Jeffrey I. Goldstein, President, AcuPOLL Precision Research Inc. Ohio, USA
After searching numerous platforms and beta testing various programs, only to discover that they could not handle our massive data set, Ruby’s unique approach to data architecture provided the solution we were looking for, combined with a simple user-interface. Ruby Laser’s online features extended these capabilities to allow for data access from any location, with the same minimal load-time. The Red Centre team acted as true partners, through every step of our engagement, and worked tirelessly, to make sure the final product met and exceeded our expectations.
Kourosh Arienejad, LRW Leiberman Research Worldwide Cincinnati, USA
“We selected Ruby and Ruby Laser after evaluating all the other products on the market. The Ruby product has all the tools that allow us to deliver high quality reports, on time and on budget, while providing our clients the opportunity to further ‘slice and dice’ their own data using Ruby Laser.”
David Bryant, Thoroughbred Research Group, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
BDA Marketing Planning has been using the Ruby platform to administer our extensive consumer surveys for the past 7 years, and have found it to be a robust, productive and a well featured tool for data analysis. Continuous product development and hands-on client support further adds to the benefits that we have enjoyed from Red Centre Software.
Craig Gillon, BDA Marketing Planning Melbourne, Australia
“Ruby is a sophisticated analysis tool, making handling large tracking projects easy. Good scripting capabilities are an added bonus”
Mike Townsend, AMR Sydney, Australia
“The support provided by Red Centre has been outstanding. The level of practical research knowledge and technical expertise the support team provides is unique in our experience.” “Although initially apprehensive about the time difference, we now feel we wouldn’t want it any other way. We can email issues to the support team at 6pm and arrive back at work in the morning to find advice, technical solutions, new documentation and even fully functional scripts waiting in our inbox.”
Tim Daplyn, Red Brick Research, London, United Kingdom
“I have been doing data analysis for over 25 years, using many different products. Ruby, from Red Centre Software is by far the best for many reasons. Some of the reasons are, it is blindingly fast, it has functions and utilities that make importing any sort of data a breeze. It has been developed from a data analyst’s perspective, not a programmer guessing what is needed in a data analysis package. It makes a real difference.
“When used with VB.net Express it really rocks, it has intellisense, step through debugging, colour coded auto-formatting. I can even interface it to our SQL server on the web.”
“The productivity gains we have enjoyed, together with faster turnaround times our clients enjoy, Ruby is one of our main competitive edges.”
Michael Potter, Operations Director, Anovation Hong Kong
“We were able to move to Ruby a couple of years ago, and it is now the main program we use, because it can do everything we need to do. I find it is an extremely powerful and flexible tool. Other tools can be quite restrictive, but Ruby is very powerful and completely flexible,”
“The program goes beyond what more traditional DP cross-tab tools … compared with other programs I have used, Ruby allows me to filter and drill down into the data much more than I could with them.”
“It’s especially good at exporting live charts and tables into documents. Once they are in PowerPoint or Word, trend charts can be opened up and adjusted as necessary. When it is a live chart, it means you can update the data. Instead of having to go back to Ruby, open it up and try to find the chart and then read the data, you can just double-click it inside PowerPoint and you see all the figures change. And there is even an undo ….. for any unintentional errors.”
Amy Lee, Data Processing Manager, Inside Story Australia
“…..if you do a lot of tracking surveys and want to easily be able to cut your data every which way in a fairly effortless manner, once you get the survey set up right, then this is the software package for you.”
Mark Kupferman, Market Research blogger Orlando, Florida, USA
A review of Ruby by Tim Macer, meaning ltd, London, UK
We always try to present something new in these software reviews, but this time, we think we are onto something that could break the mould: a new tabulation software package from an Australian producer, Red Centre Software, that leaves most of the existing choices looking decidedly dated. It’s refreshing, because for a while, most efforts in market research software seem to have gone into improving data collection and making it work across an ever-broadening spectrum of research channels. Innovation at the back-end seems to have focused on presentation, and has often left research companies and data processing operations with a mish-mash of technology and a few lash-ups along the way to transform survey data into the range of deliverables that research clients expect today.
Ruby could easily be mistaken for yet another end-user tabulation tool like Confirmit’s Pulsar Web or SPSS’s Desktop Reporter, with its GUI interface and drag-and-drop menus. The reality is that it is a fully-fledged tabulation and reporting system aimed squarely at the data processing professional. If you are looking for a Quantum replacement, this program deserves a test-drive.
As far as I could see, there were no limits on the data you could use. It will import data from most MR data formats, including Quantum, Triple S and SPSS. Internally, it works with flat ASCII files, but it is blisteringly fast, even when handling massive files. It will handle hierarchical data of any complexity, and offers the tools to analyse multi-level data throughout, which is something modern analysis tools often ignore.
