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Dynamic Process Tracing Environment User Discussion


Back Button in Questionnaires; New Delimiter for Multiple Answer Questions; Changes in Social Experiments

Version 3.3.0 of the DPTE Player and Researcher Interface were recently deployed, following an earlier update (3.2.5) detailed below.


BACK Button

This update includes a potentially valuable new feature: the ability to include a “back” button on a Questionnaire. It functions just as you’d expect a “back” button to function, that is, it goes back one Question — unless a Condition tells it otherwise, just like the “next” button. Conditions are fully enabled in “back” mode as well.

When a Subject goes “back” the Subject’s answer to that Question is selected/shown, and can be modified. This only applies within a Questionnaire run — if the same Questionnaire (with the exact same name) is presented again later in an Experiment, no previous filled in answers are shown, and generally earlier answers are lost. So when you want to deploy the same questionnaire mutliple times, you need to duplicate it and name it appropriately. This didn’t change — the only difference with Back mode is, if a Subject answers a Question, then goes “back” to that Question, the response is still there.

The Researcher can define the text of the “back” button in the Experiment Settings, in the section with all the other labels.

Note: if a Subject answers (for example) 10 questions, and then answers Question 11 and hits the “back” button, she will return to Question 10 and see that answer (and can change it). When she goes forward to Question 11 (again) she will see the answer she had already given for Question 11.

However, if a subject answers 10 questions, then stares at Question 11 and doesn’t answer it, but hits “back”, she will not get the “warning” that would appear when not answering a question and going forward. Since she will have to encounter that question again, the system does not require her to provide an answer if she goes “back” from there.


Delimiter Change for Multiple Answer Data

In another minor but important change, the delimiter character for Multiple Answer recording in the subject dataset has changed from a comma to a trio of characters, pipe-colon-pipe, that is,  |:|

This way commas (or pipes) in individual answers won’t conflict with the delimiter. If you are using Multiple Answers and then scanning the subjhect data file for the results, please realize that you will now see this new delimiter between answers, rather than simply a comma.


Social Experiment Update; Making a “shared” item more available during the run of an experiment

We have added a “Shares increase shows” feature, which can optionally increase the number of times a Flow Item is displayed based on how many times it has been Shared (Button #1 must be used as the “share” button for this feature to work).  The options for setup are in the Settings / Social Experiment Options.

There is a checkbox to enable (“click count of Social Button #1 increases Flow Item # of shows”) and a “Divisor” which is used to determine the relation of clicks to additional shows (simply divides and rounds up, so the first Share always adds a “show”). To be eligible, the Flow Item must be Shareable (so it has buttons) and the Experiment must be a Social Experiment.


As always, let us know if you find any problems.

Upcoming DOWN TIME for DPTE Server March 31 12:00-13:00 UTC

IMPORTANT: The DPTE server will be down for maintenance on Thursday, March 31 from 7:00-8:00am CDT (12:00 to 13:00 UTC). You will be unable to run experiments or use DPTE during this time.

Addressing “Loading Subject error; please close this window and try again” Message

In recent months we have had several reports of subjects attempting to run DPTE experiments and receiving a red message at the top of the player screen reading “Loading Subject error; please close this window and try again”. This error appears occasionally after a subject clicks to begin the study. The player screen fails to load and simply displays the error in small type at the top. The only solution is to force the window closed (clicking on the X in the top right and clicking to “leave screen” then refreshing the start screen and clicking on the link again. This is obviously not a good option for subjects running remotely.

We now have a workaround if you receive this error on a regular basis. The workaround entails NOT using https to connect to DPTE. Instead, a 2nd inbound portal to DPTE thas been created.

To use the alternative portal specify your link to the study as follows:


There are 3 changes:
– http instead of https
– player2 instead of player
– pid instead of pass

NOTE: UNIQUEIDNUMBER is the number given to your experiment, i.e. 135, used to tell the DPTE player what experiment to run. ?pid=PASSWORD is optional, allows you to pass through the passphrase you specified for your study so your subject does not have to type it.

As always let us know if you run into any problems with this.



Here’s a tip for those who want subjects to be able to move from DPTE to another web address. For example, let’s say at the end of a DPTE study, you wish to send the subject on to something else on the web. Turns out to be pretty simple using the Javascript functionality of DPTE. This can actually be used at any time during a study, though if the DPTE study is not over, the subject would have to be instructed on how to return to it to complete the study.  IMPORTANT: If a subject does not properly exit from a DPTE study, then the subject data for that subject will not be saved and the case will not be flagged as complete. So use this functionality with care.

