Protobi blog

We’re excited to release print layout charts. These are designed to provide precise control over layout and a wide variety of options, within a coherently styled family of charts.

Question Q4
What makes an action movie or series compelling to watch?
Extremely important
Very importantSomewhat importantNot that importantNot important at all
Engaging story 18%26%30%15%10%
Quality acting 11%23%40%16%11%
Surprising / suspenseful plot  10%16%35%24%15%
Buzz among friends, social media 10%20%39%20%12%
Location / setting / scenery 9%16%29%29%16%
Believable villain 9%16%29%23%23%
Star performances 9%13%26%29%24%
Special effects 7%14%28%32%19%
Realism / based on actual events 6%9%21%32%32%

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You can use Protobi not only to find the story but to tell it. The new headline, slide layout, and notes features may help.

Each element can now show a headline in bold text. This can be a place to put the main takeaway from the chart as in this example:

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Protobi is proud to support the Sermo COVID-19 Barometer, a weekly in-depth survey of practicing physicians around the world about their experiences, perceptions, and treatment practices related to COVID-19.

In total, Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer observational study has polled over 20,000 physicians in 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Russia, China, Japan and Australia. All data published to date and study methodology can be found here at

One of the many interesting metrics from this survey is the percent of physicians who believe their region is at or has passed the peak of the outbreak.

The series of charts below shows how US physicians have changed dramatically over the past six weeks. The most recent wave is shown first, scroll down to see how this has changed over time. Notice that US physicians’ current perceptions are far more optimistic than just four weeks ago.

April 28, 2020 (Wave 6)

Percent of physicians who believe their region is at or has passed the peak of the outbreak, wave 6

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A data file shows a student’s application was filed on “14-Apr-2020”. So, was that application filed on or before April 14?

That seems like it should be an easy question to answer .. obviously yes, right? But if you’re in the US, your browser might say “No” .

Interpreting and comparing date values is surprisingly nuanced. There are many common date string formats, these formats vary by country, browsers differ in how they parse date strings, and they even consider the user’s time zone, so results may vary depending on when and where the date string was parsed.

This article details some practical complexities and presents a simple function to convert date strings you might receive in a data file to a clean date string you can consistently use for comparisons.

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Clean/revise survey data

Sometimes you need to change the data from your survey, for all sorts of good reasons. This article shows a few different ways to do that…


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Protobi design work sessions get you working with your data right away.


As soon as you have partial data, book time with our support team and we can step through the survey with you, question by question, by screenshare.

Together, we’ll tailor the view to support your analysis, and save a lot of time. In the process, you’ll also become expert by learning through doing, as the work sessions also serve as training sessions in disguise..

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Valentines Day candies can send a lot of confusing messages. You can now evaluate them in Protobi using sentiment analysis …

Above is a stock photo of classic candy hearts, annotated with automated sentiment analysis scores in Protobi. Protobi lets you score text verbatims using leading AI libraries from Indico and ParallelDots.

In real-life we imagine you’d use this to evaluate open-end survey responses. But the candy hearts provide a good example to show the strengths and limitations.

How it works

These libraries score text on a scale from 0 to 100%, where 100% is very positive, 0% is very negative, and 50% is neutral. Here’s one example scoring a random list of adjectives:

At heart, computerized sentiment analysis is a bit simplistic from a human perspective. It scores the words within the text and returns an aggregate summary score. The computer doesn’t really get in the mind of the author to divine the actual sentiment.


Generally sentiment analysis is reasonably good at identifying as positive words most people would consider positive:

“True love” (98%)
“Best day” (97%)
“Laugh”: (90%)

And conversely identifying as negative words most people would consider negative

“Fart monster” (2%)

Automated sentiment analysis can be effective at quickly sorting through lots of verbal expressions and extracting general trends.


The scores in the image above are literally taken from the algorithm. We assume it’s giving the following ratings because the computer simply doesn’t understand the experience:

“XOXO” (67%)
“First kiss” (47%)

For instance it rates the following as having a high sentiment even though might be totally not what this is conveying:

“You’re really nice…” (98%)

And it rates the following as having a low sentiment even though might intend to communicate quite the opposite:

“You’re not half bad” (32%)

And it may completely miss subtle British-vs-American interpretations, at least according to this Guardian reporter on English-to-English: “quite” explained who explains that in British English, this is not a high compliment:

“Quite good” (98%)

Available for beta testing

Sentiment analysis is currently available in all projects. Contact

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Part of the fun of delivering Protobi to clients is showing it in your colors and brand — or better yet, in theirs.

