Thursday, August 18, 2011

facebook for data collection

Back after a long gap with a post prompted by a conversation with Daughter Number 2, who said that a friend of hers had recently set up a facebook event that wasn't an event...

The idea was that, instead of describing an event, her friend asked a question. Then, people could respond to the question by selecting one of the three attendance options available in facebook events. For example, you could make a statement, such as "School Computing helps prepare pupils for real world computing uses.", and map the responses as follows:
Attending --> Agree
Maybe --> Not sure
No --> Disagree
Obviously, you can substitute any question/statement you like and define whatever mapping for the answers suits your purpose. As long as you are content with only three responses, this looks like a quick and dirty way to collect data. Here's one I made earlier:

I thought this was interesting. It uses a technology with which students are already familiar (arguably "addicted to" in the case of my daughters) and so requires no special logins or hurdles to jump through for the participants. Also, it is easy to use existing friends and contact groups to restrict who can see and respond to your question. Finally, because you have to choose a date for the event, you automatically have a deadline by which the responses have to be made.

It is not entirely satisfactory, however, because you cannot change the response buttons, so you have to explain the mapping to potential respondents and there is no way to export the responses for further analysis. Therefore, I had a quick look to see how else it could be done and found that there is a facebook poll app that allows you to create your own response options. It draws a decent graph and can export the results to Excel. Also, if you are willing to pay, you can get other useful features.

Clearly, neither solution is as flexible as dedicated poll/questionnaire tools such as SurveyMonkey and Poll Everywhere but I think that doing everything in facebook is an interesting approach. I especially like the way you can take something created for one purpose (event management) and subvert it for an alternative use (data collection).

Have a go at my event poll and my facebook poll and then let me know what you think. Would you use either method, or is it just a daft idea?


Amanda Wilson said...

Just had a quick try out of this. I do agree it is the quick and dirty way of getting some data together (depends on age group of target audience I would possibly say though). Should be something that you could try out with your students at some point possibly this year?

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