Quirkos v1.5 is here

Quirkos 1.5 word cloud

 

We are happy to announce the immediate availability of Quirkos version 1.5! As always, this update is a free upgrade for everyone who has ever brought a licence of Quirkos, so download now and enjoy the new features and improvements.

 

Here’s a summary of the main improvements in this release:

 

Project Merge


You can now bring together multiple projects in Quirkos, merge sources, Quirks and coding from many authors at once. This makes team work much easier, and allows you to bring in coding frameworks or sources from other projects.

 

Word Frequency tools including:
 

Word-clouds! You can now generate customisable Word Clouds, (click on the Report button). Change the shape, word size, rotation, and cut-off for minimum words, or choose which sources to include. There is also a default ‘stop list’ (a, the, of, and) of the most frequent 50 words from the British National Corpus, but this can be completely customised. Save the word-clouds to a standard image file, or as an interactive webpage.referednum wordcloud
A complete word frequency list of the words occurring across all the sources in your project is also generated in this view.

  • Improved Tree view – now shows longer titles, descriptions and fits more Quirks on the screen
  • Tree view now has complete duplicate / merge options
  • Query results by source name – ability to see results from single or multiple sources
  • Query results now show number of quotes returned
  • Query view now has ‘Copy All’ option
  • Improved CSV spreadsheet export – now clearly shows Source Title, and Quirk Name
  • Merge functions now more logical – default behaviour changed so that you select the Quirk you want to be absorbed into a second.
  • Can now merge parent and child Quirks to all levels
  • Hovering mouse over Quirks now shows description, and coding summary across sources
  • Reports now generate MUCH faster, no more crashes for projects with hundreds of Quirks. Image generation of hierarchy and overlap views now off by default, turn on in Project Settings if needed
  • Improved overlap view, with rings indicating number of overlaps
  • Neater pop-up password entry for existing projects
  • Copy and pasting quotes to external programmes now shows source title after each quote
  • Individually imported sources now take file name as source name by default

 

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug where Quirks would suddenly grow huge!
  • Fixed a rare crash on Windows when rearranging / merging Quirks in tree view
  • Fixed a rare bug where a Quirk was invisible after being re-arranged
  • Fixed an even rarer bug where deleting a source would stop new coding
  • Save As project now opens the new file after saving, and no longer shows blank screen
  • Reports can now overwrite if saved to the same folder as an earlier export
  • Upgrading to new versions on Windows only creates a backup of the last version, not all previous versions, lots of space savings. (It’s safe to delete these old versions once you are happy with the latest one)

 

Watch the new features demonstrated in the video below:

 

 

There are a few other minor tweaks and improvements, so we do recommend you update straight away. Everyone is eligible, and once again there are no changes to project files, so you can keep going with your work without missing a beat. Do let us know if you have any feedback or suggestions (support@quirkos.com)

 

Download quirkos free qualitative analysis software

 

If you've not tried Quirkos before, it's a perfect time to get started. Just download the full version and you'll get a whole month to play with it for free!

 

Quirkos vs Nvivo: Differences and Similarities

quirkos vs nvivoI’m often asked ‘How does Quirkos compare to Nvivo?’. Nvivo is by far the largest player in the qualitative software field, and is the product most researchers are familiar with. So when looking at the alternatives like Quirkos (but also Dedoose, ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA, Transana and many others) people want to know what’s different!

 

In a nutshell, Quirkos has far fewer features than Nvivo, but wraps them up in an easier to use package. So Quirkos does not have support for integrated multimedia, Twitter analysis, quantitative analysis, memos, or hypothesis mapping and a dozen other features. For large projects with thousands of sources, those using multimedia data or requiring powerful statistical analysis, the Pro and Plus versions of Nvivo will be much more suitable.


Our focus with Quirkos has been on providing simple tools for exploring qualitative data that are flexible and easier to use. This means that people can get up and running quicker in Quirkos, and we hear that a lot of people who are turned off by the intimidating interface in Nvivo find Quirkos easer to understand. But the basics of coding and analysing qualitative data are the same.


In Quirkos, you can create and group themes (called Nodes in Nvivo), and use drag and drop to attach sections of text to them. You can perform code and retrieve functions by double clicking on the theme to see text coded to that node. And you can also generate reports of your coded data, with lots of details about your project.


Like Nvivo, we can also handle all the common text formats, such as PDFs, Word files, plain text files, and the ability to copy and paste from any other source like web pages. Quirkos also has tools to import survey data, which is not something supported in the basic version of Nvivo.


While Quirkos doesn’t have ‘matrix coding’ in the same way as Nvivo, we do have side-by-side comparison views, where you can use any demographic or quantitative data about your sources to do powerful sub-set analysis. A lot of people find this more interactive, and we try and minimise the steps and clicks between you and your data.


Although Quirkos doesn’t really have any dedicated tools for quantitative analysis, our spreadsheet export allows you to bring data into Excel, SPSS or R where you have much more control over the statistical models you can run than Nvivo or other mixed-methods tools allow.

 

However, there are also features in Quirkos that Nvivo doesn’t have at the moment. The most popular of these is the Word export function. This creates a standard Word file of your complete transcripts, with your coding shown as color coded highlights. It’s just like using pen and highlighter, but you can print, edit and share with anyone who can open a Word file.


Quirkos also has a constant save feature, unlike Nvivo which has to be set up to save over a certain time period. This means that even in a crash you don’t loose any work, something I know people have had problems with in Nvivo.


Another important differential for some people is that that Quirkos is the same on Windows and Mac. With Nvivo, the Windows and Mac versions have different interfaces, features and file formats. This makes it very difficult to switch between the versions, or collaborate with people on a different platform. We also never charge for our training sessions, and all our online support materials are free to download on our website


And we didn’t mention the thing people love most about Quirkos – the clear visual interface! With your themes represented as colourful, dynamic bubbles, you are always hooked into your data, and have the flexibility to play, explore and drill down into the data.


Of course, it’s best to get some impartial comparisons as well, so you can get reviews from the University of Surrey CAQDAS network here: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/sociology/research/researchcentres/caqdas/support/choosing/


But the best way to decide is for yourself, since your style of working and learning, and what you want to do with the software will always be different. Quirkos won’t always be the best fit for you, and for a lot of people sticking with Nvivo will provide an easier path. And for new users, learning the basics of qualitative analysis in Quirkos will be a great first step, and make transitioning to a more complex package like Nvivo easier in the future. But download our free trial (ours lasts for a whole month, not just 14 days!) and let us know if you have any questions!

 

How Quirkos can change the way you look at your qualitative data

Quirkos qualitative software seeing data

We always get a lot of inquiries in December from departments and projects who are thinking of spending some left-over money at the end of the financial year on a few Quirkos licences. A great early Christmas present for yourself the team! It’s also a good long term investment, since our licences don’t expire and can be used year after year. They are transferable to new computers, and we’ve committed to provide free updates for the current version. We don’t want the situation where different teams are using different versions, and so can’t share projects and data. Our licences are often a fraction of the cost of other qualitative software packages, but for the above reasons we think that we offer much more value than just the comparative sticker price.

 

But since Quirkos also has a different ethos (accessibility) and some unique features, it also helps you approach your qualitative research data in a different way to other software. In the two short years that Quirkos has been available, it’s become used by more than 100 universities across the world, as well as market research firms and public sector organisations. That has given me a lot of feedback that helps us improve the software, but also a sense of what things people love the most about it. So following is the list of things I hear most about the software in workshops and e-mails.

