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WebObs search updated and the future of QuickLook

willmcmain
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Hello all,

Since we introduced the new WebObs search, you've been able to search for observations by other observers or omit the observer to get all the observations for a specific star or date range. This is a departure from the old WebObs search page that only allowed you to search your own observations. What this means is that the QuickLook program is now redundant--you can get a snapshot of recent observations easily through the WebObs search, and do a lot more besides.

Since it doesn't make sense for us to have two programs that do the same thing, we've decided to remove QuickLook. In that vein, I've just updated WebObs with new functionality to match what's available in QuickLook right now. A full list of the update is below, for those interested.

These new updates are live, but QuickLook hasn't been taken down yet. I don't want people to feel like QL has been replaced by an inferior tool, so I'd like to get people's feedback on the changes to make sure it's still easy to use and has all the features people excpect. If you use QuickLook, please start using the WebObs search instead by going to Data->Webobs and clicking "Search for Observations." You can post feedback here or email me (will@aavso.org

Full list of changes to WebObs search:

 

  • Checkboxes to decide which types of observations (Visual, CCD, etc) to show
  • Ability to highlight a specific observer
  • Magnitude display now includes a link to LCG light curve for that star including the selected observation
  • Links to the chart used in an observation where availible 
  • A more verbose display of data at the top of the results page--how many observations were found, how many observers involved, the date range, etc.
  • A minor usability update: going to a page that's empty will redirect to the last page that has observations, e.g. if your search is split into 30 pages, going to page 31 will redirect to page 30. This fixes an issue where deleting observations would cause people to be redirected to a page that didn't exist and get an error.
Can you streamline it so it
bjs
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Can you streamline it so it functions like quick look?  I liked quick look because I can access it off the main AAVSO page - type in the ID, and click go, and I got my answer.

With webobs, that's now go to the AAVSO page, click on Webobs, wait for the page to load, click on search for observations, wait for that page to load, clear out my observer initials, type in the star ID, increase the number of obs per page using the pull-down, click search and I finally get my answer.  Lots of clicking and loading pages, and changing the defaults on the page to what I want (which just mirrors quick look).

Streamline it, give us a one-click solution, and it'll be fine. 

Quick Look.
WWJ
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Change for changes sake!

 

Nothing wrong with “Quick Look”, please leave it where it is. It's a quick way of looking up ongoing observations... Right! This Web–obs alternative is a fiddle. Haven’t time for all that.

 

Oh how we love to make a simple matter complex!

 

WWJ.

QuickLook
BLD
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I find that the "old" quickLook much moere convenient to use than going through WebObs.

In my opinion QuickLook should be ratained.

Quicklook
PYG
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I wholeheartedly agree with comments made here.  QL is fine as it is.  It works, and is quick to use. Please leave well alone!

Gary PYG

I agree with these comments.
gka
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I agree with these comments. I have never used the search in WebObs because I never realized it was even there. I tried using it this morning and found it to be a real pain. QL is so easy to use the way it is now, so please leave it alone.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith Graham

GKA

QuickLook
ARJ
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The expanded WebObs search is a great feature that I wasn’t aware of but it’s no replacement for the existing format which allows a quick search of observations on a specific star.  I would hate to see either one go away but in general, I would guess that 95% of all quick look checks would use the existing WebObs feature rather than the extended one.  If you could streamline the expanded capability, as has been suggested,  so at first pass it functions as WebObs does now from the main page you would truly have an upgrade.  As it is, the expanded version is more an inconvenience to day to day activity than a value added enhancement.

  bjs wrote:Can you
willmcmain
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bjs wrote:
Can you streamline it so it functions like quick look?  I liked quick look because I can access it off the main AAVSO page - type in the ID, and click go, and I got my answer.

I'll be updating the front page star finder so that it goes to WebObs search instead of the old QL, so once that happens it will be just as straightforward as it is now.

WWJ wrote:
Change for changes sake!

Nothing wrong with “Quick Look”, please leave it where it is. It's a quick way of looking up ongoing observations... Right! This Web–obs alternative is a fiddle. Haven’t time for all that.

I know people are happy with the way QuickLook works now; unfortunately, it's a poorly written program that causes a lot of problems for me on the backend, and is very difficult to maintain. Merging the functionality with WebObs search makes it much easier for me to keep it working as well as to make changes in the future as necessary. I assure you, I do not have time to be making changes for change's sake!

