Online LoggingReplacing your Master Log - maybe not right now!
- Must be free to use.
- At least 500k Active Frames.
- Detailed Scrape History.
- There should be a batch load function.
- You can upload a CSV or XLS file.
- You can download a CSV or XLS log.
- You can attach images.
- You can have freeform notes.
There are now a number of online log facilities available, some are web only and some are web and android applications. They should deliver huge benefits to the plane spotting community, giving you the ability to add to your log wherever you are – provided that you have connectivity. In my opinion it’s still hard to beat a pen and notepad, but these online logs can bring huge benefits – they will be even bigger once they all come into alignment.
At the moment most of these online logs are in their infancy, they are to be treated with some caution in my opinion – for a number of reasons. The average user of online services like this is unlikely to be fully aware of the implications of using the service, they will understand that the data that they input will be mined for the benefit of other users – that is a given. But they may not be fully aware of the risks, especially where the security of data is concerned.
Lets use a hypothetical example, an extreme one – but an example none the less. Our spotter “Fred” takes the plunge and goes off to Oshkosh on a spotting trip, taking with him his trusted iPad or Android tablet. Which he uses for everything for the full week of the EAA AirVenture, logging and photographing in excess of 20,000 aircraft over the seven or eight days. Now I know from personal experience that logging this kind of activity is intense, it is unlikely that someone could log those kind of numbers – but this is hypothetical so “Fred” is a star and manages.
Our man “Fred” continues his spotting trip and returns home, taking a well deserved rest from spotting for a few days. Once things have returned to normality “Fred” decides to edit his log, adding some additional information to his log and possibly a few edited photographs is the intention. Only to be greeted with “The Web Page is not Available”, the situation is the same a week later – because the website no longer exists. The reason is immaterial, it is no longer there – what does “Fred” do. It might be that “Fred” has a local backup of the data, he almost certainly will have the photographs – but there was a reliance on the site as that was where “Fred’s” master log resided.
You may think that the above example is a bit extreme, to be truthful it is – but from experience when things go wrong they tend to go wrong in style. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t use these online facilities, quite the contrary. They should be used to the maximum, but with certain caveats. Any that restrict your ability to download and copy your data should certainly be avoided, this is simple logic – no sensible person would rely on a single copy of the data existing forever.
So if you can’t keep a local copy of your data, or you can’t readily download your data – avoid the web site. I’m certain that these websites are here for the long haul, but if you don’t have a copy of your data in a useful format you are asking for trouble.
This is an extremely simple lesson, if the app or website isn’t as good as a notepad and pen – stick with the notepad and pen. You may think that I’m being a bit picky here, but if the notepad and pen works – there may not be a need to change it. Lets look at this logically, when you go on a spotting trip how do you log? If you are anything like me, you’ll write the date and location at the top of the list of aircraft and then complete your log for that location – the other data doesn’t really matter.
If for example you add notes, does the online log allow you to add notes? If you always take a picture, can you add pictures? This is all very simple, think about what you do when you spot – does the app or website allow you to do it?
Does the App or Site suit?
- Is the App or Site free – at least to trial?
- Is the App or Site fit for purpose?
- Is the App or Site easy to use?
- Does the App or Site work when you need it?
- Does the App or Site have the data you need?
- At the end of the day, can you make a copy of your data?
- Is the App or Site kept up to date?
- Does the App or Site work for you?
This might be the most important lesson, many of the sites will have advantages over other sites. They will range from ease of use to data content, it is up to you to decide what is important. After all there is no point in paying for access, if there is a free site that ticks all the boxes! So it is up to you to do your research, I have a very extensive database – it fits my needs very well and generates the reports that I need. But I have to say that I have taken well over twenty years to build the data set, it has been built just the way that I want it.
My personal observation is that few sites will deliver the content that I require, however if you find a site that delivers what you need – then best support them. It is likely that things will go well for them if they tick the right boxes. But you do have to bear in mind that you are supporting them, whenever you use the site you provide the site owner with revenue choices. If you feel that the site could be improved, let them know! These apps and sites need feedback, without your input – how are they going to be any better than a notepad and pen?
The bigger picture, well when it comes to spotting it is entirely down to the individual. But most of these sites deliver similar functionality, differing in smaller details and obviously pricing where they charge for services. When choosing one of the web based services, each individual will have to decide what would be the best site for them. For me it would be absolutely key to be able to upload and download a copy of my log, I wouldn’t even consider using a site that didn’t allow this option.
Checkout the logging facilities I have found, they are listed and reviewed as much as I can. Please bear in mind that I am looking at these sites from a personal perspective, so although I have looked at the site – you’ll have to make your own decisions about whether the logging facility is suitable for you.