Category Archives: Uncategorized

Conversational Surveys with Upinion

I have been looking at Upinion which seems to be a very nice tool for “Conversational Surveys”. Upinion define these as ongoing surveys conducted in a chat messaging tool such as facebook messenger or their own app. As a company Upinion are focussed on international development with the aim to “Amplify people’s voices in a crisis situation” and could be an excellent complementary information channel to use with Smap for getting a more complete view on a situation.

Upinion

To specify the questions you are going to ask you create “conversations” using a GUI drag and drop editor. The screenshot below is from a test conversation I created. A graph of responses is shown automatically beneath each question as they are received.

Secondly you can attach a group to the conversation. This group will contain the respondents to your survey.

Finally you need to invite respondents to join a group. They might do this by scanning a barcode or clicking on a link. A key point is that the respondent needs to sign up in order to be involved in a discussion and they can revoke their membership and delete their personal data at any time.

Using Smap and Upinion together

There are a vast number of ways to collect data from the field, IOT devices, satellites / drones, surveys using enumerators, emailed or IVR surveys direct to respondents, conversational surveys as per Upinion etc.

The core Smap solution is the classic DME approach to conduct a survey with enumerators (we also support emailed surveys and webforms). This is probably the most rigorous and comprehensive way to get a snapshot of a situation at a point in time. However it does have a number of disadvantages. For example preparing the survey and collecting the data can take some time and has a reasonable cost. (Much quicker and cheaper than paper surveys though!). This cost and time tends to mean that you need to ask a lot of questions as you may not be back for a while and you are not sure what you need when the survey is being designed. Of course large numbers of questions can make responding to a survey time consuming for the respondents as well.

In order to get ongoing continuous data after the survey completes, the survey could identify people who have a smartphone and access to a network, and who would be prepared to act as a community contact or sentinel. They can be given a barcode to scan which will sign them up to an Upinion group. From that point on you can conduct conversations with these contacts to get a real time view of their situation and the situation in their community. Based on the information received you may then conducted another more targeted survey of the broader community using Smap.

Smap has relocated to Brisbane

The Smap Consulting headquarters has moved from Canberra to Brisbane. The primary reason is to focus on projects in the South Pacific, Brisbane being a base for a lot of this work. We will continue of course to support all of our customers anywhere in the world and travel will be quicker and easier from here.

The company address is now:

7/47 Herston Road
Kelvin Grove,
Queensland, 4059
Australia

Release 18.12

Updates

Changes to the layout of the user administration page

The new feature to allow a user to belong to more than one organisation has prompted some changes to the user administration page.  The main one is the removal of the button to move a user to a different organisation.   Instead when you open the user for editing then, if you have organisation administration privilege, you will be able to set the users current organisation.

Set the users current organisation

Previously you would select one or more users by clicking on a checkbox next to their name and then click on the “Move to Organisation” or “Delete” button.  A delete button has now also been added next to each user so there is no longer a need to select users prior to taking an action.  The “Add User” button has also been moved above the list of users.

This is work in progress and their will be more changes to the user administration page layout in the next release.

Timezones

The management of timezones for reports and viewing data has been improved.

  1. You can set your timezone in your user profile.  (Available on all pages)
  2. The default timezone is the one your browser is set to however you can change this and it will be saved with your other settings.
  3. Exports to XLS include a new tab that shows the timezone used for all dates and times.
  4. You can set the timezone for a report independently of your personal time zone and this will be saved with the report

Legacy Reports

The old way of creating reports as snapshots of panels on the dashboard has been removed.

Administration Reports

Two reports have been added to the form management page:

  1. Usage.  How many submissions have been submitted per user for each project or form
  2. Form Access.  The users in your organisation have access to a form and why they have access or do not have access. This report considers the projects a user has access to, their security groups and their security roles as well as whether or not the form has been deleted or blocked.

Performance Improvements

As the number of people using Smap increases the size of data tables also increases and it becomes apparent that additional indexes are required.  2 new indexes were added in this release to improve the performance of messaging and submission processing.

Release 18.11

There have been lots of mini updates over the last 4 months but no formal new releases until now. It is November and its time to get back to monthly releases.

New Features

1. A user can belong to more than one organisation. 

Many people find that they are working on multiple projects in different organisations.  Previously you would have needed more than one logon or would have had to keep asking the organisational administrator to move you from project to project.  Now however you can belong to multiple organisations, you can select the organisation you want to work in by clicking on your profile in any page.

