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Jackdaws

Tracking software/websites

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I realize this should be in the internet section but since I am looking for input from fellow Cub Scouters, I am posting it here. 

 

What online tracking software/websites do you use? Our pack has used Scout Manager for the past 2 years.   I personally don't have a problem with it other than the way it configures some of the awards reports.  As the awards chair its kind of frustrating. I also still rely on the den leaders to send me an actual list of what they show each boy has earned to double check against what Scout Manager shows.

 

One of the main complaints we have received is the time that reminder notifications go out.  They consistently get sent out about 2am each time.  Personally I am up at 2 because I have to be at work at 3am so its not the end all be all for me.   However some parents have an "on call" phone and each email dings them in the middle of the night.  I contacted Scout Manager and they said it is a company wide thing.  I am afraid that most parents are blocking these emails and then are not getting the info we are trying to send them.  

 

So please sell me on your software.  :)

 

Thanks,
Susan

 

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How about selling you on dropping the software all together?

 

I spent a lot of time looking into various options out there, over a couple years.

I also spent considerable effort in trying to manually track my son's dens progress when I was Assistant Den leader the 1st time around.  I was using a spreadsheet template 

http://trax.boy-scouts.net/cubtrax.htm

and I tried using the poster that they sold at the scout shop, thinking that a visual aid during the den meetings would be useful to trigger interest and energy.

I tried checking books during meetings

I tried emailing parents asking them for their updates

I tried asking the boys.

 

The fact of the matter was taht none of them (boys or parents) were the least bit interested in tracking it.

 

And I eventually came to realize that tracking it for Cubs really just does not matter.

Aside from making the award chair's job easier being able to see which awards are due or almost complete, there really is no benefit.

I think these tracking software options really are only a benefit for troop level stuff, and even then I'm doubtful.

They just make work to do.

 

My suggestion, let the boys, parents, den leaders do the signoffs in the book

When the earn something outside of a den meeting, it's up to them to let the DL know.

Use a group email &/or SMS service for communication. (such as emaildodo)

and set up a online syncable calendar such as a google calendar.

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How about selling you on dropping the software all together?

 

BLW2 is dead on right.  I'm a tech guy professionally.  And, I've helped many units over the years adopt software and/or solve issues.  I'm fairly well experienced from many years of scouting.   IMHO, advancement software like "TroopMaster" (and all the wanna bees) pervert the concepts of scouting.  Absolutely they are make work tools.

 

Best way to record scout advancement ... use the back of the scout handbook.   Want to sign off the service hour requirement?  Ask the scout "what have you done for service".  Congratulate him about what a wonderful thing to do and then sign off.  No 3rd party report needed.  

 

Even worse though, software such as TroopMaster and others ... IMHO ... actually makes the experience for the scout worse.  I hope I never hear again someone making some type of announcement about making sure scouts submit their service hours so the hours are properly recorded and so that the scout gets credit for them.  IMHO, the discussions with the scout should NEVER be about recording service hours so that reports are right and he gets his credit.  It should ALWAYS be about doing service and helping others.  It's a nuance, but I think it's a critical one.  Yes on doing.  No on paperwork. 

 

IMHO, I hope I never hear about scouts being asked to chase records and submit forms.  Scouts should always be focused on doing things.  Getting out.  Learning.  Having new experiences.  Scouting is absolutely NOT a junior MBA program.  Scouting is not a certification program.  And, we don't need to track it like it is.

 

...

 

ScoutBook is nice because we can download scout's BSA advancement and scouts get a colorful look at what BSA knows about them.  It's a positive experience.  

 

As for the rest, blah.  Drop the paperwork and go for a hike.

Edited by fred johnson
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We use Ourgrouponline.org.  We were actually the October Website of the month :)

 

 

There has been some scuttlebutt about switching to scoutbook, but its only in the exploratory phase right now.  Need to learn more about it.

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ScoutBook is not ready for prime time yet.  It's close, but speed, scheduling and a few other issues are killers right now.

...and it has not data back up. If the primary hosting site becomes a smoking hole then you lose your data. Until they establish onsite and offsite data back ups or replication, it won't be any good as a tool.

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...and it has not data back up. If the primary hosting site becomes a smoking hole then you lose your data. Until they establish onsite and offsite data back ups or replication, it won't be any good as a tool.

 

Really???  No data back up?  Do you have a source for this?  This is a huge deal.

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Really???  No data back up?  Do you have a source for this?  This is a huge deal.

