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  • ScoutNet 2000 Information?

    There's a group of techno-weenies in our district that are trying to create an web-based, open-source module that would be freely available for all troops, packs, and crews that they could use to keep track of their rosters, advancements, events, etc. much like TroopMaster or PackMaster.

    Because absolutely no information is coming out of the BSA's Council Services Division (which is in charge of the ScoutNET project) we are currently reverse engineering the system from the information that we can get from our local council (field reports, registration files, etc.). Does anyone have any technical specs on these formats that they'd be willing to share?

    Additionally, what is the National Office gaining by making this information secret? Are they getting some kind of license fee kickback from the four vendors they initially certified? We thought they would jump on the idea of having Scout leaders writing software and making it freely available to the entire Scouting community but all we have found are roadblocks.

    It's really frustrating because a system like this that was developed openly could also help at the district and council level. We'd love to take the next step and build camp/event registration modules built on the same formats. Today you have to pay for them but with Scouts from across the country working together, we could provide it for free and benefit the whole community.

    Why is this so hard sometimes?

  • #2
    I would venture its because they do not want any claims of favoritism. The commercial guys paid for the information and paid to get certified as compatable. So national isn't going to give it away for free.

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    • #3
      I'd be willing to bet that at least part of their fear is some form of hacking or piracy. Any open-source program that can plug into the national database would certainly make me at least a little concerned for the privacy of my data there.

      I commend your attempt, but am not really sure why it needs to plug into ScoutNet at this point- most of us would just be happy with a good, solid program that can handle a pack, troop, or council event well.

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      • #4
        The modules we're building aren't designed to be plugged into the actual data network but just to handle the data in the ScoutNet 2000 format in the same manner PackMaster and TroopMaster do. Simply publishing the data format layout does not pose any security or privacy risk. We're continuing our work even without the official formats but we'd like to be able to have units export their information in ScoutNet 2000 format to simplify the rechartering process.

        Plus I agree that the event registration modules would be useful with or without the proper formatting. We've already built routines to extract scout, leader, and unit information from the district field report print file and put it into a relational database. I'd just feel better knowing we were following a national standard rather than using a proprietary format we designed on our own.

        To me it is the programming equivalent of the BSA Engineering Service publishing their plans for a patrol chuck box. How many troops have benefited from the release of this simple document? It gives you the materials you need, a blueprint for the design, and instructions on how to put it together. We should have the same thing for unit management systems which would also benefit a large number of scouts.

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        • #5
          Enter into a licensing agreement like the commercial companies did, pay them and they will be surprisingly cooperative

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          • #6
            Actually ... no, they won't.

            The Council Services Division has stated that "about a dozen" vendors were initially invited to participate, and five submitted proposals. Four followed through. Unfortunately if you were not on the initial list way back in '99, you have been frozen out ever since. The CSD continues to inform even commercial companies that they are still not allowing additional vendors to participate, despite continued promises to the contrary.

            Don't get me wrong. PackMaster, TroopMaster and the rest are great programs that provide a big benefit for units. My own pack and troop use them in their day to day operations. However, not every unit has $70-$80 to spend on such software and they shouldn't need to if a group of Scouters is willing to provide similar software for free.

            And I apologize as I shouldn't have gone off on a rant. We'll just keep plugging away with what we have and perhaps it will still be of use to those who can't pay the commercial fees. It's just my roundtable background that makes me feel like the concept of leaders helping leaders should trump any commercial interests.

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            • #7
              Best of luck. I would be happy if the BSA could just print our correct town on the Eagle Certificates. On the last 4 certs issued, they were wrong. A written communication to Texas corrected one Scouts certificate but the next three were right back there with the wrong town listed. I called the Council again, today. Was informed it had something to do with Scout Net(?) and they would try to correct it.

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              • #8
                lol- you should SEE the faces on my old Scout office buddies when I mention ScoutNet 2000 to them- some of them REALLY hate that thing! I hope it works better now!

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                • #9
                  Our pack would like to start using mgmt software. Packmaster and ScoutTrack have been recommended. We like the distributed, multiple entry aspect of ScoutTrack. Our council can accept a Packmaster "csv" file (not a "comma-separated value" file) for rechartering. I've been unable to figure out if ScoutTrack can generate a ScoutNet 2000 compliant file. Does anyone know if it can -OR- is there another program with mutiple entry that does? Are there any recent comparisons out there? thanks in advance....

