Navigation Toggle

Case Study: Thunderstone Provides a Suite of Flexible Search Solutions for Agency’s Clients

January 9, 2018
Case Study: Thunderstone Provides a Suite of Flexible Search Solutions for Agency’s Clients

Who We Helped

Aztek is a Cleveland-based web design, development, and digital marketing agency with several clients in need of new search software and hardware products.

Their Challenge

As an agency, Aztek works with multiple clients. Each of these clients have different search needs, ranging from basic site keyword search to complicated ecommerce or other custom database solutions. That meant that Aztek needed a partner that was flexible enough to provide search solutions designed for different clients and platforms.

Another key was that these solutions needed to meet each individual client’s expectations and be cost effective. Through Thunderstone, Aztek could achieve these goals and save themselves from having to identify and work with multiple search solution vendors or take on that responsibility themselves.

Our Solution

The short answer is simple; we provided Aztek’s customers with the wide range of quality search solutions that we’re known for. For example, we used Parametric Search Appliance because it has all the everything that 95 percent of clients would need in a search solution, whereas Texis is used where fully-customized solutions are needed.

Since each client is different, we developed a template to determine a client’s search needs and simplify the implementation process. This process identifies the site, applicable domains, and how the results need to be organized. These details allow us to follow up with any additional questions and determine an appropriate solution. Aztek also doesn’t have to worry about compatibility issues because our search software and hardware works with most major CMS platforms their clients use, such as Umbraco, nopCommerce, WordPress, and many others.

Another key part of our solution is hosting and managing the search solution so that Aztek doesn’t have to deal with recreating, reindexing, and rehousing all their clients’ search data. Instead, they receive the final search results directly from us. Aztek also doesn’t have to maintain another server or deal with unfamiliar technology, which is one less thing for them to worry about.

Image of Aztek Web, a company that wanted to partner with a search software and hardware company.

What Happened

Since the partnership began, Thunderstone has helped several of Aztek’s clients, with many more projects currently in process or planned for the future. This has led to clients receiving everything from a new hosted search appliance to a current project involving an extensive database of old catalogs.

Another big advantage of the partnership for Aztek is how it frees them from the responsibility of having to deal with new technology. With Thunderstone, Aztek doesn’t have to worry if software is being updated or who to turn to if there’s an issue. They can share any concerns with us and we can work with them to fix problems or work through new client scenarios. We don’t just supply them with a solution; we work with them to ensure that their clients’ needs are met long after initial implementation.

What Aztek Says About Us

“There’s no ‘it is what it is’ with Thunderstone. Some of the other search solutions we looked at had issues indexing PDFs or issues due to outdated technology, or platform compatibility problems. Working with developers who aren’t familiar with the intricacies of many platforms or who don’t actively update software can be challenging. With Thunderstone, it’s the complete opposite end of the spectrum. We have someone who we can work with, share concerns with, make customizations and is completely invested in the success of our work.” – Keith Rowe, Chief Technology Officer

Work with Us Today

If your company needs proven search solutions for you or your clients, we can help. Learn more about our search engine software and appliances and contact us today to talk to one of our experts about what we can do for your business.

Case Study: BioThane Finds the Right Google Site Search Replacement Through Thunderstone

December 19, 2017
Case Study: BioThane Finds the Right Google Site Search Replacement Through Thunderstone

Who We Helped

BioThane is an American, family-owned manufacturer of coated webbing and assemblies. These materials and products are used for a wide variety of markets, ranging from military and safety applications to dog collars.

Their Challenge

The BioThane website contains a lot of valuable information for users in need of coated webbing. The company offers a wider variety of products that differ in terms of size, look, hardness, durability, and flexibility. All these factors can make it tricky for a user to identify a specific product by a specific characteristic without a good site search. This search function also needs to be able to pull appropriate services pages, blog posts, and other pages that would be relevant to a user’s queries.

Another issue was that BioThane was using Google Site Search, which will shut down April 1, 2018. BioThane wasn’t interested in using the company’s free site search that would potentially serve competitor ads on their site, so they needed to find an appropriate replacement without having to increase their search budget by too much.

Image of BioThane’s website with our Google Site Search replacement platform.

