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A new dscout Diary for 2018

Words by Jonathan Fairman

Our goal at dscout has always been to make it easier for companies to understand real people in the context of their everyday experience. And easier for researchers to do the work to create that understanding. But frankly, there have been things about our platform that have fallen short of that goal. That’s driven us crazy for much of the last four years!

So, for more than a year, our product and engineering team has been working to rebuild the frontend experience and our backend technology to improve speed, ease and flexibility. In spring, we released a new research builder that made planning, programming and testing missions more agile. Throughout 2017 we’ve added question types and enhanced the scout experience in our mobile apps.

Mission Parts for more flexibility

But the biggest step in solving this challenge was to take a hard look at the basic structures of dscout, specifically missions. Missions are the fundamental pillar of our architecture. They were originally designed as discrete collections of entries all with consistent structures and data. That structure, however, privileges consistency over coverage and convenience. While it works well for many tasks, there are many times where it doesn’t.

That’s why we’ve invested in “mission parts,” a re-architecture of the original mission. Mission parts allow you take a single mission and break it into discrete parts, each with a different set of questions and prompts. With parts you no longer need multiple missions to look at different dimensions of a topic in a single mission. You can design a ten-part mission where each part is a video about a different topic. Or a three-part mission (prep your meal, eat your meal, post-meal reflection) or a one-part mission that works just like dscout does today.

Easier scout management

Parts come together for a more cohesive experience for you and scouts. All mission entries and participant management is in one spot, and we’ve added support for things like progressing scouts through parts automatically. Based on our testing, parts will save researchers as much as half of the time they spend on participant management in complex projects.

Speedier back-end

To deliver with mission parts, we had to overhaul the way we manage mission data to work with more heterogeneous data. Our engineers have completely rebuilt our data handling using a combination of Elixir, GraphQL and React. The result is that data-heavy tasks like filtering entries are much, much faster.

Available now!

The enhanced Diary is now available. The features you have access to depend on how you work with dscout. All customers benefit from countless UX improvements, bug fixes and speed boosts across the platform. Subscribers and assisted project users also have access to mission parts, for more flexible research design and easier scout management.

Here’s an overview of the new features and enhancements:

Part 1

Part 2

We’ll be back soon with additional videos to help you understand Diary’s enhancements and what they’ll mean to your in-context research on dscout. In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions or feedback, we’re all ears.

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