I Can't Believe Its Been Two Months...

It has been over two months since my last blog post and there have been no complaints. Readers of this blog must be very patient people.

A Few New Enhancements
  • User Update Messages now have a "Show in User Profile" check box in their profiles. To get to a message profile click the pencil icon next to a User Update Message name at Administration/Messages/User Update Messages. Check the box if you want the message name to appear in the list of messages you can send from within a User Profile. Uncheck otherwise. This is useful when you want to store a message for future use but do not want it cluttering up a list of active messages you are using.
  • User Profiles have a new look. The different sections of the User Profile are now more clearly demarcated.
  • An Opt Out of Non-Critical Email option is now available for your users, but you as the site administrator control it. How it works: One of your users says they don't want to receive non-critical emails. You go to their User Profile and in the Administrator Options section you check the box next to "Less email." When you subsequently send email to lists that include that user and the email isn't identified as critical, the user will automatically be filtered out of the list for that particular email. This works with Survey Status Messages, Administration Messages and Batch Messages. By default Survey Status Messages are flagged as critical, so unless you change that flag in the message, all users otherwise meeting the list criteria will get the message. The same approach is in place with Administration Messages. With Batch Messages, if you want to exclude users who are flagged for "Less email," you add the filter "UserEmailOptOut" to the list you are building.
  • New Batch List action options are available. Under the Administration main menu tab we have been building a tool, Batch, for creating various kinds of user lists. (Note that this is for creating lists of users, not units (units being council, departments, institutions, organizations, depending on the terminology of a given client)!) Once a dynamic batch list is created, you click the green arrow next to it to go to a menu of actions that can be applied to the list. Actions include previewing the list (new), exporting it as a CSV file you can open in Excel, turning it into a static administration message email list (new), and assigning or removing roles from the list's members.

New Features Arriving Monday, June 22 - ALL FREE

Status Setting Links in Status Messages

In status email messages you now have the option of adding a link that a recipient can click to mark their survey WILL DO, in addition to the previously announced WILL NOT DO link option. You need to add any introductory text you want in the body of the email. Suggested text will be found under "Help with this Page" in the upper right corner of the Status Messages create/edit page.

DONE links are not offered since marking a survey DONE triggers a final validation check and the user needs to be logged in to see the results and deal with any remaining issues.

Enhanced Report Writer

You have the option of adding categorical and free text variables to reports you build using Report Writer. Mixed with numeric variables, the latter will continue to show the standard summary statistics. There are no aggregate statistics for the categorical and free text variables. A filter option in the Report Writer user interface lets you choose to select from all variables, just from numeric, or just from categorical and free text.

DONE Survey Notification

You have the option to set up a survey administrator and/or designee to receive automatic notice whenever a survey is marked DONE. The email notice reports the name of the survey, who marked it done, their email address, and the organization to which they belong.

The administrator and designee can be different for each of your surveys. You set this up under Surveys/Manage Surveys. Click the edit (pencil) icon next to the survey name to get into the survey's Profile. Add a survey manager name and email address if one isn't already identified. Then, further down the Profile in the Email Options area, checkmark the boxes of the individuals whom you want to receive the email notices. If you want a designee to receive the notice, add their email address in the space provided. (If you don't have access to Manage Surveys and you want to use one of these new features, contact me and I'll set you up with access or happily make the survey changes for you.)

On a related note, don't forget the feature added earlier this year that allows you to specify a User Update Message (Administration/Messages/User Update Messages) to be sent to the user when they mark a survey DONE. This feature is also turned on in the Survey Profile. At a minimum, you might want to send a "thank you" note or advise the participant as to when a report might be expected or how to acquire a report once it becomes available.

Survey Area Appearance Upgrade

The page at Surveys/Survey Menu has a new look, a little cleaner and less cluttered we hope. As well, the main menu for specific surveys has been cleaned up.