 

It’s much more visual and colourful

quirkos qualitative coding bubbles

Experienced researchers who have used other software are immediately struck by how colourful and visual the Quirkos approach is. The interface shows growing bubbles that dynamically show the coding in each theme (or node), and colours all over the screen. For many, the Quirkos design allows people to think in colours, spatially, and in layers, improving the amount of information they can digest and work with. Since the whole screen is a live window into the data, there is less need to generate separate reports, and coding and reviewing is a constant (and addictive) feedback process.


This doesn’t appeal to everyone, so we still have a more traditional ‘tree’ list structure for the themes which users can switch between at any time.

 

 

I can get started with my project quicker


We designed Quirkos so it could be learnt in 20 minutes for use in participatory analysis, so the learning curve is much lower than other qualitative software. Some packages can be intimidating to the first-time user, and often have 2 day training courses. All the training and support materials for Quirkos are available for free on our website, without registration. We increasingly hear that students want self-taught options, which we provide in many different formats. This means that not only can you start using Quirkos quickly, setting up and putting data into a new project is a lot quicker as well, making Quirkos useful for smaller qualitative projects which might just have a few sources.

 

 

I’m kept closer to my data

qualitative software comparison view


It’s not just the live growing bubbles that mean researchers can see themes evolve in their analysis, there are a suite of visualisations that let you quickly explore and play with the data. The cluster views generate instant Venn diagrams of connection and co-occurrences between themes, and the query views show side-by-side comparisons for any groups of your data you want to compare and contrast. Our mantra has been to make sure that no output is more than one click away, and this keeps users close to their data, not hidden away behind long lists and sub-menus.

 

 

It’s easier to share with others

qualitative word export


Quirkos provides some unique options that make showing your coded qualitative data to other people easier and more accessible. The favourite feature is the Word export, which creates a standard Word document of your coded transcripts, with all the coding shown as colour coded comments and highlights. Anyone with a word processor can see the complete annotated data, and print it out to read away from the computer.


If you need a detailed summary, the reports can be created as an interactive webpage, or a PDF which anyone can open. For advanced users you can also export your data as a standard spreadsheet CSV file, or get deep into the standard SQLite database using any tool (such as http://sqlitebrowser.org/) or even a browser extension.

 

 

I couldn’t get to grips with other qualitative software

quirkos spreadsheet comparison


It is very common for researchers to come along to our workshops having been to training for other qualitative analysis software, and saying they just ‘didn’t get it’ before. While very powerful, other tools can be intimidating, and unless you are using them on a regular basis, difficult to remember all the operations. We love how people can just come back to Quirkos after 6 months and get going again.


We also see a lot of people who tried other specialist qualitative software and found it didn’t fit for them. A lot of researchers go back to paper and highlighters, or even use Word or Excel, but get excited by how intuitive Quirkos makes the analysis process.

 

 

Just the basics, but everything you need


I always try and be honest in my workshops and list the limitations of Quirkos. It can’t work with multimedia data, can’t provide quantitative statistical analysis, and has limited memo functionality at the moment. But I am always surprised at how the benefits outweigh the limitations for most people: a huge majority of qualitative researchers only work with text data, and share my belief that if quantiatitve statistics are needed, they should be done in dedicated software. The idea has always been to focus on making the core actions that researchers do all the time (coding, searching, developing frameworks and exploring data) and make them as smooth and quick as possible.

 


If you have comments of your own, good or bad, we love to hear them, it’s what keeps us focused on the diverse needs of qualitative researchers.


Get in touch and we can help explain the different licence options, including ‘seat’ based licences for departments or teams, as well as the static licences which can be purchased immediately through our website. There are also discounts for buying more than 3 licences, for different sectors, and developing countries.


Of course, we can also provide formal quotes, invoices and respond to purchase orders as your institution requires. We know that some departments take time to get things through finances, and so we can always provide extensions to the trial until the orders come through – we never want to see researchers unable to get at their data and continue their research!


So if you are thinking about buying a licence for Quirkos, you can download the full version to try for free for one month, and ask us any questions by email (sales@quirkos.com), Skype ‘quirkos’ or a good old 9-to-5 phone call on (+44) 0131 555 3736. We are here for qualitative researchers of all (coding) stripes and spots (bubbles)!

 

Quirkos version 1.4 is here!

quirkos version 1.4

It’s been a long time coming, but the latest version of Quirkos is now available, and as always it’s a free update for everyone, released simultaneously on Mac, Windows and Linux with all the new goodies!


The focus of this update has been speed. You won’t see a lot of visible differences in the software, but behind the scenes we have rewritten a lot of Quirkos to make sure it copes better with large qualitative sources and projects, and is much more responsive to use. This has been a much requested improvement, and thanks to all our intrepid beta testers for ensuring it all works smoothly.


In the new version, long coded sources now load in around 1/10th of the time! Search results and hierarchy views load much quicker! Large canvas views display quicker! All this adds up to give a much more snappy and responsive experience, especially when working with large projects. This takes Quirkos to a new professional level, while retaining the engaging and addictive data coding interface.


In addition we have made a few small improvements suggested by users, including:


• Search criteria can be refined or expanded with AND/OR operands
• Reports now include a summary section of your Quirks/codes
• Ability to search source names to quickly find sources
• Searches now display the total number of results
• Direct link to the full manual

 

There are also many bug fixes! Including:
• Password protected files can now be opened across Windows, Mac and Linux
• Fix for importing PDFs which created broken Word exports
• Better and faster CSV import
• Faster Quirk merge operations
• Faster keyword search in password protected files

 

However, we have had to change the .qrk file format so that password protected files can open on any operating system. This means that projects opened or created in version 1.4 cannot be opened in older versions of Quirkos (v1.3.2 and earlier).


I know how annoying this is, but there should be no reason for people to keep using older versions: we make the updates free so that everyone is using the same version. Just make sure everyone in your team updates!

 

When you first open a project file from an older version of Quirkos in 1.4, it will automatically convert it to the new file format, and save a backup copy of the old file. Most users will not notice any difference, and you can obviously keep working with your existing project files. But if you want to share your files with other Quirkos users, make sure they also have upgraded to the latest version, or they will get an error message trying to open a file from version 1.4.

 

All you need to do to get the new version is download and install from our website (www.quirkos.com/get.html) and install to the same location as the old Quirkos. Get going, and let us know if you have any suggestions or feedback! You could see your requests appear in version 1.5!

 

Tips and advice from one year of Quirkos

birthday cake CC by theresathompson

 

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Quirkos being released to the market! On 6th October 2014, a group of qualitative researchers, academics and business mentors met in a bar in Edinburgh, and at 8pm, version 1.0 of Quirkos was launched to the world. We then drank the bar dry of Prosecco (Champagne being much too expensive). Now Quirkos is being used in more than 30 universities across the world, and it's so exciting to see how people have used it for their PhDs, or in major research projects.

 

Obviously, the story didn't begin on that October night. It was the cumulation of nearly 2 years of planning, testing and development, not just of software, but of the skills and networks of many people behind the scenes. This blog post is mostly intended to share some of the things that went wrong, what went right, and to provide encouragement to those starting down the road to their own business for the first time.

 

There are frightening statistics about how many start-ups fail in the first few years. Some say 20% in the first year, others as high as 50% in the first two years. Whomever you believe, the rates are high, and this has to be expected. It's a competitive world out there and the cost of starting a business is high, nearly always higher than people anticipate (Quirkos included in this).

 

Now, 3 years after I quit my job to work full time on Quirkos, it feels like we have beaten the odds (so far). I also know many start-ups that didn't make it, many colleagues in Edinburgh who were embarking on their own adventures, who saw their business fade during that time. But it's interesting that all those people have still done well individually. Whatever gave them that entrepreneurial desire has led them all to new and different things, just maybe not what they originally planned!

