The inevitable march of google app continues: google spreadsheet adds solve functionality

Google spreadsheet has added solver functionality to their increasingly well equipped spreadsheeting application.  For the uninitiated, solve (like excel’s solver) allows spreadsheeters to find solutions to what-if? Scenarios and to optimise mathematical and business functions.

This pretty much leaves pivot-tables/charts and macros as the two major features that excel has over gDocs (although zoho sheet has macros).  I’m enjoying watching the inevitable trainwreak that the google docs disruptive innovation will have to microsoft’s office business model, hopefully they will

Google Apps update alerts: Solve feature and other improvements to Forms in Google Spreadsheets.

Google Docs help file on solve – General: Using Solve


How to create a surveygizmo notifier with an email, a spare twitter account and some twine

I’ve become a pretty big user of surveygizmo over the past few months, using it to build a number of one off and organisational survey templates and finding it much more streamlined than equivalent tools in existence out there.  The surveys that I need have to be administered by many people, and these people need to be kept updated in real time.

There are a few ways of keeping people informed.  There is a google gadget that works pretty well, but this requires you to give out a user API key and the developer API key to everyone, which might be a bit of a security problem.  Likewise you can set up an email action on the last page of a survey to send emails out to chosen people.

In coming up with a way of keeping people at work informed, but still maintaining a little control over who can and can’t see the feed, I thought that I’d jimmy up a little system which creates a twitter feed of people who are finishing the survey.  The general process is as follows:

  1. Build your survey in surveygizmo.
  2. Figure out what information you want your twitter uploader to share (participant name, organisation, email…).
  3. If the information isn’t easily accessible, build hidden variables so you can pass that information on.
  4. Set up a dummy twitter account.
  5. Go to twittermail set up an account pointing to that twitter account.
  6. In surveygizmo, build an action to build an email that points to the twitter account.
  7. Manage people that you would like to view the survey through the twitter account and you’re done!

Of course if you have an enterprise account (which I don’t at the moment) you can use a HTTP POST action to put the information into twitter directly, or remember the milk, or whatever you’d like.

Build your survey in surveygizmo.

You’re unfortunately going to have to run through this tutorial for each one of your surveys that you want to track.

New survey image

Build a survey

Figure out what information you want your twitter uploader to share (participant name, organisation, email…).

Think about what information you would like your uploader to share.  Something quick and easy like:

Jim from Company X has completed the market research survey

Which breaks down to

{survey participant} from {organisation} has completed {survey name}

Of course, if the survey is anonymous you’ll need different information to pass on.

If the information isn’t easily accessible, build hidden variables so you can pass that information on.

If you want to pass the invite information onto the twitter notifier you’ll have to create hidden variables.  As an example, to build the hidden variables for an participant’s full name and organisation name.

Build 1 hidden variable with the full name, do this by passing in the [%%Invite_FirstName%%] [%%Invite_LastName%%] variables into a new hidden variable.

Build another with the organisation’s name [%%Invite_Organization%%].

Create a hidden variable

Create a hidden variable

If you were to collect identifying information within the survey itself you’d just point that infomation into the mailer that we will build later.

Set up a dummy twitter account.

It’s probably best to set up a new twitter account so you can make it private

Go to twittermail set up an account pointing to that twitter account.

Twittermail is a service that allows you to send an email to a special private email address (like a picasa dropbox) and it will convert the email into a twitter post.  Ensure that you set up twittermail to only send the mail message, as you can’t pass variables to the message line from surveygizmo anyway.

Set up a twittermail account

Set up a twittermail account

In surveygizmo, build an action to build an email that points to the twitter account.

On the last page of the survey (the thank you page) add an action to build an email from the fields you want passed on, remember twitter’s 140 character limit!

To build a simple responder include code like.

[%%3:Full Name%%] from [%%4:Organisation Na%%] has completed the twitter tester survey.

Of course these numbers (%%3… and %%4…) will have to be changed to suit your survey.

Setting up a surveygizmo email action

Setting up a surveygizmo email action

Now, when a participant finishes the survey, surveygizmo will send an email to twittermail, which will update your twitter account.

Manage people that you would like to view the survey through the twitter account and you’re done!  I would set up a private account and only let people who need to be updated follow the twitter account.


What Ensparq is all about

Hi All,

Ensparq is a blog that is all about me sharing ideas I have for making use of webapps to make working life easier.  In here I’ll be posting reviews, comparisons, and tips on using and integrating webapps in the real world.

Hopefully people find this useful.

Andrew