Bringing coders and clients together...

by Andrew Walford

Ascribe is a web-based tool promising to transform coding by letting teams work together on the same questions - coders can work from home as well as the office and clients to get in on the act too.
From Cincinnati-based Language Logic, Ascribe lets users log in over the web from any location and at any time. It helps supervisors maintain work by monitoring coder output and provides tighter interaction for the client.
Ascribe offers the uncluttered feel of a well-designed ASP alongside context-sensitive menus and drag and drop. There's the sense that any mistakes are unlikely to slip through - from an "undo" to supervisor checking facilities to the comfort of knowing coding choices take effect only when an "apply" button is pressed. The underlying philosophy is that the human operator should always be in control, so Ascribe doesn't make coding decisions on your behalf. The app also makes suggestions based on previously applied codes, which the user can accept or ignore. Codes can be applied to multiple responses by using pattern match searches for character strings.
The system provides several user levels, assigning individuals to different aspects of the coding process. Logged in over the net, there are few limits as to where and when you can code. Team members can look at each others' work as the project is in
Ascribe: web-based coding package
  • Saves coding time
  • Enhances role of the coder
  • Allows users to work from home or office
  • Rigorous communication necessary between team
  • No triple-S output yet
progress, for consistency checking. Users do have to be careful not to get in each others' way when they edit the same question: maintaining good communication is essential to preventing problems. Ascribe keeps usage stats, letting administrators examine each user's productivity. There's also the facility to compare coders' work, so quality checking and training are easier.
Ascribe also lets research clients view coding as it happens. While this won't be attractive to all, many clients might welcome the chance.
For a coding package, Ascribe includes some decent analysis facilities, offering the unique opportunity to filter and drill down through tables of the verbatim responses. You can also download your data to your chosen offline analysis package. While a triple-S export is not yet available, it is good to see flexible output in the form of XML.
Vickie Jacobs, Coding Supervisor at RDI Marketing Services in Ohio, has been using Ascribe for both qual and quant projects for over a year.
For RDI, Ascribe's greatest advantage is the enhanced service given to clients. "On paper, even if a client gets to see the coding, making changes
while the project is in progress is just frightening," Jacobs explains. "With Ascribe, clients can have access any time they want. They can see every single verbatim, whereas on paper it just goes into a black hole."
Ascribe has meant significant changes in the way RDI's coders operate: "The coders have become more assertive in their work," notes Jacobs. "They're looking less to me for approval because they know the client can see anything, and we have an internal auditor who checks as the work goes on."
Not just a time-saver with electronically collected data, the app has also helped to meet deadlines in pen-and-paper projects: Significant productivity gains have come from team members working together on the same question. If working from different sites, they update others with instant messaging as they make changes.
Overall, Jacobs is delighted with Ascribe: "We're excited that it just keeps getting easier and better to use every day. I don't see any end to it."

Language Logic:

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, May 2002, Issue 432.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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