 

At the risk of adding to the 3752 (est) other lists of start-up advice on the internet, here are some numbered pointers:


1. Don't develop qualitative research software
This is annoyingly specific advice, but has become a bit of a running joke for me. If you want to get poor quickly, qualitative analysis software is ideal for you, there is not a lot of money in it. It's a niche, and a very un-sexy one at the moment too. People always suggest that Quirkos should branch out into 'big-data' or add more quantitative features, but this is not really what I want to do.

 

Qualitative research is what I am passionate about, and what I know best. I didn't start this project to make a fortune, but because I felt software was holding people back from better understanding the world, and that was a gap in the market (my pain point).

 


2. Advice is free, but guidance is invaluable
Fortunately, it's really easy to get advice and support. Government initiatives (at least in Scotland and the UK) provide lots of basic training workshops and materials for free. We've benefited from advice from Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise and their partners on strategy, funding, IP, you name it. However, these people won't tell you what to do, and obviously don't have very specific knowledge for your industry.

 

That is where our great mentors have come in, with knowledge from our specific area (software) and in working with our main markets (public sector and academic). This allowed us to plan a lot better, and make much more realistic projections about things like conversion rates, lead times, and even cultural differences selling abroad.

 

 

3. Awareness is everything
Insulting though it may be, people don't go out looking for your product. They are looking for a solution to that problem, and at first they don't know your name is Quirkos. They search for 'qualitative analysis software' in Google, go to qualitative research conferences, and read journals on all manner of related disciplines. It is never enough to 'build it and they will come' – you have to go to where your potential users will be.

 

Awareness is just the first step, then you need people to believe that you can help them. That can only be done by yourself to a certain extent, word of mouth and recommendations are much more important than corporate-sponsored hearsay. That's why I think that quality and customer happiness are so important, because people don't really believe what they read in adverts (I know I don't).

 

 

4. You ultimately invest in yourself
The last few years have been a roller-coaster, but I have learned so much. I learnt about running a business, accounting, tax, sales, marketing, search engine optimisation, PHP, Javascript, SSL certification, social media, software testing, promotional printing, exhibitions, conferences, planning, strategy, and on and on.

 

I've always thought at the back of my mind, what if this fails? Is all that time and money lost? Well, yes, but through the experience I have learnt so much, and developed real skills in real situations. I can't say I was worried about finding employment afterwards, since I was always adding so much to my CV.

 

 

5. Getting funding costs money and time
However you want money: grants, competitions, loans, equity investment, all these things are very expensive in terms of time and paperwork. We spent a long time going to the final (term-sheet) stages of angel investment, before deciding that the timing wasn't right, and the costs of the transaction were going to be too high.

 

So you need to pick your battles carefully, but plan for redundancy. Assume that only 1 out of 3 sources of funding will come through, so always have a back-up ready to pursue. For Quirkos, a friends and family round worked really well for our first funding cycle, and allows us flexibility in the future.

 


6. Critical Path Analysis
I'm a little obsessed by this, but I have to admit, I actually learnt it from a children's book decades ago. It was 'Truckers' by Terry Pratchett, and it describes it thus: “It’s something called critical path analysis. It means there’s always something you should have done first. For example, if you want to build a house you need to know how to make bricks, and before you can make bricks you need to know what kind of clay to use. And so on”.

 

I actually do this in my head all the time now, whether I am doing a marketing strategy, releasing software or even making dinner. It just means working backwards from what you want to achieve, and working out the things that will hold you back if you don't get them done first. For example, if I am having flyers handed out at a conference, they need them 3 days before the conference. To get there, they have to be in the post 5 days before that. They take 3 days to come back from the printer, take me 1 day to design, and my colleague who has agreed to proof read them is on holiday next week. So quickly I can see that the last day I can do the first draft of the flyer is 17 days before the conference!

 

In a small business you end up doing everything, so being able to plan your time like this is essential. With experience, you also learn that the uncertain part in the chain is always when you have to rely on other people (who can be late, sick, forgetful) so you always factor in more time for the post, printers, and proof readers. Not that you won't be late, sick or forgetful yourself sometimes, but generally you know when this is happening. It's no coincidence that most of the 'Truckers' book is actually about managing people (seriously, it's the best management book I've ever read).

 


7. Network, network, network
Actually, I hate netwo rking, or at least that kind of endless socialising in large groups without direct purpose . But very targeted networking is essential to getting the word out, and cultivating positive relationships with key people and organisations is essential. A case-study or positive review is always more valuable than just a quick sale, and there are always influential people in any industry who have a large audience. Engaging with these networks is essential.

 

 

8. Love, love, love
I couldn't have done this on my own. Over the years so many people have given time, support, money and advice, and I can't thank them all here. If I was thinking in terms of social capital (Putnam style) I would have used up a lifetime of favours and goodwill. To be honest, I don't think I could have got this far without them, and the  love and belief from friends, family, colleagues and spouse. So I'm going to finish on a song, and say “Thank You!”

 

  “When you were giving me advice, that I seldom ever took
  But your head never shook - That's love

 

  Both knowing you were right, never shook it left and right
  Just gave me that look - That's love

 

  When I had to learn the hard way, and you would let me fall
  But never did it out of spite - That's love

 

  You told me never burn a bridge
  If you build it, then you need it
  Whether a river or a brook”

 

That's Love – Oddisee (from the album The Good Fight)
Performed live here from the awesome NPR Tiny Desk series!

 


 

Levels: 3-dimensional node and topic grouping in Quirkos

levels and groups in Quirkos

 

One of the biggest features enabled in the latest release of Quirkos are 'levels', a new way to group and sort your Quirks thematically. While this was always an option in previous versions, they are now fully integrated into the search and query views, making them much more useful. However, this is a tricky thing to describe conceptually, so this post will give a few use-case scenarios.

 

In Quirkos, the topics or themes that you code to (called nodes in Nvivo) are represented as bubbles. These can be moved around the canvas to be grouped by location, given similar colours, or arranged alphabetically or by size. However, they can also be grouped into topics with sub categories, by dragging a bubble onto another one. This creates a parent-child relationship where the parent category, say 'Drinks' can have any number of sub-categories, such as Juice, Tea, Water etc. It is also possible to have sub-sub categories (grandchildren), so in this example, you might have types of Juice such as Orange, Apple and Cranberry.

 

So far so good – this allows you to quickly see the quotes you assigned to all types of Drinks, or just the Juices using the Hierarchy view. However, this parent-child grouping has a limitation, in that a sub category, say Orange Juice, cannot belong to more than one parent. So we can't describe Orange Juice as being a type of Drink, as well as a form of Fruit.

 

This is where the 'level' function comes in. A Quirk can belong to any number of levels, which can contain any number of Quirks. So if you created a level called Fruit, by right clicking on any Quirk, selecting the Quirk Properties, you will see all the levels defined in the project, and the Quirk can belong to any number of them. So Orange Juice can belong to a level called 'Fruit', along with Apples, and Oranges, while also being defined as a sub-category of Drink. Alternatively, you could have a level for Drink, and describe some Quirks as being a Drink as well as a Fruit.

 

The other way that the levels can be helpful is when working on a large project that might have multiple outputs. If you are working on a PhD thesis, or a long report, you might have chapters that only cover certain themes. With the levels function, you can define Quirks that will be relevant to a particular chapter or topic, and see results or reports for just that level. This way, if you are writing about nutrition, the Orange Juice theme can belong to the chapter for Drink and for Fruit, and you will see relevant quotes for each chapter.

