This guide explains in detail how to have participants enter alternatives via the ‘alternatives entry’ activity.

(Depending on which 1000Minds service you’re logged into, instead of “alternatives entry”, this activity might be referred to as “patients entry”, “candidates entry”, “technologies entry”, “concepts entry”, etc.)

This activity is for distributing the task of entering alternatives across a group of people (participants) – perhaps with specialised roles or expertise – including rating the alternatives on pre-specified criteria.

The alternatives can then by aggregated (by 1000Minds) for decision-makers to review and apply in a 1000Minds decision model.

(Of course, the usual approach for entering alternatives – when you don’t want to distribute the task across a group of participants – is directly via the decision model itself.)

Equivalently, this alternatives entry activity can be implemented as a survey whereby participants suggest or nominate alternatives for consideration.

This guide is deliberately detailed. Many users won”t need it (nor all the features explained here); but for those who do, everything is carefully explained here. Bolded text below usually denotes buttons or data fields in 1000Minds for you to look out for.

You might like to print this page so you can refer to it while using 1000Minds. There are also links to this page inside 1000Minds.

Getting started: Log in and create a decision model with decision criteria or attributes

Jump to the main section below if you’re already familiar with these preliminary steps.

  • Go to www.1000minds.com and click log in. If you don’t have a 1000Minds user account, click free trial.
  • Enter your username (usually email address) and password.
  • You can choose the particular 1000Minds service you want to use – ‘All-purpose Decision-Making’, ‘Conjoint Analysis’, etc (i.e. depending on what you want to rank) – by clicking area of application.
  • To create a 1000Minds decision model – consisting of decision criteria or attributes, etc – click new model. This is the model you will use in the alternatives entry activity (explained in the main section below). In effect, it’s the model that participants will enter alternatives in to, including rating them on the criteria (ie. it will be the selected model at step 4 below).
  • For this new model, follow these two steps (top of screen) in particular: setup and criteria (or attributes if you’re logged into the Conjoint Analysis service).

At the setup step, give your model a name.

(Note too, perhaps instead of the present alternatives entry activity, you might like to consider the shared access tool available from the setup step as a means of having other 1000Minds users enter alternatives into a decision model.)

At the criteria step, enter the criteria to be applied in your alternatives entry activity (as in the next section). Be careful that within each criterion its levels are entered down the page from lowest ranked to highest ranked. This is very important as 1000Minds does not read your criteria (their words), but relies on the rankings of the levels for each criterion, as specified by you.

  • To set up an alternatives entry activity, click the distributed processes tab. The next section explains how to create and administer an alternatives entry activity.
  • If you’d like to continue with the decision-making exercise you initiated when you created your model (as above), you can. For example, you can enter alternatives directly (including import from excel), as described on the criteria you entered, that will be ranked after you’ve made decisions and you can enter other factors and make selections at selections, etc (eg. see How does 1000Minds work?). This is also a good way of testing the model to make sure you have things the way you want them.

Creating and administering an alternatives entry activity

Follow these 10 easy steps.

  1. Click the distributed processes tab (to the right of the decision models tab). And then click new process.

    Alternatively, if you’ve already engaged in other 1000Minds distributed activities (also via distributed processes) initiated earlier, you can open and add to them, as you like. You can use the same participants (ie. ignore the next step) or add additional participants if you want to.

  2. In your new process (for which you should enter a process name), you’ll immediately see an activity that has been automatically included in your process, entitled participants – available for all activities in current process. This ‘activity’ is where the names and email addresses, or anonymised ID numbers, of the participants in your activitywill appear.

    As explained in detail at steps 7 and 8 below, there are two main approaches for distributing the activity: (1) Participants can self-enrol from a sign-up webpage that you can easily create using 1000Minds, and/or (2) if you know participants’ names and email addresses, you can enter them into 1000Minds yourself and send them a personalised email using 1000Minds.

    Depending on the circumstances of your activity, either approach can be used on its own or both approaches can be used together. For most applications, we recommend approach (1) over (2), because (1) gives you more options for distributing your activity, as well as avoiding potential problems – e.g. overly-sensitive spam filters – that may arise from emailing people from a server (1000Minds) not directly associated with you.

  3. With respect to approach (1) above, step 7 below explains how at the webpage and email page you can create sign-up webpage for new participants to self-enrol. They will also appear at participants (just like any ones you entered yourself, as explained below).

    With respect to approach (2) above – which though, as mentioned at the previous step, is not generally recommended relative to approach (1) may still be useful for some applications – you can enter participants’ names and email addresses by clicking the above-mentioned participants ‘activity’. You can enter each participant individually by clicking new participant (e.g. you might like to enter your own name and email address to test this). Also, near the top of the participants page you’ll see paste in participants, which allows you to paste in batches of participant names and email addresses (e.g. copied from WORD or Excel). You can enter additional participants at any time later on too.

