This recording software is now available comes on CD and loads into a PC in few minutes. Simple questions are asked during loading, usually answered by a single return key. Two shortcut icons are provided on the Windows desktop – 'Recorder 2000' and 'Recorder 2000 Getting Started'. The latter provides tutorials for introduction, best studied as the first step. Most of the tutorials end with a video cam (screen animation – with sound if you have it) demonstrating the topic. All this is a good first route to making sense of Recorder 1000. The tutorials may be printed (around 2 pages each usually) for which an inkjet printer set on draft is convenient. Unlike the previous Recorder 3.3 (a DOS program), Recorder 2000 is a Windows programme, based on Microsoft Access – it is menu and window driven, and relatively intuitive after some introduction. I found it convenient to run Recorder 1000 and Recorder Getting Started together in similar windows one above the other to try the examples for real while reading the tutorial on the screen and even watching the video cam. The Help menu in Recorder is helpful – there is no literature, as expected for only £10, but the ideal introduction is provided by the tutorial. Learning by discovery, playing with menus and windows is then possible by entering made-up data. The basic use is not difficult. One relevant point: entering species lists into Recorder is necessarily impossible before other basic information is entered using other menus, such as on people (who was the recorder) and site location and details.
The software is very new and there remain some problems to be resolved including bugs, mostly minor, and it is necessary to look at the design of Recorder critically now to see that it is developed to suit the range of people who would want use it in their different ways. Modern programming enables flexible software. Presently I have not found a way of entering species lists in a way that I find convenient, as the only method to enter a list appears so far to be to first make an alphabetic check list. This will work well for compact groups e.g. snails or butterflies, but is not practical for large insect orders with thousands of potential species. This requires taxonomic ordering, where the list has to be built up in families, edited and checked over. So there needs to be further development on data entry and presentation of observation lists on the screen. Alphabetisation is not adequate.
However, already the Recorder designers are working to facilitate taxonomic checklist. They say that this will be the main way of entering data into Recorder. But checklists are not to my mind suited for recording over a range of families of invertebrates particularly, where there are 100's if not 1000's of potential species. Breaking down a list into taxonomic sections such as families, forming numerous separate checklists for Recorder data entry is not convenient either to my mind, and creates further complexity of creating many observation events for one visit.
In Recorder2000 checklists are created from files of species lists contained in files called Rucksacks, these are created yourself by selecting species from the taxonomic 'dictionary' that you choose to work from. The method is to create as many rucksacks as you need each containing your purpose-made list. Then for data entry for a location, you select the rucksack you need which loads as a checklist (with tick boxes) appearing under a location observation form to fill in. Then you select species by ticking them off on the screen. You can add extra species on to your checklist. The present version does not allow you to swap checklists for a location observation – you have to fill in the location form each time.
I would prefer to be able to enter a list (using the species (*) abbreviations that work very well in Recorder) and scroll up and down, checking, editing and saving as it grows. For large insect orders when covering many families, the considerable number of potential species do not lend themselves to checklists to tick off, and multiple checklists are not practical resulting in multiple observations in the data base for a single visit to a site. Moreover, going though the data stored, as alphabetic species lists of species in numerous observations, seems not convenient unless your group is compact.
I think there should be an option of viewing your database of observations, and for data entry as taxonomic lists with order and family headings with conservation categories along side. There will be software add-ons written; whether these will prove a solution to these issues, I do not know. I think that the basic version should be developed to contend with these issues.
The more people now provide feed-back to the programmers and designers of Recorder, the better the system we should have in the end, so recorders, site managers, or those interested should try it out now, by obtaining a copy. And if you want to work with the alphabetic checklists, this version should suit your needs, e.g. for butterflies, snails, dragon-flies, garden birds, etc. If you are running a bird observatory, having the daily log in alphabetic order will loose the value of taxonomic groups that are so practical.
Species lists are generally easier to interpret using family headings in taxonomic order (ideally the species annotated with conservation categories) especially when the list does not reduce to common names. Such arrangement enables the reader to understand the list better (especially when not recognising species names). Information on any conservation species is ideally included such as for insects from the JNCC reviews.
NOTE £10 is the cost of Recorder 2000 purchased as a satellite to the Worcestershire BRC. If you are interested contact John Partridge: firstname.lastname@example.org
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