 

To work with levels, just right or long click on any Quirk, and select the Quirk properties. In this box you will see a button for 'Levels Editor', this can be used to define, change or remove levels in the project. Click Save once you are done. Once some levels have been created, you can use the slide toggles shown above in the Quirk Properties dialogue to assign that Quirk to any number of levels. You will obviously need to go though and do this for all the Quirks in the project you want to put into a level.

 

the levels assignment in quirk properties

 

Once you have done this, you can choose the corresponding level as a filter option in the Query view (LV) or in the search results, to generate reports or see text search results from text coded in one or more levels.

 

Everyone likes to work with their themes or nodes differently, and now we have many more ways to group and sort them. You can arrange them physically around the canvas, give them meaningful colours, create a grouped stack with sub-category relationships, and also group them by 'level' like an overlapping Venn diagram.

 

We are going to improve the ways you can work with levels in the future, including visualisations of levels on the canvas, but we want your feedback for the best way you would like to see this! Should Quirks belonging to a level get a certain colour halo, or be shown in a literal 3D level view like levels in a building? Should the canvas rearrange on command to group all Quirks belonging to certain levels together? Is the term 'levels' the right one to use in this situation? The more people are using Quirkos, the more different ways people are working with it, and we want to choose the best and most flexible ideas, so let us know!

 

 

Quirkos for Linux!

quirkos loves linux

 

We are excited to announce official Quirkos support for Linux! This is something we have been working on for some time, and have been really encouraged by user demand to support this Free and Open Source (FOSS) platform. Quirkos on Linux is identical to the Windows and Mac versions, with the same graphical interface, feature set and file format, so there are no issues working across platforms.


Currently we are only offering a script based installer, which can be downloaded from the main download page. In the future we may try and offer some packaged based deb or rpm downloads, but for the moment there are two practical reasons this is not feasible. First, it is much easier for us to provide one installer that should work on all distributions, regardless of what package manager is utilised. Secondly, Quirkos is build using the latest version of Qt (5.5) which is not yet supported in most stable distributions yet. This would either lead to dependency hell, or users having to install Qt5.5 libraries manually (which actually take up a lot of space, and are themselves based around a script based installer). However, we will revisit this in the future if there is sufficient demand.

 

Most dependencies can be solved by installing qt5 from your repository, although most KDE desktops will already have many of the required packages.

 

Once downloaded, you must make the installer file executable. There are two ways to do this, either by running “chmod +x  quirkos-1.3-linux-installer.run” from the shell in the directory containing the installer, or an alternative GUI based method in Gnome is to right click on the file in the Nautilus file browser, select the properties tab, and then tick the 'Allow executing file as program' box.


Once you've done this, either double click on the file, or run in the bash terminal with “./quirkos-1.3-linux-installer.run”. Of course, if you want to install to a system wide folder (such as /opt/bin) you should run the installer with root permissions. By default Quirkos will install in the user's home folder, although this can be changed during the install process. An uninstaller is also created, but all files are contained in the root Quirkos folder, so deleting the folder will remove everything from your system. After installing, a shortcut will be created on the desktop (on Ubuntu systems) which can be used to run Quirkos, or dragging the icon to the Unity side-bar will keep the launcher in an accessible place. Otherwise, run the Quirkos.sh file in the Quirkos folder to start the application.


If you are looking for FOSS software for qualitative research, try RQDA, an extension for the versatile R statistical package, an open source alternative to SPSS. There is also Weft QDA, although this doesn't seem to have been updated since 2006. It's worth noting that both have fairly obtuse interfaces, and are not well suited for beginners!


We have tested Quirkos on numerous different systems, but obviously we can't check all iterations. So if you have any problems or issues, PLEASE let us know, this is new ground for us, and indeed is the first 'mainstream' qualitative analysis software to be offered for Linux. In fact, tell us if it all works fine as well – the more we hear people are using Quirkos on Linux, the better!

 

 

Quirkos 1.3 is released!

Quirkos version 1.3 on Linux

We are proud to announce a significant update for Quirkos, that adds significant new features, improves performance, and provides a fresh new look. Major changes include:

  • PDF import
  • Greater ability to work with Levels to group and explore themes
  • Improved performance when working with large projects
  • New report generation and styling
  • Ability to copy and paste quotes directly from search and hierarchy views
  • Improved CSV export
  • New tree-hierarchy view for Quirks
  • Numerous bug fixes
  • Cleaner visual look

 

We’ve made a few tweaks to the way Quirkos looks, tidying up dialogue boxes and improving the general style and visibility, but maintaining the same layout, so there is nothing out of place for experienced users.

 


There is once again no change to Quirkos project files, so all versions of Quirkos can talk to each other with no issues, and there is no need to do anything to your files – just keep working with your qualitative data. The update is free for all paid users, and a simple process to install. Just download the latest version, install to the same directory as the last release, and the new version will replace the old. There is no need to update the licence code, and we would recommend all users to move to the new version as soon as they can to take advantage of the improvements!

 


Lots of people have requested PDF support, so that users can add journal articles and PDF reports into Quirkos, and we are happy to say this is now enabled. Please note that at the moment PDF support is limited to text only – some PDF files, especially from older journals that have been scanned in are not actually stored as text, but as a scanned image of text. Quirkos can’t read the text from these PDFs, and you will usually need to use OCR (optical character recognition) software to convert these (included in some professional editions of Acrobat Reader for example).

 


We have always supported ‘Levels’ in Quirkos, a way to group Quirks that can work across hierarchical groupings and parent-child relationships. Many people desired to work with categories in this way, so we have improved the ways you can work with levels. They are now a refinable category in search results and queries, allowing you to generate a report containing data refined by level, and a whole extra dimension to group your qualitative themes.

 


Reports have been completely revamped to improve how you share qualitative data, with better images, and a simpler layout. There are now many more options for showing the properties belonging to each quote, streamlined and grouped section headings, better display of hierarchial groupings, and a much more polished, professional look. As always, our reports can be shared as PDF, interactive HTML, or customised using basic CSS and Javascript.

 


Although the canvas view with distinctive topic bubbles is a distinguishing feature in Quirkos, we know some people prefer to work with a more traditional tree hierarchy view. We’ve taken on board a lot of feedback, and reworked the ‘luggage label’ view to a tree structure, so that it works better with large numbers of nodes. The hierarchy of grouped codes in this view has also been made clearer.

 


There are also numerous bug fixes and performance improvements, fixing some issues with activation, improving the speed when working with large sources, and some dialogue improvements to the properties editor on OS X.

 

We are also excited to launch our first release for Linux! Just like all the other platforms, the functionality, interface and project files are identical, so you can work across platforms with ease. There will be a separate blog post article about Quirkos on Linux tomorrow.

 


We are really excited about the improvements in the new version, so download it today, and let us know if you have any other suggestions or feedback. Nearly all of the features we have added have come from suggestions made by users, so keep giving us your feedback, and we will try and add your dream features to the next version...

 

 

The CAQDAS jigsaw: integrating with workflows

 

I’m increasingly seeing qualitative research software as being the middle piece of a jigsaw puzzle that has three stages: collection, coding/exploring, and communication. These steps are not always clear cut, and generally there should be a fluid link between them. But the process, and enacting of these steps is often quite distinct, and the more I think about the ‘typical’ workflow for qualitative analysis, the more I see these stages, and most critically, a need to be flexible, and allow people different ways of working.

 

At any stage it’s important to choose the best tools (and approach) for the job. For qualitative analysis, people have so many different approaches and needs, that it’s impossible to impose a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Some people might be working with multimedia sources, have anything from 3 to 300 sources, and be using various different methodological and conceptual approaches. On top of all this are the more mundane, but important practical limitations, such as time, familiarity with computers, and what software packages their institution makes available to them.

