Putting Community into Mobile Data Collection: SurveySwipe and the State of the Union

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Jan 25, 2011

Mobile panels. Software as a service. The United States State of the Union adress by the American president. These are things not typically viewed as “sexy,” but the team behind SurveySwipe is trying to change that.

SurveySwipe is a mobile application that allows a user to take simple surveys or participate in live pulse polling. The app is from IdeaScale, a company that provides services for online and mobile crowdsourcing endeavors -- they work with groups from small non-profits to government agencies to large companies and brands.

The company has been doing Software as a Service (SaaS)-based marketing since 2003, or as Rob Hoehn of IdeaScale said, since “before it was cool.” SurveySwipe is a foray into qualitative data analysis and feeback; for our MobileActive.org audience, it is also an example of a creative, two-fold approach to mobile data collection.

Beyond mobile data collection: a community

At one end, SurveySwipe can be used to create and conduct simple surveys. The survey respondents can be viewed as turn-key mobile panels, a prized and forward-looking demographic for conducting surveys. This has appeal for companies and brands, among other uses.

The other approach, said Stuart Shulman of Texifter, is that the SurveySwipe team is trying to attract users with the idea of being part of a data sharing and data analytics community. Anyone with a large audience (a blog, an organization, a brand or agency) might want to do pulse polling to collect information about their own community and how they feel about a particular event, in real time. This has appeal for a wide array of mobile data collection projects.

Along this line, IdeaScale is currently seeking partners (they have already partnered with Personal Democracy Forum) with large audiences willing to try out the app, for example for the U.S. presidential State of the Union address. Partners will receive access to the pulse poll data for their unique community once the address is complete. 

Why the State of the Union?

SurveySwipe is used for simple surveys. It can also be used for live pulse polling, as it will be used during the SOTU address in January. While IdeaScale hopes that the event helps SurveySwipe to become a household name, the team is also trying to promote a more broad understanding of the concept of a mobile panel and mobile data community. The hope is to make it a little more sexy, Hoehn said.

Ahead of the address, people who have downloaded the app will receive a push notification asking if they would like to participate in the State of the Union pulse poll. SurveySwipe will then launch, and the user can agree or disagree with what is being said by during the State of the Union by moving a slider up and down a scale on the mobile screen.

The idea of pulse polling is similar to “dial testing”  to find and study the phrases, the moments, and the inflections in a speech, Shulman said.

With SurveySwipe, “we want to make the technology cheap and simple for everybody to use,” Hoehn said. Outside of State of the Union, for example, a small nonprofit could do live polling at their event, so long as the attendees or participants have smartphones and have downloaded the SurveySwipe app.

The perks of apps

Mobile apps are growing at an exponential rate, Hoehn said. The platform provides an interesting concept that web browsers have not been able to fulfill --  the uniqueness factor.

"If I have my community installed SurveySwipe," Hoehn said, "I can pretty much guarantee that each unique user will take a survey or poll - thus eliminating the possibility for duplicates."

Another perk to mobile-based data collection in general is the ability to leverage location and GPS functionality to get a better picture of an intended community. SurveySwipe capitalizes on this.

But the app platform also presents unique challenges. Hoehn said that developers often have trouble getting things accepted by the app store, and that app development teams often work at different and faster speeds. There have already been 5 releases of SurveySwipe; it is available on Symbian, Android, Blackberry, and iPhone platforms.

The backend was tricky, too. “Collecting live data in a stream like this is not simple,” Hoehn said. “It’s daunting but it has fascinating implications.”

(See also a MobileActive post on mobile web versus mobile app.)

Incentivizing the user

Hoehn and Shulman also bring up another interesting caveat of mobile data collection: incentive. In the short term, they have tapped the “techy gov 2.0” people who are often the early adopters of new apps or services. Long-term, IdeaScale has partnered with Apple and Amazon and plans to offer rewards and incentives to users -- primarily individual survey takers -- in the form of downloads (like Angry Birds) or gift certificates.

In turn, the SurveySwipe partners, like Personal Democracy Forum, would gain access about their audience and could compare it against all groups that participated in a given event. This reinforces the idea of mobile data collection as a data sharing and analytics community.  

Hoehn said Thumbspeak, another mobile app, is similar as far as the idea of building a turn-key mobile panel. SurveySwipe, however, attempts to add the element of community and crowdsourcing.

“The goal is to create a community where you can incentivize people to give you feedback about certain things,” Hoehn said. “It’s not an easy task.”

SurveySwipe is currently available for free in the app store.

Putting Community into Mobile Data Collection: SurveySwipe and the State of the Union data sheet 3175 Views
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