Inflows: recruiting, screening and balancing in Recollective

As some of our customers and partners might be aware, the vision for Recollective has always been to satisfy the entire end-to-end experience of building and running an online insight community. Our goal is to deliver everything you need – from recruiting to launch, moderation to incentive management – within the application.

A huge part of that vision was completed and released this month: Recollective Inflows.

What is Inflows?

The idea behind Inflows is to provide the tools you need to openly invite people to any study, have them screened, balanced to quotas and for those that qualify, automatically added to the study.
The initial step, the ability to open registration into a study by sharing a URL or sending out bulk emails, has existed since 2013 (in addition to the convenient Bulk Upload tool). In this release, we’ve extended the “inflow” process to include screening, balancing with quotas and automated communications.

Participant Screening

Recruiting specific types of individual for a study is often essential but can be very expensive (both in terms of time and money) when done through a third-party recruiting agency or panel provider.

With the introduction of Inflows, anyone can screen directly inside Recollective. That makes it feasible to post an open invitation to join a study anywhere online (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, a blog or website, bulk email to customer lists, etc) and ensure only people who meet your criteria are allowed into the study.

Screening Questions - Drinks Study

Specifically, Recollective Inflows now enables any researcher to:

  • Ask study applicants a series of customized open or closed-ended questions prior to entering a study
    • Closed ended questions can have choices that place applicants into one or more segments or cause automatic disqualification
    • Open-ended questions can be given minimum or maximum limits (word or character limit)
  • Automatically or manually approve recruits
  • Screening can take place in advance of the study being open
  • Ability to re-screen applicants which forces participants to redo a screener (ideal for testing or important changes to disqualifying criteria or quotas)
  • Option to add more screening questions mid-study and have new questions appear to existing participants


Set as many quotas as you need to make sure that different types of participant are ideally balanced in your study. Recollective automatically keeps track of qualifying participants and when quotas are met, prevents further people from joining the study.

Quota Limits - Drinks Study

  • A total limit of study participants exists to cap overall participant registrations
  • Quotas can be defined to balance the population of applicants automatically via segments
  • Quotas can specify multiple segments (e.g. a 50% gender-split across two geographic regions is possible)
  • Manual approval of qualified applicants can be enabled while still making use of quotas

Communication and Management

Of course, Recollective Inflows includes all the tools you need as a moderator to manage the recruiting process and to communicate with applicants.


  • Automated messages with full customization of all text related to screening, qualifying, rejecting and pending approval.
  • Applicant management permits filtering by both status and specific screening responses
  • Includes ability to bulk-approve and reject pending applicants (including forced acceptance to ignore quotas)

Recollective Inflows is an optional add-on module. Pricing is available on request. It is included at no cost on all annual sites licensed for 50 participants or more.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up for the free webinar on Recollective Inflows that will be held on Thursday April 17th at 11AM Eastern Time.



So Many More Improvements!

As if Inflows wasn’t enough for a single release, we’ve completed some major improvements to existing Recollective features.


The first feature enhancement is to the Messages tool, which has now been split into two distinct lists: “Inbox” and “Sent”. This should simplify browsing of new/unread messages while still being able to confirm email broadcasts were properly dispatched.

  • “Inbox” will show all inbound messages from participants and show a preview of the last message received
  • “Sent” will show all outbound messages to participants (including email broadcasts) and show a preview of the last message sent.
  • The message list interface has been updated to match the appearance of the individual message threads (and thus the stream). The Sent area now includes the profile photo of the administrator that initiated the most recent outbound message.

Improved Visibility of Moderator Probes


  • Comments on task responses by administrators are typically probing following-up questions that require a participant’s response. These probing comments can now be marked as “Awaiting Reply” (similar to what has existed in Messages).
  • Comments awaiting a reply now attract more attention by their inclusion above all private messages and an additional red in
    dicator on the right-hand Control Panel as seen by participants.
  • Comments that are awaiting reply remain highlighted to participants until a follow-up comment is posted.
  • Administrators can use the new “Sent” section of Messages to locate all task response comments awaiting a reply.

Discussion Topic Word Clouds


  • A new dedicated “Word Cloud” option appears above all discussion topic replies and provides an interactive and searchable interface for the topic.
  • Provides all the same features and benefits as other word clouds such as interactive word selection (e.g. drill-down to related words), multi-keyword search, contextual sentence fragment with thumbnails, instant excerpting and more.
  • Topic sorting options have improved to make room from this new option and for consistency with other sorting controls in Recollective.

