Sourcerer 1.0
posted 2017.11.18 by Clark Wilkins, Simplexable

Sourcerer is our newest project. It's a dual-purpose information distributor in that there are two classes of users: dealers and public users. Both classes can use the sourcing form to distribute their requests for parts (public), but only registered users (dealers) get the requests. The rule set is very simple:

  • Anyone can make a request which has three components: a category, a description of what I want, and a way to contact me.
  • The system immediately sends SMS (text) and email to every dealer interested in that category with the full content of the request form.The dealers and purchasers deal direct with each other. Sourcerer stores nothing but dealer connection information — all requests are considered transient.
  • Dealers are added to the system by invitation. Any registered dealer can send an invite to any other dealer. The email contains a single self-registering link. One click and the invited party has a Sourcerer account.

While there is a public user interface, the main use of Sourcer is intended to be dealer-dealer. If you need a Siemens 32-channel 3.0T head coil, you grab your phone or click a bookmark on your desktop browser, fill in three lines, and immediately every Siemens MRI parts source registered on the system gets the word. There's no need (and in our sponsor's case, no time) to make a dozen phone calls. This is the raison d'ĂȘtre for Sourcerer.

Now a bit of discussion on the design and structure. First, here's the home screen for a public user.

The menu is only two commands. (A dealer gets a third command "account" which lets them configure settings and send invites to other dealers.) Some thought was given to skipping this screen and going straight to the sourcing form, but it's pretty and we get a lot of good feedback on it. Once the forms are in use as shown below, the nice background is obscured behind 90% opaque overlays, so we show it off just once.

The sourcing form is very simple: category, description, and contact information. The point here is that we want to get in and out fast.

Categories have two aspects: the manufacturer and the modality. In early stages, we had these as two separate fields, but realized this was an unneeded complexity. Why have the user select a manufacturer and a modality separately when you can do both in just one control? (We also skipped having any sort of interface for adding to this list. It's a hard-coded text file controlled by us, but we add manufacturers and modalities on request.)

The submit button appears when the user has qualified the input — all three fields are present.

On submission, the request immediately goes to every registered mobile (SMS) and email address for each dealer who has expressed a desire to receive requests in this category.

The "about" page does double-duty as basic instruction and site contact. No need for two menu commands. It's "about" the software and "about" us.

We're leaving the dealer management page ("account" tab) private, but it has three components:

  • What categories are you interested in?
  • Who should we contact (unlimited email addresses and mobile phone numbers)
  • Who do you want to invite to join as a dealer?

It's a simple design but we're excited about it and hope it gets a lot of use. The backend of this one was our first project using jQuery which seems pretty easy to pick up — at least for the very simple engine behind Sourcerer.