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Five Uses for Log Data That You Never Thought of

Cars, law enforcement, lighting, marketing metrics, and beer and more...

When you think of logs, what do you think of? It's most likely troubleshooting software applications and the infrastructure that underlies them, keeping an eye on your production apps...perhaps even database logs and some other things like that. Traditional log management stuff...I'm guessing it's not sports cars, law enforcement, lighting, marketing metrics, and beer. Well guess what? It can be!

1. Debunk an Inaccurate Journalist
Back in February of 2013 The New York Times published a negative review of the Tesla Model S. To summarize, the reviewer wrote of a very negative experience that nearly left him stranded in the middle of the highway. Despite using range-optimization techniques, he elaborated, the driving distance that a Model S can go on one charge was much lower than stated by the company. The story got a lot of press as Tesla was ready to roll out a large number of the cars, with quite a bit of fanfare, in short order.

Lucky for Tesla, they had data on their side...log data that is, which was published to the Tesla blog. When NY Times author John Broder published his review, Tesla founder Elon Musk found his experience strange as it didn't fit with other reporters' stories or test data. Musk's post went on to pick apart every one of Broder's experiences and show that the reporter was being less than accurate with many facts. Check out the blog post to see how log data was used to debunk the journalist's stories, complete with some great graphs, annotated maps and more...all courtesy of the log data collected by the car's computer.

2. Catch an Alleged Hacker
In a series of events that began in September 2010, Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz allegedly began mass downloading documents from MIT's JSTOR, an online journal archive. As this article from MIT's The Tech newspaper states, it was "'network flow data' and DCBP log information" provided to the Secret Service by MIT that led to his arrest and charges being filed. (Sadly, after The Tech article was written, Aaron Swartz committed suicide under the pressure of the criminal case against him.)

3. Turn a Light On & Off with Log Data
As first detailed on the Logentries blog by user Jason Ruane, technical director at Moposa, log data can be used to switch lights on and off. While Jason uses this functionality to convey high-priority alerts to his team, it's easy to see other ways that this methodology could be used. Once you can use logs to turn electronics on and off, that opens the door to gathering data and using it to control the environment. Which brings us to our final example...

4. Make Better Beer
As a craft beer lover, this last one hits home for me and shows how log data can be used pretty much anywhere. A company called BrewBit is releasing a set of sensors to help in brewing beer. The first will be a temperature controller that you can use to log your temperature data as you ferment beer (to ensure a good fermentation) or put it into a kegerator (to ensure ideal serving temperature). With setups like we discussed above, temperate can be controlled to maintain ideal conditions. As they role out more sensors to monitor other data points, this log data can be used to see how different factors affect each other over time.

5. Track Marketing Metrics
In this blog post from back in October, we detailed how we here at Logentries eat our own dogfood across every department. In it, we showed how Marketing at Logentries uses log data, along with tags, alerts, search and graphing, to understand how well our marketing efforts our working and how people are using the product. Since then, we've even began using the logs to understand the result of A|B tests we've run on the site. Once you've got this data, there's so much information you can pull out of it, and Logentries helps us do that.

So, as you can see, the use for log data is myriad...and these examples only just begin to scratch the surface of uses. To be honest, though, once I found out you could use it to make better beer, I was sold ;)

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Of course, there are many more traditional use cases currently for log data that are equally valuable, such as monitoring your application, making sure everything is running smooth and giving you a way to quickly debug problems or repair your production environment. We're happy to talk about any of them, traditional or not. And if you're interested in checking out our log analysis tool, then please be our guest:

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More Stories By Trevor Parsons

Trevor Parsons is Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Logentries. Trevor has over 10 years experience in enterprise software and, in particular, has specialized in developing enterprise monitoring and performance tools for distributed systems. He is also a research fellow at the Performance Engineering Lab Research Group and was formerly a Scientist at the IBM Center for Advanced Studies. Trevor holds a PhD from University College Dublin, Ireland.