This week's site upgrade, the big picture - Fuelly Forums

Android Users - Coming Soon! - Migrating from aCar 4.8 to 5.0

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Old 06-12-2014, 05:17 PM   #1
BDC
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This week's site upgrade, the big picture

This week's upgrade seems to be either very poorly thought out or very poorly executed, or some combination of the two. The primary issue seems to be the new vehicle database which categorizes all our vehicles for us. My guess is that it was a third-party database which the developers licensed in order to keep up with the ever-growing list of vehicle types, to let us better sort and search through the gigantic amount of fuel-up information stored on the website. Let me start by saying that this is an excellent goal and I fully support attempting to harness Fuelly members' vast amounts of data into something that is easier to search and sift through. I think it is and always has been one of the most important features of the site in terms of features that get people to sign up and stick around.

I have read all of the variety of threads and posts complaining about vehicles missing, engine types missing, and vehicle mis-categorized after the update, and spent some time doing my own research and drawing my own conclusions. I am trying here to concentrate on the big picture issues, and not just the bugs that will (hopefully) eventually get fixed (custom dashboard views have been reset; when browsing, vehicles sorted by "added date" instead of last fueled up; image artifacts and bugs on the graphs and notes displays; etc).

Many vehicles are offered with a great variety of engine options. After the upgrade, almost none of them have the engine choice filled in. Popular vehicles like Golfs, Jettas, Corollas, Civics, etc, just going down the list of most common vehicles on Fuelly. Getting a little further into the details shows that many common engine options are just plain not available (1.9l TDI Volkswagens, or any Civic Si?? Any Focus options whatsoever??). Displacement in CC's seems to be available for most vehicles but not for others. Many vehicles are just not available for the model years which they were available. Other vehicles have arbitrary model names that were available in certain markets as universal for all markets. (Some of these statistics seem USA-centric, but in other places they seem global but just incomplete.) It's possibly most surprising that none of the developers seemed to think it was odd that all engine choices are labeled as "V" configuration, which is confusing to just about everybody. There is just so much wrong with this database that it's really mind boggling. I have spent an couple of hours in the past 2 days looking into it, and I still don't feel like I have found all of the problems with it.

I think the new Fuelly owners and developers greatly underestimate how much this has degraded the usefulness of this site. The solution to the database problems as suggested by joshlehman (who apparently is one of at least five Fuelly administrators responding to bug fix requests at this time) is either for all 200,000 Fuelly users to log in and fix their vehicles, or the developers will write a script that will magically infer what engine each car is equipped with.

I seriously doubt the ability of a script to guess at engine configurations, especially considering the wide distribution of Fuelly users throughout the globe and the great number of engine choices offered in all the different markets. And I don't know what the stats say, but it has always appeared to me that a great deal of Fuelly users join and log for a matter of months or years, and then stop logging. Anyone who has tried searching Fuelly's database for research purposes can see that many accounts or vehicles are abandoned, for lack of a better term. All of those vehicles can no longer be sorted or researched because users who don't log in won't change the engine configuration.

Am I misunderstanding here, or is this really the brilliant plan to solve this problem? If that's the best idea that we have, I think going back to pre-upgrade Fuelly is the obviously right move.

Those of us who have been around for a while understand that there are limitations to the way vehicles have been managed up until now, and that the old way was not perfect. But we got by with it pretty well. This update doesn't seem like any improvement at all, or at least I have not yet found an improvement that was executed correctly. (Granted I don't know about all of what goes on behind the scenes.)

I've been a Fuelly user since just about day one, and my expectations were low when Paul and Matt sold out (generally they are whenever this sort of ownership change occurs). The new forum and combination with that other site was, well, whatever (It didn't seem that there was really much demand for it, and doesn't seem like many people use it). This week's upgrade seems just plain clueless. I would like to hear the new developers' side, and what they have in store to fix it.
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Old 06-13-2014, 12:20 AM   #2
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Thanks for the detailed thoughts. Many of your assumptions are correct in terms of our goals and the big picture of what we are working towards with Fuelly. The bottom line is this: the prior version of Fuelly was built around total user-driven freeform text input. That approach carries with it limitations on what can really be gleaned from the data. You are right to say that "we got by with it pretty well" in the past as that is what users tend to do with a system that isn't perfect or complete in some areas. Our work in this major update was almost 100% behind the scenes and the vehicle classification situation has clearly surfaced as one of our biggest difficulties in this migration.