 

But my contention is that the best way to go about facilitating a workflow is not to be a jack-of-all trades, but a master of one. For CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS) software, it should focus on what it does best: aiding the analysis process, and realise that it has to co-exist with many other software packages.

 

For the first stage, collection and transcription of data, I would generally not recommend people use any CAQDAS package. If you are recording transcripts, these are best done on a Dictaphone, and transcribing them is best done in proper word-processing software. While it’s technically possible to type directly into nearly all CAQDAS software tools (including Quirkos), why would you? Nearly everyone has access to Word or LibreOffice, which gives excellent spell-checking tools for typos, and much more control over saving and formatting each source. Even if you are working with multimedia data, you are probably going to trim audio transcripts in Audacity (or Pro-Tools), and resize and colour correct pictures in Photoshop.

 

So I think that qualitative analysis software needs to recognise this, and take in data from as many different sources as possible, and not try and tie people to one format or platform. It’s great to have tight integration with something like Evernote or SurveyMonkey, but both of those cost extra, and aren’t always the right approach for people, so it’s better to be input-agnostic.

 

But once you’ve got data in, it’s stage 2 where qualitative software shines. CAQDAS software is dedicated to the coding and sorting of qualitative data, and has tools and interfaces specifically designed to make this part of the process easier and quicker. However, that’s not how everyone wants to work. Some people are working in teams where not everyone has access to CAQDAS, and others prefer to use Word and Excel to sort and code data. That should be OK too, because for most people the comfortable and familiar way is the easiest path, and what it’s easy to forget as a software developer is that people want to focus on the data and findings, not the tools and process.

 

So CAQDAS should ideally be able to bring in data coded in other ways, for people that prefer to just do the visualisation and exploration in qualitative software. But CAQDAS should also be able to export coded data at this stage, so that people can play with the data in other ways. Some people want to do statistical analysis, so it should connect with SPSS or R. And it should also be able to work with spreadsheet software, because so many people are familiar with it, and it can be used to make very specific graphs.

 

Again, it’s possible to do all of this in most CAQDAS software, but I’ve yet to see any package that gives the statistical possibilities and rigour that R does, and while graphs seem to get prettier with every new version, I still prefer the greater customisation and export options you get in Excel.

 

The final stage is sharing and communicating, and once again this should be flexible too. Some people will have to get across their findings in a presentation, so generate images for this. Many will be writing up longer reports, so export options for getting quotes into word-processing software is essential again. At this stage you will (hopefully) be engaging with an ever widening audience, so outputs need to be completely software agnostic so everyone can read them.

 

When you start seeing all the different tools that people use in the course of their research project, this concept of CAQDAS being a middle piece of the puzzle becomes really clear, and allowing people flexibility is really important. Developing CAQDAS software is a challenge, because everyone has slightly different needs. But the solution usually seems to be more ways in, and more ways out. That way people can rely on the software as little or as much as they like, and always find an easy way to integrate with all the tools in their workflow.

 

I was inspired to write this by reading a recent article on the Five-level QDA approach, written by Christine Silver and Nick Woolf. They outline a really strong ‘Analytic Planning Worksheet’ that is designed to get people to stop and break down their analytical tasks before they start coding, so that they can identify the best tools and process for each stage. This helps researchers create a customisable workflow for their projects, which they can use with trainers to identify which software is best for each step.

 

Next week, I’m going to write a blog post more specifically about the Five-level QDA, and pedagogical issues that the article raises about learning qualitative research software. Watch this space!

 

 

Using Quirkos for fun and (extremely nerdy) projects

This week, something completely different! A guest blog from our own Kristin Schroeder!

 

Most of our blog is a serious and (hopefully) useful exploration of current topics in qualitative research and how to use Quirkos to help you with your research. However we thought it might be fun to share something a little different.


I first encountered qualitative research in a serious manner when I joined Quirkos in January this year, and to help me get up to speed I tried to code a few things to help me understand the software.
One of the texts I used was a chapter from The Lord of the Rings, because, I thought, with something I already know like the back of my hand I could concentrate on the mechanics of coding without being distracted too much by the content.


I chose ‘The Council of Elrond’ – one of the longest chapters in the book and one often derided for being little more than an extended information dump. Essentially lots and lots of characters (some of whom only appear in this one scene in the whole book) sit around and tell each other about stuff that happened much earlier. It’s probably not Tolkien’s finest writing, and I suppose, most modern editors would demand that all that verbal exposition should either be cut or converted into actual action chapters.


I have always loved the Council chapter, however, as to me it’s part of the fascinating backdrop of the Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien himself puts it in one of his Letters:


“Part of the attraction of the L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist.”


Of course, if you are a Tolkien fan(atic) you can go off and explore these unvisited islands and distant cities in the Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle Earth, and then bore your friends by smugly explaining all the fascinating First and Second Age references, and just why Elrond won’t accept an Oath from the Fellowship. (Yes, I am guilty of that…)


Looking at the chapter using Quirkos I expected to see bubbles growing around the exchange of news, around power and wisdom, and maybe to get some interesting overlap views on Frodo or Aragorn. However, the topic that surprised me most in this chapter in particular was Friendship.


I coded the topic ‘Friendship’ 29 times – as often as ‘Relaying News’ and ‘History’, and more often even than collective mentions of Elves (27), Humans (19) or the Black Riders (24).


The overlap view of ‘Friendship’ was especially unexpected:

 

The topics ‘Gandalf’ and ‘Friendship’ overlap 22 times, which is not totally surprising since Gandalf does most of the talking throughout the chapter, and he is the only character who knows everyone else in the Council already. But the second most frequent overlap is with Elrond: he intersects with Friendship eight times, which is more often than Frodo who only gets five overlaps with Friendship!


Like most of the Elves in Lord of the Rings, Elrond is rather aloof and even in his own council acts as a remote facilitator for the other characters. Yet, the cluster view on Friendship led me to reconsider his relationship not only with Gandalf (when Gandalf recites the Ring inscription in the Black Speech, he strongly presumes on Elrond’s friendship, and Elrond forgives him because of that friendship) but also with Bilbo.


Re-reading Elrond’s exchanges with Bilbo during the Council, I was struck by the gentle teasing apparent in the hobbit’s reminders of his need for lunch and Elrond’s requests that Bilbo should tell his story without too many embellishments and it need not be in verse. The friendship between Bilbo and Elrond also rather explains how Bilbo had the guts to compose and perform a song about Elrond’s father Eärendil in the previous chapter, something even Aragorn, Elrond’s foster son, described as a daring act.


Perhaps none of this is terribly surprising. Within the unfolding story of the Lord of the Rings, Bilbo has been living in Elrond’s house for 17 years - time enough even for busy Elflords to get to know their house guests. And for readers who grew up with the tale of The Hobbit, Bilbo’s centrality may also not be much of a surprise. For me, however, looking at the chapter using Quirkos opened up a rather pleasing new dimension and led me to reconsider a couple of beloved characters in a new light.

 

 

Bringing survey data and mixed-method research into Quirkos

quirkos spreadsheet

 

Later today we are releasing a small update for Quirkos, which adds an important feature users have been requesting: the ability to quickly bring in quantitative and qualitative data from any spreadsheet, or online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey or LimeSurvey.

 

Now, users can bring in mixed-method data in one click, with the ability to analyse and compare qualitative and quantitative data together. If you have a survey with discrete and quantitative data (such as age, location, or Likert scales) you can use them to stratify and compare open-ended qualitative answers (the Any other comments? Or How can we improve this service?).