Our Solution

Fortunately for BioThane, Thunderstone has options for businesses trying to replace Google Site Search. We helped them change over to a hosted search appliance built on the Thunderstone Texis platform, which gave them a fully-integrated, full-text search foundation that provides their users the ability to get search results that are relevant to their initial queries. This new platform is also extremely flexible, so BioThane can implement new search functionality over time if the need arises. Also, they got all of this without having to break the bank for a replacement site search.

Improve Your Site Search

Are you in need of a Google Site Search replacement? Learn more about our search engine software and appliances and contact us today to talk to one of our experts about how we can help you.

Case Study: Parametric Search Appliance Helps Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve Prioritize Product Results

October 11, 2017
Case Study: Parametric Search Appliance Helps Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve Prioritize Product Results

Who We Helped

Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve, a family-owned manufacturer of all-natural soaps, shampoo bars, and skin care products in Northeast Ohio. While Chagrin Valley products can be found in several stores in Ohio, most people order their products online and have them shipped to their homes.

Their Challenge

Chagrin Valley was facing a pair of big changes. One, they were in the midst of a new website redesign. Two, the old Chagrin Valley site used Google Site Search, so they needed to find a replacement option since the company did not want to have ads for competitors’ products displayed on their search feed. This new search solution needed to serve their specific needs so that their new website had a strong search function for all their online customers.

One of Chagrin Valley’s challenges is that they have both a lot of product pages and educational pages on their site. In the past, Chagrin Valley customers would complain that some searches would not display the products they were searching for, making it difficult for users to buy what they wanted. However, both products and educational posts were very important to Chagrin Valley, so they needed a solution that would ensure that searches would always populate appropriate products in addition to blog posts and other pages.

Another key element of the project is that the new search solution had to be compatible with Umbraco, Chagrin Valley’s content management system for their new site. Chagrin Valley had looked for some options but were having trouble finding a solution that would integrate seamlessly with Umbraco.

Image of a Chagrin Valley search result page powered by Thunderstone’s Parametric Search Appliance.

Our Solution

Since both products and educational pages were important to Chagrin Valley, Thunderstone configured its Parametric Search Appliance so there were two sets of search results for every query.

If a user searched for a product like adzuki bean soap or an issue like dry skin, the first listings he or she would see would be products most closely related to that search. However, Thunderstone added a second results field on the same page. This second bucket of search results is located below products and displays any related blog posts and other types pages related to the subject.

Chagrin Valley customers had also become accustomed to seeing images of each product in the search results, and the Thunderstone Parametric Search Appliance ensures that each result is displayed with an image and a description of each product, allowing users to find exactly which products they’re looking for.

Image of the other pages bucket powered by Thunderstone Parametric Search Appliance.

What Happened

Thunderstone worked with Chagrin Valley to set up their search solution in time for the launch of their new website. This particular project only took a couple of days to set up, as the Parametric Search Appliance easily integrated with Chagrin Valley’s Umbraco CMS. So far, customers have been able to easily find what they need on the new site through the search function.

Chagrin Valley is just one of many businesses who have benefited from Thunderstone search solutions. Learn more about our search engine software and appliances and contact us today to talk to one of our experts about Thunderstone can help you.

Customer Success Story: Using Texis To Enable Native American Mixed-language Searching On A Heritage Education Site

June 26, 2009

The Challenge:

How do you create an online learning resource with search capabilities that satisfy the special requirements of students, teachers and tribal leaders in today's Native American communities?

    • Kids on the reservations often speak in a manner that combines their traditional native language and English. They want a website that allows them to search for desired information in the same way.
    • Educators need innovative, practical tools that can help students to learn more about their native languages, history and culture. They must teach nearly forgotten subjects and transmit cherished values. 
    • People with the responsibilities of leadership in Native American tribes have a dislike for anything that threatens their unique heritage. They fight against the corrosive influences of rampant commercialism.

The Solution:

The Native American Cultural and Historical Institute (NAI) and Mnemotrix Systems, Inc. created a Heritage Education online database with sophisticated User Group features and Concept Search capabilities powered by Thunderstone's TEXIS.