  4. Next, click add activity at the process activities page, and then alternatives entry. (The other 1000Minds activities also on offer pertain to other possible components of an overall distributed process; for more information, see How to run a distributed process?.)

  5. After your alternatives entry activity opens (at the alternatives entry step), it is very important that the selected model there (chosen by you) is the one you want to use with your participants. You need to be sure it’s the one you worked on with respect to specifying the criteria that participants are to rate the alternatives on (the 5th bullet point above), as the selected model can’t be changed once participants have started entering alternatives. If you’re unsure, click open model and check it. (When you’re ready for the activity to begin – to be sent out to participants – activity status should be “open for use”.) If you’ve not already created a model, return to the 4th and 5th bullet points above and create one.

    You can also edit the brief instructions for participants on applications entry webpageeg. set a date/time that you’d like them to finish entering alternatives by, etc. The messages you want to include there, and in the other text boxes, are up to you; they are specific to the application you’re working on, and perhaps to the participants too.

  6. Also at the alternatives entry page, you will see message when participants finish entering alternatives. The message by default in the space there is to thank participants. In addition, if you want to link from the end of your 1000Minds survey to another survey such as Google Forms, Wufoo or SurveyMonkey use URL for another page to finish on. This extra survey – which, as far as participants are concerned, will be seamlessly joined to their 1000Minds survey – is for participants to answer after the 1000Minds questions. For example, you might use such an extra survey for collecting participants’ socio-demographic data or other information that you are interested in. This extra survey is also available if you are emailing participants to invite them to do a 1000Minds survey (explained in the next step).

    Detailed instructions about how to link to a Google Forms survey appear in the help tips near the top of the alternatives entry page. Please note that, albeit not free, Wufoo and SurveyMonkey have several advantages over Google Forms (free!); and so you should think about which of these survey tools is best for you.

    In particular, these paid-for survey tools, in conjunction with 1000Minds, allow you to do more complex yet seamless integration, such as automatically passing and storing a hidden unique ID for each participant and chaining from 1000Minds to the other survey and back again. This integration maximizes your ability to match participants’ data as well as allowing you to present the 1000Minds activity, the other survey and, finally, a closing message to participants. For more information, please see How to pass survey parameters?

    Especially if you make any changes as discussed above, it is good practice to check to see what participants will experience, and to make sure that everything is working as you want it to. As explained later in the next step, this is easy to do (follow the instructions that appear later below about how to impersonate a participant).

  7. At the webpage and email page, you are offered two means of distributing the activity: (1) create sign-up webpage for participants to self-enrol for the activity (explained at the next step), and/or (2) email participants using 1000Minds. As mentioned at step 2 above, depending on the circumstances of your activity, either approach can be used on its own, or both approaches can be used together – though, for the reasons discussed earlier, for most applications we recommend approach (1) over (2). It’s important that you do not mix-and-match the two approaches (i.e. do a bit of one and a bit of the other and create some kind of Frankenstein-hybridised approach – that will not work!).

    The create sign-up webpage approach to distributing the activity includes a range of participant registration options in terms of anonymous versus not anonymous and whether an email address is required, or encouraged, or not, etc (further discussed below). This approach has the obvious advantage that you don’t need to know participants’ names and email addresses, which is great for ‘snowball’ or ‘convenience’ sampling, for example. All you need to do is email the sign-up webpage link – as created by 1000Minds (see get sign-up web address) – to prospective participants. You can do this via your own means of distributing emails. Or, for example, you might put the link on a webpage of your own (or on Facebook, etc) and direct traffic to there.

    When you create sign-up webpage, the participant registration options include requiring – optionally or compulsorily (or not at all!) – participants to enter their email addresses, so that you can email participants using 1000Minds, if appropriate. For example, a link to the activity can be automatically emailed to them (e.g. in case they want to take a break and return later). Later on you can also email participants using 1000Minds – with an up-dated email message – e.g. to remind them to complete entering alternatives or to thank them for their participation, etc.

    If you choose a participant registration option that includes an email being sent out to participants (i.e. after they enrol via the sign-up webpage link you sent them, as discussed above), then you should probably edit the subject line and email message (via email participants using 1000Minds) so that they communicate what you want to say. In the email message it’s important that you don’t change these three codes: {fullname}, {url} and {reply-to}. These codes are used by 1000Minds for the data used to personalise the message to each participant; thus, each email is personally addressed to {fullname}, and each participant will get his or her own {url} in their personal email, etc.

    You should test the activity you created by clicking the sign-up webpage link yourself (inside get sign-up web address) or entering it into your browser – to experience what participants will experience (especially brief instructions for participants on applications entry webpage and message when participants finish entering alternatives, as explained at step 6). Such testing allows you to check that you have everything the way you want them (and, if not, you should fix things!). Also, after someone has self-enrolled (e.g. you as a test-pilot), you can go to participant progress and click their open-in-new-window icon (i.e. for anyone participating in the activity). This allows you to see what a participant sees.

