Prospecting the Blogosphere

about the UCI blog survey.

all opinions express herein are only makko's and ocean's, and do not necessarily reflect opinions of any of the other UCI blog survey team members

Friday, July 16, 2004

Implementation

First of all, thanks for all your suggestions on how I can help disseminate the survey further. The advice I've received has been very helpful.

Let's talk about implementation. Our survey was split into two phases. Originally a class project for Quantitative Research Methods in Computer Science, the first phase consisted of creating an English version of the survey. The process of creating the questions is described in my previous entry. When it came down to implementation, due to time constraints, we opted to use a commercial program: Quask FormArtist. It has a nice WYSIWYG GUI for creating surveys. However, it lacks support for Asian languages and has some quirky interface problems (especially when creating macros). The later point, we could live with, but we needed to eventually write Asian versions of the survey.

For phase 2, I implemented the survey in the best language in the whole wide world. For a database, I used SQLite. SQLite is a really nice, lightweight database--if you need a quick and dirty way to store data with ACID transactions, I highly recommend it. There is a ruby binding for SQLite, whose usage is explained beautifully by why the lucky stiff. Basically, we have an Apache server with the modruby module installed that allows ruby scripts to be executed natively (reducing startup times). I use eruby to imbed ruby syntax into an html file which generates surveys from a specially formatted textfile (four versions, one for each language). So, for example, I might have:

I love to:
[] Eat sushi
[] Eat bulgogi
[] Eat Peking duck
[]_ Other:
[]* None of the above

The ruby script file will see that the question is []: in a checkbox format, _: should have a fill in field for "Other:" and *: should make "None of the above" an exclusive answer. A similar syntax is used for radio button formats and fill in questions. Javascript handles things like dynamically greying out the other choices when "None of the above" is chosen.

That in a nutshell is how we implemented the survey. I'm amazed that there isn't some freeware survey making software tool out there (though I did find some freeware services, that unfortunately are very much crippled without payment). Perhaps, when I have time, I'll try to develop a general framework for making surveys. Anyone else have experiences developing surveys?

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