Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A pleasant surprise whilst writing 800 blogs

Following on from yesterday's blog, it became apparent that I would need the research questionnaire translated into Russian. I showed the Hebrew version to a few people near me and their faces took on the same expression that mine does when shown something when I'm not wearing my glasses.

There is no need to examine whether these people are even representative of the general Russian speaking population; if they can't read the questionnaire (or reading it would require an extortionate amount of time), then they are not going to answer the questions, which means that I lose people from my population.

So, as I suggested yesterday, I built a temporary version of the questionnaire by copying each sentence (questions, answers and surrounding text) into Google Translate, then copied the Russian text into a file, maintaining the same order. There are some answers which I didn't bother translating, as either they are solely numerical (e.g. 26-50%) or they are answers which repeat themselves (I agree, etc).

I am well aware of the fact that translations prepared in this manner are somewhat lacking (I've been on the other end of this, having had to correct a translation from Hebrew to English) and so I decided to ask more capable Russian speakers in my company to revise the Russian. I sent off four or five letters, and to my pleasant surprise, received affirmative answers within minutes. At least one said that the writer would be only too pleased to help. I suggested in the letter that the questionnaire be divided into sections so that no one has to translate/correct more than ten questions, but one person offered to correct the entire questionnaire.

It seems that I am not used to such kindness any more!

On another matter, this is now my 800th blog. With the help of the analysis program which I wrote a month ago, I can easily show what the hot topics of the last 100 blogs have been.

Mobile phone3
TV series3
Jewish holidays2
Maccabi Tel Aviv2
Office automation2
DCI Banks1
Food science1
Olivia Williams1
Organisational behaviour1
Peter Robinson1
Richard Thompson1
Robert Silverberg1
Sandy Denny1
Swell Season1
Yoni Rechter1

No real surprises there. DBA and holiday together comprise 48% of the blogs (every 'holiday' blog was either also 'Sorrento' or 'Sicily', so these latter two labels don't count) and if I add in health, then 60% of the blogs are covered. So now we know what has occupied my attention since April 2014.

The interesting thing is that subjects which used to occupy me - programming, music, books and films - seem no longer to be the subject of attention. Does this mean that I am becoming more focused as I become older? Or could it mean that there are fewer and fewer pieces of new (to me) music about which I want to write?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Position paper submitted

A month ago, I wrote about writing a paper for the SEMS 15 conference which will be held in Florence in May. At some stage, I also wrote about how writing a paper has similarities with recording a song: the first two takes were ok, but not what I wanted. The third take was very good and this has been the basis of a slow but on-going dialogue between Felienne Hermans and myself over the past month. After a few overdubs (edits), Felienne advised me that it is time to submit the paper to the peer review process.

First, I had to format the paper according to the required standard. There is a document which gives the specifications, but it is also a 'live template' document. I'm not sure exactly what this means so it took me quite a while to get my paper formatted in the style required (Times New Roman 10, two columns, widths etc). In the end, I replaced part of the template's text with my text, which solved most of the problems. By hand, I formatted the title and the author details and pasted these in.

As the paper had originally been written for a different conference which has a different style (Arial 12), the new format shrunk the paper somewhat, enabling me to add a little information. SEMS also requires the references in a different format, so these had to be changed as well. So after no small amount of struggle, I had a version which contained what I wanted it to contain and formatted in the correct style.

I then had to contend with a website which allows one to update submissions to the conference. This took a little time but was fairly straight-forward. The site requires that the submission be in pdf format, so I had to create a pdf from the Word document which I had been editing (more overhead). Final gripe: the site consistently referred to me as "No'Am" Newman; I had to remove the apostrophe in order to achieve "Noam" - and now I have to hope that no one misreads this as 'gnome'.

I don't know how long the peer review process will take, but in the mean time, I will reserve both airplane tickets and hotel room (i.e. book but not pay).

I have also been working on the questionnaire. My supervisor does not like the idea of the Split Questionnaire Design, so I have been examining the questionnaire with a very critical eye to see which questions can be removed without influencing the results too much. The first step was analysing which questions belonged to which factors: it turns out that three of the first five questions were not connected to any factor and could be removed. They are 'good' questions but not necessary.

I then went over the different sections: there were a couple of questions in the 'Priority/Excel' section which didn't contribute anything and a few in the 'user satisfaction' section which were effectively duplicate. So after wielding a very sharp knife, I managed to reduce the entire questionnaire to 45 questions (and this is after adding a question about mother tongue). It shouldn't take more that 15 minutes for someone to complete the questionnaire, so it seems that the entire questionnaire will be used instead of the SQM (two 30 item questionnaires). This will be checked.

In a parallel track, people have been looking at the Hebrew version of the questionnaire and flagging parts which aren't sufficiently clear. Unfortunately, some people have taken a very long time (two weeks) to do so, which means that by the time I received their input, the wording of a question or answer had already been changed - or even dropped from the questionnaire.

I am also checking to see whether the average native Russian speaker who works with Priority can understand the Hebrew questionnaire (this is what led to the question about mother tongue). Whilst the Russians tend to have reasonable spoken Hebrew, their level of reading/writing is a different manner. At the worst, I will prepare a rough 'Google translate' version of the questionnaire in Russian and then get someone to improve it. 

Probably one can make jokes about the concept of 'user satisfaction' in Russian, although of course, such jokes would be thirty years too late (in those days, one had to be satisfied with what the party supplied, with no option of being dissatisfied). 'Learning style' would also be an interesting concept to have measured in those days....

I obtained a list of companies which rent premises in the industrial area where I normally work; I then sent a letter to them asking if anyone uses Priority. One company (with which I am not familiar) replied and I am trying to arrange an initial interview. This is a tedious business as my correspondent seems to be very suspicious. Hopefully I will be able to conduct the interview in the next few days. This is still part of the pilot process and not final research. 

If things go well, then I will ask to distribute the full questionnaire as it now stands; I will be interested in meta-data - how long it took to complete the questionnaire, whether there are still questions which are not clear and whether there are missing options - but this time I will be more interested in the answers themselves. I will also be checking the 'company' questionnaire.