Electronic Log Book

ElectronicLogBooks are GreyPatterns related to LogBooks because:

  1. You easily lose them
  2. You can't take them with you everywhere
  3. They probably don't have legal value
  4. Paper is the media with longest life
  5. May tie you to specific application, operating system, and/or device

But,

There are also benefits over paper:

  1. Easy to duplicate/backup
  2. If they are on the network/web, you can access them from anywhere you have net access
  3. If they are on the network/web, other people can access them
  4. Searchable, indexable
  5. Easy copy-and-paste from/to other electronic documents
  6. Encryptable
  7. Less physical space and weight
  8. Easy to update/reorganize

See also
Since I started keeping many records electronically - either on my PowerBook or on my PDA - I find it's easier to file and retrieve records, myself. You can if they're on a PalmPilot or other portable device. Electronic documents do have legal value - just ask Microsoft about its emails.

Actually, this is one objection to an electronic log book that some people can't ignore. Some professions, positions, and activities do require a handwritten pen-and-paper log book, and a typewritten or computer-printed log won't be accepted. It's stupid, but that's how it is. If you have such a position, and something happens that requires you to show your written log, and you don't have one, you can be in a lot of trouble. Thankfully, things are changing, but some people are still stuck in the Dark Ages. -- KrisJohnson

Interesting. What sorts of professions, positions, and activities?

Some government agencies require contractors to maintain handwritten time logs. If your company gets audited, and you don't have the handwritten original logs on hand, things get unpleasant. -- KrisJohnson

Truckers often have to keep detailed hand written log books for their employers and the highway patrol. Of course, most have two...

My wife (who is a biotechnology research scientist) is required to keep hand-written logs (not time logs). This is for possible patent disputes, perhaps years later. You need to be able to prove they were written when you claim they were. -- PaulHudson

In such cases, the logs are not even yours; at the end of the day, the newly written pages get signed by a supervisor, and when the logbooks are complete, they get stored away in company libraries. Everything has to be written in them, even things I would put on the back of an envelope.

... And it's also the media that piles up the most over time. You'll need to do a little more work to maintain your electronic files - backup systems, occasional system migrations once every few years - but for me the ease of use and organization is worth it.

With constant (even if slow) replication (sort of RefactorMercilessly), digital data can outlast anything, since it can be transferred to new physical media with near zero cost. A dying language or a fundamental change in what people consider text etc would of course prove problems, but they would destroy paper copies as well. Then again, there are photo copiers and scanners that can provide some of this for paper logs. Even without more effort, any given UseNet article today has a good chance of outliving an average printout or book in raw media age because of archives already in place, for example. (This is just a note and I am a fanatic on paper logger myself).

Electronic sounds good, but you need to be sure you can access them 10+ years later (which possibly means keeping old systems going). -- PaulHudson

We're talking about text-based logs, though. A text file from a thirty-year-old CP/M machine should still be readable today. You would want to think long and hard about using a non-text-based format, though. -- BrentNewhall

Are you sure you can read that thirty-year-old CP/M tape or disk on the machines you have today? I have a lot of 5-1/4" floppies with stuff on them, but no machines that can read them.

I still have 5.25" floppy drives today, in the year 2002. Besides, I'm worried more about accessing antiquated software systems than antiquated hardware. I'm assuming that old logs would be copied to new hardware and storage mediums as old hardware becomes obsolete. -- BrentNewhall

I would be surprised if you could not find an emulator for CP/M , if you ever needed to grab stuff from its filesystem.

The CP/M or whatnot format floppy should have had its data replicated and migrated to another system when the user abandoned CP/M. And this for each time the system changes and perhaps each time a new storage medium is adopted etc. It's part of the process. Neglecting this obvious maintenance is a common form of IfItIsWorkingDontChange AntiPattern.


Example electronic log books:


Wouldn't a PlainText file work just as well? Then you no longer have to worry about file formats and compatibility (maybe just Unix vs. DOS linebreaks but that's pretty easily fixed). And every desktop search tool out there, even the basic OS ones, will find stuff in it. -- KyleMaxwell


I am currently quite happy with emacs note mode. (http://www.isi.edu/~johnh/SOFTWARE/NOTES_MODE/). I can use tex/latex and gather into print later. -- Bill Raynor

I am using EmacsOrgMode which uses plain text files. Org mode includes tables and org bable (executable code snippets) -- Erik Pischel
CategoryAccess CategoryOrganization

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