Time of interview update

Our user from Bulgaria, Dimitar Nikolaev Nachev, asks why

the Updated on field in Survey Solutions does not show the correct hour of last update of the interview

Dimitar compares the timestamp in the list of the interviews as shown in the Headquarters and in the history of status changes of the interview and observes the hour is different.

The reason for that is that the timestamp shown in the list of the interviews is in the UTC timezone, making all the interviews comparable between themselves (important for cross-country surveys or surveys in countries spanning multiple time zones). Yet the timestamp as shown in the history dialog is shown in the time zone of the user.

Hence, if in the list of the interviews the time is shown as 9:03 (UTC time) then Dimitar will see it as 12:03 in Bulgaria (UTC+3:00 TZ). Furthermore, if I were to look at the same interview from Washington DC I will see it as 05:03 (UTC-4:00TZ).

For users far away from the UTC timezone (read: away from London) the difference may be so large, that will involve even the date change. This is normal. The time difference for the time zone where the event occurred is exported explicitly in the paradata:

You may also encounter in the interface a note like “updated an hour ago” which simplifies these adjustments for small differences.

Finally, please note, that when a timestamp question is included into the questionnaire, it’s value is captured and preserved as it was current to the user who captures the timestamp. So if the interviewer has captured a timestamp at 12:03 her local time, she will see that time in the interface and the supervisor will see the same 12:03 while reviewing the interview, even if located 12 time zones away. Consistently with this scenario, if the interviewer answers the timestamp question, and a minute later a supervisor (who is in +12TZ relative to the interviewer) answers a supervisor timestamp question a minute later, his timestamp will be not 1 minute but 12 hours and 1 minute away from the interviewer’s answer. The timestamp of event when the timestamp question has been answered may be seen in the paradata, and the two are not necessarily the same!

Timezone calculations are a complicated matter and Survey Solutions does a great job in capturing, converting and harmonizing time-based events, something that is not addressed or made explicit in other CAPI systems.

Best, Sergiy Radyakin

1 Like

Dear Sergiy (@sergiy ),

Many thanks for this very detailed response!

To clarify, this difference is observed in Interviewer accounts as well. My preference would be to (at least) have the interviewer & supervisor accounts see their own timezone time in the interview list - or to provide for such an option within the Account Settings.

Since our team is based in the same timezone, I guess I can’t fully appreciate the benefits of this recent change even from the perspective of an HQ account holder (but that’s fine). : ) But from the perspective of an Interviewer account holder, I can’t really think of a situation in which it would be beneficial to see the “common” timezone. If they want to communicate to HQ or to their supervisor that a particular interview needs attention, they would use the interview key anyway.

Having this synchronized by using the same timezone within the exported paradata makes perfect sense though, of course.