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Storing, sharing, editing data

I’m starting a new research project on which I collaborate with two other people, one in Ann Arbor, MI and one in Phoenix, AZ. We use Macs and PCs. We have no budget for software. We’re likely to have a bunch of qualitative data to keep track of and share.

My first task is to gather some information on potential participants for our study. I’ve spent enough time working with databases to prefer them to files and folder structures for these purposes. Databases have advantages in that they can store relational information, can sort data, are easy to search, can be viewed and edited by more than one person at a time, the list goes on. Bottom line, I want a database. I starting by building a Drupal site to keep track of the data about those potential participants – who they are, where they are, how to contact them, how they’re related to each other, what my thoughts are about them. I ended up abandoning Drupal to build my own MySQL/PHP website that stores and displays the data; I also built insert and edit pages to ease those data functions.

This is my third try-and-abandon with Drupal. I can understand how Drupal might make maintenance easier for non-technical users, but as a quasi-technical user, Drupal gets in my way at every turn. My MySQL database has 9 tables with 2 – 10 fields. I would have to add all <90 of those fields by hand in Drupal. Then, I'd have to create views to see them and views to edit and views to add/insert. How is that better than just building a PHP site myself? If most of the work is during setup, how does Drupal save any time or frustration at all? It seems like Drupal has taken the command line, coding aspects of building my own database-driven site and replaced them with a convoluted web-based GUI. I'm not sure I see the point or the cost savings there. The real problem here is not that I still haven't found Drupal useful or advantageous. The problem is that I still don't have a great, easy, usable way to enter, edit, store, and share data with my colleagues. Even after I build this mySQL/PHP site by hand, I'll still have to figure out a way to get the data back out so we can analyze it. That opens a whole host of problems whose current solutions such as NVivo and Atlas.ti are expensive ($240 and $119 for students, respectively). Opportunities abound for helping qualitative researchers capture, store, share, and analyze their data collaboratively. What price point would be appropriate here? If you're a researcher, how much would you be willing to pay for a personalized, secure, web-based data sharing solution? Would anyone else even want such a thing?


So, what do you think ?

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