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Article ID: KB173
Keyword Name: Log Note, Notes, User Field, Field, Users, Data, Custom, Special, Attribute, Import
Created: September 05, 2014
Viewed: 5600

Log Notes vs User Fields vs Attributes

 

Attributes, User Fields, and Log Notes… Oh My!

 

Where Your Data May Fit In Trail Blazer

 

You are tasked with doing your own import(s) or setting up new data entry information.  However, you are trying to figure out where to put the data – into attributes; user fields; or log notes.  This article presents those Trail Blazer data types.

 

Examples of data that fits well into each category

Log Note

User Field

Attribute

“I talked with Greg today regarding a large donation. He's willing, but was just boarding a plane.  He asked that I call next week to follow-up.”

? Twitter handles

? Facebook usernames

? Graduation Years

? Elected official

? Volunteer

? Precinct Captain

? Board Member

User fields usually have a text value.  In the case of a Twitter handle the text of @TrailBlazerSoft would be entered.

Where a checkbox will suffice.  If a person is a Volunteer, there would be a checkbox next to the attribute named Volunteer.

There are cases where the data will fit in ANY of the choices above.  In this case, it comes down to your choice.  Attributes are now able to handle dates and notes. So it is possible to have unlimited user fields.

 

Log Notes

 

Just as the name implies, this is where notes go.  What is a log note though?  In Trail Blazer, a log note is associated with a Voter/Donor/Contact (referred to as Contact in the remainder of this article).  Log notes have the following characteristics:

  • Can contain anywhere from 1 word to a multitude of words.  If you need to write a short essay on a contact, this is where the essay goes.
  • Log notes can be searched both in the contact search window and in a dedicated search window called Search Log Entries.  Find it under the Contact ? Logs path in the Application Menu. 

  • Logs notes can be categorized.  Trail Blazer comes pre-loaded with several log note types.  People in your organization who have security access to the System Manager area of Trail Blazer can add additional log note types.  This is discussed more at:  http://trailblz.com/kb/?action=view&kb=76&cat=1.
  • A contact can have many log notes.
  • Each log note has a date attached with it. This date can be changed.
  • A number of dollars or hours can be attached in each log note.  For example, using this field, you can track volunteer hours of a person in your organization.
  • A manually entered log note can be applied to many contacts. Visit the following link for more information: http://trailblz.com/kb/?action=view&kb=79&cat=1.

What you cannot do with log notes:

  • In the Contact search, you can only display the latest log note in the list of searched contacts.  You are unable to place older log notes on the list.  Below is an example of a contact list with the most recent log note added.

  • Log notes can be difficult to analyze by using the text in the log notes.  It’s due to the freedom you have when entering a log note.  For example, there may be misspellings of the word(s) you want to search by.  For example, did my users enter the word  campaign, campign, campaine?
  • Cannot have log notes listed as a list (like states are) in the contact search.  You can, however, list them in the Search Log Entries menu.
  • Cannot have more than one log note type per note.

Basically, log notes are convenient to when you want to attach information to a contact. You can search log notes by words or phrases for analysis.  However, due to the freedom people have in entering log notes, future analysis of entered log notes can be complicated and potentially incomplete.

 

User Fields

 

Trail Blazer also has several user fields for shorter information.  User fields are best used when you have a category with a set of values. 

There are user fields for contacts (12 alphanumeric, 3 date, 3 numeric). 

Some characteristics of user fields are:

  • Each and every user field in Trail Blazer comes with a generic field label that can be customized.
  • The first 6 contact alphanumeric fields can be configured to have a list of previously entered values, provided there are less than 1,000 distinct values for each of those alphanumeric user fields.  This creates a drop down box with unique selectable values.
  • Alphanumeric user fields are restricted to a maximum length of 255.  Some examples of contact alphanumeric fields are: maiden name; partner name; and primary vehicle.
  • Date user fields are limited to only date input.  Some examples of this include: membership start date, membershp expiration date; last phone contact date; and last in-person visit.
  • Numeric fields are limited to numeric input – with or without a decimal. Some examples of this include: ask amount and home value.