    • Users of the Intelligent Archive Search tool at can enter 'mix-and-match' queries that combine English with words from the Seminole, Miccosukee, Creek, Muskogee, Cherokee, Apache, Lakota, Sioux, Yurok and other Native American languages.
    • The customizable thesaurus in TEXIS takes advantage of vocabularies developed by Native American speakers working closely with the tribal communities. As more people use this search application's thesaurus and continue to add to it, it becomes increasingly smarter.
    • TEXIS allows NAI to index only targeted content into a fully searchable database optimized for rapidly accessing and retrieving both structured data and unstructured information. TEXIS will enable online users to very quickly find text documents, maps, images, audio recordings, photographs and related educational materials with a high degree of relevance to authentic Native American knowledge, achievements, beliefs and perspectives.

Tendencies within public school systems on the reservations often end up taking Native American kids away from who they are, forcing students to choose between educational attainment and their tribal community roots. In response, the Native American Cultural and Historical Institute (NAI) developed — a Heritage Education teaching resource for tribal educators, students and researchers. This web-based database provides access to an expanding quantity of archived information via Thunderstone's TEXIS search technology.

NAI is a non-profit activity jointly sponsored by the Florida-based Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc. and by Texas-headquartered Mnemotrix Systems, Inc. — in association with participating Tribal Sponsors and with valuable ongoing input from professionals associated with the American Teachers Union.

Creating an Online Educational Resource Customized for Native American Students

Kathy Pincus, Chief Technology Officer at Mnemotrix Systems, Inc., related, “One of the issues with the Native American languages is that they're primarily verbal. It's a verbal tradition more than a written tradition. So, you have the current generation of Native Americans who cherish their language and their culture, which is, of course, disappearing just as many traditional things are disappearing in the modern age. And they want to educate their younger community in these things. The major tool that they have for remembering is the language itself.

“We took advantage of scholarship that's been done in a great number of different Native American languages. Then, with the customizable Thesaurus capability that TEXIS has to offer, we were able to combine the different common vocabularies of the languages. By using your own native language, you can actually do a query and find out what's been written about that subject — although what's been written is in English.

“It's a very unique situation in that we're trying to facilitate a cultural language which doesn't even have a body of written material — only verbal material. You have people who are remembering, in English, things that happened that were of the native culture. They're written down, but they're written in English. With this resource we've created for them, the students of native languages can go in and mix and match in English and their own native language to try and learn more about things that are culturally relevant.”

Kids on the reservations often speak in a manner that combines their traditional native language and English. Why shouldn't they have the ability to search for desired information in a manner that seems most natural to them?

Users of the Intelligent Archive Search at can enter a query using words from the Seminole, Miccosukee, Creek, Muskogee, Cherokee, Apache, Lakota, Sioux, Yurok, and other Native American languages.

For example, if you enter the query hiye food (“hiye” is a Lakota Sioux word for “hot,”) it conjoins the interface for “hiye” with all known thesaurus equivalencies for “food.” The returned results will include items such as: “Native American recipes for soups, breads and hot sauces,” and “Native American Lore” — The White Buffalo Woman — where the following passage occurs: She filled a buffalo paunch with cold water and dropped a red-hot stone into it. “This way you shall cook the corn and the meat,” she told them. It's a smart search.

The Native Language Support page at identifies some sources used to develop the lexical content for the site's searchable archives. When users click on any of the links for the listed source materials, this takes them to a Learning Center where they can learn to pronounce the letters of the words and to verify their sounds and definitions.

Kathy Pincus thinks other competitors in today's enterprise search marketplace do not provide the depth and breadth of 'rich language' capabilities available from Thunderstone's TEXIS.

She said, “The Native American community is a perfect example of a user group. How does a user group work, and how does it evolve? It evolves through its language. And, so, the ability to create a way to deal with the language of a group is a very powerful capability.

“What we have in this particular case is a Native American user group thesaurus language. It's been developed, and it can be added to. The more that it's used — and you put that feedback loop back into this thesaurus — the smarter it becomes. And it starts to create, with this new millennium, a written mind that parallels the thesaurus user group's community. This is something that TEXIS is equipped to deal with that the other stuff out there is not equipped to deal with. It's part of its strength.

