Hello, have you met Paul?

Today and for the third time, we’re very happy to share another one of our Meilistars interviews! The Meilistars are some of our top contributors, they all have a plethora of experience they kindly agree to share with us.

The Meilistar we’d like to shine our spotlight on in this article is Paul Sanders, or sanders41, as you may know him on GitHub! Paul has worked in various positions throughout his tech career, for instance he was a data manager as well as a software engineer.

Aside from that, Paul also enjoys spending his free time working on open-source software, both as a maintainer and contributor, which is how he got involved with Meilisearch.

We were curious to know whether someone had mentioned the project to him or if he discovered us by himself:

“I stumbled upon it. I believe it was Twitter where I saw it mentioned and it sounded like an interesting project. Looking through the repo on GitHub I saw some open issues that I knew how to fix and have been contributing ever since.”

We’re grateful he found his way to Meilisearch! We then wondered on the reasons that motivated him to keep on contributing all this time:

“The way Meilisearch does open source makes it a great project to contribute to, regardless of the repo. With a lot of other open source projects it's not unusual to have PRs sit for weeks before getting any review, then there are several weeks between each review. I've even had PRs sit for almost two years before getting reviewed on some projects. With Meilisearch the team is good about getting reviews done and seems to really appreciate the help. After contributing for so long the team there know me and I know them which also makes new contributions easier.”

Upon first discovering us, Paul felt like Meilisearch and Elasticsearch were quite similar but that Meilisearch was easier to set up and maintain, which was interesting to him then.

When asked about how Meilisearch today holds up in comparison to Meilisearch at the time, Paul shares:

“The biggest difference I see from when I first found Meilisearch to now is all the work that has gone into indexing. Work done on indexing speed and batching of jobs have been big improvements. One difference that I haven't used myself, but I see a lot of talk about and seems to be a popular addition is the addition of geo search.”

We were delighted to hear his positive feedback, and we wondered if there was anything he’d noticed could be improved upon:

“One thing that would be nice is some kind of configuration file for the settings. This is especially true for development when you are frequently starting fresh. What I have done for this so far is created a startup script that runs and updates the settings, but it would be nice to have a configuration file to do this.”

We’re very grateful for his feedback since Paul is such an experienced contributor.

A career in tech

Indeed, on top of contributing to Meilisearch on the regular, he worked, up until recently, for his former’s company’s open source Fides projects. Fides is an open-source privacy engineering platform made to manage the fulfillment of data privacy requests and the enforcement of privacy regulations in code. And that’s without mentioning his personal projects:

“ From my own projects the one that Meilisearch people may find interesting is Meilisearch Python Async. As the name implies it is an SDK like Meilisearch Python, but for code bases using asyncio.”

During his time contributing to Meilisearch, Paul mentions he hasn’t had the chance to talk much with his fellow contributors outside of PRs. However, he would be keen to change that! Especially for anyone looking for a mentor:

“Most of my time these days is spent in Python so if there is anyone that wants to get started with Meilisearch using Python, or contributing to the Python SDK and has any questions they can reach out to me and I'd be happy to help.”

With his extensive experience, we are sure he can provide valuable insights and guidance, so don't hesitate to reach out to him.

Knowing that Paul works in tech, we wondered whether or not he’s had the chance to use Meilisearch in a professional environment:

“I was building a system at a previous job where I was using Meilisearch, but ended up moving to a new job at a different company before it was finished. The idea in that system was in clinical trials there is a lot of free text data, audit trails and communications being a few examples. Because this was free text there was traditionally no good way to search this data (typos, misspellings, etc.) so people just had to know that the data existed and where to find it. With typo tolerance in Meilisearch I finally had a way to do it.”

And on his free time?

Aside from his work, Paul also tells us a bit more about the way he uses Meilisearch for a pet project of his.

“I am currently working on a personal project where I plan to use Meilisearch. My sister is a school teacher and she has been having me help her with some tracking data the school systems have to do on students. They are currently using Google Sheets to do this, and there are multiple issues with this in my view. For one it just wasn't made to do what they are trying to do, and for two each student is his/her own file so there is no way to search across students. How far this one goes depends on how interested the school system is in solving their pain point.”

As a final thought, Paul also shares with us an alternate way to look at Meilisearch:

“ I feel like a lot of times Meilisearch only gets looked at for it's ability to search through millions of records because that is impressive and has the "wow factor". I think there is a potential to bring a lot of value in using Meilisearch for much smaller datasets also. Manually searching through even hundreds of records is not something people are going to do, and with Meilisearch being so easy to setup I think this is a missed opportunity for people in these situations. ”

We’d like to extend a warm thank you to Paul for his time and candor during this interview. Don’t hesitate to check out more of our Meilistars interviews and the future ones as well!