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

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:

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!

New Merge Fields in Messaging Module

Three new merge fields are now available in the Messaging Module:

  • proposal.id, which displays the ID for each proposal.
  • proposal.datetime, which displays the date/time assigned to each proposal in the Scheduling Module. (If no date/time is assigned for a proposal, the system displays “N/A”.)
  • proposal.location, which displays the location assigned to each proposal in the Scheduling Module. (If no location is assigned to a proposal, the system displays “N/A”.)

If you have any suggestions for other fields you would like to include in your messages, just let us know!

Think Like Your Attendees

Dave Lutz, over at the Midcourse Corrections blog, lays out six really good ways to improve your conference committee. Here at ProposalSpace, we always try to see things through the eyes of our users, so we especially liked his recommendation to “Walk in the attendee’s shoes”:

Many conference committees evaluate potential sessions and speakers using more information than the attendees will see. Attendees make the decision to attend based on session title, session description, and learning objectives. Embrace a blind review process. It will help eliminate personal agendas and challenge the committee to evaluate the program as a paying attendee would.

New Feature: Late Submissions

Good news, call administrators: You no longer have to re-open a call just to create a late submission. Now, even if your call’s submission deadline has passed, you will continue to see it on the Start a Proposal page.

A few important notes:

  1. Only you and your fellow administrators can see the call on the Start a Proposal page. If you want to allow a non-administrator to start a proposal, you will need to re-open the call.
  2. The call will remain listed on the Start a Proposal page until it is archived.
  3. Proposals you create are attached to your account. If you want to create a proposal on behalf of someone else, you will need to add that person to the proposal so that he/she can have access to it.
  4. Proposals you create after the submission deadline has passed will still need to be approved for review.