Using javascript, you can set up a conditional situation to send people out to another website by using a command like:

var x = window.open (“http://www.google.com“,”mywindow”);  false

(This example will send subjects to www.google.com)

To ensure that subject data gets saved (assuming you are doing this at the end of the study), you should do the following:

1. End your experiment with an announcement that tells the subject what is coming next (you will now be sent to…)
2. Follow the announcement with a conditional calculation created with Javascript as above (or anything really), where DPTE opens up a new window for your subjects.
3. Make that conditional the last thing in your study; that is, have no other instructions following it.

Your subjects should see the announcement, then see the other window open and DPTE should close in the background, saving all of the subject information.

Thanks to Derek Seibert, one of the tech geniuses  at the University of Iowa, who figured this out.

Note – The DPTE manual has not yet been updated with this information.


DPTE Server Scheduled Downtime Thursday, Dec 11, 7:00AM – 8:00AM CST

IMPORTANT: The DPTE server will be down on Thursday, December 11 from 7:00-8:00am CST (13:00 to 14:00 UTC) to do important updates. You will be unable to run DPTE experiments during this time and logins will be disabled. It is likely the server will not be down for the entire hour, but you should avoid scheduling experiments during this window.

PLEASE NOTE: The DPTE server now has daily (recurring) maintenance at 1:55am CST (07:55 UTC). The server may be unresponsive for up to 1 minute at this time. You should avoid doing important work, and not have Subjects running Experiments, during the brief downtime.

DPTE Downtime Scheduled – Thursday, April 10, 6:30AM Central Daylight Time (11:30 UTC), 30 Minutes

IMPORTANT: The DPTE server will be down on Thursday, April 10 from 6:30-7:00am CDT (11:30 to 12:00 UTC). You will be unable to run DPTE experiments during this time.

A “kernal update” is necessary for the server. We are also implementing the first step toward SSL capability by enabling a SSL certificate on the server, which will allow https logins to DPTE; full https connectivity should be possible at a later date.

PLEASE NOTE: The DPTE server now has daily (recurring) maintenance at 1:55am CDT (06:55 UTC). The server may be unresponsive for up to 1 minute at this time. You should avoid doing important work, and not have Subjects running Experiments, during the brief downtime.



DPTE in Chinese? Yep! Asian Language Support in Beta with Version 3.03

DPTE has been enhanced to support Asian characters, so if you were contemplating trying decision making studies among non-western language populations, the possibility now exists, at least in this context. Asian language support is in “beta” so there may well be bugs. To implement for your studies, from the Experimenter Screen, go to EXPERIMENT DASHBOARD,  SETTINGS, ADVANCED to see a brief explanation. Asian characters are implemented through the Unicode character support. Click the checkbox to turn that on for your experiment. In theory this should allow entry of any character that uses Unicode. The User Manual has NOT yet been updated.

If you do try this, let us know how it goes!

REVISED TIME: Additional Downtime Scheduled 3/20/14, 8:15AM CDT (13:15 UTC)

Note – the original time for this downtime has been changed! Please note this change.

We need to schedule addition downtime for the DPTE system.  When the previous updates were done last Thursday, a few changes were made to the database (to support Asian characters). When this was done it was noticed that the Recorded Events table has 13 million records in it (that’s big) and the database people said the table is getting ‘fragmented’ or in other words, taking up a lot more space than it has to. Additionally, the “transaction log” file is gigantic. Long story short, they want to ‘defrag’ that table and that should reduce its size by around 30-40%, and prevent it from impacting performance.

Downtime is scheduled for Thursday, March 15, 2014, at 8:15am central daylight time (13:15 UTC). Please avoid having subjects running on the system at this time. The system will be down for both subjects and experimenters during this time.

Some DPTE Updates

With the recent availability of DPTE 3.0 there are some new and improved functions in the system. The full documentation has now been updated to include them, but the FAQ on the main DPTE experimenter page gives a quick update. Following are a couple of the really cool new things you may want to explore:

Social Experiments (updated for version 3.0.0)

The Social Experiment options under Settings in the Experiment Dashboard are for use with Social Experiments, which allow some degree of “Sharing” between Subjects, hypothetical or real. Currently in progress, you can designate an Experiment as Social, which opens new options on the Timed Items screen. These include marking an item as Shared and/or Shareable.