All you projects, security groups and role are preserved for all the organisations that you belong to.  Hence you don’t need to set yourself up each time you switch organisations.  The security groups can be different between organisations so you might be an administrator in one and an enumerator in another.

To set this up go to the users admin page, select a user and then click on the organisations that they have access to.  Note you need to have “organisational admin” privilege to do this.

2. Set Max Image Size from Server

You can now specify the maximum image size in the fieldTask options on the user administration page.  This maximum value will be set on the phones when you refresh.

3. Referencing the survey key (HRK) and preloads in the advanced filter

You can now create filters such as: ${_hrk} = ‘abc 001’ and ${_device} = ‘1111111’

Release 18.7

Its been a bit slow over summer.  We are now announcing the july release and yet we are already into August.

Changes include:

  • rank question type
  • randomize appearance on select questions

Rank Question Type

This is just like a select multiple question except instead of choosing one or more options you can order them.

Adding to your survey

Specify in an XLS Form in the same way you specify a select multiple question except that you replace “select_multiple” with “rank”. Then you have a space and the list name that points to all the choices that you want to rank. So:
        type                          name                           label
rank my_list             question_name          Rank this list!

In the online editor select the question type called “rank” and then add the choices.

Using

The rank question works in FieldTask and WebForms.  In both devices you drag the choices into the order that you want.

 

Rank Question in WebForms

Analysis

If you export the data into an XLS report you will see that the ranked questions are shown in a similar way to select multiples with a column per choice.  However the column headings are the question name – the rank.  And the contents are the name of the choice.

Answers to a rank question in an XLS report.

Limitations

Not all exports support rank yet. The support in the API is also limited.  You also can’t currently use it in filters. For example get all data where london was marked as the first choice.

Randomize

If you add an appearance of randomize=true for a select or rank question then in fieldTask and WebForms the order in which the choices are shown will be randomised.  This can be useful to reduce the impact of bias in choice selection on the survey results.   Randomize currently only works on FieldTask and not on Webforms. No it works in webforms too.  Thanks to Alexander Torrado for picking this up.

Bugs Fixed

  • Choices pulled from another form were not showing in webforms.  If you looked up choices in a CSV file then these did show in webforms however if the choices were in another form they did not.

Update 8th August 2018 to add the bugs fixed section and to note that randomize works with webforms but you need to set it as a parameter and not in appearance.

Server Outage

I’d like to apologies for users of the sg server who experienced a 5 hour outage today. This should not have happened and was the result of deficiencies in my IT processes.

The number of surveys submitted to Smap hosted servers has been increasing over the last 3 years and is now averaging nearly 4,500 per day.

On the free sg server it is around 2,000 per day.  However on the 13th and 14th of June we received 11,897 submissions 80% of which included a high resolution image of a cocoa tree. This caused a big drop in the available disk space.

The IT process went:

  1. I received a text message that we were down to 4GB at 5pm UTC.
  2. Immediately ran some clean up scripts that freed up 9GB,
  3. I then added 60GB extra disk to the server.  However this disk is not made available until you reboot the server.
  4. The server was still being heavily utilised so I decided to wait until later in the evening to reboot when, given that most users are in Africa or Asia, the load should have been less.
  5. Then I forgot!

So instead of a 30 second outage we got 5 hours.  I will endeavour to ensure that this does not happen again.

Version 18.04

Improved Performance

Refreshing fieldTask will now be faster.  Note This requires fieldTask 5.33.  The changes are:

  1. If you change an image or other media file that is used in a question or choice then that new media file will be downloaded automatically to the mobile device using push notifications.
  2. A media file, including a CSV file, will now only be downloaded to a phone if it has changed.
  3. Media and CSV files are only downloaded once if they are used by more than one form on the device.  In other words as long as the media file is coming from “Shared Resources” it is also shared between forms on the device.
  4. If the media changes but the form has not changed then the form is not re-downloaded only the changed media files are.

You can expect substantial reductions in download time under the following circumstances:

  • You have a form that uses many images in questions and choices but you are making changes to that form by adding new questions or changing the question text.  Now after each form change only the new form will be downloaded and not all the images.
  • You have a csv file that is constantly being changed.  Now only the changed csv file will be downloaded and not the form and any other csv files or media.