“And we're living now in a world of Web 2.0, which 'clicks' everybody away from richness into pre-programmed controlled associations. We've always been about wanting to expand the mind rather than to control the mind — so that you could make associations that were not otherwise possible.

“The ability to do what we did with the Native American community is something that we could do only with TEXIS. It's not something that I would even try to take on without the robust set of tools that differentiate TEXIS from everything else in the market. Let me put it as clearly as possible. The other guys just don't have what Thunderstone has.”

If You Build It, Will They Use It? Addressing Serious Cultural Imperatives, and Overcoming Stakeholder Resistance

Creating innovative language/heritage learning resources for Native American educators requires a willingness to deal respectfully with local leaders and hard-core cultural conservatives who may have very valid concerns about the potential of negative influences that they often see intruding from outside their tribal communities.

Michael S. Pincus, President of Mnemotrix Systems, Inc. (and the husband of Kathy Pincus,) has a long history of intimate connections to the Native American community that began in the 1960s. Recently, when getting started on the NAI project, he mentioned to one his Native American friends that these are really exciting times. “Just imagine,” he said to her, “in the future a Native American could go into space and actually put their feet on the moon.” And she replied in a very interesting way, “We don't want to do that. We don't want that to happen to our Native American tribal members, because we are culturally and ethnically bound to the Earth. And our religion requires that we stay here.”

Mr. Pincus asked her how technology could potentially assist with tribal communities' educational efforts in ways consistent with their cherished values. She said, “Kids on the reservation shy away from using the Internet for anything except stuff that we don't want them to do. And, they don't like using English. We're trying to teach them their native languages.”

Pincus suggested, “What if I built you a specific application where selected websites are indexed into a database, and when kids use it — it only canvasses good information which is all relevant to your Native American issues and NOT relevant to other things? They can't use it for searching porno. They can't use it for searching for new sneakers. It's only predicated on the archives — which are all relevant to your cultural and other views.” She answered. “Now, that's great. That would really work. I'd love it. You'll get a lot of support from the different tribal councils.”

Thus began the Native American Cultural and Historical Institute (NAI) project. While students appreciated having the ability to formulate search queries that combine English with their Native languages, tribal leaders expressed concerns.

Michael S. Pincus explained, “If it [the concept-based rich language search tool] is too comprehensive — then they feel that you're taking advantage of them. You're assuming that you are an expert in their language, when, in fact, they consider themselves an expert in their language. So, what you run into is resistance. To this day the whole issue of educating and working with Native American communities remains difficult for a lot of people. If you don't really think things through and get comfortable with the whole scenario, people just won't use it. They find reasons to be annoyed by something or to criticize what you're doing within it.”

There are linguists in universities studying Native American language, and yet their studies remain somewhat disconnected from the speakers of these languages. From an academic perspective they pay no attention to the true culture and the whole Native American experience of English. Mr. Pincus said there's an appropriate expression seen throughout the literature dealing with Native American thinking and education: ‘It's like fish that don't know there's water.’ had to choose between using vocabularies that come from linguists, which are full of complexities — or using vocabularies that are more 'ad hoc,' that are put there by native speakers for their own benefit. With the advice of Bob Carr (Executive Director of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc.,) who is an anthropologist and archaeologist and an expert in Native American issues, the developers decided to stay within the context of 'ad hoc.' They used dynamic, slowly-growing dictionaries that have been put there by native speakers who are working with this community — as opposed to going with vocabularies from heavyweight academics who have very little connection to Native Americans' everyday world. Doing things this natural, more casual way enabled them to satisfy the sensitivities of cultural conservatives in the tribes, whose tacit approval makes teaching/working within the established educational system less complicated and less difficult.

Since the Native American Cultural and Historical Institute (NAI) began building this new online learning resource, 15-20 additional native language sets have become available to the development team. The Institute intends to expand its linguistic reach to cover nearly all the U.S. tribes. Many tribes, however, won't release the data — because they don't want non-native people speaking their languages.

Mr. Pincus remains optimistic. He said, “Unlike when we first started on this, we now have more Native American educators who are Native American — rather than Caucasian. And, working with them really is great. They're technically savvy. They're skilled at interfacing with a broader community of people. They have experience in working outside of the reservation. Yet, at the same time, they're skilled at handling reservation politics and stuff like that. So, there's an opportunity. It may now be a better place in which we can work effectively.”