Improved Transcripts

We’re always interested in ways to improve the transcripts and reports in Recollective. Something several partners have asked for is a simplification of the transcript output as a formatted document (HTML).


So, in this release we have:

  • Updated formatting of metadata, headers, breadcrumbs and response content maximize legibility and ease of scanning.
  • Increased use of profile photos provides a better visual break between responses.
  • A new top-left option appears to “Simplify Transcript” which allows instant toggling of the table of contents, all grey metadata sections,profile photos and the participant appendix.
  • Improved layout of content for activity transcripts sorted by “Activity / Task / Participant”.

Usability Improvements

The release included a host of smaller improvements and ongoing tweaks to optimize the user experience of Recollective that are too numerous to fully document. In particular, we have:

  • Removed the “Paste URL” option from the Video Task since it was almost universally misused.
  • Prompts/Poll – External destinations no longer mark the entire activity as completed by default (it can be re-enabled)
  • Words Overview – Dedicated “Reset” button now appears to simplify the clearing of an existing keyword search
  • Site Appearance – New ability to target custom CSS to specific studies (in addition to specific roles, languages and devices) which means you can further differentiate separate studies (and end-clients) in the same Recollective site.
  • And many more…

This was one of our most ambitious releases to date and we hope you’re as thrilled as we are with the new tools available in Recollective.

February Recollective Release – Multimedia Tasks

Very soon after launching Recollective in late 2011, we made sure there was a suite of tools to enable researchers to capture photo, files and webcam or mobile video responses in addition to open-ended text. Those four task types have proven to be hugely popular, forming the core of almost every project done using Recollective.

MultiMedia Task IconWe’re always seeking new ways to make the platform more flexible for research and so this month we are really proud to release a new task type: Multimedia.

This task type combines all four primary ways to gather a response – text, photo, video and files. When shaping a question, the task type enables researchers to choose which media types can be used and optionally, set limits for how many of each must be shared by the participant.

That means you can now ask a question and let the participant decide the best way for them to respond using any combination of media they wish. What’s more, this new task type makes it possible for a respondent to write blog-like entries, adding lots more flexibility and richness to your journal activities.

Multimedia task setup

Setting up the Multimedia task type is a straightforward selection of options, and everything has been optimized for perfect use on smartphones and tablet devices in addition to your desktop.

Improved Task Response Summaries

Prior to this release, the Activity Overview page showed a single overview per task type (e.g. a Photo overview for Photo Task Type). The challenge is that a single task can benefit from multiple response elements (e.g. photos have captions and additional commentary that should ideally be summarized in a word cloud but instead gets lost on a photo wall).

Additionally, activities with many tasks caused the UI to display a lot of tabs horizontally which didn’t always fit nicely on-screen.

We overcome these limitations in an earlier release for the stream-based overviews, but the primary interface below tasks tabs remained unchanged. This release revamps that view to remove the need for multiple tabs beneath the task cards and replace them with just two: Participants and Responses.

New Activity and Task Overviews

The Participants view shows the data table of participant progress and the Responses view shows a summary stream of participant replies. The familiar controls for choosing between stream, word cloud, photo, video or chart for ANY type of task are available, making it very easy to select how you want to view the data for any task.

Task Menu for OverviewsAlternatively, you can quickly view any task overview just by clicking on the task card. Of course the full response stream is still available by leaving the filter on “All tasks”.

We think the addition of this new task type, along with the easier way to view task data make for a great improvement to Recollective and hope you enjoy using them.


Recollective: A Tool for Testing Campaigns and Brand Identity Elements

Unknown-3For this post, long-term Ramius research agency partner, Andreas Noe, a founding partner at Phase 5, shares his thoughts about using Recollective for testing campaigns and exploring elements of brand identity.

Andreas has more than 25 years of hands-on experience in marketing research and marketing consulting spanning many sectors, including financial services, professional services, information and media, technology and manufacturing.

He also has experience with many research methods, including quantitative, qualitative and data mining methods. At Phase 5, he has managed countless engagements, and developed particular expertise in performance measurement and Voice of the Customer (VoC) studies.


We have all been there before – a client has an urgent request to test some materials with key audiences prior to a full launch. Even with careful planning, project timelines still get squeezed, and the client team needs that disaster check before proceeding with implementation.