 

Let me clarify: No offsite data back up. Also, no secondary production system. I know a bit about their technical architecture. Not to be pedantic but I will explain it this way:

  • The SB primary system is hosted in one data center. That means all the computers on which the SB application runs, and all of your data, is in one location.
  • SB is in an active-passive configuration. This means that there is a primary system online, which is what you use to access the application and your data. Simply said, the computers on which your application and data sit rely on a single group of computers to stay up and running. If something happens they (BSA) have the option to turn on the back-up system (which is a development environment).
    • So if there is an outage or problem with the main production system it may take a while for BSA to cut over to the secondary system....if at all.
    • You have experienced this if you've ever used myscouting.org. When it is down it takes a while to come back online, and then it is VERY slow.
  • Because this is a single location where the system is hosted, if there is a problem you could lose access to your application and data.
    • If a backhoe cuts the power lines to the data center where this is hosted, you have no access to your system. They cannot turn on the back up system because it is located in the same building.
    • Same for if the backhoe hits the telecommunications lines. No access and it make take days to get restored.
  • Because this is a single location, if there is an act of God (or Rock, if you're an Atheist) and the building in which this system is hosted gets damaged or destroyed, you lose your data.
    • All data is on a storage array on the data center floor. If that gets destroyed you are toast. No data.
    • All the data gets backed up (to tape....yes some folks still use tape). The tapes are stored on site in the same building as the SB system. If the building is destroyed your data back ups (as well as your live data) get destroyed.
    • Back tapes are sent off site every month. If you are lucky you can get your month-old data back once they find a new building to rebuild the entire platform in.

As a comparison, Minecraft is hosted in the Amazon cloud, has an active-active environment (think: one goes down, the other is up right away), uses more than one data center for both application and data. Cost: $20....once. ;)

 

Scoutbook is $10-$40/year. Just sayin'. ;)

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1- The eMail function for Troopmaster has never recovered its full functionality after the crash last year.

 

2- Once upon a time a 'scout' who had long been absent returned to the troop.  His book did not reconcile with Troopmaster by 2 ranks.  Troopmaster was correct.

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Let me clarify: No offsite data back up. Also, no secondary production system. I know a bit about their technical architecture. Not to be pedantic but I will explain it this way:

  • The SB primary system is hosted in one data center. That means all the computers on which the SB application runs, and all of your data, is in one location.
  • SB is in an active-passive configuration. This means that there is a primary system online, which is what you use to access the application and your data. Simply said, the computers on which your application and data sit rely on a single group of computers to stay up and running. If something happens they (BSA) have the option to turn on the back-up system (which is a development environment).
    • So if there is an outage or problem with the main production system it may take a while for BSA to cut over to the secondary system....if at all.
    • You have experienced this if you've ever used myscouting.org. When it is down it takes a while to come back online, and then it is VERY slow.
  • Because this is a single location where the system is hosted, if there is a problem you could lose access to your application and data.
    • If a backhoe cuts the power lines to the data center where this is hosted, you have no access to your system. They cannot turn on the back up system because it is located in the same building.
    • Same for if the backhoe hits the telecommunications lines. No access and it make take days to get restored.
  • Because this is a single location, if there is an act of God (or Rock, if you're an Atheist) and the building in which this system is hosted gets damaged or destroyed, you lose your data.
    • All data is on a storage array on the data center floor. If that gets destroyed you are toast. No data.
    • All the data gets backed up (to tape....yes some folks still use tape). The tapes are stored on site in the same building as the SB system. If the building is destroyed your data back ups (as well as your live data) get destroyed.
    • Back tapes are sent off site every month. If you are lucky you can get your month-old data back once they find a new building to rebuild the entire platform in.

As a comparison, Minecraft is hosted in the Amazon cloud, has an active-active environment (think: one goes down, the other is up right away), uses more than one data center for both application and data. Cost: $20....once. ;)

 

Scoutbook is $10-$40/year. Just sayin'. ;)

The red gives me the most concern.  Potential of losing years of records that in some cases might not be written down anyplace else if a scout/pack/troop is 100% Scoutbook.  The brown (offsite tapes) makes it more tolerable, but even that is frought with issues.  Unfortunately their approach to handling disaster is more disaster recovery versus a true operational plan B.

 

I liken it to the fire department.  They depend on hydrants, but if there's a hydrant issue (main break, frozen, etc) they easily can use water stored in the pump truck.  But using what appears to be the Scoutbook model, they'd first try to fix the water main and wait to fight the fire.

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Thanks everyone for the replies.  I know we will probably never go paperless but I need something/somewhere as the awards chair to see everything as a whole.   I am the one who goes and buys the awards and makes out the cards to award them.  We are backwards in our pack as we don't really do immediate recognition.  I can't/don't want to have to carry around a massive bag of awards each week to the den meetings so we just award them at the pack meeting.   So far I haven't anyone say anything or notice that we don't do the immediate recognition. 

 

Each month I am still relying on the den leader to email me a list of what each boy has earned.   We still have a die-hard who refuse to use Scout Manager.  Luckily that den is not very big and the boys all earn the same award each month.  So I just have to go and boy 10 of this and 10 of that.  

