mkmurray wrote:I don't know if I'm totally convinced that the use of MLS export files is as widespread as you propose. Perhaps all of your bishops have used such exports because you were there working them?
This is why a focus group might be helpful, or perhaps a survey sent out to Ward Clerks/Bishops or something. It could ask them if they even knew you could export from MLS and if/how they use the exports.
I think the use of export for third-party helper apps such as Ward Tools (PDA-based, not free) and MLS Companion (personal-computer-based, free) is quite common. What is probably less common are uses such as my own ad hoc queries of the files, because they do require a clerk or bishopric member who is DB-savvy.
As I have suggested in the Wiki, I think early focus groups are a great idea. I have participated in such groups to shape development of commercial online products. The key to eliciting valuable information from focus groups is to educate them about what the real tradeoffs are and get them to own the choices. If you structure a focus group as a sales pitch for a new idea, you just get your own sales pitch parrotted back to you.
Ask me if I want a pony or a speedboat and I might say, "Cool." Ask me if I want a speedboat, but I would have to give up restaurants, and I would think differently.
Also, as Alan_Brown reminds us, the tradeoffs here are not all about the export files, but also about intrinsic functionality that exists in MLS already.