Welcome! This forum has a treasure trove of great info – Scouters helping Scouters! Just a heads up, though - all content, information, and opinions shared on this forum are those of the author, not the BSA.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

Scouting Forums

Activity logs are awful

Ok, so there is a tool so helplessly awkward that everyone who used to use scoutbook now uses a spreadsheet. I am now a convert. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I am completely unable to find anything useful on scouting.org (I rely on the links in scoutbook completely), but every aspect of the activity logs are beyond awful - adding, approving, reports - all of it. I am done with the entire scouting.org website. Don’t bother trying to change it, because as far as I can tell the entire website is beyond repair. Yet another user switching to excel. What can be done to get scoutbook to start tracking activity logs again?

4 Likes

Well, how about constructive, specific comments instead of generic “it’s horrible” statements that are impossible to convert into actions?

I say this because

  1. Not everyone has dropped Scoutbook – the activity in these forums is testament to that.
  2. You sound like you aren’t making any effort at all to work with the new system.
  3. You’re not interested in a fix, you just came here to complain.
2 Likes

Firstly, scoutbook has evolved to be fairly decent. I am able to see fairly easily how to get to all of the tasks that I need to as a leader. Scouting.org as far as I can tell, has changed once or twice since I have been involved with scouting, and I can’t say it has been for the better. Constructive criticism? Get an HMI expert as a starting point. I do not have the time or inclination to help with this one. I could fill pages with the problems that are glaringly obvious.

Point 1 - scoutbook is not my issue. It is with scouting.org. It has always been difficult for me to navigate. I am always lost finding my way, and I can never tell how to do what I need to do, as a leader, parent, or for my scout. BTW, your testament of these forums I was not able to find in scouting.org. I had to use google to find the forum. A testament to the scouting.org website legacy that I have come to know since I have been in scouting. If the website was really great the forum would not have much traffic now, would it?

Point 2 - I have tried to use the system all summer to add activities. It is hard to figure out how to add activities - it takes like 20 mouse clicks, there are tabs on top of tabs, there is no way that I have found to print a report. Once I managed to stumble upon how to approve activities, only to find out one single person in our troop had the ability to do so, and it wasn’t me.

Point 3 - yes. Because the best thing to do is to let this feature slide back so that scoutbook manages it, and goes away from scouting.org. Unless scouting.org is able to bring something better to the table, and this will not happen. This feature was not ready for prime time. Is it not integrated to the site, just glommed on.

If you really had any interest in making it better. Put it back in scoutbook until the feature is at least the equal of what it was in scoutbook.

Sorry for the bitterness. I see many posts related to this very same topic in scouting.org and in scoutbook.com, and they all carry the same theme. I know it will never be as easy as scoutbook was, because I see the rest of the site, and know that even if someone was to work on it, it won’t be to the same level of quality that we had with scoutbook. I am angry because of how much time I wasted because someone wanted to just throw together an interface, and it clearly shows that the activity logs were an afterthought.

Just switch the activity logs back to an organization that can handle them. Thanks for taking the time to write.

3 Likes

Some clarification:
BSA home site is: https://www.scouting.org/
BSA my.Scouting Tools portal site with many tools is: https://my.scouting.org/
BSA Scoutbook tool site is: https://www.scoutbook.com/
BSA Scouting Forums site is: https://discussions.scouting.org/

1 Like

Thanks, Bill.

After giving it thought - there is no reason why scoutbook would not be able to retain the previous user interface and send activity log data to scouting.org, just like it does with advancement. Then everyone could have the best of both worlds - activity logs in scoutbook would roll back to the interface they had before (and user frustration would pretty much go away), and the people that like the scouting.org interface could use the new one.

I should also mention that I do noticed web sites that do not have an email address for the webmaster, are sites with the poorest layout. Just saying…

1 Like

I agree with Mr. White that the ScoutBook was much better when the current Scouting.org at being easy to enter and get reports on Activities (Nights of Camping / Hikes / Service Hours ) for Rank Advancement requirements. Put in back on ScoutBook, and let it report tp Scouting.org for their information if they needed it
I did find a Report the last time I went looking for it. On the Screen it was 3 pages for my small Troop of 10 Boys. When I told it to Print on Paper so I could use it. It became 36 pages of list of items and no Totals. I had to add them up myself. I’m thinking about making the Boys go back to making sure it in the Back of their books and they are responsible for keep track of it or they will not get credit for it. This means Lost Books and will not have any Record.
I’m liking the Idea of Spread Sheet to track it. If I could find one online I would start using it.
The Last dues raise, before the current one, I was told to upgrade the computer system. I don’t think we are getting our Money’s worth.

2 Likes

The thing is, though, that BSA IT isn’t going to move them back to the Scoutbook interface, at least not on the existing codebase. That’s been made clear repeatedly. They’ve apparently made the determination that the existing codebase for Scoutbook is too difficult to maintain/update, and decided to implement all new features and upgrades in the IA2 (scoutbook.scouting.org) interface.

