets, simply by selecting options in Neota Logic Studio, the visual programming tool with which applications are built. We have also incorporated the Less CSS compiler, to speed up loading of pages.

Another sort of mobility, or at least we’re calling it that today, is language. Our clients increasingly need to deliver applications in multiple languages. So we invented the Translation Manager, which enables Neota Logic applications to be maintained efficiently in multiple languages and delivered in the user’s choice of language. No, it isn’t Babel Fish, or even Google Translate. The hard work of translating substantively significant language must be done by multilingual humans. But the Translation Manager manages the process tidily.

Complexity

NLS is designed to model and automate expertise—the knowledge and judgment of human experts about:

  • Legal and business policy and practice—on these facts, in these circumstances, what is required, allowed, useful, harmful, optimal?
  • Documents—what text will best communicate the advice, reasoning, rights, obligations, and work to be done, in documents ranging from memos to contracts?
  • Business process—how should the work be done, by whom, in what sequence, with what controls?

NLS is founded on a hybrid reasoning engine precisely because no one mode of analysis is sufficient for the full range of challenging problems presented by law and business. If/then rules, decision trees, decision tables, mathematics, weighted factors, and other reasoning tools are all at hand, and are automatically integrated in both development and deployment.

As our clients build more and more ambitious applications, the data structures have become more complex too. NLS has long provided easy methods for creating and reasoning on data in nested array structures—in SQL database terms, master/detail tables. These can be nested as many levels deep as the business problem requires. For example, the SQL classic Customers > Orders > Products.

In Version 7.6, we have added a new method for reasoning on such structures. Logic of any complexity can be built as a module, called a Reusable Issue. That logic can then, with a few clicks, be applied to each row at any level of the nested structure.

Design Principles

As always, our work at Neota Logic is guided by these imperatives. The policy and process problems of consequence to people and organizations:

  • Require solutions that are flexible, subtle, precise, integrated, and often complex—therefore our software must deliver applications with all those qualities.
  • Outnumber programmers—therefore our software must enable people who are not programmers (e.g., lawyers, tax professionals, business analysts) to create those applications.
  • Must be delivered to end users anywhere, anytime, on any device, in a form that is easy to use.

Of course these goals are always in some measure in tension—power to build the most useful applications vs. simplicity to enable the widest possible community of creators, power to deliver very complex applications vs. simplicity to make using those applications easy.

We confront the tension in every design decision, and continue to examine and re-examine every aspect of Neota Logic Server from this viewpoint. Is the user experience as simple as possible, for both novice and expert authors and end users? Is every feature useful, logical, learnable, teachable, complete, necessary?

We are grateful to our clients for their creative participation in these design decisions.

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