What’s The Answer? (reinventing the bioinformatics wheel)

BioStar is a site for asking, answering and discussing bioinformatics questions and issues. We are members of the community and find it very useful. Often questions and answers arise at BioStar that are germane to our readers (end users of genomics resources). Every Thursday we will be highlighting one of those items or discussions here in this thread. You can ask questions in this thread, or you can always join in at BioStar.

This week’s highlighted forum post made me wince and laugh. There are so many tools already out there that might solve an issue, but it’s often hard to know about them. For some small problems it may be worth crafting a little bit of your own solution. But for so many others there are tools already.

Forum: What is the proper way to think about reinventing the wheel as a bioinformatician?

I suspect I am not the only one who reinvents the wheel, since there are so many tools that have overlapping functionality. In my case, I found that I was concerned with the time it took to convert between different genomic data formats and it felt easier to write my own. These converters would never stand up to use with everybody’s data, but for my data and my hardware, they work well. Also, because I wrote them, I know exactly how they work. I find it’s often easier to just write my own, than learn somebody else’s system. Thus, I often have to overcome my natural tendency to ignore prior work.

So, what is the proper way to think about reinventing the wheel as a bioinformatician?

I understand that there is no rule that could fit everybody. However, I was wondering if more experienced folks can walk me through their thought processes concerning writing tools, that they know to be duplicative in some way.


I watched the discussion ensue, and was reminded of the Seven Deadly Sins of Bioinformatics in the answers. That’s when I laughed.