This is understandable, though stressful on everyone. We have found Recollective from Ramius to be a useful tool for conducting testing research on several recent studies with B2B and professional audiences. Here is why:


  • Convenient access for study participants. 

Participants can join in at a time and place that is most convenient for them, using whatever device they prefer. Some find time to complete the testing activities at work. Others prefer to do it at home. Some post their response from multiple locations, squeezing time in even while they are mobile. This improves rates of participation and promotes more timely participation.

For instance, a busy executive commented on the ability to easily and effectively post a comment from her mobile phone, while waiting for someone at the airport.


  • Promotes mix of independent thinking and groupthink, which cannot easily be built into focus groups and in-depth interviews alone.

This mix of methods is highly effective when testing executions, where it is often desirable to gauge independent reaction to some creative materials before exposing it to a broader discussion among all participants. And since activities can be sequenced, we need not worry about having all participants online at the exact same point in time. With careful task planning and instructions, there is ample opportunity to socialize any topic for a broader discussion.

We planned for this specifically in one study, and noted material differences in the views of participants before and after socializing the individual level feedback. On the one hand, we assessed that message content for one online banner ad had several issues. On the other hand, we learned that some issues were more important than others following some online discussions about the various issues. This helped our client prioritize their improvement efforts.


  • Improved audience reach.

This was particularly helpful in one study where the client required input from professionals across the country, including those in major urban centres and those in rural regions of Canada. This is feasible when doing qualitative interviews by telephone, but more costly to achieve when doing live focus groups.


  • More cost effective than focus groups. Our clients no longer want to commit to big budgets to undertake this kind of testing research.

By using Recollective, there are no travel costs for getting the study team across the country. Moreover, the charges for using  the online platform are far less than facility charges for focus groups.


  • Improved speed of execution. Similarly, multiple groups can be done over several days concurrently, even with the same moderator.

There is no need to plan for travel time. In addition, with useful downloadable reports, like full transcripts, wordcloud summaries and participation charts, reports can be produced more quickly as well.


  • Improved client access to fieldwork and immediate results.

Clients have direct access to the feedback and the results, and can provide input to the moderators more readily than in focus groups or for in-depth telephone interviews. In one instance, we gave our client a daily download of the transcripts for work completed to that date, which they found useful for sharing highlights with other team members. And we did not have to worry about trying to transcribe poor quality audiotapes from an interview or focus group, or wait days to have a transcribing team do their work.


  • Less burden on study participants than having to attend a focus group, getting to the facility on time, often in a busy major urban centre.

This is quite relevant when testing brand creative materials. Respondents sometimes comment that it seems excessive to attend a two hour group discussion to discuss brand executions. For example, one client was not too keen to tell company Presidents and CEOs in customer organizations that they were inviting them to attend a lengthy focus group to review ad executions. By offering to do the testing online using this platform, those individuals were more willing to participate and provide their input.


  • More effective probing.

With input from the client teams, we can probe more effectively on individual comments than having to do so on the fly in groups or telephone interviews. Clients can observe the online discussions and suggest probes to the moderator. Alternatively, they can review the posts and probes later, and still offer suggestions on ways to address the research question under examination.


  • More opportunities to touch down, take stock, course correct.

Since the fieldwork often takes place over several days, it is helpful to have daily debriefs, discuss findings and emerging issues and take corrective action as required. The Recollective platform accommodates this with an easy to use programming interface and activity scheduling tools.

For example, in one study, we tried a few techniques to generate some ideas for a particular concept, but they were not very effective. We huddled quickly with the client and changed course. It took more time for us to discuss what we wanted to change and how with the client, than it did to program the changes into the online platform, which study participants were to see the following day.

This is far more difficult with traditional focus groups where there are more constraints on the end times for discussions and for in-depth interviews where it may be cumbersome to put an interview on hold until you decide how best to course correct with the client.



December Recollective Release – Interactive Word Clouds!

Christmas has come early to Recollective. Launched late on Friday 13th Dec, we’ve rolled out a huge release which introduces interactive word clouds, full text keyword searching and a brand new rich text editor.

Interactive Word Clouds

In the late September release we introduced the concept of summary views for the stream so you could see a photo and video wall or a dashboard of activity charts in addition to the standard newsfeed of responses and discussions.

Interactive word clouds complete the set by representing text-based responses and discussions in a summarized, highly visual format. I have to say, they’re pretty special.

