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surveys and survey software

My group is doing a survey for SI682. I’d rather be doing all-interviews, because I like them better and because I actually know a bit about how to do them. Time is really very short right now, so we’re trying to supplement with the survey. I get butterflies in my stomach because, while I have taken many surveys, I don’t know a thing about writing them, but I suppose this is part of how to learn. You can help our group by taking it. I already realized I forgot to ask where people live (oops), so if you want to fill that in on the last question, that’d be swell.

In the process, I searched the Internet (well, mostly SourceForge) high and low for a tool that would do what I wanted. In the end, there were four that I really wanted to try, and only one that survived the test.

The first I tried, and most promising, was Web Survey Toolbox, from CMU’s HCII. It looked quite good, but unfortunately requires Tomcat, which my host does not support. I’ve also had some unpleasant experiences with Tomcat.

From there, I moved on to try UCCASS. It looked simple and straightforward. Install was quick, and I had created most of the initial survey before I realized it didn’t have a way to view individual responses (so there would be no way, for example, to correlate an answer to one question with that user’s answers to other questions). I could have written code to pull that from the database (I think), but I didn’t want to have to write new code to do this.

I next tried PHPSurveyor. This one gets used a lot. Aside from icons that are an eyesore and require you to mouseover them and wait for the ALT text to figure out what the link does, it looked like it had some good things going for it. Install was reasonably straightforward (though not without some .htaccess troubles), but what killed this project was the steps required to take the survey. Users must either have an email token inviting them to take it or sign up online and wait for a token to be emailed to them. While this is probably great for many situations, I didn’t want to make people deal with this, so it was time for the next application.

This happened to be phpESP. It’s pretty simple, and has limited answer types. With some concessions on my part, though, it could work for this survey. It has some serious shortcomings. For example, if you miss a required question, the page will just appear to reload with no message indicating why. This gets frustrating pretty quickly and it can take a while to realize what’s going on. Still, it’ll work for now.

Have you found something better? I’d love to hear about it. There were a number of apps on SourceForge, but these were the ones that seemed to have the most documentation online, and rather than downloading and installing everything, I tried to go with the ones about which I knew the most.

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