However performance may be slightly worse if you have many forms that use media and only one is updated.  The reason being that during refresh the manifest will now be checked for all the forms that use media to see if the media file has been changed.  Previously the change in a media file would not have been picked up and the form would not have been updated on the device.  This is a quick operation and will only be noticed if the number of forms is quite large.

Other Features

Filtering on table view in dashboard

You can now use “advanced filtering” in these table views.  For example adding a filter such as

${district} = ‘capital’ and ${gender} = ‘female’

The number of records that match the filter as well as the total number of records will be shown just above the table of data.

Issues Fixed

  • Issue 63.  Labels are not shown in PDF exports if the label is for a select question that uses an external CSV file to get its choices
  • Issue 153.  When you download data and upload again in Analysis there is a warning message about “question name missing”
  • Issue. The Legacy XLS export does not allow select multiples to be split into separate columns.
  • Issue.  Replacing a survey that used uncompressed select multiples results in the select multiple questions being converted to compressed but the old data is not converted making it invisible.

Version 18.03

Version 18.03 is here with lots of bug fixes and the following two new features.

Using SVG images to Select Choices

Selecting Choices by clicking on an SVG image in fieldTask

You can use this feature in both webforms and in fieldTask.   The image needs to be a Scaler Vector Graphic (SVG) which is drawn using mathematical functions rather than being composed of pixels like in a photograph.  This means that the image can be enlarged to any size without becoming fuzzy.  To use an SVG image to select choices you need to:

  • Create your SVG file or get an existing one.
  • When you click on a region in your SVG editor it should show the “id” and allow you to edit that.  Set the ids to the name of the choices in your select list.
  • Attach the SVG file as an image on the select question
  • Set the appearance of the select question to “image-map”.

Example

To try this out you can download the sample survey from here.  Also download the sample SVG file (which I sourced from Wikipedia) and load both of them onto your server.

Reports

Yes Finally a new reporting page.  This can be accessed from the Analysis module by clicking on the menu item “reports”.  On this new reports page you will find a link to the old page (in case you are still using that).

How to use

Add reports by clicking the “Add Report” menu item.  You can specify a name for the report as well as parameters include filters, date range, split select multiples and languages.  This will create an entry for the report in the table containing:

  • The name of the survey
  • A name that you have given the report
  • An anonymous link.  You can send this link to anyone so that they can access the report.  No logon or account or password would be required.   This link does allow the recipient to change any aspect of the report.  Hence if you had set a data filter or a specific date range that cannot be changed.
  • An button that has available 3 actions:
    • Generate.  Runs the report to download the data.
    • Edit.  Allows you to change any aspect of the report.  Someone who has received an anonymous link for the report would see these changes the next time they accessed that link.
    • Delete. Will delete the report.

Limitations

  1. Only the new XLSX format report is supported.  Other types such as images, shape files will be added progressively and as requested.
  2. Support for security roles in the anonymous link have not been added yet

Contact me if you need any of this missing functionality urgently.

Version 18.02

New Form Management Page

The visual changes are minor however now when you click the “Upload Form” button it will use a new XLS Form uploader (see next section).  We no longer use the ODK pyxform loader.  Just in case this causes problems there is a link, under the upload button, back to the original page that still uses pyxform.  One reason you may want to use the old page is if you have to upload in XML file which the new upload function does not currently support.

There are 3 new columns in the forms list.

Group

The new XLS Form Uploader allows you to put forms into groups.  These will then share the same data tables.  Hence if you have a form with questions; name and age plus a second form in the same group with questions; name and gender.  Then the name answer from both forms will be put into the same table column and when you export results you will see data from both surveys in that column

Groups become really useful when you use tasks to progressively complete a survey.  So form one fills in some of the data then a user is assigned an instance of form 2 to get the rest of the data.  This instance can include the data collected by the first form.

You can also set a key policy of “merge” on surveys in a group so that records are updated rather than replaced.  This could allow you to create a records management system.

Replace

Yes you can now replace a form with another uploaded from an XLSForm template.  You can do this even after you have started collecting data.  If the form you are uploading does not have questions that were in the original form then any data collected for those questions will be hidden but not deleted.

Click the replace button next to the form to be replaced, specify the new template and click upload.

