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Jon EP2

Better collaboration and participation in developing NVIVO

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This is a general request for a more collaborative and informative approach from QSR in the development of NVIVO.

 

My own sense is that users have very little understanding of where NVIVO is headed and what kinds of changes are being made to the software. It's very unclear from the forum just how active development of NVIVO is, and there is no information available about which requests from users (in this suggestions section, for example) are being implemented and which ones are not.

 

This makes it difficult for users to participate in the forums, beyond requests for immediate help with technical or strategy problems. Most of the posts in the suggestions forum, for instance, are only one or two entries long. It seems that users post an idea, another user or two provides support for the idea, and then there is no further discussion. There is no back and forth about how the idea might look in the user interface, there is no indication from the development team as to whether or not the idea is feasible, and the discussion dies. It is notable, too, that discussion seems to be decreasing on the forum, especially since the release of NVIVO8. I doubt this is because users feel that NVIVO is now a fully-realized project; it seems likely that the 'community' aspect of these forums is lacking in interactivity, discussion, debate, feedback. No? That sort of engagement presents an opportunity for NVIVO developers to learn about the needs of users, and to keep users engaged and thinking of ways to use and benefit from the software. It also could provide the developers with good ideas about how to improve on the software in future versisons.

 

So, my suggestion is really a request for those developing the software 1) to participate more in these forums, and provide some feedback on the issues that have been raised by users and also 2) to provide a bulletin-board of some sort with information about what kinds of changes are underway and when we are likely to see them.

 

A vibrant discussion would seem to be an indicator of a vibrant, improving software package. Because one's fieldnotes, once entered into NVIVO, are destined to remain there for life (re-coding in other software is too much work to contemplate migrating out of NVIVO), it's important for users to know that the software they are using is a growing and adapting tool that is actively seeking to improve.

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As a short follow-up, it is also worth noting that frequent spam / hacks of the forum [edit: had links here to some examples, but they've been removed by moderators, which is great] that remain active for several days or weeks demonstrates that the forum is not very well groomed by moderators. Finding things like this on a forum gives users the idea that the forum is not an active site of engagement for users or the developers, and that puts users off participating.

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Hello Jon,

 

There are a numerous ways QSR International collaborates with our users, with this forum being one such mechanism. Generally we avoid jumping into a particular thread to ensure forum members fully debate and discuss the issues at hand. All suggestions posted in the forum are reviewed by the development team, though I acknowledge that the development team should look at providing more feedback to the user community.

 

Since the release of NVivo 8 in March 2008, we have been extremely busy with further development of NVivo 8. We released four service packs which introduced new functionality (including user suggestions from the forum) and support for localized languages in May 2008, August 2008, November 2008, and April 2009.

 

In July 2008 we undertook an extensive online qualitative survey and indepth interviews with our users. We analyzed this information using NVivo and have since prioritized our future development plans for NVivo. We also collated information from the forum, feedback via our help desk, and discussions at conferences. We mention some of this briefly in this

.

 

We have already commenced development of NVivo 9 and will be announcing details at the end of this year, including opportunities to be involved in our Beta Test Program which will run in the first half of 2010.

 

Thanks and regards

Adam

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Hi Adam,

 

Thanks for your comments, it's good that NVIVO is continuing to develop. I think I hear in your response an indication that NVIVO is not really interested in embracing the kind of approach I would hope for--something similar to that taking place in various open-source development environments. While NVIVO is not open-source software, it could learn from the kind of discussion that happens in these places. A vibrant user-developer discussion, like that taking place around the development of Zotero, gives a sense of the kind of involvement I was hoping for.

 

As it stands, users continue to have little idea whether their suggestions are being listened to, and they have no way of knowing what direction the software will go. Some requests, although acknowledged, seem not to be addressed (as in this one)--users have no way of knowing whether solutions are going ahead. There was a request for a bookmark function-- but no response, no way of knowing if it is worth pressing the issue further, or of knowing whether the request has been taken seriously. Same with a request for text styles, a request for a redo button, a request for roll-over expansion and contraction of parent and child nodes, and an ongoing discussion of PDF document integration. This last issue has been the subject of rather extended discussion on the forum, a discussion in which NVIVO's development team (Adam) became involved, but only to say that NVIVO's developers 'take a keen interest' in the topic, that 'many of the issues will be resolved in the next release,' and, disappointingly, that NVIVO is "not in a position to disclose these details as of yet."

 

Adam wrote that 'Generally we avoid jumping into a particular thread to ensure forum members fully debate and discuss the issues at hand.' This seems unfortunate--why not discuss these issues with users, rather than letting users talk among themselves? Why would a conversation without developers be more fruitful than one involving them? The latter type of discussion would seem to offer the opportunity that users' ideas might be tested against what is possible. But beyond that, I imagine that if the forum were more a place for collaboratively planning the future of NVIVO, NVIVO users would find it a more important discussion to particpate in. With participation levels higher, the discussion would, I imagine, help to move NVIVO along more quickly. Further--why not allow users to see what developments are in the pipeline? Many software packages maintain a version history and planned additions to future versions. Perhaps when a user-generated suggestion has been adopted by QSR, the development team could place a note in the thread where the feature was suggested, with a link to the item on a page showing version history / plans for future releases? I'm sure this would increase users' anticipation of coming releases and help to build support for NVIVO generally. I also don't see any strategic advantage for QSR to keeping these plans hidden--there doesn't seem to be much competition from other software developers who would roll-out the same features in their own software, and, in any case, many of these ideas are already posted to the forum... It is hard to see a down-side to this kind of involved approach, especially given the positive results it would likely provide.

 

Thanks,

J

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I agree, Jon. Also it would be nice to know which bugs are fixed in Hotfixes and which bugs will be fixed in coming updates. Where do one find information about this?

There are quite a lot of bugs reported by users which were not fixed in the latest hotfix update, for example this one: http://forums.qsrinternational.com/index.php?showtopic=2998.

 

Neverthelees, QSR have developed a fine piece of software.

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it would be nice to know which bugs are fixed in Hotfixes and which bugs will be fixed in coming updates. Where do one find information about this?

 

It is unfortunately not unusual that a simple question like this is left unanswered. In fact, that was what I expected. A simple "you can't" or "there's no official information about this" would help.

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The readme file provided with each release or service pack provides a comprehensive list of bugs fixed and user suggestions implemented. With the major release of NVivo 9 in October 2010, we will be improving our process to provide more frequent feedback via the forum.

 

Regards

Adam

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