Salutation Field in Status & Administration Messages

We have added a "Nickname" field to the User Profile (record). In addition, we have defined a "salutation" function for Survey Status and Administration messages (User Update Messages not included). Wherever you insert $SALUTATION$ in the message body, at that point the salutation function will insert the first value it finds for a given user according to the protocol you have communicated to me. The salutation function will insert either nickname, first name, first and last name, any combination of user name components in fact, or a generic value like "Colleague" at the "salutation" point you specified for the email message. If you haven't yet communicated to me your preference, please do so if you are going to want to use this function. If you don't want to use it, simply don't include $SALUTATION$ in the body of any email templates you are creating. Note: Any salutation specification applies only to the specific message template where you have inserted it. You are not locking yourself into salutations for all messaging, just where you want it used.

You Too Can Edit Page Content

Did you know, you do or can have editing access to many of the standard web pages on your survey/benchmarking site, including:
  • Disclaimer
  • Privacy Policy
  • Contact Us
  • Log-off page
  • All the About pages associated with each main menu item on the site
  • An Introduction area at the top of the Downloads page
  • An optional special page accessed from the Main Menu that can be used for any purpose you choose. One client uses it to put up info about Ordering Survey Results.
Please email me if you'd like more information. These are all standard features, there are no extra charges associated with them.

Salutation Option in Status Messages

We are adding a "Nickname" field to the User Profile (record). In addition, we are defining a "salutation" function for status messages. You will be able to insert a variable name like "" in the body of the message and at that point will be merged in either the nickname, first name, or a fixed value (e.g., Colleague) depending on what is present in the recipient's Profile.

This new feature should be available within the next two weeks.

Validation Enhancements

We've made the logic in server-side validation more robust. Where before "If-Then" rules could only have a simple If clause, we now support If clauses that can contain more complex expressions like "If a=b and c=d" or "If a=b or c=d." This has already come in handy.

Survey PDF Output Improvement

We've changed the way PDFs are created when you "Click for a print-friendly PDF of your survey." Radio style questions now always display the full set of options related to a particular question and indicate the one selected (if one has been selected), rather than displaying JUST the selected option. Drop down style questions continue to behave as they always have.

The aim is to produce PDF output that 1) serves better as a worksheet for data collection and 2) provides a better survey record since the option selected is displayed in relation to the options not selected.

We are in the process of converting as many questions as possible to this new format. We are leaving drop downs as is where they have a large number of options (e.g., the months of the year).

If you come across PDF output that has a problem as a result of this change, please let me know and we will fix it right away.

Rich Text Messages Are Now Possible

Rich text messaging is now active in Status and Administrative Messages. You will find the standard set of icons above the message area while you are composing a new message. The whole thing works like your word processor, so no special instructions are required (I hope).

Rich Text in Email Messages Is Coming

That's all I'm saying for now because I want to be able to get another post out of this coming new feature!

Assistant's Email Address Option

Did you know that we have an option (free!) that enables an "assistant's email address" as part of the user Profile? If this option is turned on, when emails are sent to the user, the assistant also receives a copy of the message. If the email sent to the user includes the user's password, the password is masked in the assistant's copy.

Contact me if you would like us to enable this option for your site.

Recent Enhancements to the Downloads Area

The "Downloads" area (name may vary by client) is where you can store static documents (manuals, published reports, etc) in PDF, Excel, Word, etc format.

Originally, items in this area were all under standard permission control, with one or more downloads assigned to one or more roles.

Recently, we have made this area much versatile and easier to manage and navigate.

We have defined four types of folders that you can create and use within this area. They differ in their level of security.
  • Public folders contain documents that are available to anyone who has a role that simply includes access to the Download main menu item itself. Without that role, a User doesn't even see "Downloads" in the main menu. With that role, the User will see any new docs you add to a Public folder. You don't have to do anything additional in regard to making the new doc available.
  • Unit-level folders contain documents that are associated with specific Units (schools, foundations, whatever is the defined Unit of analysis on your site). Any User from a given Unit will see only the docs in a Unit-level folder that have been associated during download creation with the User's own Unit. So you can stick a bunch of docs in such a folder and be confident that users will only see the ones associated with their Unit. This means of course that when you set up such a doc as a download, you specify the unit the doc belongs to.
  • Unit-confidential folders contain docs that a User will see only if the User is in the Unit specified by the doc AND IN ADDITION has been given a role that includes specific permission to see Unit-confidential docs. A good example of a Unit-confidential doc would be one that has compensation data on specific people or positions in the Unit. Access to that might be limited just to the senior User at the Unit. When you create such a download, you check a box to identify it as "Unit-Confidential" in addition to specifying the unit it belongs to.
  • A User has access to a doc in a Standard folder if the User has a role which includes permission to see the specific document in question. Access to a specific doc in a standard folder is assigned via a role. This was the original approach used in the Downloads area.
We have also added automatic collapsing/expanding of folders depending on how many downloads are within a given folder and in the Downloads area overall. The aim is to create an outline structure to help get the user to the desired download in the cases where there are a lot of downloads available. You can nest folders within folders, but only once, i.e., you can have two levels of folders.