 

The main reason I'm soliciting feedback is so I can figure out how to make the new program as streamlined and easy to use for this purpose as QuickLook is now. I won't be taking down the old QL until I'm confident that's the case. To that end, I have a couple of questions for you all:

  • Do you access QL from the front page (the "star finder" box) or by going to the form under Data->Data Access?
  • Do you often change the date range, or search on a specific date? Or do you usually stick with the default (last 90 days)?
  • Do you often use QL for checking on specific observers rather than specific stars?
QL
PYG
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Answering Will's questions...

Always access QL from the front page

Stick with the default date.

Never use it to check on observers.  Only stars!

Gary (PYG)

Quick Look
WWJ
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Back to you MWVA,

 

Sure: I guessed all this wasn't for our convenience. After all; we're merely observers and paid up members...though this will be under review.

 

Answers to the questions:- (1) Rather obscure this: I click “Observers” and then “Quick Look”. Is that too simple? (2) We invariably change the “date range”, according to the thrust of our enquiry. (3) No! It's the objects we're concerned, not the shadowing of other observers.

 

WWJ.

Questions on WebObs/QL
GTN
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The proposed changes make QL redundant for my uses.  I rarely use QL, preferring the automated MyNewsFlash.  Befor adding a new star to my obsercving program, I wil use the LCG to help me choose whether to add it.  I like the visual presentation a lot.    Bookmarks in the browser that link directly to QL (and to WebObs, LCG, VSP, etc.) are real convenient for quick navigation, and I like that QL has direct links to WebObs, VSP, VSX, and LCG, which saves time in switching back and forth from tool tool to tool.  THose direct links should be included in any redisgn of WebObs.  I never use the Data Access portal from the Home page, relying on browser bookmarks.

 

I accept QL's default date range about 99% of the time.  If no dates (or only a starting date) are entered in the WebObs search, alll observations are returned by default, which is a terrible choice and not consistent with QL or LCG.  90 day default date range on WebObs would be consistent with QL and also familiar to folks who use QL a lot.

 

I use QL for specific stars and the LCG to highlight specific observers.

 

Maintenance of poorly written code will take resources away from other projects that are more urgent.  Could QL be kept up, but frozen, so that no maintenance or updates to it will be made after a certain date?

 

Before committing myself to a definite thumbs up or down on a WebObs re-design, I want to use an advanced beta version for a while.  MyNewsFlash, while a great idea, was not implemented very well and is even more awkward to use than QL, but I like MNF because, once set up, it's automated and I see all the stars on my program in one place at once.

 

Cheers,

Thom

 

 

 

Will, Do you access QL from
bjs
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Will,

Do you access QL from the front page (the "star finder" box) or by going to the form under Data->Data Access?

Front page.

Do you often change the date range, or search on a specific date? Or do you usually stick with the default (last 90 days)?

No changes, I always use default.  If I am looking at some specific range, I go to the LCG.

Do you often use QL for checking on specific observers rather than specific stars?

No. 

Thanks for your efforts!

Jim

Please don't make changes like this on your own!
lmk
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Will, We all appreciate your hard work, but please don't change the way programs work or switch apps without checking with all the USERS first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I use QL as my #1 quick, easy check on what a star is doing. Tt is simple and text based so works perfectly with low bandwidth. THERE IS NO NEED TO CHANGE THIS!!!!!

If it is coded poorly, then please spruce it up to your current standards, dont remove it. That shouldn't be so tough, really.

PLEASE query the users first before making major changes.

MAHALO NUI LOA!!!

Mike LMK

GTN wrote:Maintenance of
willmcmain
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GTN wrote:
Maintenance of poorly written code will take resources away from other projects that are more urgent.  Could QL be kept up, but frozen, so that no maintenance or updates to it will be made after a certain date?

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. A program on the website creates work for me whether we're adding new features or not--bugs are found, and some of those bugs interfere with the working of other parts of the website. Any code that's on the website is something that I have to actively maintain.

Essentially, QuickLook and the WebObs search do the same thing: they return a list of observations for the user to browse. The difference is that they have a slightly different interface in front of them. Maintaining two different codebases that do the exact same thing is insane; it's much easier for me to improve the WebObs interface so it can be used for the same purposes as QuickLook.