 

We are also needing something online as we have cycled thru 3 Tiger Den leaders this year.  1st one got deployed and is now being transferred.  The other 2 guys who "stepped up" have been sporadic in attendance.  And one of them is no longer allowed to be in the pack due to a domestic violence incident at our cuboree(yeah that was awesome to find out, I had already left the camp out) and now is under a restraining order.  The other comes when he can but he has long days traveling for work.   So now the Cubmaster and I are going to try and step up in the interim until we can get another "volunteer" to be the den leader.  So we need a place that the leaders can keep up with the boys' progress.

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The red gives me the most concern.  Potential of losing years of records that in some cases might not be written down anyplace else if a scout/pack/troop is 100% Scoutbook.  The brown (offsite tapes) makes it more tolerable, but even that is frought with issues.  Unfortunately their approach to handling disaster is more disaster recovery versus a true operational plan B.

 

I liken it to the fire department.  They depend on hydrants, but if there's a hydrant issue (main break, frozen, etc) they easily can use water stored in the pump truck.  But using what appears to be the Scoutbook model, they'd first try to fix the water main and wait to fight the fire.

 

With the cost of cloud computing these days it is surprising any company insists on building systems like they did in 1998. It used to be Amazon was not very good about if a disaster happened to systems they hosted. They used to say, "Oh, problem? We will see what we can do but if we can't fix it, then too bad." In the last few years even they realize offering disaster recovery for data is what customer wants. See Minecraft example.

 

BSA's approach to online systems is archaic at best. Their applications are antiquated and the systems on which they sit are s-l-o-w. Back ups? To paraphrase Blazing Saddles, "We don't need to stinkin' back ups!"

 

TM offers you your local copy, online copy and back up copy. I save my local copy to OneDrive everyday (automatically) just in case. ;)

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Jackdaws ... Okay.  My apologies for starting us down a bad path.  I've seen several units switch to ScoutBook.  It's benefits are that #1 you can load it from BSA advancement and roster records.  It's draw backs is it's really poor with roster details (phone, address, parent linkage, etc) and poor with calendar entries.  BUT, it's good with advancement.  Record as much as as little as you want.  It is a very tricky user interface, but if you learn the tricks, it does work.  

 

We've used http://www.scouttrack.com/and it works good, but it is old school and I would not start down that path.  

 

Personally, if I was pack advancement coordinator again (buying awards and recording them), I'd just tell den leaders to email me.

 

As for keeping den leaders up to date or moving status between den leaders, it's a fairly moot thing.  Each year is a different program and so the status is only within the last year.  Plus, you can always download and print BSA's advancement report to show what the scouts have.  Beyond that, den leaders should focus less on the legalism of the requirements and more on just providing a great experience for the scout.
Edited by fred johnson

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I want to move my troop records online and I recently over the last few months, did an evaluation of all the options out there, signed up for trials, imported troop data into them, played with them and here is my results.  (as if anyone really cares, haha).

 

1) Scoutbook - totally not ready for prime time.  Its hardly even ready for any use.  Personally as an IT guy myself, I would not have considered it ready to show to anyone yet.  It's "pretty", but the fact you can't even do basic features such as repeating calendar entries is just a good indication of how much work it has to go to be really useful.  And the fact that BSA has purchased it probably is a net negative.  It will not be done by 'committee' and anyone with any IT experience usually means this slows software development down and often is of less quality than what a small dedicated team can produce.

 

2) TroopMaster/SOAR - yeah these were great 10 years ago, but the web has passed them by, and the fact you have to spend nearly $250-300/year between them to have a decent tracking system + shared user website is kinda out there for anything but maybe a mega-troop.  There are a bunch of other troops at my roundtable that uses is, and I could get help from them which would be nice, but frankly their old-school design (from the DOS days)  also does not lend to being shared/web based at all.  Sorry, but 1999 called and want's their troop software back.

 

3) Scouttrack.com - Looks "ok' but it did not really impress.  Honestly, it kinda felt like someone who is just a software developers decided to write some software for scouts, but is not actually a scouter or actually had experience running at troop.  I think the best way to put it is that it felt more like a $1.99 app on the iPhone app store.

 

4) TroopTrack http://www.trooptrack.com  - This is what I settled on.  It impressed with with the fact it has nearly every feature that I wanted to look for, is pretty easy to use(easier than scoutbook), is a modern multi-user web based system, it connects directly to and works with BSA ScoutNet, includes the best mailing lists I have seen, and provides a free website with management of the website integrated into it.   The support has been excellent for every question I have asked so far, and it is developed by a dedicated group of scouters for scouters.   I would say that for $99/year you get everything that SOAR + TroopMaster + Troopmaster Web + Troopmaster.Net provides and then some.

 

 

My recommendation is to look at TroopTrack.com if you are starting out today new and moving from paper like my troop is.  It is possible that everyone might move to scoutbook.com eventually if the BSA pumps enough effort and money into it, but I can guarantee you it will be at least 5+ years or so before that will be ready to compete with these others, and that is like 50 years in technology.

 

 

That is my unsolicited $.02 anyway.

Edited by dhoover
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