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                  • #10
                    Scout track is not scoutnet compatable, nor will it be based on the fact its an internet based system

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                    • #11
                      I started a similar program a few months ago, but ran in to the same roadblocks. Without ScoutNET compatibility, there really is no reason to use said program over one of the commercial implementations.

                      The closest thing I got to "discovering" the formatting of the report was reverse engineering and decompiling one of the commercial implementations.

                      Of course, this isn't exactly ethical, nor documented and guaranteed to work. I'm sure like anything as massive and undocumented as ScoutNET *appears* to be from the outside World, there are going to be minor nuiances that will prevent my "hacked" attempts from working 100% of the time.

                      But frankly, at this point in the game... I don't think ScoutNET is really all that important. If BSA wants to keep it's data formats proprietary and feed the commercialized entities who are monopolizing us with old and un-connected software... then so be it.

                      If the "open source" movement is so proud and dedicated as it wants to proclaim... it will start to co-exist without ScoutNET... and eventually BSA will desire it's data... Then we can discuss interoperability.

                      Phillip

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                      • #12
                        This has nothing to do with answering your question, but you might want to hook-up with the guy who started these threads:

                        http://www.scouter.com/forums/viewThread.asp?threadID=43884
                        http://www.scouter.com/forums/viewThread.asp?threadID=43835

                        Although his focus is PWD software, he also mentions advancement tracking.

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                        • #13
                          I've only seen a tiny bit of ScoutNet. It seems to be a fine example of 1970's software engineering.

                          The Council-types I've talked to about ScoutNet just kind of roll their eyes when I've asked about it. They seem not happy with it. Apparently, the history of it is pretty typical of software projects not managed so well. The story goes that at the time of imminent release, there were a large number of unfixed errors in the software. BSA had the choice of delaying the rollout or go ahead with the errors included, hoping that they'd get fixed at some point. You can guess the result as well as I. I have to wonder about any system that can tell you how many months your troop has existed, but can't divide by 12 to tell you how many years that is. There are some pretty silly things in there.

                          I've approached a couple of folks at our Council about the idea of starting a skunkworks to build a new ScoutNet based entirely on open source concepts. I figured there has to be a lot of geeks in BSA, and you could put together a development team that could probably do a bangup job, at relatively no cost to BSA. The responses I've gotten so far have been "hmmmm, interesting idea" quickly followed by some chuckling at the idea of BSA willingly going along with something like that. But, stranger things have happened. Well, ok, maybe not.

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                          • #14
                            I see that this thread is a couple of years old, but I'll put in my 2 cents while I continue looking for discussion of management software.

                            There's nothing inherently wrong with having an open source program plug into National's system. Online security comes from good authentication methods, rather than praying that a bad guy doesn't reverse engineer ScoutNet's protocol.

                            I'm not totally onboard with the existing ScoutNet certified packages for a couple of reasons. One, if they go belly up or are bought out for some reason, I'm out of luck. Two, since none of them are currently web-enabled, they make a troop's designated record keeper's (for advancement or rechartering, say) job easier, but do nothing to inprove getting the info to the other leaders, parents, or kids.

                            I recognize that putting a server on the web adds to the risk of information disclosure from any one troop. But, knowing nothing about how the BSA set up ScoutNet (other than guessing that it's an '90's style VPN and client-server setup), I can't say that National is handling security any better than I can.

                            For what it's worth, I see that Jay North has been through a few revs with his GPL'ed 'Scout Tracker', a pretty straight forward LAMP web application.

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                            • #15
                              From the BSA National website - MyScouting

                              http://www.scouting.org/nav/enter.jsp?s=ms

                              Coming in late Spring, 2007, "MyScouting" will be a portal for our members that will provide access to the following resources:

                              Tour Permit Applications
                              Adult leaders will be able to apply for tour permits that will automate the approval process and provide for prompt electronic delivery of approved permits. The applicant will need to provide detailed information about tour destination; dates; itinerary; participation and leadership; transportation plans (including vehicle information, drivers' license numbers, and insurance coverage); and the training certifications for Youth Protection and any other course needed for the tour.

                              E-Learning
                              The E-Learning Course Management System provides a selection of courses for adult volunteers that may be taken for credit. E-learning will be integrated into each member's account.

                              My Account
                              Members will have direct access to their data in our information systems, enabling them to update or make corrections at any time to keep our records accurate across all systems.

                              ... And More!
                              After the initial launch of the "MyScouting" portal, we will continue to work on additional applications and services that will support and enhance our members as they administer and experience the Scouting program.

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