Yelling at my computer

Prior to the ALIA Information Online Conference and Exhibition, I took ages to create the pre-conference survey for the mentoring program I ran at the conference. I was stressed, I was pulling my hair out, I was convinced it was the hardest thing ever and I absolutely hated it. I yelled at my computer a great deal. I shouted my frustration out on Twitter. I felt like I was totally incompetant and the biggest idiot in the world for thinking I could do a research project.

I was so stressed out I kept putting doing the survey off. I ended up having to write a giant sign to put in front of me so that I would just do it. It says


The sign was my Mum’s idea, and aims to contradict my perfectionist pattern I have. Some of the content is via my research mentors. It helped.

I had multiple people test it, and there were heaps of problems.  A lot of the problems were caused my by impatience. I am a perfectionist so I hate not creating good content. It turns out that if you try and fix an online survey while people are testing it that it doesn’t work. It seems obvious, but I was so stressed out I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Now, I’m creating the post-conference survey. And I am finding it a bazillion times easier than the pre-conference survey. I originally wanted the survey to go out immediately after the conference, but it will likely be out on Monday, a full week and two days after the conference. While it would have been great to get the surveys all designed prior to the program (that’s what researchers should ideally do), I was pressed for time struggling with the above issues, so I didn’t get it done.

I’m now find that because I’d never done anything like this before, it’s actually useful for me to do it now, after the conference. I’ve had time to reflect on the experience and am more objective and removed from the program than I would have been if I’d had time to write it a week ago.

Also, I got back from the conference and have been absolutely slammed at work, as we get ready for the students to come back. I haven’t had time to think about the program at work, I’ve been working long hours, and I’ve been physically worn out from a huge few weeks.

Now that I’m undertaking the design of the second survey, a few things are very clear to me.

  1. I have learnt a lot about the process of survey design from the first survey
  2. I have learnt a lot about how to use SurveyMonkey in a more sophisticated way
  3. I have learnt a lot about survey logic and testing of the survey
  4. I have learnt who the best testers are to ask to test the survey
  5. I have learnt to test the survey AFTER I have created it, and leave it for a day, then come back to finalise it
  6. Most importantly, I have learnt that I need to LEARN. I wasn’t born knowing how to do this stuff. It requires knowledge & practice.

Now that I am more comfortable with the survey design and the technology, and clearer on what I want to ask and collect from participants, it’s feeling less like work and more like play. I may even get to socialise this afternoon. And I’m no longer yelling at my computer.


About Naomi Doessel

I'm a librarian by profession and a reader at heart. I occasionally blog about the profession, my relationship with food, and I annually fundraise for ovarian cancer research and prevention during Frocktober.
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One Response to Yelling at my computer

  1. Woodford says:

    Good for you! I had to put up a similar sign for some assignments last year. My favourite:

    It doesn’t have to be perfect
    It just has to be finished

    I’d offer to do your survey but (hangs head in shame)I wasn’t at the conference …

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