Observations from field use of ODK Collect

1. What is the issue? Please be detailed.

We have around 13 volunteers using 'ODK Collect' for some seven months and have been relatively happy with this application but there have been (on occasions) some strange behaviours in the last few weeks which I cannot get to the bottom of so I'm hoping someone in the community can give me some advice or may have had similar issues. Nothing has been changed on the form itself or the 'Googlesheet' it uploads to. There don't appear to be any issues with 'saving', 'sending' or 'receiving' forms. I'm sorry this isn't much to go on technically. Any suggestions welcome.

One of the Volunteers quotes as follows:-

"Despite me starting a new survey at the outset, the tablet kept defaulting to the values already entered in the previous report which was back in October 2021. Therefore at each stage I had to keep deleting these values and adding in the ones that we wanted. Also, when I got to the end of each survey, I was not given the option to 'add survey' or 'don't add survey' so I had to keep saving the survey and then moving on to the next one. About half way through the day, the tablet suddenly stopped defaulting to old values and behaved exactly as it should, and so I wasn't sure if the final survey report would actually contain everything we'd capture. The other tablet that **** was using was working fine for the majority of the day, but suddenly started defaulting to random dates whenever he started a new survey.

It doesn't seem to be the same issue that's affecting each of the tablets that have encountered problems, so I don't know how you're going to work out how to fix them".

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Hi @Paul_Shapley
Really interesting - thanks for sharing the feedback.

The first question my mind jumped to was if the form is using a #last-saved setting for any of the questions?

Or if there were any other default settings in the form itself?

Do you have a copy of the XLSForm you could share?

Anyone else have any ideas?

Hi janna,

Many thanks for you're reply. That is a possibility I think. Perhaps there is something obvious I'm missing. I've attached the form.

peatland_survey_form_final.xls (22 KB)
peatland_survey_form_final.xml (18.4 KB)

Hi @Paul_Shapley,
Hmmm, I took a look through these - and seems there's no default settings here at all...so it definitely isn't what I was thinking!

So I'm not sure that it's an ODK thing...the other thing that pops to mind is if it's a setting on the actual device. You know how some devices 'remember' data entry fields (like name, number, address, bank card info (!)) and then autofill? Could it possibly be something like that happening? Especially because the other tablet was working fine?

The only way I know to make ODK autofill something (from within ODK settings itself) is to use the 'default' column in the XLSForm - which isn't present in your form...which is why now my assumption is that it's something else other than ODK...

Do you think that may be a possibility?

Good troubleshooting ideas from @janna!

My guess is that the user had an open, partially-filled instance of this form in Oct 2021 and switched to another app. At some point Collect went out of memory and the user never came back to that form definition. When they did come back to that form definition, it opened the autosaved survey from Oct 2021. They replaced that old data for multiple repeat instances until they reached the end of the existing data and then the form resumed behavior as they would expect.

The savepoint behavior feels relatively seamless when a user has their work interrupted and then resumes it shortly after. In the case where a lot of time passes between the interruption and opening the form definition again it's very confusing. https://github.com/getodk/collect/issues/3494 describes the current behavior and perhaps you could show that to your volunteer to see whether it matches their recollection of what happened.

This does sound different. Has it happened again? It would be helpful to know more about "random". Did the person check their device date time? Under some conditions, device date time can deviate from real date time and Collect would take those unexpected times.

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Hi LN,

This would appear to be what is reported but not yet confirmed. Is there some advice I can use in the meantime while the problem is being looked at. I am thinking that perhaps I should advise that The form is 'NOT SAVED' using the top 'save' icon but only at the end of the survey instead. This would imply that the survey would be a clean form if collect was accidentely closed and re-opened?