Your firm and your client firm each have a brand guide that specify colors and logos. There’s probably a page that looks a lot like this:

You can set custom logos, splash images and colors for each project. See the Protobi tutorials “Colors” and “Logo and splash images”

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In even the best designed surveys, you may need to do additional data refactoring and cleaning :

  • remove respondents
  • merge in translations
  • combine waves
  • stack patient cases, choice cards, etc.
  • define a new segmentation

You can do serious data processing in Protobi itself. Your code stays all in one project, with change history, and applies whenever you update your data file.

Prefer to work locally in R, Python or SPSS or other language? Protobi REST API also makes it easy to get work with your favorite platform.

See the Protobi Tutorial “Process data in Protobi”

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Protobi provides a number of ways to summarize location data in geographic maps.

Geographic maps

The most direct method is a chloropleth map, which shows geographic regions in a map projection and colors the regions according to a metric:

The above map shows US states, but it’s also possible to show other divisions such as country, county or ZIP.

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Flow diagrams can be a good way to visualize relationships between variables, like progression of treatment regimens by line of therapy.

One type of flow diagram is the Sankey diagram where the width of the arrows is proportional to quantity. Here’s how to create one in Protobi…

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Ever review your data and wonder “What?! How did I get a mean of 2.13 on a 2-point scale?”

Surveys sometimes code special values like “Not asked” or “Don’t know” as integers like 9, -9 or 99. These can definitely throw off your analysis.

Here’s how to fix them in Protobi…

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Sometimes your data has outliers. Trimming and Winsorizing are two ways to mitigate the effect of extreme values on your analysis. Two more alternatives are to recode or simply retain them.

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Coding verbatims into concepts is a common task in text analytics. But how many concepts should you expect to find given your sample size? How big should your sample be to identify 20 concepts?

That may sound abstract, but when budgeting research that’s the bet we make with actual dollars. It’d be good to know the odds.

05010015020005101520Respondent #Cumulative # Unique Codes

This article suggests a new way to predict how many distinct codes you may expect to see in N survey responses. Such a curve might be used to inform sample size selection before fielding research, or during analysis to benchmark the results.

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The Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter (PSM) is a non-parametric chart used to summarize stated consumer price preferences. It allows product managers to see the intersection between prices customers perceive as good value versus prices customers perceive as expensive.

Here's how to create it in Protobi using cumulative line charts...

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Your survey data might have one or more columns with date values. There are lots of ways you can parse and analyze dates in Protobi.

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How do we describe the distribution of time intervals when some aren’t yet complete?

The Kaplan–Meier Survival Estimator is a non-parametric curve that describes the empirical survival function given observed interval to-date.

Importantly it is designed to handle “censored” data where the intervals are observed before they are known to be complete.

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Surveys often ask for time intervals, with start and end dates:

  • When did you buy the product? When did you finish it?
  • When did the patient start and end each line of therapy?
  • When did respondents start and end different programs?

One thing we can do is to look at the data. Another is to look at how survival data is summarized in clinical research…

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Surveys can contain “loops” where a subset of the survey is repeated several times per respondent. This is typical in new product assessments, employee satisfaction surveys, patient case research, and observational trials.

You can choose whether to see survey loops “flattened” or “stacked”. Which is best depends on your analysis goals.

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We're excited to support SERMO Dashboard Analytics! Protobi Viewer is now available with every SERMO RealTime and full length survey globally.

See the intro video:

Your survey design and data are automatically configured and ready to explore. To learn more log into your SERMO Client Portal or visit SERMO Dashboard Analytics with Protobi

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Your survey asked quantities as absolute counts. But now you need to report them as percentages. Here’s how to calculate ratios and correctly preserve percentages, frequencies and means:

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Yay! You’ve fielded a global survey in multiple local languages.
Yikes! Now you need to analyze all those local-language verbatims…

Protobi works with Google Translate so you can start reading and even recoding those text verbatims in multiple languages to analyze right away.

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Straightliners. You know they must be somewhere in your sample … respondents who give the same answer to every question in a section.

If you could see the answers for one respondent for one section, it’d be easy to spot. But how do you quickly identify all straightlines? It’s pretty easy to find them in Protobi using this one trick…

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As you work, Protobi saves all your changes locally, and your latest version survives closing the browser. You can work on your own copy and push changes up to the server when you’re ready for colleagues to see. Work from an airplane or ferry, then sync your changes when back online.

Select “Local History” from the toolbar context menu (or press Shift+Z). You’ll see a timeline of your most recent changes. Select a timestamp to restore your project as it existed at that moment:

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Interactive analysis is great for exploring the data, testing hypotheses. Collaborating online is great for finding the story with colleagues and clients. But in today’s business world, analysis still has to go into PowerPoint to tell that story to the broader organization.

Protobi lets you create visualizations that look more like your presentation than your survey. And export into your own PowerPoint template as editable chart objects.

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Dynamically resize any chart in Protobi with the mouse. For any selected element, a resize handle appears when you hover.