Shared Items appear with an announcement that they were shared by another user. The Subject has an option to open the ’embedded’ item or not. An event is recorded when a Shared Item is presented and closed, and when its embedded item is opened and closed. Stimulus Items and Questionnaires can appear as Shared Items.

Shareable Items contain extra options in the form of buttons that the Subject can select. The button names are editable and their selection will be recorded. These Items also may contain Comments and allow the Subject to leave comments.

Note that if the “master switch” check box–Enable Social Experiment–is deselected, the Timed Items marked as Shared will remain, but appear as regular Timed Items. There is a DPTE System Variable, [[SYS_VAR_SOCIAL_EXP]], used to track whether Sharing is on or off, and this variable can be changed by the experiment using a Calculation item.

The “Read-only” mode feature allows Experiments to start from a “baseline” state, where Comments and button clicks added by a Subject are not visible to subsequent Subjects.

For more detail see Section Three of the DPTE 3.0 Help Manual

Using HTML in (certain) DPTE text fields

As of DPTE 2.8.5, you can use HTML in the following DPTE text fields:
– A Text Stimulus Item’s main text
– an Announcement’s text
– the text of a Question.

In these fields, DPTE will treat the characters {{ and }} as < and > characters to surround your HTML. In the Player, this will render as HTML. For example, the text:

{{a href=”http://www.mylink.com&#8221; target=”_blank”}}Here is a link{{/a}}

would display a link to the location specified. Note that the link text will not appear underlined or blue unless you add that yourself. Remember to always include target=”_blank” so that it opens in a new window/tab.

Flash text fields (and therefore DPTE text fields) support a subset of HTML which includes the majority of simple commands, but complex HTML is not supported or recommended. It doesn’t hurt to try, but don’t count on using HTML to accomplish your DPTE goals.

Most of what you would use HTML for is already provided by DPTE, i.e. bold, italic, etc. Specifying new fonts will probably not work since all of DPTE’s fonts are embedded.

You can, however, use HTML to display an image using the img tag, as in
{{img src=”http://www.mysite.com/myimage.jpg}}

A list of supported HTML appears at: Supported HTML in Flash/DPTE

Fixing Subject Variables using Search/Replace function (DPTE 2.8.5+)

The Search/Replace feature (on the Experiment Dashboard on the Experiment Setup screen) works like a normal Find/Replace function. To use it to rename Subject Variables requires a bit of thought, but the process is not overly complex.

If you have been using Subject Variables in your Calculations or Conditions, and you then rename a Calculation, Question, or Questionnaire, the Subject Variable you embedded in the Condition will no longer be valid.

The first step is to use the Diagnostics to identify the “old” name you are looking for. You need only check “Verify referenced subject variables” to get a list of offenders.

If a Calculation name has changed, just include the double brackets around the old Calculation name, which you can copy from the Diagnostics window. So you would search for [[CalculationName]].

In the ‘Replace’ box, put the new Calculation name, by using the Subject Variables dropdown menu.

Be sure you check the box “Include Conditions and Calculations in Search” since those are the areas where many of your Subject Variable references will be contained.

It’s slightly more difficult for Questionnaires and Questions, since you can’t look for the full Subject Variable name if you just changed, for example, a Questionnaire name. In that case, you would search for:


So that the string will be found for any Question used within that Questionnaire. Use the same format for the replacement Subject Variable. For Questions, you would find/replace:


and that will find all the occurrences of that Question in any Questionnaire.

ploading questions

To upload a batch of questions, you first create an XML file of questions.  Your XML file must follow the format in the schema file contained here:

Question Upload Schema file

You then use the Upload button on the Questions screen and direct it to your XML file of questions.

DPTE Downtime Scheduled

There will be downtime on Thursday, March 13  (7:30am central, 8:30 eastern) to apply some server patches and make a change to the nightly restart (it will be moving to 1:55am central time, rather than 2am, to avoid being on a Daylight Savings Time boundary). The downtime should be less than 1/2 hour but could be up to an hour.

Please note that after this update, the DPTE server will be restarted every morning at 1:55AM Central Time (UTC 07:55 when daylight savings time is not in force and UTC 06:55 when it is.) When the server is restarted any subject taking a DPTE study may be disconnected and results for that subject may be unreliable. We suggest avoiding running subjects at this time. Restart generally takes only a couple minutes.