New Feature: Deadline Countdown

While we would all like to imagine a world where authors submit their proposals well before the submission deadline, the harsh reality is that a good number of them wait until the very last minute to click the Submit button.

Of course, ProposalSpace displays the submission deadline prominently at the top of every proposal and, if the deadline is less than a week away, also displays a notice with the time remaining:

Countdown Timer

While this is helpful, we’ve had a few authors mention that they felt cheated out of a few minutes because their computer’s clock wasn’t in sync with the "official" clock on the server, leading them to believe they had more time than they actually did.

To make sure everyone is on the same page (er, clock), we’re making some adjustments to the time-remaining notice and adding a countdown timer so everyone knows exactly how much time is left for them to submit their proposal.

Here’s how it works:

If the submission deadline is more than a week away, nothing changes. In other words, the deadline is displayed but no notice indicating how much time is left is displayed.

Starting one week before the deadline, a notice is displayed at the top of every proposal showing how much time remains—in days, hours, or minutes. This is the same behavior as before, but the notice has been styled differently to make it a little more prominent:

Countdown Timer

If under 30 minutes remains, the notice changes to a countdown timer that indicates the official time remaining (based on the server’s time, not the time on the user’s computer). The style of the notice also changes to draw attention to it:

Countdown Timer

When the submission deadline passes (i.e. the countdown timer reaches 0:00), one of two things happens:

If late submissions are not allowed, the Submit button is removed and the message indicates that submissions are no longer being accepted:

Countdown Timer

If late submission are allowed, the Submit button remains and the message changes to indicate the new deadline for late submissions:

Countdown Timer

We’re not making any wagers that this new feature will result in authors submitting their proposals early, but at least now they’ll know precisely how much time they have left to work with. 🙂

Real-Time Support Now Available

chat iconStarting today, all call admins have access to real-time support via live chat!

Just look in the bottom, right-hand corner of any call-admin page for the icon to the left. If it’s orange, that means the chat feature is live. If it’s blue, live chat isn’t available, but you can leave a message and someone will get back to you asap.

The best part? There’s no extra charge, and it’s available with all calls—active or draft.

Of course, you can still email or call for support if you like, but why not get help right when you need it?

Displaying Multiple Comment Fields

Another quick note to announce a new feature…

You can now display more than one comment field to authors!

Previously, the Notification Settings page only allowed you to select one comment field for authors from the review form (using a drop-down list). Now, all of the comment fields from the review form are available for display (using checkboxes). Just check the box next to the comment field(s) you want to display and save your changes.

One other small change: Instead of the comments being displayed on their own page, they’re now included at the bottom of the proposal, making it easier for authors to reference their proposal while reading comments.

New Feature: Multiple File Uploads

If you’ve ever included a File Upload field in your submission or role form, you know that it only allowed authors to upload one file for each field. To allow multiple files, you had to include multiple File Upload fields in the form.

For example, if you had a “Supplemental Documents” question, you would either have to guess the maximum number of documents an author might want to upload and include that many questions on your form (i.e. "Supplemental Document 1", "Supplemental Document 2", …) or you would have to instruct authors to create and upload a single archive (.zip) file that included all the files.

ScreenshotNow, the form builder includes an option for File Upload fields to allow multiple files. All you need to do is check the "Allow Multiple" box (right).

Pro Tip: The "Allow Multiple" setting allows authors to upload as many files as they want for a single question. If you want to limit the number of files that can be uploaded, just include that number of File Upload fields to the form, leaving the "Allow Multiple" option unchecked for each one.

Updates to the Messaging Module

The Messaging Module has been tweaked slightly to make it a little more efficient.

Previously, if you used the module to send a message to individuals associated with proposals (as opposed to reviewers), it sent one message per person per proposal. (For example, if you sent a message to the primary contact and all presenters, and someone was both in two proposals, that person would receive just two emails, not four.)

Ideally, in cases where someone was associated with more than one proposal (and therefore received more than one email), the message would include at least one merge field to identify which proposal the message was for. If that didn’t happen, an individual could receive multiple identical messages, which could be confusing.

To help avoid this issue, the module now checks to see if there are any merge fields in the message. If there are, it continues to send out one message per person per proposal. If no merge fields are present, it only sends out one message per person, regardless of how many proposals that person might have. So using the example above, that person would receive just one email, not two.

Add to Calendar Feature for Publishing Module

We’ve just added a feature to the Publishing Module that allows anyone viewing session information on your site to add sessions to their personal or work calendar!

How to set it up:

  • screenshot of time zone setting in Scheduling ModuleIn the Scheduling Module, there is now a setting at the top of the Scheduled Sessions panel for the time zone for the sessions (right). Just set it to wherever your conference is being held. For example, if your conference is in Austin, Texas, click the edit icon and select “Central Time (US & Canada)” from the drop-down list.
  • screenshot of Publishing Module settingsIn the Publishing Module, you will now see an item in the Session Info section labeled “Add to Calendar” (right). Just like with the other settings, if you check the box in the Brief column, the feature will show up in the Brief listings and if you check the box in the Full column, the feature will show up in the Full listings.

That’s it!

screenshot of add-to-calendar featureOnce the feature is enabled, visitors to your site will see a calendar icon next to the date/time/location line for each session. Clicking the icon displays a list of calendars the visitor can choose from (right). All the user has to do is pick a calendar and the session is added to it!

(Although Google, iCal, Outlook, and Yahoo! are the only calendars in the list, selecting iCal or Outlook generates an ICS file, which can be used by virtually any type of calendar to add an event.)

Try it out and let us know what you think!