 

Not only will this make bringing data into Quirkos a lot quicker, it will provide a neat workflow for people wanting to understand the qualitative aspects of their data. Now they can code and develop frameworks to understand comments and written data sources, which may hold the key to understanding something important that isn’t shown in the quantitative data.

 

import csv dialogue quirkos

In Quirkos, this functionality is provided as a new option in the ‘Add Source’ button on the bottom left of a project. Users should create a new ‘Structured Question’ project, which gives the same Questions as sections in the qualitative text of the source. The discrete and quantitative data will be imported as source properties which describe each response in the survey.

 

To bring spreadsheet or tabulated data into Quirkos, you need to have it in CSV format (comma separated variables) which is a standard file format that most platforms can use to export data. If that format is not supported by your data collection workflow, as long as it can be imported into Excel or another spreadsheet package such as Google Docs or LibreOffice Calc. All these packages allow you to save a table of data in CSV format, and you should select the default comma, not tab separated format. The first row, should be the titles you want the properties and questions to be.

 

Quirkos will try and automatically guess which columns represent discrete properties (such as name or age) and which ones are sentences. It does this in a simple way: any row titles with a question, such as “How did you feel about this event?” will become a long-text qualitative question and answer, or if the answer contains spaces like a sentence structure. Otherwise, it will suggest import as a source property for a value like age or name. If this does not come through as you wish, there is the drop-down option to change how that row is imported.

 

This provides 4 options. Source Title is the name you wish to give each source in the project. This might be a name, or a ID number – and you can only select one property to be the source title. Property is for source properties, the quantitative or discrete data that describes the source. Question is for the open ended qualitative text sections, and finally there is an option for ‘Ignore’ if there was a field or value you did not want to bring into the project.


It is possible to keep adding more and more sources in this way, for example if you had later additions to a survey. However, it will also create duplicates of data already in the project (in case something changed) so make sure that a new CSV file being imported doesn’t contain the old responses.

 

If you already have Quirkos, all you need to do is download the new installer for version 1.2 for Windows or Mac, and follow the install procedure. This will install the new version over the old one (v1.1) and there will be no changes to your shortcuts, projects or license. The update is free for everyone, even if you are using the free-trial, and once again, there are no compatibility problems with older project files.

 

Qualitative research on the Scottish Referendum using Quirkos

quirkos overlap or cluster view of bias in the media

 

We've now put up the summary report for our qualitative research project on the Scottish Referendum, which we analysed using Quirkos. You can download the PDF of the 10 page report from the link above, I hope you find something interesting in there! The full title is "Overview of a qualitative study on the impact of the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence in Edinburgh, and views of the political process" and here's the summary findings:

 

"The interviews revealed a great depth of understanding of a wide range of political issues, and a nuanced understanding of many arguments for and against independence. Many people described some uncertainty about which way to vote, but it did not seem that anyone had changed their mind over the course of the campaigning.


There was a general negative opinion towards the general political system, especially Westminster, from both yes and no voters. Participants had varying opinions on political leaders and parties, even though some people were active members of political parties. Yes and No supporters both felt that the No campaign was poorly run, and used too many negative messages, this feeling was especially strong in No voters.
The most important concerns for responders was about public finances, financial stability of an independent Scotland, the issue of currency for Scotland was often mentioned, but often with distrust of politicians comments on the subject. Westminster induced austerity and the future of the NHS also featured as important policy considerations.


People expressed generally negative views of the media portrayal of the referendum, most feeling that newspapers and especially the BBC had been biased, although No supporters were more likely to find the media balanced.


In general, people felt that the process had been good for Scotland, even No supporters, and there was general support for greater devolution of powers. People had seen the process as being very positive for the SNP, and nearly all respondents felt the Yes campaign had been well run. People expressed a negative view of the Labour party during the campaign, although voters also mentioned strong criticism of Labour’s wider policy position in recent years. People had generally positive opinions of Nicola Sturgeon, mixed reactions to Alex Salmond, and generally negative comments on Ed Miliband’s public image, while also stating that this should not be an important factor for voters. People believed that the polls would be correct in predicting a swing from Labour to the SNP in Scotland.


Many expressed a belief that the level of debate in Edinburgh had been good, and that the Yes campaign was very visible. Respondents were positive about the inclusion of voters from the age of 16, were surprised at how much support the Yes campaign generated, and some felt that a future referendum would be successful in gaining independence for Scotland."

 

The report also contains some information about the coding process using Quirkos:

 

"The interviews together lasted 6.5 hours and once transcribed comprised just under 58000 words, an average of 4800 words per interview. 75 themes were used to code the project, with 3160 coding events logged, although each text may cover multiple coding events. In total, 87% of the text was coded with at least one topic. The coding took an experienced coder approximately 7 hours (over a three day period) once any breaks longer than 5 minutes were removed, an average of one code every 8 seconds."

 

Personally, I've been really happy doing this project with Quirkos, and especially with how quick it took to do the coding. Obviously, with any qualitative analysis process there is a lot of reading, thinking and mind-changing that happens from setting the research questions to writing up a report. However, I really do think that Quirkos makes the coding and exploration process quicker, and I do love how much one can play with the data, just looking to see how much keywords come up, or whether there are connections between certain themes.


In this project, the cluster views (one for media bias shown above) were really revealing, and sometimes surprising. But the side-by-side queries were also really useful for looking to see differences in opinions between Yes and No supporters, and also to demonstrate there was little difference in the quotes from men and women – they seemed to largely care about the same issues, and used similar language.


Feel free to see for yourself though, all the transcripts, as well as the coded project file can be downloaded from our workshop materials pages, so do let me know if Quirkos lets you have a different view on the data!

 

 

Free materials for qualitative workshops

qualitative workshop on laptops with quirkos

 

We are running more and more workshops helping people learn qualitative analysis and Quirkos. I always feel that the best way to learn is by doing, and the best way to remember is through play. To this end, we have created two sources of qualitative data that anyone can download and use (with any package) to learn how to use software for qualitative data analysis.

 

These can be found at the workshops folder. There are two different example data sets, which are free for any training use. The first is a basic example project, which is comprised of a set of fictional interviews with people talking about what they generally have for breakfast. This is not really a gripping exposé of a critical social issue, but is short and easy to engage with, and already provides some suprises when it comes to exploring the data. The materials provided include individual transcribed sources of text, in a variety of formats that can be brought into Quirkos. The idea is that users can learn how to bring sources into Quirkos, create a basic coding framework, and get going on coding data.


For the impatient, there is also a 'here's one we created earlier' file, in which all the sources have been added to the project, described age and gender and occupation as source properties, a completed framing codework, and a good amount of coding. This is a good starting point if someone wants to use the various tools to explore coded data and generate outputs. There is also a sample report, demonstrating what a default output looks like when generated by Quirkos, including the 'data' folder, which includes all the pictures for embedding in a report or PowerPoint presentation.

 

This is the example project we most frequently use in workshops. It allows us to quickly cover all the major steps in qualitative analysis with software, with a fun and easy to understand dataset. It also lets us see some connections in the data, for example how people don't describe coffee as a healthy option, and that women for some reason talk about toast much more than men.

 

However, the breakfast example is not real qualitative data - it is short, and fictitious, so for people who come along to our more advanced analysis workshops, we are happy to now make available a much more detailed and lively dataset. We have recently completed a project on the impact on voter opinions in Scotland after the 2014 Referendum for independence. This comprises of 12 semi-structured interviews with voters based in Edinburgh, on their views on the referendum process, and how it has changed their outlook on politics and voting in the run-up to the 2015 General Election in the UK.