    Notice that at the participant progress page you can easily delete responses for any participant (including yourself!), and also easily change their state of progress. You can also delete participants – e.g. yourself! – at the participants page. These options are especially useful during testing when you want to iteratively make changes to a model (which would be locked against changes if it had any participant responses) and test the impact.

    In addition – though most users won’t be interested in this feature – it’s possible to embed a unique User ID in the sign-up webpage link referred to above. This can be useful, for example, if you have a group of participants who are known to you but for whom you don’t want to have to enter their names (e.g. for anonymity reasons, and also for convenience perhaps). For detailed instructions about how to do this, especially if you have a ICT-technical bent, see How to pass survey parameters? and/or email enquiries@1000minds.com and we’ll help you implement this (note though, as alluded to above, this feature is likely to be useful only in exceptional circumstances).

  8. As mentioned earlier, if you know everyone’s name and email, it’s possible to distribute the activity via the email participants using 1000Minds approach – using the names and email addresses you entered at participants (step 2 above). You can add additional participants at any time by clicking the participants button near the top of the webpage and email page. Then, all you have to do at the webpage and email page is to make sure that the participants to whom you want to send emails to are ticked.

    Before sending out the email, as you would for any email you were sending, you can edit the subject line and the email message inviting participants. Later on, as discussed at step 7 above, you can also send reminder emails to participants who have not finished entering their alternatives via this facility – but with an up-dated email message.

    In the email message it’s important that you don’t change these three codes: {fullname}, {url} and {reply-to}. These codes are used by 1000Minds for the data used to personalise the message to each participant; thus, each email is personally addressed to {fullname}, and each participant will get his or her own {url} in their personal email, etc.

    Before sending out the emails, it’s good practive to experience what participants will experience (e.g. as a test that you have everything the way you want it, especially brief instructions for participants on applications entry webpage and message when participants finish entering alternatives, as also mentioned at the previous step). Go to participant progress and click their open-in-new-window icon (i.e. for anyone). This allows you, in effect, to ‘be’ that particular participant (i.e. see what he or she will see when the activity starts). Another simple test is to include your own email address (as usual, entered at participants), and simply send an email (as explained next) just to yourself so that you can see how the email appears to you and make any changes if required (before sending out the finalised email to all participants).

    As mentioned at the previous step, at the participant progress page you can easily delete responses for any participant (including yourself!), and also easily change their state of progress (e.g. reset it to “email not sent yet”). This is especially useful during testing when you want to iteratively make changes to a model (which would be locked against changes if it had any participant responses) and test the impact.

    When you are ready – i.e. you’re confident that you have the correct set of participants (to send emails to), the correct model (selected model), and you’re happy with the subject line and your email message (as well as brief instructions for participants on applications entry webpage and message when participants finish entering alternatives on the alternatives entry page) – click send emails (bottom of the webpage and email page; and make sure activity status is “open for use” at the alternatives entry step). Personalised emails will be sent to the ticked participants individually and addresses aren’t revealed.

  9. After having started the activity, as time passes (e.g. later in the week) it’s a good idea to check on the progress of your participants. Do this by returning to the distributed processes tab, clicking on your process name, and then alternatives entry. Click participant progress (and export to excel for more details) and/or results to see how participants are getting on.

    You can also send reminder emails to participants (provided you have their addresses) who have not started or completed entering their alternatives via the webpage and email page (as mentioned earlier) – but this time with an up-dated email message reminding participants to start or finish. As mentioned earlier, you can also send emails to participants who self-enrolled via the create sign-up webpage approach to distributing the activity and in the process recorded their email addresses (if you asked them to). You can also see how participants are getting on (and also email them easily – e.g. perhaps to thank them) via the distribution lists button near the top of the webpage and email and participant progress pages.

  10. When participants have finished (eg. the closing date has passed) – or, indeed, at any time – you can see the entered alternatives. You can tick alternatives you want to be copied in to a new model with alternatives, in preparation for applying the alternatives in a 1000Minds decision model. (To learn about 1000Minds’ stand-along decision tools overall, see How does 1000Minds work?.)

    Finally, and in addition to the steps above, it’s easy for you to see the decision model for each individual participant if you want to. Click the decision models tab (to the left of the distributed processes tab), and at the bottom of the list of models tick show models of process participants. In the table listing all the models in your 1000Minds user account, you will now be able to see a model for each participant (usually marked with an asterisk). You can open these models, just like for any other models. (The way that 1000Minds works is that when a participant begins entering alternatives 1000Minds creates an individual decision model for her – by copying the selected model referred to at step 4 above – and stores it just like for any other model that is created.) This enables you to make changes to an individual participant’s model – but you should think carefully before doing so.

Good luck!

If you have any problems, email enquiries@1000minds.com and we’ll help you.