The only thing you should avoid changing is the “type” of a question.  This is only a problem if you have already collected data for the old type in which case future submissions will fail.  So if you need to change type, say from integer to text, then create a new question with a different name and delete the old question.  Alternatively if you are in a position to delete already collected data, perhaps it was test data, then you can do that before collecting new data.

Get Link

Click on this button to get a link to complete a webform that does not require a password.  You can copy this link and email it to someone who does not have an account on Smap and they can then fill in the web form.

If a form has a public link then the link button will be a darker shade of blue.  When you no longer want people without accounts to complete webforms then you should delete the links.

XLS Form Uploader

Choice Lists are Preserved

Previously if you had referred to a single choice list from multiple questions then after you uploaded that data this sharing of choices would all be lost.  If you then made changes to the form in the online editor and downloaded the resultant XLSForm you would have a mass of duplicate choices.  This no longer happens and you will get your original choice lists back.

Question Parameters

These have been added to odkCollect and fieldTask but previously could only be added to a survey using the online editor. Add them in the parameters column of the survey sheet.  Separate multiple parameters using a space. Examples include:

  • rows=5                    Set the number of rows in a text question
  • max-pixels=500     Set the maximum number of pixels on the longest edge of a photo to 500. The photo will be scaled accordingly.  This can be used to reduce the size of images.

And many others.  Check the Survey Edit Reference on the google help drive for a complete list.

Specify Security Roles

Roles you specify for a form will be created if they do not already exist.  If you add a role but do not specify columns or row filters then a person must have that role in order to be able to see the new form.

To add roles with column filters add a column  role::”role name” in the survey work sheet.  Specify any questions that should be visible to that role by putting “yes” in that role column for that question.

To add a role with a row filter add a column role::”role name” in the settings work sheet.  Specify the row filter underneath the role.

Other Uploader Changes

  1. Simpler clearer error messages
  2. Error messages are in multiple languages (well spanish at any rate, contributions for other languages are welcome)
  3. Support for questions of type “chart”

Bug Fixes and other Changes

  1. The api call that retrieved data in json format has been substantially optimised to reduce memory usage
  2. Issue 188. Times in PDF exports are now set to local time.
  3. The latest version of fieldTask is now included in the release so it can be downloaded from the web server rather than google play store.  The website will attempt to check if your Android version is greater than 4.0 and if so it will get the new fieldTask.  Otherwise it will get the old one.
  4. Added a user security group of “view_data”.  People with this role will be able to view aggregated results like an analyst but will not be able to delete data or create new forms.

Version 18.01

I’m still playing catch up on documenting the new features however its time to announce version 18.01.  Included is a summary report that helps with analysis of your collected data.

Summary Report

This is an excel file containing multiple worksheets including a worksheet for each question.  The data in these question worksheets will be formatted so that they summarise the responses to that question and can be be used directly to create charts. For Example the following chart was created directly from the data generated by the summary report.

How to find it

The Summary report is located on the browse results page which is in the web forms module.

  • Login
  • Select the menu modules then Webforms
  • Select the menu Browse Results

You can then select the menu “Summary Report”.

Options

The following dialog allowing you to customise your report.

  • Text Function.  This can be set to count or percent.  So if its “count” then the occurences of each different piece of text in an answer will be counted.  If you select “percent” and “Group By” then the percentage is calculated against the total count for each group value.  This was the setting used in the example chart shown above where the totals for male and female have been adjusted to each add up to 100.
  • Numeric Function.  This can be set to Average, Min, Max or Sum.
  • Group By.  A second question with which to group the results.  This will result in a two dimensional table as in the example above.

How to use it

The summary report is not intended to create your final report directly.  For example you may want the answers to some questions grouped by gender and the answers to other questions grouped by region.  Some results you may want as percentage, some as counts and some as both. Hence you would generate multiple summary reports using the above options and then copy and paste the tables, and charts you create from those tables, into your final report.

Filtering Data

Because the summary report is on the browse results page any filters you apply  will also be applied to the report.  Hence you may select that only data from a specific region where at least one text answer includes the word “drought” be included. Then generate the report.  The above filters will be shown on the “settings” tab of the summary report along with the numeric function, text function and group by that were selected.

Restrictions

Currently only data in the top level form is included.  If you have data in sub forms it won’t be included in the summary report.  This is because browse results only currently shows the top level form.  This restriction will be removed in a future release.