MLS Bug or Acting as intended?

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
nategriffith
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MLS Bug or Acting as intended?

Postby nategriffith » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:33 pm

We created three custom fields in system options, one for speakers 12-17, one for speakers 18+ and one for Sacrament Prayers. Each is set to be a date that we can fill in for when a person speaks or prays in Sacrament Meeting.

We'd like to create one report that then lists that information. Here's what I did:

Create a Custom Report
Choose Critera -- Custom Field - Speaker 12-17. I then click on more and choose Custom Field - Speaker 18+. I change the Attribute to read OR Speaker 18+. I then click on more and choose Custom Field - Sacrament Prayer. Again I changed it so it reads OR Sacrament Prayer.

This is what I see:

ATTRIBUTE COMPARE VALUE VALUE
Speaker 12-17 HAS A VALUE NULL
or Speaker 18+ HAS A VALUE NULL
or Sacrament Prayer HAS A VALUE NULL

Essentially what I think I am going to get is anyone who has said the prayer OR who has spoken. When I click Save, I get only Speaker 12-17. Odd, right? So I go back in to the Criteria Screen and this is what it looks like:

ATTRIBUTE COMPARE VALUE VALUE
Speaker 12-17 HAS A VALUE NULL
or Speaker 12-17 HAS A VALUE NULL
or Speaker 12-17 HAS A VALUE NULL

As you can see my three attributes I am testing on get replaced by the first attribute listed. This happens over and over. I can't get my three testing criteria to stay! Is this normal behavior?

kisaac
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Postby kisaac » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:37 pm

nategriffith wrote:Is this normal behavior?

I hope you didn't enter all your data and then find it won't work as you expect! While I haven't duplicated all your efforts to check it out, I'm not sure the output will be what you expect anyway. Here are some thoughts to compare with your process.

Prayers: Try just making one custom report accessing this custom field with a handful of test dates you've entered.

Talks:
You really have to think this one through. What is your purpose for this report? Some ideas:
To do a simple tracking of talks, just make one custom field, LAST TALK. This will just save the last talk date.
To track more data, instead make a new year field each year, like TALK 2012, and next year make TALK 2013, etc. Each time they talk, you enter one talk date for each year per member, and this is really helpful for youth talk tracking.
In both of these cases, you can make separate custom reports that use these fields.
I use custom reports that track "new move-ins," Youth talk record, adult talk record.

It's hard to know what level of experience you have with MLS custom reports and fields. Have you read the wiki? Does this help?

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aebrown
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Location: Sandy, Utah

Postby aebrown » Fri May 11, 2012 3:13 pm

nategriffith wrote:As you can see my three attributes I am testing on get replaced by the first attribute listed. This happens over and over. I can't get my three testing criteria to stay! Is this normal behavior?


Clearly the Custom Reports feature is not working quite right for Custom Fields. But I think the primary problem is that you are trying to get the Custom Report to do something it wasn't designed to do, and MLS lets you try, rather than stopping you.

Custom Reports allow you to specify multiple constraints. The report will contain all individuals that match all the constraints. For each constraint, there is a single field involved; however, you do have the option of including multiple criteria for the constraint on that field. Those criteria can be ANDed or ORed within a single constraint. Note that I'm using the word "constraint" here to refer to the collection of criteria that apply to a single field. All of the constraints can only be ANDed together -- there is no option for ORing constraints (you can't say, for example, "Give me all members who are Female OR are over 12 years old" -- only the implied AND works across constraints).

Consider how a built-in field such as Marriage Status works. You can say "Marriage Status -- is -- Divorced" followed by "or Marriage Status -- is -- Widowed" and it will work as you expect. But as soon as you click the More link on that first criterion, the user interface stops you from choosing a different field for your next criterion on this field. You can only choose "or Marriage Status" or "and Marriage Status"; if your first criterion within a constraint is "Marriage Status -- is -- Divorced" you can't make the second criterion within that constraint "or Age -- is -- greater than -- 11".

My feeling is that custom fields are supposed to work the same way, but it was not implemented correctly. Given the philosophy I just described, it makes no sense to say "Custom Field 1 -- is -- abc" and follow that by "or Custom Field 2 -- is -- xyz". That's mixing criteria for two separate fields within a single constraint. And yet the user interface allows you to do exactly that. It appears that MLS saves the report in a way that enforces the underlying requirement to have just one field per constraint, but the UI is misleading along the way.

You are essentially trying to have an OR operation applied across constraints, but Custom Reports are currently incapable of doing so. It would be wonderful if it allowed more complex logic, but that's not the case now.
Questions that can benefit the larger community should be asked in a public forum, not a private message.


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