Study Summary - What Drives You?Not only does each word cloud provide a visually stunning representation of popular words used by participants anywhere in Recollective, but it acts as a way to explore and analyze that content. Click on any word in the cloud to conduct a search and view all matched responses directly beneath the cloud. Drill down through words to go deeper into the content. You can even filter the cloud based on Activity, Task, Segment or People.

Study Summary - What Drives You?-1

Interactive word clouds can be accessed from the Summary tab, or from the Response view of any activity. Here’s the full rundown on the interactive word cloud feature:

  • Filter the same way as all other overviews (e.g. filter down to task and topic level and/or by person or segment)
  • Clouds appear on profile pages for a single-person summary
  • Words can be selected to conduct search (results appear below cloud) and the cloud refines to show related words (which can be repeated)
  • Hover on any word to view the number of instances of that word
  • The word cloud is responsive to available width (less words appear in smaller sizes at more narrow widths) so it displays beautifully on tablet devices and smartphones
  • Includes all participant-submitted text in activities and discussions

Rather than being a simple dump of text data, the Recollective interactive word cloud respects the privacy of content too so it can be visible to participants, giving them even more engaging features to stimulate participant in and enthusiasm for your study.

  • Excludes masked and fully-private activities and topics when viewed by participants
  • Excludes private messages but does include private comments from participants to admins
  • Excludes everything posted by administrators

Here’s an example from a built-out study to illustrate just how rich the word cloud can be:

Interactive Word Cloud

Full-Text Keyword Search

We now index all text responses, discussions and comments to deliver a fabulous full-text keyword search. Just type in any word(s) in the search field at the top of your control panel (or at the top of any existing word cloud) and Recollective will not only provide a list of matching content, but it will build the results into a custom word cloud for you.

Study Summary - What Drives You?-2

  • Supports multiple keywords (words can be typed and/or selected from a cloud)
  • Smart matching ensures that content is matched on multiple keywords only where they’re present in the same paragraph (not just same response)
  • Paragraphs returned in results are automatically split into sentences for easy excerpting (single-click!)
  • New “Search Study” option in context menu shown during excerpting, appears below “Save Excerpt”
  • Results include photos with captions, videos with additional commentary and image review thumbnails with annotations
  • Images can be enlarged and videos can be played directly from a search result

New rich-text editor with auto-save

Imagine typing in the perfect question that’s formatted and written so beautifully you want to cry. Then your computer freezes and when you can finally refresh the page, it’s all gone. That nightmare scenario is a thing of the past for Recollective admins.

We’re really excited to release a new rich-text editor with built-in auto-save functionality. Not only does it auto-save, but it’s fully HTML5 compliant. That means it’s faster, supports drag-and-drop embedding of media files into your text and you can even paste in a YouTube or Vimeo URL and it will auto-convert into a fully embedded and playable video.

Task Setup - What Drives You?-1


Here’s some more details about this great new tool:

  • Currently added to admin-facing areas: Email Broadcast, Email Invitation, Task Description and Study Overview. We’ll be adding it into the remaining participant-facing areas in a subsequent release
  • If your connection drops or session is lost, you’re warned to save the content (it gives you link to login again). Then, once a connection or session is restored, it continues auto-saving
  • Supports drag and drop upload of images
  • You can now paste any YouTube or Vimeo URL in the editor and press ENTER and it will auto convert to a fully embedded and playable video
  • Table editing is much simpler and better looking
  • The editor is fully HTML 5 compliant which for IE 9 and up and all modern browsers means it’s much faster
  • Supported in iOS and Android devices including embedding images
  • Participants using IE 7 and 8 also get a new editor but there are some limitations. Upgrade for the best experience!
  • The rich-text editor input area grows in height automatically (eliminating clumsy double scroll bars)
  • The toolbar automatically snaps to the top so controls remain in view at all times or use the new full-screen mode for easy editing without distractions
  • The view-source mode cleans up any code that’s pasted in to keep this neat and easy to read

We have some great new roadmap features planned for the early part of 2014 which further extend how Recollective can be used to disrupt the MR space. Intrigued? We think you’ll be delighted when we finally reveal them!  Stay tuned for more information next month.

As ever, if you have suggestions for how we can improve or extend Recollective, give us a call or drop me an email. We love getting your feedback and every bit of it is taken into consideration as we prioritize and build out new functionality.