 

When we conducted these interviews, we explicitly got consent for them to be made publicly available and used for workshops after they had been transcribed and anonymised. This gives us a much deeper source of data to analyse in workshops, but also allows for anyone to download a rich set of data to use in their own time (again with any qualitative software package) to practice their analytical skills in qualitative research. You can download these interviews and further materials at this link.

 

We hope you will find these resources useful, please acknowledge their origin (ie Quirkos), let us know if you use them in your training and learning process, and if you have any feedback or suggestions.

Upgrade from paper with Quirkos

qualitative analysis with paper

Having been round many market research firms in the last few months, the most striking things is the piles of paper, or at least in the neater offices - shelves of paper!

When we talk to small market research firms about their analysis process, many are doing most of their research by printing out data and transcripts, and coding them with coloured highlighters. Some are adamant that this is the way that works best for them, but others are a little embarrassed at the way they are still using so much time and paper with physical methods.

 

The challenge is clear – the short turn-around time demanded by clients doesn't leave much time for experimenting with new ways of working, and the few we had talked to who had tried qualitative analysis software quickly felt this wasn't something they were able to pick up quickly.

 

So, most of the small Market Research agencies with less than 5 associates (as many as 75% of firms in the UK) are still relying on work-flows that are difficult to share, don't allow for searching across work, and don't have an undo button! Not to mention the ecological impact of all that printing, and the risk to deadlines from an ill placed mug of coffee.

 

That's one of the reasons we created Quirkos, and why we are launching our new campaign this week at the Market Research Society annual conference in London. Just go to our new website, www.upgradefrompaper.com and watch our fun, one minute video about drowning in paper, and how Quirkos can help.

Quirkos isn't like other software, it is designed to mimic the physical action of highlighting and coding text on paper with an intuitive interface that you can use to get coding right away. In fact, we bet you can get coding a project before your printer has got the first source out of the tray.

 

You no longer need days of training to use qualitative analysis software, and Quirkos has all the advantages you'd expect, such as quick searches, full undo-redo capability and lots of flexibility to rearrange your data and framework. But it also has other pleasant surprises: there's no save button, because work is automatically saved after each action. And it creates graphical reports you can share with colleagues or clients.

 

Finally, you can export your work at any stage to Word, and print it out (if you so wish!) with all your coding and annotations as familiar coloured highlights – ideal to share, or just to help ease the transition to digital. It's always comforting to know you can go back to old habits at any time, and not loose the work you've already done!

 

It's obviously not just for market research firms; students, academics and charities who have either not tried any qualitative software before, or found the other options too confusing or expensive can reduce their carbon footprint and save on their department's printing costs!

 

So take the leap, and try it out for a month, completely free, on us. Upgrade from paper to Quirkos, and get a clear picture of your research!

 

www.upgradefrompaper.com


p.s. All the drawings in our video were done by our very own Kristin Schroeder! Not bad, eh?

Help us welcome Kristin to Quirkos!

So far, Quirkos users have mostly been based in the academic and university based research areas: perhaps not surprising considering where the project grew from. However, from very early on we got a lot of positive feedback from market research companies working with qualitative and text based data, who had many of the same frustrations and issues with qualitative research software that we had in the academic sphere. Indeed, some of the early alpha-testers of Quirkos were based in a typical small, independent market research firm.

 

But it's not really possible to lump all of these groups of researchers together, they have different needs; not just in terms of features in the software (although most of these are very similar), but also in terms of support and case studies. Qualitative market researchers need to engage with their clients in a different way, often using dynamic and visual approaches that Quirkos is ideally suited for.

 

So, to this end, we are very excited to announce a new recruit to the Quirkos offices: Kristin Schroeder, who will be focusing on market research and commercial users. Kristin studied Modern History at Merton College, Oxford, but is a native to the Baltic coast in Germany, and an avid sci-fi fan. She brings with her nearly a decade of sales experience working in Northern Ireland with large commercial clients for global automotive supplier Ryobi. Her extensive track record of international engagement will enable us to work better with users in the UK and abroad.

 

This will allow Daniel to continue his focus on supporting the researchers he knows best, in academia and the public sector, while Kristin can help Quirkos grow into new areas, helping more researchers across the globe to find answers to their questions.

 

New Leith offices for Quirkos

Just in time for the new year, Quirkos is growing!

 

We now need a bigger office to accomodate new hires, so we've moved to the 'Shore' at Leith, the seafront of Edinburgh. We've now got space to grow further, and to entertain visitors, all within walking distance of the sea and a short trip from the centre of Edinburgh. There are many exciting companies around us, and we are happy to be in such a nice part of town, with a different place for lunch and coffee every day of the month!

 

Our new address is:

27 Ocean Drive
Leith
Edinburgh
EH6 6JL

And we've got a new phone number too, 0131 555 3736

 

If you are coming to visit us, please let us know in advance, but the best bet is to set your sat-nav for Tower Place, a little cul-de-sac next to us which usually has some parking. We are just on the corner with Ocean Drive.

Happy new year to you all, and hope to see you soon!

Quirkos is launched!

Quirkos

It's finally here!

From today, anyone can download the full 1.0 release version of Quirkos for Windows or Mac OS X! Versions for Linux and Android will be appearing later in the month, but since Windows and Mac account for most of our users, we didn't want people to wait any more.

Everyone can use the full version for free for one month, with no restrictions. At the end of the 30 day trial period, you'll need to order a licence to keep using Quirkos, which you can either do by raising a purchase order with us, or by placing a immediate credit/debit card payment on the website, which will get you a licence code e-mailed to you in just a few minutes.

I really want to thank everyone who has provided feedback, suggestions and critique over the last 14 months, Quirkos wouldn't be half as good as it is now without all that input. And it's really exciting to share it with everyone now, and to hear about exciting research projects people are already putting together around Quirkos. Watch this space for some great case studies in the next few months!

 

Announcing Pricing for Quirkos

At the moment, (touch wood!) everything is in place for a launch next week, which is a really exciting place to be after many years of effort. From that day, anyone can download Quirkos, try it free for a month, and then buy a licence if it helps them in their work. We've set up the infrastructure so that people can either place purchase orders through their finance department, or make a direct sale through the website by credit or debit card. We can then provide a licence code immediately, and users can unlock Quirkos and use it without any time limit. We don’t want to tie people into contracts or recurring payments; the licence will not expire, and will entitle you to any future updates for that version.

 

The interest we’ve had from users over the past few months has been overwhelming, and we want to have a flexible price structure that is appropriate for lots of different groups. One of my key aims has been to systematically remove the barriers to doing qualitative research – and price is a big hurdle at the moment. I’ve had conversations with so many people who have taken one look at the licence costs of the major qualitative analysis packages, and walked away. To really open up qualitative research for everyone, that needs to change. Our licence will cost roughly half that of our competitors', and we will offer a range of discounts for teams from different backgrounds.

 

First of all, we think Quirkos will be great for students, not just at a PhD level, but also at Masters or Undergraduate level, when there isn’t always the time to spend learning other qualitative research software. So, we are starting the student licence at £35 (roughly €45, US$60), so that people at all stages of learning can get started with qualitative research.

 

For professional academics and people working in the charity sectors, we will heavily discount the licence cost to £180 (€230 / $290). Already we have had beta-testers in the NHS and local government, and users in government institutions or NGOs, can get a licence for just £320 (€400 / $516).

 

Finally, the full licence for commercial use will be £390 (€490 / $620) and comes with our highest level of customer support. Everyone will be able to access regularly updated discussion forums and on-line learning materials, and professional users will also have access to personal e-mail support with a rapid response rate.

