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Confidence based selection for survey sampling

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Title: Confidence based selection for survey sampling.
Abstract: A system and method for confidence-based selection of items for use in conducting a computer-implemented survey. The survey presents information about a selected plurality of items to a survey participant, to elicit survey feedback information. Information regarding the plurality of items is stored, the stored information including display information about each of the plurality of items for presentation to a survey participant. A subset of items for presentation to a survey participant is selected in accordance with a predetermined selection algorithm. Information corresponding to the selected subset of items is displayed to the survey participant via a survey user interface. Rating information is input by the survey participant via the survey user interface indicating the survey participant's preferences as to items in the presented subset of items. The rating information is utilized in various manners to affect the selection algorithm for a subsequent survey. ...


Browse recent patents - Montreal, CA
Inventor: James R. Azar
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120109714 - Class: 705 732 (USPTO) - 05/03/12 - Class 705 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120109714, Confidence based selection for survey sampling.

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FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a computer implementation of algorithms and methods for collecting and ranking ideas, people, or any other items. This invention further relates to use of a survey-like mechanism to obtain a prioritized or ranked list of items. The mechanism may be implemented using a network, such as the Internet.

BACKGROUND

Many entities, including those that conduct business over the Internet, find it beneficial to conduct surveys to determine what products should be offered, what services should be made available, what content should be present on a website, and so forth. Such surveys may be presented to a user after a transaction, such as the purchase of a product. Alternatively, the survey may be presented to a user independent of any particular transaction. Existing survey systems use a variety of delivery mechanisms including email invitations, banner adds, popup windows, and links on websites. The layout and presentation of the survey questions may be customized by the author of the survey to the extent allowable by the electronic survey system.

Typical survey systems allow the survey participant to respond via email, website, web application, web applet, or a client specifically designed to accept, transmit, or store the responses. The responses may take on a variety of forms including, but not limited to, single choice, multiple choice, rating scale, and text responses. Electronic survey systems typically gather the responses in a database or other electronic storage mechanism. The response data often becomes the subject matter for various reports, graphs, charts, and analysis. The reporting analysis tools are often separate from the actual survey systems themselves.

Various survey systems are presently available that allow electronic surveys to be authored and transmitted over the Internet. The existing systems use a variety of participation models. Some of the systems use an invitation-based system, in which an invitation is sent to the participant via email or other form of electronic message. The email invitations may or may not contain information to identify the person invited to the survey. Some systems use an open model that allows any visitor to a website to follow a link and respond to an electronic survey without ever identifying himself. There is also a self-registration model, where the participants identify themselves during a registration process before taking the survey.

There are several challenges associated with the use of surveys to gather information. It has been established that response rates to surveys typically decline as the amount of time required to respond increases. If the survey is too long or time-consuming, the user may not complete the survey. At the same time, the number of respondents is often a critical factor in the accuracy of a survey. The survey may not be effective if too few questions are asked of the user. Further, the questions and answer choices are predetermined by the author prior to the survey being made available for participants to respond. Thus, additional ideas of the user may not be captured.

Various efforts have been made to address these challenges. For example, to minimize the number of questions asked, some presently available electronic survey systems enable the author of the survey to specify the presentation order and skip certain survey questions based on the answers to previous questions. But even in such systems, the author of the survey writes all of the questions and answer choices.

Another way to reduce the length of the survey is to show the participant only a subset of the entire list of possible questions. There is one known company who offers the ability to show a participant a subset of the entire list. Informative, Inc. (Brisbane, Calif.) offers a product that allows a participant to select a subset of items from a larger list (that is a subset of all available items), and then arrange the subset into order according to the participant\'s preference.

Such systems are based on the premise that items that are receiving high rankings from respondents should be presented more often than items that are receiving low rankings. These systems consider a data collection effort to be either mature or immature, depending on the number of responses. This maturity status applies to the entire set of items. When the data collection effort is in the immature state, the items are presented to the respondents at random. When a sufficient number of responses is collected and the data collection is considered mature, the selection process shifts to selecting items with higher rankings to present to subsequent respondents. While this may be appropriate in some instances, it is limited in applicability and does not consider some other important factors that can be used to select a sample.

Some electronic survey systems have attempted to gather new items from a population of participants by enabling the participant to enter a text answer. However, to enable rapid processing of the survey results, such questions are typically limited in number, which places an artificial limitation on the number of items any one participant can submit. Furthermore, the items that are input are often deposited in a database with little information about the importance of the items.

Thus, there remains a need for a process for ranking items, people, or any other items in a manner that encourages participation and achieves high response rates. There further remains a need for a system that is able to collect items from the user and incorporate such items such that the new items are available for ranking by other participants.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to a computer based system for estimating the preference of a list of items as perceived by a population of participants, even though each participant rates only a subset of the entire list of items available for presentation. Since complete data will not likely be available, and the participants who do respond will most likely not completely agree on which items are most important, the present invention uses statistical computations to use the data that is available to most accurately estimate the order of preference that best fits the entire population. The amount of data and the quality of the data actually collected determines how accurate the estimated order actually reflects the order of preference for the population.