GTN wrote:
 If no dates (or only a starting date) are entered in the WebObs search, alll observations are returned by default, which is a terrible choice

I'm curious why you think this is the case. In WebObs, as in QL, the observations are listed most recent first, so it doesn't make much difference whether the results go back 90 days or 9000 days. Interestingly (and I was surprised to find this), constraining the date range doesn't make it go any faster, either.

lmk wrote:
It is simple and text based so works perfectly with low bandwidth.

I'm glad you brought this up; according to my initial tests, WebObs search is already significantly faster than QL on identical searches. I'm also working on some more speed improvements that will be coming down the pipe today or Monday. The HTML for WebObs is also much lighter than the regular AAVSO website (including QuickLook) so I think you'll find it much more usable on low bandwidth connections.

Answers to your questions
HTY
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Hi Will,

>Do you access QL from the front page (the "star finder" box) or by going to the form under Data->Data Access?

Actually I usually access it from the Lightcurve Generator and use whatever defaults are picked up from there. 

 >Do you often change the date range, or search on a specific date? Or do you usually stick with the default (last 90 days)?

Default 95% of the time

>Do you often use QL for checking on specific observers rather than specific stars?

Specific stars although I do like to see the observer and whether the observer has transformed his/her CCD data.

To check on the behavior of a star I always use the lightcurve generator first.  Then if I see a descrepant observation (either mine or others), I drill down using the QL to see if I can make some sense of it by looking at the transformation code or note from the observer.

I don't mind if a WebObs search is used or the old QL as long as it's just as fast with the same or more information and the same or fewer number of clicks to get my information.

...Tim (HTY) 

Unscientific testing
bjs
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lmk wrote:

Will, We all appreciate your hard work, but please don't change the way programs work or switch apps without checking with all the USERS first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...

PLEASE query the users first before making major changes.

That's what he's doing.  Nothing has been changed except to add functionality to WebObs, according to Will's initial post.

As far as bandwidth and speed, I did some unscientific testing (slow day at work, you know).  I requested data on 4 different stars via QL and via Webobs, and timed how long it took to generate a response.  The timer was the second hand on my watch.  The results below show time in seconds for a response, and number of observations returned:

Star        QL                      WebObs

khi Cyg   16s (180 obs)    1s (73,928)

R Hya      2s (0 obs)          1s (19,144)

R CrB       19s (401 obs)    1s (244,789 obs)

o Cet       15s (244 obs)     1s (71,851 obs)

I ran khi Cyg 4 times on QL at first to make sure it wasn't some network anomaly.  All 4 times it took 15-17 seconds for a response.  So yeah, QL is dead slow.

Unscientific bandwidth test:

I saved the page source to a text document for both the QL and the WebObs response to khi Cyg.  The resulting file sizes were:

QL 106 KB (150 obs displayed)

Webobs 279 KB (200 obs displayed)

So a few more KB for a WebObs page than QL.

Bottom line, I think if Will sets up a front page, one-click kind of interface to replicate the QL function via WebObs, we won't really notice much difference.

Jim 

results!
Aaron Price
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Ah, leave it to Jim to supply some empirical data to settle a debate once and for all. :)

For my own reputation's sake, I did not code the version of Quick Look currently on the web site. I wrote the original version and a couple of iterations after that, but not this one. Will is the first professionally trained programmer the AAVSO has ever hired and it shows. When it comes to slinging code, he knows what he's doing.

Aaron
bjs
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I wouldn't worry about it.  QL's been running for what, 13 years on the AAVSO website?  And the database has been changed from an ascii file to a real database - so I would expect querying it with the proper tool would be quite a bit quicker!  You did well!

QL Suggestions
gka
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Hi Will,

I just got my first taste of the new QL format.  It does work very well and is SPEEDY!.

I do have 2 requests if possible:

1) Put that calendar in for start dates. It was very convenient to click on the date instead of typing in yyyy-mm-dd.
2) Is it possible to retain the observation types settings from previous sessions? For example, I am usually interested in only CCD measurements, so I need to uncheck all of the others each time I use QL.

