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Why does scouting seem to be so out of touch with the software and computing world?

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  • Why does scouting seem to be so out of touch with the software and computing world?

    Just finished signing the troop up for summer camp using a web-based package (apparently commercial) called "Campersoft 2005." Absolutely one of the worst applications I have ever used for this type thing. Took me 3 hours to sign up 8 scouts - yuck!! Signed most of them up twice, the rest three times. At least it works somewhat with my Safari Browser, which is better than all of the recent BSA software I have tried, like Internet Advancement, etc.

    You might think with all of the smart folks involved in scouting that we could at least get reasonable web-based stuff on a national level (developed for national and distributed to the councils with iPhone app plug-ins, etc.), but not so in my experience. I guess these folks don't see it as important that the SM/CM's be able to do the job in reasonable time. Not to mention the poor people who don't do scouting every day trying to get a little info.

    Even the council databases are unstable, keeping lots of garbage and dropping a lot of important stuff, like merit badge records. I sure don't need a bunch of cub scout records on a scout who has been in boy scouts two years, but I get them on every report.

    So far, Scouter Network seems to fulfill a great communication function. I hope the policy guys are on here, because they are losing a lot of opportunities in electronic media with garbage interfaces and sorry applications. Not everybody out here is behind the times, but BSA needs some serious help. Maybe put the recent college grads in application development and the folks with a little more maturity in the DE slots?

  • #2
    So I'm in the software development industry and can state a few facts that may or may not have bearing on this situation.

    Software development takes time and lots of testing to produce reliable and efficient apps. Though it may seem that the kid next door can build a video game in 2 days, its a hack job that will only work for the way he uses it - its not a commercial grade application that has to support half a dozen different browsers (and the 2 dozen different versions of the same browser floating around) or an unlimited number of mobile devices.

    I might also venture to guess that the BSA does not want to put out the funds to support a large development effort, so what you get is some people with good intentions that volunteer their time until they get to the point where they decide they've spent enough time on the job and they stop. ie.. 'close enough for government work'.

    And a word about recent college grads: they are recent college grads, which means they have little experience in real world application development. To illustrate a comparison, would you want a 'recent college grad' to operate on your colon? ;-)

    Keep in mind that many council websites are run by volunteers, so they won't be as well maintained as a commercial site.

    Hope that makes sense.






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    • #3
      Perhaps this will answer your question.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFMaFBeGpdI

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      • #4
        I have done some software development in the distant past. It appears to me that most of what BSA has done along that line is about where we were in 1985-86. Maybe a good thing they decided to hire a Chief Information Officer as in the video. Maybe not, too. Usually those guys are a lot of talk and no action. Scouting needs a strategic plan to service the needs of the volunteers, then execute. Paying a lot of money for executive horsepower doesn't seem to have worked up to now! Maybe they need to get on Scouter Network and ask what we need......won't hold my breath!

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        • #5
          Yah, hmmmm....

          That video as close as I can tell shows two complete technology nitwits. Nuthin' but a bunch of buzzwords and vapor. I particularly didn't care for da way the CIO fellow poo-pooed the people who actually do the work. That's not good management or good scoutin'.

          And I reckon it explains why despite well nigh 15 years of complainin' about this stuff, we still have all da problems smalltroopSM describes.

          B

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          • #6
            smalltroopSM,
            Campersoft is a private software that a camp can choose to use for registration. It's not a National BSA software. Our Camp Director purchased it and uses and claims that the unit leaders like it better than using DoubleKnot. I asked how he knew that when he has never asked anyone their opinions on the registration software. Maybe the Campersoft folks would like your input on how to improve their product?

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            • #7
              Yep, Beav, that was the impression I got from the video too. This guy is off playing with his Crackberry while the rest of us just want to know who in our unit is trained.

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              • #8
                I am another guy in the software world (though I market and sell it). The BSA is a great target for a services firm, but why would you develop for just one customer who is a non-profit? That is a tough path to take.

                We would be better off finding something that is developed for the corporate world, and finding a way to get a non-profit price for it (Salesforce.com for example has a way to get free licenses for non-profits). I would think that a 80% solution that is regularly updated thanks to profit based firms would be better than a 100% solution that will never have the revenue to pay for updates.

