How Airtable can help you in real life: Railsware example

I can imagine there are billions of real life applications that Airtable helps with. Starting from simple ones like keeping track of all your manga comic books and issue and inventory tracking, up to less obvious like touring activity management and film production assistance. No wonder this tool has been used for a wide variety of cases. It was built to provide an easy way to create, maintain and use the database, which was quite a challenge for people without IT engineering background. I would like to tell you about another interesting case of usage and how Airtable advantages can be multiplied by using it in synergy with other software: Google Spreadsheets and Airtable Importer add-on.

Before we dig into it, I’d like to note that this is a real life example. It’s not a guide on how to bring your children up, but a simple advice on how certain software tools can help you solve real-life problems. Let’s start with outlining the issue: kids are raised in the social world with economic reality but without understanding the mechanics of it.

There’s no secret that sooner or later, children want to buy things but for parents it’s often hard to turn buying things into real life experience for the child. What experience would this particular purchase create in the life of a child? Would they decide to buy an item when living in self-managed environment with less significant parental care? It takes time for the youngsters to realise that being an adult means that you get the freedom of choice but it always comes with the responsibility.

First thing that comes up to mind is that as a parent, you should pass this knowledge and experience onto your child. However we all realise that limiting kids and just telling them what to do isn’t the best approach as there would be no important understanding of “why”. Moreover, it could provoke an urge to rebel – totally opposite of what you, as a parent, would like to achieve. On the other hand, blindly following kids’ demands is no better as it may nurture a misleading picture that money “just comes in”.

Considering both cases, this brings us to the understanding that some form of a “golden middle” approach should be applied to avoid getting into both of the mentioned extremes. You can provide your children with a simplified model of the adult world: contracts, e-banks, credit cards. As a result, you motivate them to do the right thing from your adult experience point of view. This approach gives long term results and positive outcomes include:

  • kids evolve, learn, study on real life cases
  • kids move towards longer term goal, like making/saving money-units to buy something big
  • kids consider their choices and as a result respect others and their choice
  • kids have the feeling of discipline
  • kids have the feel of responsibility for own actions and commitments
  • kids take the initiative based on wishes

Let’s consider simple reward system based on badges earning. Badges can be earned by following rules and agreements, thus fines can be applied for breaking the rules. Badges have real money evaluation based on common sense conversion rate. Each child can decide on when to spend the money they’ve earned. It introduces the responsibility of managing the exact state of their wallet balance. This prompts them to prioritise their wishes while knowing it’s not possible to afford everything at once. This approach brings and considers every purchase as affordable and reasonable from long-term perspective. It appears that this approach teaches kid to deal with earning money and making decisions. This also works as a simple representation of grown-up life with no push from parents’ side. Moreover, kids might motivate each other within a healthy competition of earning. Or warning each other from being fined.

Let’s talk about solution. Initially, we would like to keep the log of the kids’ earnings and fines in some kind of database. This is where Airtable helps us to do great.

Particular advantages of using Airtable:

  • kid name as a record link from “Kids” table
  • earning type as multiple select to keep track on what helps your kid to do good or what’s the most reason of kid’s fines
  • earning type as single select to operate different types of badges (like cents and dollars)
  • timestamp field for later use
  • actual balance change (amount of earning or fine)

Then, another table would give us overall state and budgets.

Airtable rollups help to get needed sums from the log table.

Seems fine, doesn’t it? But what if you would like to see the continuity of the kid’s performance? Badges can be earned within relatively short period of time which is still much better than fines. But I bet that you would like to see your kid keeping up the good work rather than exploiting the system just to buy “that comic book”. That’s the moment when Google Spreadsheets with all their math magic would come in handy.

But is there an easy way to transfer data from Airtable into a spreadsheet? Copy-paste? And then keep doing it each time you would like to update “continuity table”? There’s better way: Airtable Importer add-on for Google Spreadsheets. It would allow you to

  • link Airtable public view to particular sheet
  • re-import data with one button
  • rely on hourly auto-reimport

Then, by using functions such as SUM and FILTER and built-in color-scale conditional formatting, you would build simple monitor table with clear picture of how your kids are doing over time.

By sharing this example we would like to demonstrate how modern tools can be easily used to get common life cases more data-ish which is pretty much popular in tech community :)

And of course, we can spread the word about such great tools like Airtable, Google Spreadsheets and a small add-on which connects them together.