The limitations of user fields are:

  • Like log notes, misspellings can occur in the alphanumeric fields. Although since the space for alphanumeric fields is limited, maintenance of the different values are easier: once you find a misspelling, search for it then do a mass update to that user field to correct the value. How to do a mass update to fields is discussed in: http://trailblz.com/kb/?action=view&kb=74&cat=1.
  • Your contact alphanumeric input sometimes doesn’t have the value you want in the list of values.  Don’t worry.  Type the value into the field – it will accept it.  It just means either the field has more than 1,000 distinct values or that value has not been entered before the last time someone in your organization ran the Update Unique Search Values (Drop Downs) located in the Application Menu path: System Manager -> Settings.   

  • No date or note can be directly associated with the value you enter for a user field. Indirectly, you could create a log note to expand on the value or where that data came from or a date associated with the data.
  • There are a limited number of user fields.

In summary, an user field is very handy for entering structured (or standardized) data that falls within one category where it is okay to not track when the data was entered and possibly not having a note associated with it.

 

Attributes

 

The final data type discussed in this article is attributes.  Think of an attribute as being a being a particular category for a contact that has a value of either Yes or No. Some examples of attribute are: Elected official; Volunteer; Election Judge; or Almuni. But attributes come with three additional bonus features.  These features are:

  • Similar attributes can be grouped together inside of a folder.  You can give the folder a name to reflect what the meaning of the attribute collection.
  • A date can be associated with each attribute that is set for contact.  By default during data entry, this is the current date.
  • A short note can also be associated with each attribute that is set for a contact. This note has a maximum length of 255, so it is unsuitable for writing a novel for the attribute note.

The following is an example of setting an attribute with an attribute date and attribute note.  Notice the attribute in the example is part of an attribute folder called MN Commission.  This example is a purely made up example and NOT part of anyone’s Trail Blazer database.

 

 

Searching for an attribute can be done by any of the following methods:

  • Attribute setting
  • Date range of the attribute date value
  • Attribute note value

Attributes can have their checked value; date; or value listed on the contact search result list.

There are some drawbacks to attributes.  They are:

  • It is impossible to set an attribute date or attribute note for an attribute that is not checked.
  • Listing an attribute setting or date or note on a contact search results will not include the attribute folder where the attribute resides.  So if you have more than one attribute with the same name… if you list either (or both) of them on the format of the contact search results, the column titles might be a bit confusing.  This can be fixed either by not naming your attributes the same or you can change the heading in the format.  See the section on Set the Order of the Columns in the following link.   http://trailblz.com/kb/?action=view&kb=33&cat=1. In that part of the step, notice the Heading column inside of the format tab.  That is where you can change the format of the attribute.

Attributes are a fine way of organizing categories of Yes/No type of data where you may (or may not) also want to associate a date or short note.  Groupings of similar attributes can be clustered together inside of an attribute folder.

Suggestions

How should you plan to import your data or set up the customizable areas of Trail Blazer for your organization?  Some thought should be given to what needs to be done with the data. Some considerations for making your decision: 

  • Do you just want to capture a large amount of (potentially) unstructured data? Then that data would go into log note. If importing, use the Log_Array import column.
  • Is your data not going to be used frequently or not even organization-wide?  Then put it into a log note with a customized log type.
  • Will this data need to be analyzed vs. just being displayed? If so, put it in either a user field or an attribute.
  • Is your data very well defined (or could be with a little bit of effort on your part) into pure Yes/No type of answers? Then attributes are probably the way to go.
  • Do you have (or will have) data that falls into a category but doesn’t have yes/no type of values?  If you don’t, then change it to have yes/no values with a note for attributes.  However, if you do have user fields available, use a user field.  Just remember to make sure there is no data in the user field before you use it.  If there is none, rename the user field immediately (by right-clicking on it and changing the label) so no one else begins using that user field for something else.

Log notes, user fields, and attributes… all part of the customizability that Trail Blazer offers your organization.



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