Enhancing the Tribal Study Rooms at with Additional Cultural and Historical Assets

Looking to the future, Michael S. Pincus said his current NAI activities include working with the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations to integrate maps, images, tape recordings, photographs and related educational materials that can also support and enhance tribal efforts to shake their communities loose from the negative effects of commercialism.

He noted, “Only certain tribes (many as a result of the casinos) are really doing fantastic. The Seminole tribe of South Florida owns the Hard Rock Cafes around the world. It's wild. And they're doing well. But a lot of the other tribes are still struggling. Seminole education in Florida is improving. They're turning out MBAs, lawyers, archeologists, historians, etc. But, generally, across the country, it still remains challenging. So, we're hoping this will help change that.”


The Native American Cultural and Historical Institute (NAI) ( safeguards and enhances access to Native American culture, history and linguistic heritage. It applies advanced information management technologies and intelligent data retrieval techniques to provide a means by which the Native American community and indigenous peoples worldwide can preserve, research and dynamically study the cultural materials most important to them — while using their own Native Language systems combined with English.

Mnemotrix Systems, Inc. ( founded by Michael S. Pincus and Kathy Pincus in 1986, is an advanced technology developer and integrator that creates intelligent information applications such as NAI. The founders were also involved in the initial design specifications for some of the concept-based technology used in Texis.

Customer Success Story: Using Webinator To Search Online Collections Of Eurasian And East European Research

February 24, 2009
Customer Success Story: Using Webinator To Search Online Collections Of Eurasian And East European Research

The Center for Russian & East European Studies, a sub-unit of the larger University Center for International Studies (UCIS) at the University of Pittsburgh, won a competition a number of years ago to create the Vladimir I. Toumanoff Virtual Library — a collection that includes searchable online documents from many top U.S. researchers and analysts who write about politics, history, sociology, economics and foreign policy related to the states of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe. Thunderstone's Webinator indexing and retrieval software enabled the responsible Informatics team to accomplish this goal in an efficient and affordable manner.

The University Center for International Studies (UCIS) provides the organizational framework that supports the University of Pittsburgh's mission to integrate and reinforce all its strands of international scholarship in research, teaching and public service. UCIS includes — in addition to many other highly-acclaimed programs and component units — a Center for Russian & East European Studies, an Asian Studies Center, a Center for Latin American Studies, a European Studies Center, an International Business Center (jointly sponsored with the Katz School of Business) and a European Union Center of Excellence (funded by the European Union.)

As a thin layer on top of the whole UCIS structure, Central Administration handles all business-related core functions and technology issues. When individuals in any of the sub-units need advice or consulting related to I.T. Services, Knowledge Management, database planning, upgrading of their websites or anything else that would fall into technology-mediated information, they call upon Mark J. Weixel, Director of Informatics at UCIS. 

Discovering Webinator and Getting Started With Using It as an Easily Customizable Development Tool

Weixel recalled, "Back in I guess it was '98, I found out about Webinator from a friend of mine who was at Princeton at the time. We had a particular niche here in International Studies, and we wanted to create mini search engines for web content that was specific to certain world regions. We were hoping to create search engines like AltaVista, since Google wasn't even around then, that would allow people to do full-text searching of those websites. But, because we were vetting the list of sites, we thought we could increase the probability that searchers would come across something really relevant to the part of the world we were focusing on.

"We used Webinator to index and search collections of websites that were in and dealt with Russia and Eastern Europe.

"So, that was my original introduction to Webinator. We bought the entry-level product to begin with, and we currently have the Enterprise version. What I really like about it, still, is the fact that it's relatively easy to configure. It's much easier to configure that it was back when we bought the original product, when everything was run through command lines. I like the notion of relevance in terms of returned hits. It seems to make a lot more sense to me than, for example, Google page ranking — which places a much higher priority on popularity than it does on the actual content of the pages where text matches.

"Another thing that has been nice is the fact there is support for synonym matching within the server. And I think Vortex as a scripting language is very powerful. Even though I haven't used it to its fullest ability, it's proven to be quite flexible when we've needed to make modifications."

