DPTE – the blog!

Dynamic Process Tracing Environment User Discussion

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.

DPTE Downtime Tuesday Dec 10, 7AM Central Standard Time

We nee to place maintenance updates on the server that hosts DPTE. This server update is scheduled for Tuesday morning (7am Central Standard Time, 01:00 UTC) Dec 10.  During this period there will be no access to the DPTE system for either experiment setup or running subjects. We anticipate the system will be down for no more than 1 hour.

If there is a problem with this time let us know as soon as possible.


As you may know, we had a system crash the other day. The crash appears to have been at least partly performance related: that day DPTE processed the largest number of subjects in one day ever.  As the tech staff has examined it, they’ve found some areas to fix to improve performance, so we should be in good shape going forward.

However, patches need to be applied to the server. Scheduled downtime will be between 9AM and 11AM, CDT (14:00 to 16:00 UTC) on Friday, September 20. During this time you will be unable to access DPTE or to run any subjects. Please plan accordingly.

Thanks for your patience and always feel free to let us know if you have any questions or problems.

DPTE Version 2.9.95 is Live

We meant to put this announcement up last week. A new version of DPTE was loaded, version 2.9.5. Among the updates in this version are:

1. Bulk Question uploading via XML file (Details on how to do this are in the FAQ on the DPTE landing page at http://www.processtracing.org. Note that this functionality is intended to allow you to author questionnaires outside of DPTE and load them into the system. It requires that you follow a very specific format as detailed in the FAQ.

2. The initial states of every Flow Item in terms of its Button Clicks and Comment Count is now being written when in a Social Experiment so this data can be used later for analysis.

3. The documentation for 3.0 is nearly complete and will be posted when it is.

We have a few more features to add to the system (including Data Cleanup on the Experiment Dashboard for example) but we are nearing a 3.0 version.

Let us know if you find these features useful.

System Restarted

All, DPTE is restarted and now seems to be operating properly. If you find any problems, please let us know.

System Crash

To all DPTE Users,

We appear to have suffered a system crash this evening around 6:45 pm US Central time.  At this time we are not sure what has caused it but the DPTE server is not responding.

The technical support team for DPTE has  been notified. As soon as we have a resolution of the problem, we will post here. But the system may be down for a while since we are now outside of regular working hours.

We apologize for the inconvenience and will do what we can to get the system back up and running as soon as possible.