Please let me know if you find that the automatic process isn't working to your liking. And I am of course happy to help if you want assistance in setting up or redesigning your Download area to take advantage of any of these changes.

User Consent Form

You can now specify an end user license agreement that will be presented to your users when they next log in. With this feature a user is required to accept the agreement via a button selection before they are allowed to complete log in. If the user declines to accept the agreement, log in is terminated and the user is kicked out. Users only need to accept the agreement once.

If you make significant changes to the agreement or want your users to re-agree each year, that is easily accomplished.

Email me if you would like more info or want to have this feature implemented. There is no charge.

Email Blast Protection

We have added a confirmation page to Administration messages and to Survey Status messages. You are now told the number of users who will receive the email blast you want to send and you are given the option to cancel the blast. The interfaces have also been cleaned up a bit.

For The Blog Record

The invitation to join the blog went out late yesterday to 35 or so people who have site/client administrator privileges at a Peerfocus-powered website. So far about 10 people have responded.

Quick Links

If you want them, we can in a moment add Quick Links on your site's home page at no cost. The links appear on the left side of the page in a vertical list and bypass the main menu to get your users to a few critical spots, ah, quickly: Surveys, Predefined Reports, and Comparison Groups.

Send me an email if interested.

Resetting Use Counts in Downloads and Canned Reports

Site administrators can now reset the Use Counters for static Downloads and dynamic Canned Reports.
First, though, an admission. While on the Peerfocus sites we use client-specific terminology for such terms as Benchmarking, Downloads, Canned or Predefined Reports), on Blogger we don't have that luxury. Therefore, you are going to have to figure out what we are talking about sometimes. Or email me. Apologies in advance.
Under Administration/Downloads and Administration/Canned Reports you will find a list of all your site's downloads or reports. For each, there is a column reflecting the number of times the report has been downloaded or run since a certain date, which is also displayed. In addition, there are check boxes that allow you to mark the reports or downloads where you would like to have the counter reset to 0. Check the ones you want reset and hit the Reset button.

Setting WILL NOT COMPLETE Survey Status by Email

We are looking for a brave soul or two to test a new survey feature. It is now possible to include a link in a survey status email which the recipient can simply click in order to set their survey status to Will Not Complete. We recommend that this link not be included in initial survey invitations. But later on, when you would like to get a better sense of final participation, we think this simple way to set Will Not Complete will encourage non-participants to let you know, since they don't have to log in or break a sweat or anything.

We don't support Will Complete status setting via email since we think it is good practice for participants to log in.

Any thoughts on this feature?

CSV Output from Report Writer

When you create and run a report using Report Writer now, you will find an Export as CSV button at the top of the output page next to Save as Slide. Click it and you will get a save dialogue box. You can save the CSV file to your local drive and then open it in Excel or another application.

Especially nice, this feature carries over to a slide show. A report in a slide show will display a discrete CSV link at the bottom left of the report page.

Survey Tracker

Under Survey/Status you will find a Tracker option. Tracker is a two-line graph that plots the rate of status setting for the currently underway survey of choice against the previous year's rate. You can select which status (Will Do, Done, etc) you want to see. You get a quick visual impression of survey progress. The graph does a fairly good job of finding the true start (0) point for each year, but you can also adjust the start points if need be.

Auto Email User When They Mark a Survey Done

You can have a message automatically emailed to a user when he or she marks their survey done. The message can be specific to the survey. Contact me if you would like to learn more about how to do this or have set it up for you.

Database High Availability

We're in the process of setting up a High Availability configuration for the Peerfocus database. When we're done, we'll have a hot-spare database that can take over within seconds in the case of a failure in the primary database.

Blog Archive