It is equally at home dealing with textual data. The producers provided me with a series of charts and tables they had produced from analyzing Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights by treating the text as a data file. The same could be done for blogs, RSS feeds and the mass of other Web 2.0 content that many researchers feel is still beyond their grasp.
More conventionally, Ruby contains a broad range of tools specifically for handing trackers, so that you are not left having to automate the reconciliation of differences between waves due to variations in the question set and answer lists.
Ruby is a very intelligent tool to use when it comes to processing the data. The data in the tables reported or charted in MR have often gone through a long chain of transformations, and in the old tools, there could be yards of ‘spaghetti code’ supporting these transformations. Trying to work out why a particular row on a table is showing zeroes when it shouldn’t do can take an age in the old tools, as you trace back through this tangle of code, but Ruby will help you track back through the chain of definitions in seconds, and even let you see the values as you go. It is the kind of diagnostic tool that DP professionals deserve but rarely get.
In Ruby, you will probably make most of these data combinations and transformations visually, though it does also allow you to write your own syntax, or export the syntax, fiddle with it, and import it again (the combination that DP experts often find gives them the best of both worlds). However, Ruby keeps track of the provenance of every variable, and at any point, you can click on a variable and see exactly where the data came from, and even see the values at each stage.
The range of options for tabulation and data processing is immense, with a broad range of expressions that can be used to manipulate your data or columns and rows in tables. There is complete flexibility over percentaging and indexing values off other values, or basing one table on another, so it is great for producing all of those really difficult tables where every line seems to have a different definition
With charting, Ruby gives you the choice of using its own proprietary charting engine, or pushing the data out to PowerPoint or Excel charts. The native Ruby charts are a treat to work with, as the developers seem to have gone out of their way to redress the inadequacies of Excel and PowerPoint charts. For time-series charts, concepts such as smoothing and rolling periods are built-in. You can add trend lines and arbitrary annotations very easily. Charts can be astonishingly complex and can contain thousands of data points or periods, if you have the data. Yet it will always present the data clearly and without labels or points clashing, as so often happens in Excel.
Excel and PowerPoint charts are also dynamic, and the Ruby data source will be embedded in the chart, so that the charts can be refreshed and updated, if the underlying data changes.
Amy Lee is DP Manager at Inside Story, a market research and business insights consultancy based in Sydney, Australia, where she has been using Ruby for two years, alongside five other researchers and analysts. Ruby is used to analyse custom quantitative projects and a number of large-scale trackers.
Asked if the program really did allow a DP analyst to do everything they needed to, Amy responds: “We were able to move to Ruby a couple of years ago, and it is now the main program we use, because it can do everything we need to do. I find it is an extremely powerful and flexible tool. Whenever I need to do anything, I always feel I can do it with Ruby. Other tools can be quite restrictive, but Ruby is very powerful and completely flexible.”
Amy considered the program went beyond what more traditional DP cross-tab tools allowed her. She observes: “Compared with other programs I have used, Ruby allows me to filter and drill down into the data much more than I could with them. It’s especially good at exporting live charts and tables into documents.
“Once they are in PowerPoint or Word, trend charts can be opened up and adjusted as necessary. When it is a live chart, it means you can update the data, and instead of having to go back to Ruby, open it up and try, find the chart and then read the data, you can just double click it inside PowerPoint, and you can see all the figures change. And there is even an undo feature, which is good for any unintentional errors.”
Amy freely admits that this is not a program you can feel your way into using, without having some training, and allowing some time to get to understand it. “It is really designed for a technical DP person,” she explains. “If you have someone with several years’ experience of another program they will have no problem picking this up as everything will be very familiar to them. But we also had a client who wanted to use it, someone with a research rather than a DP background, and they found it a bit overwhelming, because it can do so much, and it is not that simple. It looks complex, but once you get the hang of it, you can do what you need very quickly.”
Among the other distinguishing features Amy points to are the speed of the software, which is very fast to process large amounts of data and produce large numbers of tables and charts; its in-built handling of time-series, allowing you to combine or suppress periods very easily, and the range of charts offered, in particular the perceptual maps.
Some of the research companies I speak with are becoming uneasy that the legacy data processing tools they depend on have fallen so far behind, and are in some cases, dead products. They have endured because the GUI-based ‘replacements’ at the back of the more modern data collection tools just don’t cover the breadth of functionality that is needed. You get breadth and depth with Ruby – even if the sheer range of functionality it offers is bewildering to the newcomer.
Tim Macer meaning ltd CEO, London, UK