                It would be great to have a 100% cloud based solution that any camp could use, that would also integrate with Troopmaster for example. I focus on the cloud because few camps (or councils for that matter) will maintain the investment in servers over time either. Better to dump that on someone else in exchange for the constant services cost.

                Too many people treat tech as one-time purchases instead of as the constant cost that they really are.

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                • #9
                  I agree with the OP.....
                  I'm new as a scouter, but so far I've gotta say I'm surprised..... no, shocked...... at the lack of continuity and support with almost everything digital, or that could be digital.

                  - lack of tools for tracking and logging
                  - lack of web site continuity for packs or troops to use
                  - lack of mobile / cloud based tools
                  - I'm finding it very difficult to find local in person training to supplement the on-line stuff, and for training such as BALOO
                  - I have really had to dig to find out basic info., and then often find contridictory rules and guidance.
                  - lack of an 'official' communication forum, such as this one.
                  etc.....

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                  • #10
                    Easy answer: It's hard to do it cheap, and it's expensive to do it the easy way.

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                    • #11
                      I am always surprised on how hard it is to sign up for events. I send emails, make calls, etc.

                      Now if I make an RSVP for my kids sunday school event, or afterschool activity it is usually via somesort of web-based program like EventBrite.

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                      • #12
                        Tokala wrote: Our Camp Director purchased it and uses and claims that the unit leaders like it better than using DoubleKnot.

                        ==============================

                        To be fair, I think most unit leaders would like a sharp pointy stick in the eye more than using doubleknot.

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                        • #13
                          I too am in the software industry and am regularly disappointed by the lack of sophistication shown by the software used by the BSA.

                          My sense is that the national corporation isn't too concerned about the issue. The lack of organization in the software seems to mirror the lack of organization in so many other aspects of the BSA. (e.g. the historical merit badges didn't come out at the beginning of 2010, the Welding merit badge didn't debut when they said it would, etc.)

                          Partly I suspect this is because the BSA doesn't think it would be worthwhile to spend the money required to be better in some of these areas.

                          Things I don't really understand about the software:
                          - why isn't there an easy way to do Scout tracking? Why do we even needs programs like TroopMaster? Shouldn't we just be able to enter all this data into the BSA cloud?
                          - why can't there be a consistently easy way to sign up for things? Our PTA can use signupgenius just fine, but a national organization can't provide a consistent mechanism?
                          - why not have an easy template for new packs and troops to use to set up their digital presence?
                          - why is it so hard to find stuff on the national web site? Where are the web sites of the councils that border mine?
                          - why can't membership applications be done electronically?
                          - why doesn't the myscouting portal automatically associate your new id with your training profile when you register?
                          - why isn't it easy to find people at national to provide feedback to?
                          - why isn't there a national database of training courses being offered?
                          - why isn't there a well-organized policy document? Especially one that answers a lot of standard questions?

                          I feel like one guy with a vision could make a huge difference here. Well, that, and some money to make it happen. But seriously, a lot of these things are not that hard.

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                          • #14
                            Yeah, we put a man on the moon with a slide rule...... this aint that hard.....

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                            • #15
                              Where is the money going to come from??????


                              We are talking about money here........Update the entire scout operating system.....

                              It could be done in under 3 months....all it takes is lots of money...Been involved in a lot of IT projects.....

                              Web presence again.......How many megs per unit??? allow pictures????? Most MOM's don't understand that their 12 mega pixel camera is shooting 5 meg or bigger pictures.....We had one mom exceed our website file capacity with 10 pictures.....

                              servers and processors and storage are expensive...... Who is going to support them????? In house contractors????? so we have 8 folks for supporting unit websites....Probably not enough for all of the folks who will be trying to use it......those folks aren't cheap......say $80-100k a piece a year. So we are talking a million bucks for just supporting unit websites.....


                              So would you approve a $10 per scout increase in membership cost to cover the improvements?????

                              Or if your tech savy....how about taking 6 months off work and volunteering your expertise to develop it....

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