 

We really want to encourage a new generation of qualitative researchers and we think we’ve set a fair price that makes access easy, while allowing us to continue to add new features, and provide a strong level of support. Then you can focus on your data and findings, and not just the tools that help you get results.

 

(These are initial indicative prices, subject to change, and currency rates, local sales tax or VAT may lead to some variation in these numbers)

 

 

Quirkos is just weeks away!

It's been a long time since I've had time to write a blog article, as there are so many things to put in place before Quirkos launches in the next few weeks. But one-by-one everything is coming together. Feedback has helped us tweak the interface, testing across all the platforms is going well, the manuals and support resources are developing and the infrastructure is in place to let us deliver downloads and licences to our first customers!


We will be announcing the pricing structure next week, but there will always be a one-month free trial, so everyone can try Quirkos and see if it’s right for them. We are also really excited that there will be a formal launch workshop in London in December, hosted by the University of Surrey CAQDAS Networking Project. Quirkos will be available to purchase beforehand, but this will be the first proper Quirkos event, and there will be cake to celebrate!


We will also have our first international event in October, when Quirkos will be on show at the Qualitative Health Research conference in Victoria, Canada. It’s run by the fantastic International Institute for Qualitative Methodology at the University of Alberta, and is now in it’s 20th year. In the next few months, we will also announce a series of UK workshops in major cities and Universities on using Quirkos for qualitative research. There will also be some exciting announcements about new people joining the Quirkos team, and more stories from people who have been using Quirkos in their work. In short, it’s going to be a busy few months!

Knowing your customers

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As consumers, it feels like we are bombarded more than ever with opportunities for providing feedback on products and services. While shopping on-line, or even when browsing BBC News we are asked to complete a short questionnaire; after dealing with a telephone bank there’s the option to complete a quick survey; and at airport security you can rate your experience by hitting a button with either a smiley face or a frowny face.

 

But despite being told that ‘your feedback really matters to us’, what happens to it? It’s often difficult to see any change from your feedback, and even when giving direct feedback, too often the changes suggested are not made. But more than this, it’s sometimes difficult to understand how we can expect people to understand our needs and problems with such brief and forced categorisation. If I rate a telephone sales agent from 1-10 on categories of helpfulness, friendliness, and professionalism, you are forced to somehow shoehorn your feedback on any other aspect of the experience into these areas. You don’t know if ‘length of wait’ will be a category, and you could care less how friendly they were, if they couldn’t fix your problem.

 

I wonder this when hearing stories in the news about the continuing sales decline at Tesco, a huge organisation that clearly spends millions on customer understanding. Because for all the hoop-la around loyalty schemes, ‘convenience’ stores, price-matching (only with certain competitors), are management at some level blind to the rise of budget supermarkets? Customers clearly aren’t, and it’s difficult to tell if big supermarkets either have their head in the sand, or they assume their customers are stupid.

 

I can’t pretend to know why the likes of Lidl and Aldi have become so popular, it could just be price, but perhaps a more pleasant streamlined shopping experience, without having to choose between value, regular and luxury versions of everything. A focus group could tell you: if you had a wide range of users, you could ask them questions; or better still, let people raise issues themselves without being pigeonholed. And this seems to be more and more difficult for the grocery shopping market, thanks to a huge demographic shift. Watch Robert Preston’s excellent series on consumer culture, and you can see that in the 60s, to know retail shoppers was to know housewives: if you could get their spending, you got it all. But today everyone shops, and with a lingering recession, job pressures and a mobile work market, we shop whenever we get a chance. A one stop grocery shop usually tries to attract housewives, househusbands, students, bachelors, hipsters and skinflints alike, either spreading themselves too thin, or becoming bewildering to all.

 

So perhaps the one-size-fits all model is not going to be the way of the future. On-line grocery sales have begun to slow at just 5.1% of the market, either there is going to be an innovation here, or the market already has found its niche. But it seems that many smaller grocery stores are on the rise, tailored to a specific target audience. Health food shops which in the 90s used to only sell vitamins and gluten-free flour now sell 'healthy' cornflakes and fresh organic produce – so you can get everything in one shop. Marks and Spencer’s ubiquitous stores now cater for a new ready-meal elite: grabbing dinner for one or two on the way back from the office. And Farmfoods and Iceland have the low end of the market – frozen food so busy families can buy a week’s worth of inexpensive, easily prepared budget meals.

 

So these big chains do well by knowing their audience. And it’s no different for smaller, independent businesses. Quirkos is proposing that even these small firms can afford to do their own direct market research, and with detail that will give a much better feel for their customers than just relying on crude statistics and smiley and frowny faces. That way, rather than relying on very traditional market research, business can take a more local and individual approach. Rather than focus groups behind one-way-mirrors, or questionnaires with low engagement rates, why not invite a group of customers to a wine evening, and record a discussion about new products? If recorded properly by diligent staff, collated and analysed, informal feedback to cashiers can start to build a picture of what products or experiences are missing.

 

Then Quirkos would step in, providing software that is easy to get started with, so a manager can pull together all these sources of feedback, read them, and put them into themes that s/he can use to make the changes customers are looking for. Market research is already a huge industry in the UK, but can’t we go further and democratise it? Small scale for small businesses, quick to learn, and priced for everyone?

True cross-platform support

Another key aim for Quirkos was to have proper multi-platform support. By that, I mean that it doesn't matter if you are using a desktop or laptop running Windows, a Mac, Linux, or a tablet, Quirkos is the same across them all. You can swap files between different operating systems without needing to convert them, and the interface is the same for everyone. Magic!

This seems like such a simple goal, but Quirkos will be the first qualitative analysis package to acheive this, and it's something that has not been good enough for far too long. It's been a real pain when team members have different computers, and people can't share their data and files.

While it's great that some of the big players are finally releasing Mac versions of their software, these have different interfaces to learn, have less features, and can't talk seamlessly with the Windows versions. Quirkos says: it shouldn't matter. You can pick up an Android tablet right now, and send your Quirkos file to a collegue using a Mac or Windows computer, and explore it using the same interface: an interface that is visual and intuitive, where you don't need to learn any technical query languages, or computer jargon.

Finally, qualitative data analysis shouldn't require the most powerful computer your department can afford, with as much RAM as you can fit in it. The header in the image above shows Quirkos purring away on an old 2008 netbook (!) running XP, and it still searches faster than certain other qualitative analysis software running on my Quad-core, desktop PC with 8GB of RAM.

This is becoming an embarassingly geeky post, but the point is that with Quirkos these stats don't matter anymore. You don't need to worry about what platforms your collegues are using, you can just share with them. And because it works so much faster, it means you can play and with and explore your data in a new way.

Before now, many people I know prefer to do their analysis on paper, and I don't blame them. But finally there is software that just gets out of the way, and puts your data first and formost, regardless of what you have to run it on.

A new Qualitative Research Blog

While hosted by Quirkos, the main aim for this blog is to promote the wider use of qualitative research in general. We will link to other blogs and articles (not just academic), have guest bloggers, and welcome comments and discussion.

Qualitative research is a very powerful way to understand and fix our world, and one of the main aims in developing Quirkos was to make it possible for a much wider range of people to use qualitative software to understand their data.

To do this, we need to make more people aware of not just how to do qualitative research, but the reasons and benefits of doing so. In the next few weeks, we’ll cover a basic overview of qualitative research, and some of the common methods for finding strong narratives.  We’ll also highlight some great examples from the academic literature, but also from wider sources, to show the power of understanding people’s stories.