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Perceptual maps can be a useful way to concisely visualize associations among multiple variables. Protobi can create a perceptual map based on principal components analysis for many types of crosstabs.

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You can show pretty much any distribution as a WordCloud. For instance, you can show the states where survey respondents are located:

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Create Wordle-style word clouds in Protobi for text verbatims

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You’ve asked each respondent to answer multiple questions. Now you want to know if respondents’ answers to this question are significantly different than their answers to other questions.

Protobi’s new PairedTable allows you to compare different questions across the same respondents (rather than compare the individual questions for different subsets of respondents). This uses pairwise comparisons for stronger statistical tests.

This uses pairwise comparisons for stronger statistical tests. It uses pairwise t-tests to compare means and McNemar’s test (with small sample corrections) to compare percentages.

For more information, see the Paired table tutorial

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A TopBoxTornado plot is a concise way to present top- and bottom-box scores for multiple ratings on Likert-type scales.

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Protobi is not just a pretty face for the data, it also provides a full-featured language for data cleaning and reshaping prior to analysis.

No matter how carefully you design a survey there are almost always changes you need to make to the data once it comes back:

  • combine multiple waves of an ATU
  • merge in translations for text open-ends in other languages
  • stack patient cases
  • calculate time intervals
  • define segmentations
  • remove outliers
  • zero-fill skipped values

You can now do all of the above (and more) within Protobi.

Previously you might have used SPSS, R, or external vendors to do this externally. You can still do that, and upload the results to Protobi as you wish.

But now you can also keep all your processing code in one place, integrated with your analysis, and documented.

Strapped for time? We’re happy to set up your data cleaning and reshaping for you, and show your analysts how to edit or author it.

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Back-to-school season entails all the necessary checkups and health exams.
Seeing where the kids fell on the height weight standards chart, I noticed that the charts all seem to conveniently stop at age 20. What would they look like if extended for adults?

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We love bar charts and their simple utility in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. But other chart types also have their role in finding and telling the stories in survey data, and our client work often entails creative custom visualizations…

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Does your survey include a collection of related questions on a common scale? E.g.

  • Ratings: “How strongly do you agree with the following…?”
  • Frequencies: “How often do you do the following activities…?”
  • Rankings: “Please rank these items from most desirable to least…”

Protobi includes useful tools—top-box summaries, stacked bars, crosstabs and clustering—that make it easy to analyze ratings, rankings, and other questions on common scales. But the tips here you can do in Excel, R or even PowerPoint…

(hover to expand)

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Click here for up-to-the-minute New York Times top stories …in PowerPoint!

As powerful and ubiquitous as the mobile/web has become, PowerPoint is still the platform for business analysis today. Interactivity and rapid collaboration are awesome, but business findings are presented in slides, to be presented, distilled and synthesized, as insights crystallize into decisions.

So we’re pushing the boundaries of PowerPoint on the web, making it easy to export data as slides with native charts and tables. Using your company’s template. And even to instantly update the charts and tables (leaving your text untouched) as new respondents come in.

Which got us to wondering, if all other business results must be presented in PowerPoint why don’t executives ask to see the New York Times in a slide deck? Maybe just no one ever thought it was possible!

So for fun we combined the NYTimes Top News API to test our shiny new library to generate PowerPoint with native charts, images, tables, real time data and user-defined templates.

More to the point, Protobi can export your entire survey… be it in Survey Monkey, TypeForm, Qualtrics and Confirmit Surveys seamlessly to native PowerPoint charts and tables.

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Wait! Before you send the survey for programming, here are a few quick ways to simplify the survey for the respondent, the client, and the analyst.

A few of these pick on an actual customer satisfaction survey Amtrak sent me. This is unfair. The trip was great, and it’s clear that Amtrak listens to its riders to keep the experience nice. But a lot of surveys are similar so it’s a good example.

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A key task in any survey is identifying outliers that can mar an otherwise great analysis. Outliers can arise for many reasons – honest mistakes, careless entries, or outright bogus answers. Protobi makes outliers stand out so identifying them is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

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How many ideas might you expect to find in customers' responses to open-ended survey question? Here's an interesting empirical analysis of text verbatim coding from a recent survey, looking at actual data compared to expected values under Zipf's Law and Heap's Law.

The survey question was "Why did you choose the product you selected?". Respondents provided free-text responses. 200 responses were coded in Protobi using the new verbatim coding widget by a professional analyst.

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Verbatims from open ended survey questions are a rich source of insight for market researchers, and a great way for your survey to tell you something you didn’t already know. But surveys often don’t include them, as analyzing text responses has historically been a hassle.

What if coding text verbatims were fun and easy? Would we ask them more often? Might we learn more of what the market is often very willing to tell us?

If you have a current survey with text verbatim responses, let us know. We’re running a study you might be interested in…

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