Locked Questions for Returned Proposals

Starting today, call admins can restrict which parts of a proposal are editable when returning it for edits!

For example, let’s say you want to return a submission, but you only want the author to edit the abstract and nothing else. Previously, they could edit any part of the proposal. Now, you can prohibit them from editing anything but the abstract.

ScreenshotThe screenshot on the right is a detailed view of the dialog window that pops up when you return a submission for edits. The window now contains an “Editable Items” section with checkboxes next to each question on the main submission form and all role forms. It also includes checkboxes for the “Add…” button for each role. By default, all of the checkboxes are checked, meaning the entire proposal is editable. To change that, just uncheck the boxes next to the items you don’t want to be edited.

When the author pulls up the proposal, questions that have been locked will be disabled and have “not editable” displayed next to them.

If you happen to change your mind after you’ve returned a submission, you can pull it up in the Tracker and select “Change editable items” from the options menu. From there you can easily add or remove restrictions.

Roles Explained

RolesRoles are an essential component of ProposalSpace. Not only do they allow for greater flexibility when collecting proposal information, they also make certain functionality possible, like the Advanced Scheduling Module’s conflict checker.

Unfortunately, they’re also one of the most misunderstood and misused features.

So what are roles?

Put simply, they are how individuals are associated with a proposal. Some examples include:

  • Presenter
  • Co-Presenter
  • Primary Contact
  • Speaker
  • Contributor
  • Nominee

For each role you create, you get to define the following:

  • Name: What you want to call the role (e.g. “Primary Contact”)
  • Description: An explanation of the role (e.g. “The Primary Contact is responsible for all communications regarding the proposal.”)
  • Minimum: The minimum number of individuals required for the role (“0” makes the role optional)
  • Maximum: The maximum number of individuals allowed for the role (“0” allows an unlimited number)
  • Role Form: Each role has its own form for collecting information about individuals added to that role (e.g. name, organization, and bio). Note that this form is different than the main submission form, which is intended for core information about the proposal, like the abstract and learner objectives.

For example, let’s say you are collecting speaker proposals for a conference and want each proposal to have a primary contact, a lead presenter, and up to five additional presenters. Traditionally, that meant the submission form had eight sections: one for the main proposal information (title, abstract, etc.), another for information related to the primary contact (name, organization, etc.), another for the lead presenter, and five more for additional presenters. All those sections took up a lot of space, especially if a proposal did not include any additional presenters.

With ProposalSpace, you just create three roles as follows:

  • Primary Contact, with a minimum of 1, a maximum of 1, and a form with questions for name, organization, and email address
  • Lead Presenter, with a minimum of 1, a maximum of 1, and a form with questions for name, organization, email address, bio, and speaking experience
  • Additional Presenter, with a minimum of 0, a maximum of 5, and a form with questions for name, organization, email address, and bio

With this setup, questions related to a role are not displayed unless the author chooses to add someone to that role.

RolesOne way to think of roles is as sheets of paper that get attached to the main proposal to compose a complete submission. The image on the right shows hows the various components from the example above are related, with the Main Proposal Form (which displays the core proposal questions, like title and abstract) and the Primary Contact, Lead Presenter, and Additional Presenter forms (which display role-specific questions, like name and organization). The key is that the role forms are only added to the main submission if needed, keeping the overall submission uncluttered.

Role ScreenshotThe screenshot to the right shows how the roles mentioned above would appear in a proposal. (Click the image for a larger view.) Only when an author clicks one of the “Add…” buttons does the system display the questions for that role… again, keeping the overall submission uncluttered.

A couple of other important things to keep in mind about roles:

  1. Every call must have at least one role. You may call it anything you like and even make it optional, but there must be at least one role. (Typically we see organizers use “Primary Contact” when there is only one role for a call.)
  2. The system does not assign anyone to a role automatically, so even if you create a role for something like “Submitter”, that person would still need to be added by someone working on the proposal. (The system does track who creates each proposal, but only displays that person’s name and organization from their profile.)

I hope this helps to explain what roles are and how to use them effectively. If you have any questions—about roles or anything else—feel free to contact us. Also, we offer free evaluations for every call as part of our unlimited support, so if you ever want feedback about how your roles are set up, just ask. We’re here to help!

Publishing Module Change

ScreenshotIf you’re using our Publishing Module, there’s a slight change you should know about:

In the search box, the names that are displayed in the name-search field (right) are now pulled from the sessions instead of from user profiles.

One of the key benefits of this change is that admins (and review chairs, if they have permission to edit proposals) can change the way names appear in the list. Previously, any change had to be made in the user’s profile, which only the user could access. Now, admins can simply edit a proposal and the change will be reflected immediately in the drop-down list of names in the search fields.

Conditional Review Questions

We’ve made an exciting update to the Review Module that now allows conditional questions as part of a custom review form!

What’s a “conditional question”, you might ask? It’s a review question that’s only displayed when a certain condition is met in the proposal being reviewed. For example, if your submission form includes a question for “session type”, with options for “roundtable” and “poster”, you might want reviewers to see one question for roundtables and another question for posters.

Before, the review form had to include both questions with instructions like “If a roundtable…” and “If a poster…”. Now, the Review Module is smart enough to know which question to display based on the answer to the session-type question. In other words, if the proposal is for a roundtable, the reviewer sees the roundtable question; If it’s a poster, the reviewer sees the poster question.

The new feature works with just about any type of question in the submission form. Of course, it works best with questions that have pre-defined answers (radio buttons, checkboxes, and drop-down lists) and not so well with open-ended questions (text, date/time, and file-upload fields).

Give it a try the next time you’re working on your custom review form!