Blogshanks

A note on exporting data


Over the years, Longshanks has gotten a lot of questions and requests about exporting data from events. The number of those requests has risen significantly in the last twelve months, so I wanted to take a moment to address the topic.

The goal of this article is to answer many of the common questions that players and event hosts ask about exporting data, but please contact us if your questions aren't addressed.

The desire

Very generally, people seem to want a method to export data from an event that was hosted here on Longshanks so they can use that data in some other place. Some more specific desires include:

  • Exporting (and importing!) lists of game pieces (army list, squad list, etc.) from one or all players
  • Exporting event results (who won, who got second place, etc.)
  • Exporting event statistics such as how many times a particular faction or faction leader was played

There are two main issues related to exporting data. Both of them are discussed in detail below.

#1: Data privacy

Numerous laws and guidelines exist around the world that govern how personal data can be handled by organizations. Longshanks (and all other event management systems like it) must abide by these laws if they want to operate in the places where those laws have jurisdiction.

In short, data privacy laws require organizations that handle personal data to allow users to (a) know how their data are being used and (b) request that their data be obfuscated or deleted if it is possible to do so.

What is considered "personal data" can be a bit confusing, but it generally means any data that can be used to identify the user, discover the user's physical location (especially their home or real-time location), or reveal the user's financial information.

Longshanks has made significant efforts to allow our users to have easy access to control and manage their own data. Players have full control over their own account names, home locations, and contact information. When a user makes a change to any of their personal information on Longshanks, that change takes effect immediately across the entire system. Users can also request that their information be completely obfuscated so that it cannot be connected to them as a person in any way by anyone (not even Longshanks staff!).

The most common request on this topic is for the ability for an event host to export event results. If Longshanks allowed that, the exported copy of data would not update if a user changed their account information later on and could not be obfuscated or deleted by Longshanks or by the user. This would significantly reduce the control that users have over their own personal information.

It has always been the policy that data created on or submitted to Longshanks does not leave. This is done to comply with GDPR and other data privacy laws, yes, but also to give our users security and control over their own information. I fully acknowledge that this isn't needed (or even wanted!) by the majority of users, but feel that it is very critical to the safety and well-being of the few for whom it matters a great deal.

#2: We are a business

For full transparency, I want to be very clear: Longshanks is a for-profit business. It provides tools for tabletop gamers and is able to keep doing that because a small percentage of users pay for an expanded set of features. The intent, of course, is that the positive aspects of this outweigh the negatives.

Longshanks needs active users to keep the doors open and the lights on. If more people come to this site and use it, more people are interested in becoming subscribers. If we allow data to be exported for viewing elsewhere, fewer people will come to the site at all and fewer people will feel like the site is "worth" a subscription fee.

I take a lot of pride in making sure that people feel like Longshanks IS worth using. Longshanks being profitable means that a lot more time can be devoted to maintaining and improving the system than most gaming tools that are run for free. It also means that there is direct encouragement to support features that people want because those are likely the features that they will pay for.

Call to action!

The first thing I ask anyone to do when they make a request or have an idea for a new feature is to submit it to the user requests page. Several people have already done that for data exporting, so thank you! Submitting ideas is how Longshanks improves.

The next thing for any of you to do if you want there to be some kind of data export feature is to tell us what exactly you want. If possible, I would like to add features directly to Longshanks so that you can get what you need without data exporting being necessary. Some examples:

  • New and different statistics tools.
    • People often say they want to export event data because they want to track some statistics differently. If a bunch of people all want the same thing, we should just have it here!
  • Different ways of linking multiple events together.
    • Longshanks has added support for team events, top cuts, community-only events, and event tags in the past to give event hosts and players different tools for interacting with events.
    • If there are other things you or your local community need, please submit a request!

The short and easy answer when people ask for data exporting tools is no but what I really want to say is if there are things you want to do but can't do on Longshanks, I want to add those features.

Thank you for your time. Again, please contact us if you have questions or concerns.


Note 1: Longshanks generally references and adheres to the European Union's GDPR because it is the most comprehensive set of data privacy laws and applies to the largest group of users.

Note 2: There are two exceptions to our data exporting rules as described above:

  • Player-submitted lists can be copied and pasted elsewhere. This is allowed because players generally only put lists of game pieces into their list and not any truly personal information.
  • Lists of player-versus-player pairings from each round can be copied as text during an event. This is allowed because the utility of pasting pairings to a Discord server or WhatsApp group (for example) is very high compared to the potential for abuse.

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The views and opinions expressed in Blogshanks articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Longshanks.

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