It’s been quiet around here for a little while, so it’s about time I share what’s been going on behind the scenes. As you might imagine, just because we haven’t had a lot of news doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy.

The biggest thing I have to share today is that we’ve moved our CourtListener infrastructure to new and bigger hardware. This task has taken months to complete and involved applying many updates to the code and infrastructure. For developers, this upgrade comes with a few changes:

  1. Our default database for CourtListener is now Postgres rather than MySQL. This is something that’s been planned for a while, but wasn’t really possible until a big upgrade like this one. The big changes that come out of this are non-locking queries for our database dumps, and better performance for many of our queries. Since Postgres is a transactional, stricter and more featureful database, we’re convinced that it is a better way forward than MySQL. Oracle lately hasn’t been a great steward to MySQL, so it was a good time to jump ship. As a bonus, Posgres was started in Berkeley, our hometown.
  2. We’ve removed the CourtListener installer from the codebase and are instead opting to use a wiki page with lots of detailed instructions. The reason for this is to give our developers a greater understanding of the code they’re running. We found that when people used the installer, it sometimes failed partway through. When that happened, people were baffled about what went wrong. We’re hopeful that the new system will allow people to update the wiki as needed, and will give them greater insight into how to fix a broken installation.
  3. We’ve fixed some issues with our Celery queue to make it faster and more reliable.
  4. We’ve upgraded our search engine to use Solr 4.0, again improving our performance, and also giving us greater flexibility and stability moving forward.

In addition to these software changes, on the hardware side, we’ve gone from “large server” to “giant honking server.” Our new server has 24 cores, 128GB of memory, SSD drives in a mirrored array, and really flies through what’s becoming our increasingly big set of data.

On the Juriscraper side, a new feature we’ve just rolled out as part of this upgrade is the addition of three new Federal courts: the U.S. Tax Court, the Court of International Trade, and the Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims. We’ll soon be rolling out the historical data for these courts as well. We’ve added a new sample_caller to Juriscaper that makes it easier to test and integrate the library, and this has helped us to build and test these new courts.

Finally, as part of our ongoing efforts to work in the open and share out processes, we’ve begun using Trello to track and prioritize our tasks and ideas. You can see and join the CourtListener planning board here: https://trello.com/b/F3jrqway. At a glance, this board provides you with a list of the things that we’re currently working on in priority order (top is the highest priority), and gives you a look at what our backlog looks like (“long” is probably the best description!). If you’re interested in contributing to our process, this is a great place to get involved.

With these changes, we set the stage for lots of new, great features and lots more data. We look forward to your feedback.