A Cautionary Tale

Early in my data collection, I conscientiously made backup copies of interview tapes, transcriptions, online discourse text, screen captures, survey responses, etc. Unfortunately, as I continued to collect data over the year, I became somewhat less meticulous about getting all the discourse out of the Knowledge Forum 4.5.3 database. Mostly, it was time consuming. I had analyses to do, and papers to write. I have a lot of data, and I thought it could wait.

When the Reader works, adding the weekly course discussion notes into the Reader, “showing” contents of notes, then copying and pasting the text into Word took anywhere from two to ten minutes per week of discussion. Sometimes, the html table formatting had to be fixed, but I had no idea just how time consuming and challenging this process was going to become.

When two of the three Knowledge Forum databases containing my thesis data migrated to a new server, was converted to version 4.6, and the server re-built a number of times, funny things began to happen. First, the html and graphics that my participants used didn’t display properly–no big deal. Second, a lot of notes wouldn’t display any content and showed an alert pop-up,”This document contains no data.” Third, attachments couldn’t be downloaded. Fourth, the Reader wouldn’t work or wouldn’t show contents of notes. Finally, the databases kept crashing, and at one point I was getting an alarming number of alerts from all the 4.6 databases I have access to–1527 emails over 6 days!

By this point, things were looking decidedly bleak.
I had backed up enough discourse data to analyze, but I wanted to get all the discussion transcripts out of Knowledge Forum so I wouldn’t be so dependent on the databases. This process of copying individual notes and pasting them into Word was taking hours.

This entry has a happy ending, however, thanks to the expertise of Chris Teplovs:) Thank you Chris!!! He fixed the databases and Reader so that they display notes properly, and I’ve got almost everything out, except for a few quirky attachments in one database.


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