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.

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!

Changes to the Data-Export Tool

Note: This feature has been removed. See our post explaining why.

One of our users recently reported a problem with the way our data-export tool was handling special characters. Abstracts for his call often contain mathematical symbols, which were being displayed correctly on the ProposalSpace website, but were becoming garbled in the output file generated by the data-export tool. For example, Δ (delta) was showing up as Δ and ± (plus-minus) was showing up as ±.

We fixed the issue by changing the character encoding for the output file. Now, any character that is displayed correctly on the website is also displayed correctly in the output file.

(A special note: Some programs, like MS Word, might ask what encoding to use when opening the file. If that happens, select “Unicode” on Windows or “Unicode 6.3 (Little-Endian)” on Mac.)

Also, we’ve removed the “strip HTML” option from the data-export tool and made that the default action. If you miss having that option, just let us know and we’ll be happy to put it back!

New Option in Data Export for HTML Tags

The data-export feature now has an option for controlling how HTML-formatted text is exported. You can find it on the data-export page (Tools -> Data Export) right above the Create Report button:

Data-export screenshot

So if you’ve set up any of your forms (submission, role, or review) to include a formatted-text field, you can now tell the data-export feature whether you want that text exported as formatted text (with HTML tags) or as unformatted text (without HTML tags).

For example, let’s say you have a field in your Presenter role form for the presenter’s bio. You’ve set up the field so the user can format the text, but you don’t want any of that formatting when you export the bio. Now, all you have to do is check the box at the bottom of the data-export feature and voilà—all of the HTML code is stripped out!

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Charts & Graphs

Charts are charts, right? Wrong.

You have a lot of decisions to make when creating a chart, most of which seem benign. But some of those decisions can make a critical difference between providing insight into the underlying data and causing the reader to draw the wrong conclusions.

To illustrate just three of the ways charts can be made to be misleading, check out Ravi Parikh post on How to Lie with Data Visualization over at Heap’s Data Blog.

Improved Data Export Feature

We’ve just released some exciting improvements to the data-export feature in ProposalSpace!

  • Proposal information is no longer spread across multiple rows. All the information for a proposal—including role data, reviews and scheduling information—is now on the same line.
  • You can now select individual questions from the submission and role forms to include in the export file.
  • Special characters (like é) now display correctly in the export file.
  • The “Proposals to Include” section now shows totals for each category so you can tell in advance how many proposals will be included in the export file.
  • We’ve streamlined the code so the export file is generated even faster.

All of these changes were in response to feedback from our fantastic users. Keep the ideas coming!

New Tracker Dashboard

We’ve just released a new dashboard for the Session Tracker in ProposalSpace. The dashboard contains a couple of charts designed to help call admins track proposal activity over time and to monitor how many draft proposals are incomplete vs. complete. It also contains an Alerts section that displays issues that might require attention, like impending deadlines, submissions that haven’t been approved for review, and submissions that need to be assigned to reviewers.

The idea is to make the Tracker Dashboard a place where admins can stay on top of every aspect of a call. We’re always looking to make the feature more useful, so if you have any information that you would like to see on the dashboard, please let us know!