Sunday, October 4, 2009

Record VIEW Functionality in SuperWEB2 - comments welcomed

A guest blog from Don McIntosh, our product manager for SuperSTAR. Please feel free to give us comments or feedback so we can incorporate your feedback into our product development while we are developing it.

What I wanted to cover in this post is a brief summary of what we are planning for RecordVIEW, as well as a few features that might come in a later release. I wanted to write about this now while we are developing it so that our customers and partners have an opportunity to comment and hopefully improve on the end result. Another thing we’ll do is provide a link to a test instance to let you play around with it once we have it up and running.

RecordVIEW is a key feature of SuperWEB - and one that is currently lacking in SuperWEB2. It gives users the ability to drill down into the records that contribute to any cell in a table and view other attributes of those records. We find that customers use it for a variety of reasons. Two of the most common reasons are identification of individuals in interesting sub-populations, and data validation. An example of the former is “give me the list of names of all students scored above 95% in the English test”. An interesting point is that almost all the time, the records extracted via RecordVIEW need to be subsequently fed into another system for the user to complete their task. That’s a useful one for us to keep in mind, because perhaps we can add much more value by allowing some kind of direct integration between the RecordVIEW action and other systems.

The first step for RecordVIEW is actually to cover off much of the functionality we had in the original SuperWEB. That means identifying some cells, switching to the RecordVIEW tab, choosing what fields to report on, and then downloading to XLS or CSV. The major addition for the first release in comparison to what was in the original SuperWEB will be in the ease of use. The experience will be a lot more immersive, with fewer pauses for server updates and a richer UI. Click on a cell, chose RecordVIEW and then choose what fields to view. You can choose all fields, or start with none and add a select few. You can also sort the results, and selectively filter what fields you’re interested in viewing. One other key feature I’ll mention is that the results of the RecrordVIEW are transparently paginated, so if you have a very long list, the browser isn’t waiting a long time to update it; it simply adds more as you scroll down.

We are of course very aware that for some datasets, RecordVIEW is not appropriate, due to the sensitive nature of the data. We will keep this simple: if there is confidentiality enabled for a database, then no RecordVIEW. Other permission functionality will remain unchanged from the earlier version.

Other key features we will consider later on include cell selection from other views, such as areas on a chart or map. Also, as I mentioned earlier on, we’d like to explore how we can get RecordVIEW output might be more tightly integrated a workflow that involves taking sets of records to feed into another application for further processing, or viewing in a certain way.

It would be interesting to hear about some usage scenarios of feature ideas for RecordVIEW from our customers. We may be able to incorporate some scenarios in our acceptance testing, and hopefully learn about some ways to make this feature smarter and more in line with users’ core needs.

RecordVIEW will be available the Release 6.5 November service pack.

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