In terms of our ongoing work to resolve the database re-classification we are not relying solely on the Fuelly community to re-classify their vehicles however this is a user-driven site with a great base of users like yourself who truly want to see Fuelly grow and improve. My point in the other post regarding the vehicle situation was that there IS a way we can all help in this effort. That being said, we're not assuming everyone is going to re-classify their vehicles.

When it comes to scripting a solution it isn't as daunting a task as you may think and we will, in many cases, simply classify vehicles for non-active users into the most common or most likely engine class. This still keeps the data clean while also getting those vehicles back into the searchable ecosystem ASAP.

I can understand the consternation with this update and the worry that we're somehow "clueless" but I can assure you a great deal of thought and effort has gone into this update and while we did underestimate the immediate need for re-classification to be complete this is a process that is under way and you'll see things improve as fast as we can improve them.

Hang in there with us and I'm certain you'll be glad you stuck with Fuelly through the fog of some of these changes.
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Old 06-13-2014, 06:16 AM   #3
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One specific challenge I’ve found is that when a vehicle’s engine configuration is missing, that vehicle will still be lumped in with a ‘best guess’ search filter.

For example, (beating a dead horse because it’s my car, sorry), 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes. The vast majority without an engine configuration listed are actually the 2.0L diesel, however they’re all being returned with the 1.4L gas filter.

If a car is missing an engine configuration they shouldn’t be arbitrarily lumped together with a legitimate search filter selection. It would be much more meaningful to have less results from a filter and be accurate, than to have all results come back inaccurately. If these cars need to be filtered in a catch-all option, perhaps adding a new Engine Filter option of "Unknown" would be more appropriate.

I thought this could help alleviate some frustration while the user base builds back up accurate data in the meantime. Also perhaps a notification email to all users to come and review their vehicle data would be helpful.

I understand the magnitude of work, pressure and consideration your team is under. I don't make these posts to be picky but rather offer thoughts and ideas. Thank you again.
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Old 06-13-2014, 06:42 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by jandree22 View Post
If a car is missing an engine configuration they shouldn’t be arbitrarily lumped together with a legitimate search filter selection. It would be much more meaningful to have less results from a filter and be accurate, than to have all results come back inaccurately. If these cars need to be filtered in a catch-all option, perhaps adding a new Engine Filter option of "Unknown" would be more appropriate.

I thought this could help alleviate some frustration while the user base builds back up accurate data in the meantime. Also perhaps a notification email to all users to come and review their vehicle data would be helpful.
Great ideas! We will talk through this with the team this morning. This would at least get more complete access to all vehicles up quickly and still keep the data clean for continued clean-up efforts.
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Old 06-13-2014, 06:49 PM   #5
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Just a quick design note.... that THICK teal header bar at the top of the page is way overkill. Too thick (top to bottom).
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Old 06-14-2014, 08:39 AM   #6
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BCD, thanks for posting your feedback. I just wanted to respond since I am the new owner of Fuelly. As you know, the old system did not allow users to select specific engine types or transmissions. For US vehicles we are adhering to the same standards used by Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (parts suppliers). This will provide us more granular classification allowing users to compare apples-to-apples. We understand that getting all these vehicles properly classified is going to be tough but it's something we want to tackle sooner rather then later. We'll be requiring users to re-categorize their vehicles via the web, apps, etc. We'll be emailing users and asking them to update their vehicle information. In cases where there is a direct match, for example when there was only one four cylinder engine available and the users had a L4 selected, we will be able to set the engine automatically. Previously there was no transmission information, a detail that most certainly impacts fuel economy.

We are trying to find a similar database for European autos as well. Ideally in the long the long run we can "wikify" our system so users can submit new vehicle configurations, research them and ultimately use Fuelly as reference for what engines and transmissions were available globally. It would be great for us to open source this data with a Creative Commons Attribution required license.