I’ve made no secret that I dislike the new interface at IA2. I believe that our best bet as users is to specifically identify the key features we need to see implemented in the new UI at IA2 to give an adequate UX for both leaders and non-leaders interfacing to the system. Just kvetching about how fouled up the interface is and how we want to go back to the previous interface isn’t going to move the folks making the decisions, I suspect because they — paraphrasing Edna Mode from The Incredibles — “never look back, dahling. It distracts from the now!” Rather, if we can tell them what features we need to make the interface more usable, we’ll get more traction.

4 Likes

@CharleyHamilton you hit the nail on the head. Nobody every listens to “I don’t like this update” or “change this back”. The only way to drive improvements is to provide clear, specific examples of what you want the system to do.

“It’s too hard to enter events” may be true, but it’s not actionable. “I can’t enter a date without using the popup calendar” is more actionable. “Users should be able to type the date in directly as well as using a date picker” is even better – it identifies the problem, and what solution you’d like to see.

3 Likes

Where do we go to make feature requests? The scouting.org developers took a working feature and completely broke it. This issue is about information control and job security, not about usability. It is possible to have this feature exist on both sites, but someone has a mission to take away control. Solve the issue by pushing data the same way they do for advancement so you can see it on both sides.

I spend enough time volunteering. If they cared about usability, it would have been changed back long ago. It has been this way for months, people complain on every available forum, and it is not changing anytime soon. You want actionable - have scoutbook provide the interface and push data like they do for advancements.

1 Like

I would add one other thought to counter the negative rantings that have been posted. Consider this for a minute…perhaps, the new logs are the start of a better system, but we don’t have the entire puzzle, so we are lost as to the improvements that are forthcoming.

Take for example, it’s already been hinted that calendars are being refreshed. What if perhaps refreshed calendars will allow better flow into logs and then automatic posting of logs when attendance is taken? This would be an even bigger improvement to the multiple steps required now to take attendance for events and THEN go and manually log the attendees in the various logs (I refer to the old logs in ScoutBook)

I think the frustration is that even bigger, better things are in store for ScoutBook, but without the roadmap, the small glimpses may deter from seeing the bigger, better picture when all new pieces fall into place. Software never stays the same in any system. It is constantly reworked and improved and sometimes in the interim, it may not seem like it, but in the end, it far exceeds the system it replaces. Case in point, see this article: https://appleinsider.com/articles/20/08/11/google-working-hard-to-fix-youtube-music-criticisms
Even companies like Google have to rework their systems! Thanks @SteveCagigas and @CharleyHamilton for the voices of reason!

1 Like

Some things to remember:
a. There is more than one scouting program.
b. The IA2 activity logs have two set of data, only one of which I believe can be fed from Scoutbook
c. Not every unit uses Scoutbook. BSA has to also support units that are not using Scoutbook.

Hopeful BSA will provide better user interfaces, but they may be planning to do that via social media device apps.

I get the new system might lead to something better, but how about a transition, like before going live, make sure it is usable first. Once you think you have something close, then release a test version to a handful of test users and have a few feedback/fix cycles before unleashing some unseen horror to the masses?

2 Likes

Laughably they chose to write instructions, and spent time making a video for how to use it, rather than take that time to make it simple enough that instructions and tutorials aren’t needed.

2 Likes

Steve,. I’ve have the same issues as Kevin has. Leaders cannot add service hours, camping, nor hiking miles in Scoutbook, PLUS leaders must now adjudicate service hours, camping nights, or hiking miles youth or parents add to Scoutbook. The process in IA is multiple additional steps to update recordable events. BSA didn’t make it better.

Yes, Kevin could have provided details in his post but some of us are are less appreciative of the upgrades, which are usually improvements, not additional work.

I now manage my unit’s events in a separate and backed up Excel spreadsheet to provide myself a database to dispute claims by my youths and their parents. It’s probably a good thing Scoutbook is free now because I would not pay for it.

1 Like

I guess it depends on who’s trying to do what, and what you’re counting (or not) as an improvement.

There are a lot of us who were seeing information added to Scoutbook by parents and/or scouts that made it difficult to use the tools in Scoutbook to assess things for rank advancement or other purposes. For example, family camping was being added to camping logs which made it very difficult to assess who was (and who wasn’t) eligible for OA without having to go into individual scouts’ logs to check it all. If I’m doing that, why bother having an OA eligibility report at all? I can pull the camping logs (by hand!) and pull the ranks (by hand!), then figure it all out that way. With the camping log approvals (and deletions, BSA-IT?), I’m hopeful that we will be more able to rely on what’s in the logs for evaluating advancement and other items.

For Camping MB, non-scout camping doesn’t count, so if it’s in the logs and a leader is looking at the total count, that makes it difficult to evaluate. If the person who entered it didn’t mark it (or the reviewer doesn’t know for sure that we’ve never been there as unit), then screening becomes difficult.