Thanks,

Keith Graham

Whinged migration
wel
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Folks,


First - I want to compliment Will and his approach to this migration issue. The real world of evolving operating systems, databases, database interfaces, security, etc create real challenges for any organization's IT. Will has taken the bull by the horns and explained that this has to change but wants to know how the change can maximize the positive benefits and what features are needed to provide everyone with the functionality that they appreciate most?

I notice that a number of the comments regarding QL are of the "Don't change it, you've got it right nature". But there is not a corresponding "I tried the *new* WebObs interface and it needs the following to be equally useful to me." (There *are* comments about the old WebObs interface, but that is not the issue here.)


Resources - especially IT resources - are extremely precious in an organization like the AAVSO. We should be embracing Will's request to provide feedback on how to make WebObs the functional equivalent (or better!) of QL.

Cheers,

Doug

 


Will is making things better, not worse. Make his job easier by providing constructive feedback, not inertia.

Cheers,

Doug

Nice job!
HTY
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Hi Will,

I finally got a chance to use the new WebObs - QL search.  Very nice!  Very Fast! 

Now my request. :)  When selecting QL from the lightcurve generator, could you at least default the star name into the search form?  I'm not sure if I would want anything else defaulted in.  I'll have to think about that but at least when starting from the LC generator, one can be pretty sure that's the star that you want the QL data for.

Thanks!  This is a nice improvement and I do hope the new QL interface results in a reduction of the IT maintenance workload.

....Tim (HTY)

QL changes
BPO
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I like the new Quick look changes, especially the link to the LCG.

I usually rely on MyNewsFlash to keep me updated on my stars, but I can see this upgrade being used by me much more.

Thank you Will for your time and efforts in this regard.

Doug.   

QL Etc.
willmcmain
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Tim: I've fixed the link in the LCG. Thanks for pointing that one out to me!

Thanks to everyone for your input. As of right now, QL is no longer online, and all links have been changed to forward to the WebObs search. I'll continue to add improvements in response to people's suggestions.

quicklook
szkody
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I totally agree with all the comments posted - please bring quicklook back - its main advantage

was it iwa quick. Web obs takes longer to fill in!

 

Paula

QuickLook upgrade
BLD
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The new system is now very "Quick" and easy to use..

Many thanks!

WEBOBS Feedback
pukemaru
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Have you considered depopulating the 5 tickboxes. I only use VISUAL so I have to remove 4 ticks. It would be easier for users IMHO to tick what they want rather than remove what they don't want. (Others may have totally different ideas though).

Some people were discussing all the different clicks they have to do. I have bookmarked (in Safari) WEBOBS and also WEBOBS-search. I just click on the bookmark and it takes me straight there.

I have used QL a lot in the past but I like the new format - it's  just a matter of getting used to it, I think.

Stephen

New QL format
gka
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I agree with Stephen. Having used the new format, I am duly impressed with the ease and speed of operation. Like Stephen, I have bookmarked the QL page, and I can go right to it with one mouse click. I would like to be able to have my observation type(s) saved from one session to the next. I invariably use only CCD observations, and I find it inconvenient to uncheck the other observation types each time I use QL.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

New QL is fine
lmk
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Ok, Well I think I might have over-reacted initially with my comments about keeping the old QL. The new one works just fine! I haven't tested its speed yet on my one slow bandwidth connection, but Jim B seems to have shown it is faster, which is great.

Good going Will :))

Mike LMK

New QL
PYG
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Well my experiences are not so good.  At times the new QL is very quick, and I congratulate Will on this.  However there are times when it's much much slower than the old version.  I use QL quite a bit to see when outbursts began so that I can update the CVnet page regularly.  This morning (Dec 11 9.00 UT) it worked quickly for about 5 minutes, then took nearly two minutes to load CN Ori.  When it eventually loaded it took another 60 seconds to go back to the webobs page.  After this it continued to be very slow.  I even got fed up with waiting for it to load one star, so I quit!  I closed my Browser and tried again with the same result.  This has happened a few times over the past week or so, it's not just a problem today.  It's the same regardless of which browser I use.  I have a fast connection (60MB) so I'm not like Mike L with slow speeds.

For me to be convinced, it has to work fast all the time.  End of "whinge".

Gary [PYG]

AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 aavso@aavso.org 617-354-0484