Implementing a Sophisticated Indexing and Retrieval Package with an Attractive ROI Track Record

Did they look at any competing products? According to Weixel, no, they didn't — for a couple of reasons. One, they're a small shop and they have to ask, "How much is this going to cost?" And, he said, the ROI for a one-time investment in a perpetual Webinator license was always pretty clear. It was a known quantity to them. Plus, Weixel strongly believed, as the person in charge of actually setting up and administering it, Webinator provided an affordable and high-quality solution for his specific application requirements. The business manager trusted Weixel's judgment, and by all accounts Webinator has delivered excellent results.

As to future expansion beyond the Center for Russian & East European Studies, discussions have begun with several of the other sub-units within UCIS. The Center for Latin American Studies and the European Studies Center also seem interested in putting more and more of their materials online — newsletters, conference reports, etc.

Webinator offers UCIS sub-units the possibility of acquiring a well-proven search engine that they could customize as desired and manage on their own.

Digitizing, Capturing and Making Searchable the Publications that Comprise the Vladimir I. Toumanoff Virtual Library

Weixel said their Webinator-powered search implementation getting the heaviest use right now is a project that the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and East European Studies (REES) has done in conjunction with The National Council for Eurasian & East European Research (NCEEER, frequently pronounced 'Nickser') — a federally funded organization charged with supporting research, typically in social sciences, focusing on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

REES won a competition a number of years ago to create the Vladimir I. Toumanoff Virtual Library comprised of research reports and working papers submitted to NCEEER by scholars under their grants over the last two decades. This collection includes searchable online documents from many top U.S. researchers and analysts who write about politics, history, sociology, economics and foreign policy related to the states of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe. NCEEER continues adding to the collection as its funded researchers prepare new papers.

"We proposed scanning and digitizing more than 20 years' worth of reports and then taking it and essentially pointing Webinator at it and, using the documents plug-in, doing a full-text index of the entire corpus. And I think one of the reasons that we won the competition is because, once we had done the really hard work of creating PDFs out of all the printed documents — we were going to be able to put it in once place and, overnight, have a full-text search index. It's my understanding that that was not a component of the other proposals," said Weixel.

He continued, "We successfully contended for that particular project, got it, spent the better part of nine months digitizing the materials and, I kid you not, it took, I think, less than 24 hours, and we had a fully searchable index of the entire corpus of research products. And it worked out well. We have this nice, targeted archive of material. We've got it set to re-index on a regular schedule, so anytime NCEEER gets a new batch of project reports — they upload them, they get caught in the next cycle of indexing, and it makes us very happy.

"The search interface for the archive materials of NCEEER is available through the Vladimir I. Toumanoff Virtual Library at the website of The National Council for Eurasian & East European Research. You kick off the search there, and then you're transported to Pittsburgh for the actual results set.

"Recently we put the server housing Webinator behind the firewall as part of our new increased security policy at the University of Pittsburgh. The fact that the folks at Thunderstone — John, in particular, in the Support Group — were able to work with me in coming up with a way to take a search query and pipe it through a back door into Webinator and then take the result set and present that to users in an accessible front-end, was just fantastic. It took me about two weeks once I had access to the beta version of the code, and that worked out really well. It was satisfying for me on a number of levels, not just because the product did what it was supposed to, but because I had support from people who could actually help me efficiently accomplish what I needed to do. That worked out very, very well."

Weixel added, "Our audience is interesting. Of course, we're housed within a major research university. So, we do have a number of our projects where we're trying to target our students and our faculty. But the area studies centers, these sub-units underneath the University Center for International Studies, most of them have federal funding that mandates what they call 'outreach' — trying to bring the message of international studies to a larger community, whether it's a local business community or whether it's local educators at the Kindergarten through high school level. Most of them probably have some kind of academic interest in one of the regions of focus. However you look at it, it's a pretty large and diverse audience.

"Being in an international studies environment, one thing that is important to us is foreign language support. I will admit to not having tried this yet with any of the CJK languages. But, in terms of the European and Cyrillic-based languages that we've indexed, Webinator has been a really good performer. And we've been quite happy with that."

For more information about UCIS or any of its area studies centers, you may contact UCIS by mail or email at:

University of Pittsburgh
University Center for International Studies
4400 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260