I recognize that a lot of these items aren’t as relevant at the pack level, although unscreened activity at the pack level (e.g. family camping not with the unit) could impact apparent eligibility for future awards (e.g. National Outdoor Award for Camping)

As I’ve said before: I’m not a fan of the new log interface. At the same time, some features (like the ability to approve log enties) are good. Others (like the inability to delete errors or items that don’t belong and the current limitations on who can add events to the logs) are not good.

Some of this is actively being updated like read/write log access per May 15, 2020 Scoutbook Updates - Activity Log.

Some of it appears to be more complicated that was probably originally contemplated, like adding ASMs, DLs, and other adult leaders to the read/write aspect of the logs. I suspect that’s because the permissions structure in IA2 isn’t as flexible as it needed to be, but it’s pure speculation on my part.

Some of it appears to be intentional UI design based on object-oriented thinking (select the individuals to operate on first) rather than process-oriented thinking (select the task to be done first), which I think is pretty counter-intuitive to most users. I’m not sure how successful I will be in convincing the BSA to offer a different route to achieve the same tasks in IA2 that currently require “pick the scouts first”, but I aim to try. If everyone on my roster fit on a single screen, picking people first might make sense. Since I (and many other units) have to go through several screens to pick scouts and leaders, the process seems pretty ridiculous to me.

IA2 is like a dish of mixed nuts IMHO. Some I like. Some I leave in the bowl. Some I want to toss in the trash because nobody should have to eat them. :^)

2 Likes

I commented on this in another thread.

Bottom line, data is data. If they knew what they were doing it would be an easy prospect to scrape data out of scoutbook if higher ups want the data.

The real issue is that by changing the interface they have made it less likely that people will use it. So now they won’t even have the data.

The changes to both interface and data structure reveals that this is probably being done because some IT guy somewhere believes that the only way to store data is in a Microsoft access database (analogy), instead of saying huh, all these people use this and like it…I will write some code to lift the data and convert it to my.scoutings format.

That’s not a heavy lift but it requires creativity.

1 Like

The data is still stored in the scoutbook database. The reason for the front end change was to move it to a more modern language that would allow for future upgrades and also the ability to require approvals.

1 Like

Offering suggestions on improvements does no good, since suggestions just seem to get ignored. As volunteers unit leaders have little to no amount of time available to make suggestions for improvements and corrections. We need to be scout focused instead of being expected to be programmers and tech experts trying to fix a bad system. As a unit leader, I need a data management system that is easy to use, have access to simple step-by-step instructions on how to perform tasks, and some hands on training. Unfortunately changes are constantly being made with unit leaders just expected for the most part to figure it out on their own. While this forum does offer some support, having to almost daily read through entry after entry in order to stay up-to-date and find fixes to problems with the system is too time consuming and too much of a hassle. I agree that we need to turn over the whole system to a third party professional vendor who has the staff, technical expertise and customer service operations to offer a quality, customer focused system. I understand the costs involved, but I would rather pay for a product than have to invest so much time and energy into making a broken system work.

It’s not a “fix”, per se, but one way to more easily keep track of the ongoing updates is to subscribe to the Change Log forums:

https://discussions.scouting.org/c/scoutbook/scoutbook-change-log/16

https://discussions.scouting.org/c/scoutbook/scouting-app-change-log/2947

I agree that there’s a lot of improvement needed, both in Scoutbook and IA2. I’m hopeful that we continue to get incremental improvements converging on a better solution, versus converging on something that’s easier for the higher-ups to use, but makes things miserable for the boots on the ground delivering the program.

I don’t know that contracting the system out would make things materially better, since that would put yet another layer of bureaucracy between the end users and the developers. We volunteer leaders won’t be the customer. We wouldn’t be the ones signing their hypothetical checks. BSA would be.

Besides, “go fast and break stuff” seems, to me at least, to have taken over the software development space in such a way that smooth transitions have gone the way of the dodo, even in many of the commercial software packages I use for work. The entire UI changed on a major piece of software that has had very stable UI for long enough that most of the people in my office who use the software are utterly at sixes and sevens trying to adjust on the fly. There was no warning. There is no mitigation.

Obviously there exist unit-focused tracking programs, for a price. They may or may not interface well to the BSA reporting software (Scoutbook/IA2), but they do exist. I’d like to see the BSA retain and recover the unit-focused nature that Scoutbook had in the beginning, rather than what seems to be a more organizational-focus on metrics that, while they can reflect the program being delivered, do not in themselves enhance or facilitate its delivery.

1 Like

Okay, Now I have a new Problem.
Our Troop when on a Canoe outing for the day. So this is not a Campout, It is not a Hike, and not Service Hours. How do I put it in the Activity Log?
I put it in as a Hike (on Water). I don’t know how else to log the Trip.

Frustrated ScoutMaster