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Exporting the Running Log
Exporting the Running Log (Read 2749 times)
posted: 8/17/2005 at 8:53 AM
Many users want the ability to download their data from their online running log, yet few actually use it even if the site supports it. Most will eventually stop doing regular backups because it's tedious, while the rest never planned to use it in the first place. They asked for it because they want to maintain the illusion of control. One of the complaints on sites that don't allow their users to get at their data is that the site is holding their data hostage, preventing them from moving to another log. I don't know the reason(s) for the sites to not add it. Maybe they have a fail proof backup plan, or it could be that they don't want their users to go elsewhere. If users want to leave, not having an export function won't stop them. There are users on this site that manually copied data from their previous log. If they want to go, they'll go. The only way to keep users is to ensure that all their needs are satisfied. I can't guarantee that some other log won't come along and sweep you off your feet. I can't compete with companies that have budgets thousands of times greater than mine, or with sites that are maintained by multiple people. I receive help from my friends, but I do most if not all of the programming myself. The bottom line is that having a way to let you download your data is the right thing to do, whether you use it as a backup, or to migrate elsewhere. I helped some of you import your old data. Most if not all of the data files I've seen use the tab delimited method of separating the data into columns, and each row consists of a run entry. The advantage is that you can open the file in Microsoft Excel, and you can do all sorts of statistics on it. This file format is fine and dandy if the data is simple. That is, all the data in a run can be neatly displayed in a row. It doesn't work too well for the case of intervals. I use intervals to keep track of my track workouts, and my mile splits. I have up to 28 intervals for a marathon (I'll leave it up to the reader to determine why it's more than 26 or 27). I can cram them into one line, but that will not make much sense. And when you open it in Excel, the spreadsheet will be so wide that you'll just get bleary eyed and never bother again. I made the compromise of including the interval data, but putting it in a separate file. Now you have a file to store the essential data from a run, and a separate one that holds the extra information. Even so, the tab delimited format is inadequate. It cannot hold all the information, although I doubt anyone will ever notice. The relationships amongst the runs, shoes, routes, and intervals are not represented in the tab delimited format. For example, you may have two pairs of shoes of the same brand and model (i.e. Nike Free). If you didn't give them a serial, they will appear to be the same shoe in the log file you downloaded. If you want a complete copy of your data, you can download the XML file, which will contain ALL of your data. If you look at the file, the first thing you'll notice is that the file is huge! XML is a very inefficient way to lug data around. I don't understand why companies boast that their widgets use it to communicate with other widgets. It's like John Kerry addressing the fans at a South Carolina rally as "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing aficionados" when NASCAR fans would suffice. XML's only redeeming quality is that it's easy to read. The second thing you'll notice is that it has a version number. It doesn't mean that there will be other versions, but I figure it's better to add it than to not have it later on. The plan is that in the event of a catastrophic failure, when all copies my backups stored at different geographic locations are destroyed simultaneously, you can simply upload your copy and restore your data. Perhaps I am obsessed about data safety, but you won't realize how valuable your data until you don't have it anymore. I opted to compress the data into zip files to reduce the download time. Don't be surprised to see the contents of the zip file are some 9 times larger than the zip file itself. The tools page is only accessible to you, the owner of the log. Other people will not be able to get to this page. I ranted long enough, and you probably think I should devote more time to adding features instead. I'm going to go do that, so that I can rant again when the next feature is complete. eric
posted: 8/17/2005 at 4:37 PM
Thanks for the new feature! I love that you gave both tab-delimited and XML formats. XML is great because it is human readable and extremely easy to parse (there are a number of very nice libraries available already, so programmers need not write their own parsers). With XML, there is very little chance of it going obsolete, since it isn't some obscure, hard-to-read file format (like the jumble of numbers). Plus, with nested tags and whatnot, it really maintains the relationship of all the data. But, I agree, it's definitely quite "bloated" as simply a method of data storage.
Behind the Scenes
Exporting the Running Log
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