Recollective Release – November 2013

After the early access pre-launch of Recollective On-Demand, a free simplified version of Recollective, we’ve had a very busy October. To keep the momentum up, the Ramius developers have been back at it with some great new improvements to the platform. Here’s what we released in November:

Study Preview

While it’s always been possible to perform a “Support Login” and experience a Study from the perspective of a specific participant, client or moderator, we wanted to make it easier to do this kind of check before a study was opened and participants uploaded.
Similarly, Recollective had the ability to preview a single activity or task but you could not remain in this preview state to test all screens or traverse through complex linkages between activities and discussions or even across studies.
Now, that’s all changed. Analysts can select “Preview As…” in the control panel to immediately experience their study as one of the various user roles supported (Participant, Client or Moderator). It’s a single click operation and the study can remain in a draft state.
  • While previewing as a participant, analysts can can assign themselves into one or more segments to see the impact that has on the visibility of segmented activities and topics.
  • Activities completed while previewing as a participant appear in the activity response table at the top with a yellow highlight (they are fast and easy to remove). They can only be seen by other analysts and are never summarized with participant data in task overviews, reports or transcripts.
  • Note that if an analyst posts comments or participates in discussions while in the preview mode, it will still appear to everyone as if they had posted it normally.

Improved Prompt and Poll Routing

In previous releases we provided the capability to have a Poll or Prompt task route the participant out of the activity based on their response choice. That left the activity in an “incomplete” state.
We’ve improved the process to have that kind of branching action mark the initial activity as completed (i.e. any remaining tasks are marked as skipped). This setting is enabled by default but can be disabled if you plan to direct the participant back to the activity (which tends to be rare but occasionally is necessary).
Task_Setup_-_Mobility___Social_Media-3What that means is complex task branching scenarios can now be achieved with greater ease as there’s no need to route participants to a final prompt task to generate a proper “Completed” status (e.g. you can, for example, disqualify a participant in one step).

Inactive Participant Handling

In longer-term studies, participant churn is inevitable. People are either removed from one study (but left active) or their entire panelist record is deactivated. In either case, your feedback has indicated it’s helpful for that person’s past contributions to remain easily accessible and accounted for in statistics.
For example, if a study has 10 active participants but only 8 did an activity, the response rate is 80%. If two past (inactive) participants had responded to that same activity, Recollective previously showed “10/10 (100%)”.
Following this update, we now add inactive participant responses to the denominator so the response rate becomes “10/12″.


Updated Charts

We’ve updated our chart library to its latest version which solves some issues with pie chart labels that could occasionally appear cutoff.
  • A new flatter look and brighter colour scheme has been implemented as well.
  • Pie charts have been given legends that can be selected to toggle the appearance of select chart segment.

Miscellaneous Improvements

  • Performance: The use of drop shadows was greatly reduced to create a more flat and performing design. Page rendering and CSS transformations should be much smoother in all browsers but especially Firefox and Internet Explorer.
  • Study Header: A new setting allows the study name to be hidden in the study header. Note that this does not hide the name entirely, only the appearance of the name next to the site logo.
  • Photo and Video Overviews: Greater visual separation has been added to these overviews to ensure the metadata below the thumbnails are visually grouped. The tooltip for each photo/video item now follows your mouse when hovering which makes it easier to notice and read.
  • Email Invitations: Validation has been added to identify existing participants in the list of emails provided. It now prevents the form from being submitted until the duplicate emails are removed. Previously, the process would simply skip the duplicates but it caused some people to think email invites were not being sent (i.e. admins would invite themselves to test it out but no email would arrive since they’re already part of the study).
  • Sort and Rank: The third data table citing individual card placements can now be exported into CSV
  • Next Activity Prompt: The prompt for participants to start the next activity no longer appears in the Control Panel, it only appears under the navigation tabs (previously seen only when the control panel was closed). This is to ensure that prompt is not missed.
  • Study Setup Guide: The guide is now positioned along the top of the page and not below the navigation tabs. This ensures the main appearance of the study is not altered by its presence and reduces confusion about the location of the guide (i.e. it is not part of “Summary” tab).
  • Study Setup Guide: The order of steps was revised to focus on Activities first and that step’s description was dramatically simplified. The step about Segments was removed and various other small changes were made for usability.
  • Support Login: While logged in as another user, analysts will see a new bar that’s fixed along the top of the browser frame. This is strictly a style change.