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Lessons Learned - Take Away From US Elections

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Posted 12/06/2016   10:27 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Chip,
Understood and as I am sure you know, the real work in developing survey is building meaningful, unbiased questions. This effort is the same if you use Survey Monkey or another solution.

I completely agree that if the decision is only between using Survey Monkey or using a outsourced IT firm; then the obvious choice is Survey Monkey. Asking an outsourced IT firm do write a online one-time survey would have resulted in a large bill and a 2 month scheduling delay.

But my point is that this is not about this single survey. APS already has established an SQL server and other tools needed to do this stuff. With a 2-3 days worth of in-house or volunteer IT effort, a reusable survey foundation could have been developed and implemented. This would have allowed APS to generate new surveys at any time for any purpose. And it would have included reporting capabilities which supported online access for those who have permissions and export to any of the typical formats. With another day or two worth of work a full analysis dashboard that makes Survey Monkey reports look lame could have been implemented.

We seem to be confusing IT tasks and IT vision. I concur that many IT tasks are not rocket science and can be considered daily tactical type of activities. But having a comprehensive IT vision, plan, and resources when your organization's primary purpose is information delivery is my strategic point here.

Treating IT like it is just operational overhead, sending all of this stuff out of house, is not going to build the foundations that will help APS move into the future.
Don

Edit; I have implemented 7-8 surveys on Survey Monkey. I have also developed 4 SQL based survey environments so I have a fair idea of what is involved with both.
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Posted 12/06/2016   10:52 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add chipg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
It would take far more time to build the platform than you think. The conditional and branching logic that are in survey tools can be duplicated, but there is no reason to - why reinvent the wheel. The APS should keep its resources focused on its mission. There's a good reason that cloud and service-based solutions for all but differentiating functions are taking over.

Basically, when it comes to fielding surveys, (and a lot of other things), "We're not special" should be the mantra. If 500 organizations (including some of the biggest survey companies) use a tool like Survey Monkey, there's no reason to devote any time or effort to develop or maintain your own survey platform.

...and by the way, the best analysis tools (power/ease of use/flexibility balance) I've found are also an online survey - MarketSight.com
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Posted 12/06/2016   11:11 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add txstamp to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
You guys are both right. The APS needs a good IT plan/vision for the future. Part of that plan, needs to be understanding when to use on-demand/cloud services and when to develop home-cooked IT. It is important to understand that one of the main reasons that cloud and cloud services are taking over IT, is to reduce IT spending by companies. That is part of the very problem being discussed.

I think they need to develop their plan first, and if that plan shows that they need a significant internal IT investment, which seems likely, then they should consider that.

Don - your argument about the APS having all of this code supporting their website, and having different groups work on it over time is very valid. What a nightmare. Clearly, whatever plan they emerge with should address this somehow.
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Posted 12/06/2016   11:20 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
...It would take far more time to build the platform than you think...


Based upon my experience I could have developed the SQL database, the web page survey, and the reporting code in 2-3 hours. I agree that conditional and branching logic would add time but this last survey had none of these type questions.

I understand your point about 'reinventing the wheel' but my point, and the topic of this thread, is about changing the way APS thinks about IT.

I am pretty sure I know how the survey decision came down. It is pretty apparent that APS has several million dollars in cost overruns with the new building. This, coupled with declining membership, are causing a significant money pinch. So when the desire for a survey cane down, the 'inexpensive' choice was to use Survey Monkey.

I have no idea if APS sprung for a Survey Monkey subscription. There are some thing which suck about Survey Monkey. Their subscription model is not very flexible; for example you cannot remove their free advertising on the pages unless you pay. The final page redirect is also annoying to users. You often need to subscribe for an entire year even if you just want to do a single survey. They offer no refunds. And I won't post how it is done but it fairly easy to work-around the limit that only allows you to take it once. In other words, if I wanted to skew the results a person could have taken the survey multiple times.

But again, the point of this thread is about the confluence of APS and IT; not about specific IT tasks such as a simple survey.

Thanks for the reference on MarketSight, I'll check them out.
Don
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Posted 12/06/2016   11:42 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add chipg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Last couple of points on this -
- I noted that the person running the surveys for the APS was very well versed in survey methodology and design. That fact made me feel better about the efforts. (hint for those following at home - the easiest key indicator of bad survey design - search for the words "and" and "or." If you find them in a question, it's probably poor design - you can't differentiate between which is the causative factor). A variation of this is when you ask a question that has the same answer for two different reasons. We all heard the reports of "80% of the American public think the country is going in the wrong direction." However, that doesn't tell us whether 70% think it's going too far left, while 10% think it's going too far right, or just the opposite.

- I was also pleased that they took the right approach - do interviews to get the qualitative, then do a survey to get the scale/ranking of the factors. Surveys don't tell you what you don't know. They only help you to scale and rank the various factors. Too many organizations field a survey without this first step, figuring that they can go back later and interview people for more qualitative shading. However, if you don't know what the superset of issues are, you can't design a good survey.

- You also have to remember that people can't answer a survey about something they aren't familiar with. Imagine not too many years ago what you would have answered in a question "Do you want to search for stamps from your phone?" Now, mobile devices are the main way that people access the web. You always have to decide just how far in front or behind any trend or curve you want to be.