We clearly have a lot of work ahead to make sure all the vehicles are mapped correctly and we are working on our processes to make this happen. We are going to build some tools to help us map the old vehicles to their new counterparts. We'll have to go over a couple hundred thousand cars which sounds like a daunting task but we'll be able to get through it soon enough.

I'd also like to remind everyone that we are not some large venture funded company. We are a small little ad supported service with a small team who want to see Fuelly succeed. Some people think we have the resources of a huge company but unfortunately we don't. We asked for beta testers and got lots of great feedback. We knew their would be a lot of work to reclassify vehicles and understand it's not going to happen over night. I fully believe that when we look back in 5 years we will be glad that we made this change and have more granular information on the vehicles in our database and not just L4 or V6 to signify which engine (and no transmission info).

Thanks for your patience and for your passion. We will chip away at getting reorganized and it won't be long before we are settled and can get focused on building out new features.
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Old 06-14-2014, 08:52 AM   #7
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Thanks Andy! Nice reply to the community!

Thank you for your comments and further insights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andyrobo View Post
BCD, thanks for posting your feedback. I just wanted to respond since I am the new owner of Fuelly. As you know, the old system did not allow users to select specific engine types or transmissions. For US vehicles we are adhering to the same standards used by Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (parts suppliers). This will provide us more granular classification allowing users to compare apples-to-apples. We understand that getting all these vehicles properly classified is going to be tough but it's something we want to tackle sooner rather then later. We'll be requiring users to re-categorize their vehicles via the web, apps, etc. We'll be emailing users and asking them to update their vehicle information. In cases where there is a direct match, for example when there was only one four cylinder engine available and the users had a L4 selected, we will be able to set the engine automatically. Previously there was no transmission information, a detail that most certainly impacts fuel economy.

We are trying to find a similar database for European autos as well. Ideally in the long the long run we can "wikify" our system so users can submit new vehicle configurations, research them and ultimately use Fuelly as reference for what engines and transmissions were available globally. It would be great for us to open source this data with a Creative Commons Attribution required license.

We clearly have a lot of work ahead to make sure all the vehicles are mapped correctly and we are working on our processes to make this happen. We are going to build some tools to help us map the old vehicles to their new counterparts. We'll have to go over a couple hundred thousand cars which sounds like a daunting task but we'll be able to get through it soon enough.

I'd also like to remind everyone that we are not some large venture funded company. We are a small little ad supported service with a small team who want to see Fuelly succeed. Some people think we have the resources of a huge company but unfortunately we don't. We asked for beta testers and got lots of great feedback. We knew their would be a lot of work to reclassify vehicles and understand it's not going to happen over night. I fully believe that when we look back in 5 years we will be glad that we made this change and have more granular information on the vehicles in our database and not just L4 or V6 to signify which engine (and no transmission info).

Thanks for your patience and for your passion. We will chip away at getting reorganized and it won't be long before we are settled and can get focused on building out new features.
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:58 PM   #8
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I sincerely wish you the best - as you chip away at getting reorganized. I certainly enjoy my just under 45 MPG over just over 14,000 miles fuel efficiency numbers that you show within the former 2013 VW JSW TDI sector.

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Old 06-16-2014, 01:17 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by ezshift5 View Post
I sincerely wish you the best - as you chip away at getting reorganized. I certainly enjoy my just under 45 MPG over just over 14,000 miles fuel efficiency numbers that you show within the former 2013 VW JSW TDI sector.
Thanks. Those diesel Jetta's are amazing.

In the long run we plan to allow users to track more info such as depreciation, insurance, maintenance, etc. to get an even better feel for the true total cost of ownership for your vehicle. The diesel's seems to hold their value quite well (albeit with a bit higher maintenance costs). I think all the Jetta diesel owners will be quite happy when they look at their cost/mile compared to many other vehicles. They are a very wise investment IMO.
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Old 06-16-2014, 01:36 PM   #10
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Wow I am NOT happy with the "upgrade" to Fuelly. Seems like a giant step backwards in look and functionality. Loyal user for years and I am frustrated.
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