In order to archive raw tracking data in a way that it can be shared with other researchers and with other software, it is necessary to establish a standardised data format. We have developed an new format, called trackxf to fit this task.
The complete raw data describing an experiment is bundled by Rtrack
rtrack_experiment object1. This object contains
all of the raw tracking data, arena descriptions and any user-defined
factors. Exporting to a trackxf archive file (using the
export_data) will package all of the core
information in the
rtrack_experiment object into a single
trackxf file. This file can be archived, submitted as
supplementary materials for a publication or shared with colleagues. The
read_experiment will automatically read
trackxf files and completely recreate the
rtrack_experiment object for further analysis in R. Because
read_experiment function also accepts URLs, an
experiment can even be loaded directly from a trackxf archive
hosted on a remote server.
The format is based around JSON—a simple and widely-used format suited to the storage of list-type data. More information about JSON can be found at https://www.json.org/. Because the JSON standard is not bound to a particular software or programming language2, it can easily be read by other software and can be readily shared with colleagues who might not (for whatever reason!) use R. In addition, because JSON is plain text, it is fully compatible with version control platforms and can be searched for metadata keywords if necessary.
The trackxf format additionally compresses the JSON document to make the files a lot smaller. This is much better for storage and for transfer over the network.
The formal trackxf schema can be found at https://rupertoverall.net/trackxf/trackxf_schema_v0.json.
There is also additional detailed information at the trackxf github project page: https://github.com/rupertoverall/trackxf.
The metrics calculated by Rtrack are also contained in
rtrack_experiment object, but are not exported to the