Example Tech Abstract

Example of a Hard Tech Abstract

Title – Designing a Multi-Mode, Multi-Platform JavaScript Survey Authoring Framework

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Description of your presentation topic
(We recommend a description or abstract of 1-2 pages or less; in non-technical language)

In 2015, the University of Wisconsin Survey Center began development on our next-generation of survey authoring and administration tools.  This presentation will cover many of the design decisions made to improve upon previous systems.

The primary goal was to create a unified system that could be used for survey design and implementation across all survey modes.  As researchers have increasingly chosen to implement multi-mode surveys, a method that could seamlessly be used across Web, CAPI, CATI and Mail would give more deployment options, reduce programming repetition, and allow data to be shared across modes regardless of how it was obtained.

The next goal was to unify the system across all devices, so a single survey could be run on a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop.  The system would automatically adapt to the platform used without any additional programming necessary by the survey author.

These two objectives led to the decision to create a JavaScript-based system.  Any device with a web browser can run JavaScript.  There also exists a vast array of JavaScript resources available for web development that we can incorporate into our everyday survey tools: JQuery, Mobile Swipe support, or excel-like table manipulation. After that, we began to build out the feature set.  The main functionality is to take object-based questions defined by an author (question name, text, response options, etc) and present them on the screen based on our survey standards for the relevant mode and device.  Timers, meta-data tracking, data validation, and other features of the existing established industry software packages had to be implemented and are automatically incorporated into each added question. 

The notable features, though, are the ones which are new compared to existing systems: It’s constructed to be compatible with software for cross-platform development called Cordova, so packaging it as an app for mobile deployment is relatively simple. It will attempt to send data back to the server as it is administered, but, depending on connectivity, it can run entirely without server interaction. Field interviewers can synchronize data back to the server when connectivity is restored. Authored questions are versioned and stored, both for documenting changes and for reusing in future surveys. If multiple questions share response options, those options need only be defined once. This makes revisions easier for blocks of common responses. A JSON data structure allows for an infinite number of question elements or nested rosters. The front-end that interviewers use to select cases is highly customizable; any variable can be displayed or even modified without entering the case. Addresses can be linked to a map API, and allow our CAPI interviewers to immediately load the address into their mobile navigation app.

In 2016, we debuted the new system with a tablet-based Wisconsin-wide CAPI project.  Moving forward, we’re adapting our existing CASES templates to the new system so we can push forward with wider implementation.

Briefly describe your presentation, panel, or roundtable in 1-2 sentences
Discuss the design decisions, hazards and unique features for a built-from-scratch survey authoring system using JavaScript.

Keywords – Multi-mode, tablet, mobile, JavaScript, authoring, survey system