All-in-all, it's a good thing that the APS is looking to make data-based decisions. Heavens knows that there are enough opinions floating around that the opinion owner is absolutely positive is the right thing to do (including mine).

C.
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Posted 12/06/2016   11:44 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I 100% agree with your post Chip. Someone did a very good job on the latest survey and it is huge that APS seeks quantifiable data for making decisions.

This is one of the reasons I push for making the APS website traffic data public. Lets see what we are getting for the money spent instead of folks making assumptions. Is website traffic growing? How many new memberships is the site generating? Which features/pages are the most used? Which pages/feature are the least used? Where are the visitors coming from? this is all data that is in-hand by someone with access to the web server and available at no extra cost.
Don
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Posted 12/06/2016   12:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add oceanguy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Does anyone have a link to the survey? If so, I would love to take it. I think it is great APS is taking the initiative to conduct a survey, hopefully they are trying to reach out to get the opinions of many non-members in addition to their membership.
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Posted 12/06/2016   1:12 pm  Show Profile Check paperhistory's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add paperhistory to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The survey was sent to a bit over 12,000 members and to nearly 11,600 non-members. The lion's share of the credit on the survey goes to David Paddock, who previously conducted a survey of individuals who dropped their APS memberships last year (also via Survey Monkey), but a number of other people provided input and suggested questions for this one. Oceanguy, I'll send you a private message.

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Posted 12/06/2016   9:22 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add jaxom100 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Current revenue and budgeting appear to dictate moving slowly on IT; they are not going to hire an IT director at $150K+ plus benefits.


Maybe they need to look for a volunteer IT guy that will take compensation in the form of benefits such as free membership, free grading or something like that. Maybe tax breaks in the form of charitable donations for services rendered. Surely there are some IT tech guys that collect stamps and are retired that have a little extra time to volunteer.

Rick
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Posted 12/07/2016   07:06 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The point I would emphasize is "IT strategy" for a philatelic group is not a commodity that one outsources because there are no off the shelf solutions. A single product is not a strategy like having a web site is not a strategy.
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Posted 12/07/2016   09:43 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add scb to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Maybe they need to look for a volunteer IT guy that will take compensation in the form of benefits such as free membership, free grading or something like that. Maybe tax breaks in the form of charitable donations for services rendered. Surely there are some IT tech guys that collect stamps and are retired that have a little extra time to volunteer.


Almost dropped from chair when reading this... The reason IT guys have such high asking prices is because the work genuinely takes a whole lot more than 'a little extra time'. It is more a way of life where you are married with server/network maintenance & mobile 24/7/365.

-k-
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Edited by scb - 12/07/2016 09:47 am
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Posted 08/08/2017   4:32 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mkfarm to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Interesting read as over the past several days I have been thinking about a membership. I just can not find the value right now to make me join. I'm just a normal every day collector that is tucked between hard core collectors and those that come in and out of the hobby every few years.

Age wise again I fall in the middle well maybe getting close to the retirement crowd. I'm fully tec Savoy so I have no concerns with it comes go digital. Yes the ASP web site is nothing special or at least nothing stands out that makes me want to rush out and joi

As a long time collector maybe I'm missing something. Maybe since it is just around an hour trip I should stop to explore and see if I am missing something.

I just wonder if a personal visit can result in seeing value that I don't see on the web site. Who knows I may walk out as a new member.

Funny - I travel to State College several times a month for business and never once thought of stopping at ASP. However Subway in Altoona is always a stop.

I'll let you know my thoughts after I stop either this or next week. I mean I think there are a lot of people out there like me.
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Posted 08/08/2017   5:21 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add cjpalermo1964 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Be sure you read and understand all the member services and benefits that are described here. https://stamps.org/Services

Many non-members do not appreciate the value of these and many members under-utilize them. For example, you can search the Philatelic Union Catalog, find an article you want to read that is held at the APRL, send in an online request and have a PDF in your email in-box in a couple of hours at very low cost. It's like having a virtual librarian at your fingertips.

Before your visit, consider contacting Scott English and the staff to let them know the day and time of your visit - they will give you a great welcome and show you around.
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Posted 08/08/2017   5:45 pm  Show Profile Check paperhistory's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add paperhistory to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Mkfarm: I visited the American Philatelic Center for the first time in its current configuration about two weeks ago. It's quite a place, and I'm jealous that you are so close to it. I would echo cjpalermo1964's suggestion of contacting staff (perhaps Ken Martin) know that you are coming and someone should be available to give you a quick look around. If there's anything you need to look up, it's a perfect chance to find something in the library.

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Posted 08/08/2017   9:29 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add TheArtfulHinger to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I've found APS circuits to be the best part of being a member, and worth the price of membership alone. I've been able to fill a lot of holes in my collection at a reasonable price. And it's not so much the high value stamps I like seeing in circuits, as those are easy to find on eBay. It's the $1-$10 stamps that you're neither likely to see listed individually on eBay nor likely to just come across randomly that I really like to see. I've been able to complete a lot of common-ish sets through circuits, and I've found them to be a really valuable resource in building my collection.
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