The system of the present invention increases the number of participant responses by decreasing the amount of time required for each respondent to express his preferences. To do so, only a subset of the complete list of items is presented to each participant, so that each participant is more likely participate and provide data. By increasing participation, the data is less likely to be biased toward the preferences of a few of the participants.

The system of the present invention is focused in particular on selecting the subset of items to be presented to each person of the population. The items are selected in a manner that improves the confidence in the estimated order of preference of the entire set of items.

According to one aspect, the present invention is a method for conducting a computer-implemented survey relating to a plurality of items from a plurality of survey participants. The invention of this aspect comprises a number of steps that include storing information regarding the plurality of items, the stored information including display information about each of the plurality of items for presentation to a survey participant and presentation number information corresponding to the number of times a particular item has been previously shown to survey participants, selecting a subset of items for presenting to a survey participant in accordance with a predetermined selection algorithm that utilizes the presentation number information to influence the selection of items for the subset, presenting the display information corresponding to the selected subset of items is presented to the survey participant via a survey user interface, and receiving rating information input by the survey participant via the survey user interface indicating the survey participant\'s preferences as to items in the subset of items presented.

In accordance with this first aspect, the method may further include the step of utilizing the rating information input by the survey participant to affect the probability of selection of the items in the selected subset in a subsequent selection of a subset of items for presentation to a subsequent survey participant using the predetermined selection algorithm.

In further accordance with this first aspect, the predetermined selection algorithm utilizes an adjustment factor to cause items to be selected more or less often as a function of the rating information obtained by previous participants of a survey. Further still, the predetermined selection algorithm utilizes, at least in part, a random number selection of items in the plurality of items.

The plurality of items may include a predetermined duplication of items in a set of the plurality of items, with the number of duplications of particular items influenced by the rating information.

In further accordance with this first aspect, the predetermined selection algorithm is self-adjusting based on previous responses received during a previous survey of the plurality of items. The self-adjusting may be based on modifying the probability of selecting an item from the plurality of items, the modifying in turn based collection of new items input by survey participants and rating of new items in comparison of previously included items.

In further accordance with this first aspect, the predetermined selection algorithm is operative initially to randomly select items for the subset of items, and thereafter operative to select items based on utilization of the rating information. The probability of selection of a given item may be continuously adjusted as items are rated by survey participants.

In accordance with a second aspect of the invention, the present invention is another method for conducting a computer-implemented survey relating to a plurality of items from a plurality of survey participants. The invention of this aspect comprises a number of steps that include storing information regarding the plurality of items in a memory, the stored information including display information about each of the plurality of items for presentation to a survey participant and frequency information corresponding to the number of times a particular item has been previously shown to survey participants. The method further includes the step of selecting a subset of items for presenting to a survey participant in accordance with a predetermined selection algorithm that utilizes the frequency information. The method further includes the step of presenting the display information corresponding to the selected subset of items to the survey participant via a survey user interface. The method further includes the step of receiving rating information input by the survey participant via the survey user interface indicating the survey participant\'s preferences as to items in the subset of items presented. The method further includes the step of utilizing the rating information input by the survey participant to affect the probability of selection of the items in the selected subset in a subsequent selection of a subset of items for presentation to a subsequent survey participant using the predetermined selection algorithm.

In accordance with this second aspect, the rating information is selected from the group comprising: ranking of items relative to each other, ranking of the items on a scale, grading the items, ordering of the items, allocating points among items, scaling the items, choosing an item over other items, categorizing items, and other equivalent methods of indicating a preference of one item over another.

In further accordance with this second aspect, the step of selecting a subset of items in accordance with the predetermined selection algorithm comprises selecting based on a ranking of items using rating information from previous participants, such that the probability of selection of particular items for presenting in a subsequent survey is influenced by the rating information. In this manner, certain items that have been rated lower than other items are more likely to be selected for a survey so as to increase the number of presentations of such items.

In further accordance with this second aspect, the method comprises the step of providing the rating information for each item as an output of the method indicative of survey results.

In the foregoing and most aspects of the invention, the memory is a random access memory array. Information regarding the plurality of items is stored in an ordered array, for example in the memory, and selected according to a probability index. The information about each item in the ordered array is stored in a data field in the ordered array.

In further accordance with the second aspect, the subset of items selected for presentation to the survey participant is an initial subset, and the subsequent selection of a set of items for presentation comprises a selection from the plurality of items that may include one or more of the items from the initial subset.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120109714 A1
Publish Date
05/03/2012
Document #
13348316
File Date
01/11/2012
USPTO Class
705/732
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
06Q10/00
Drawings
13



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