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Safety Whiteboard: Other - The Easy Way Out

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Rob Leech
Product Development Director
Published On
April 22, 2020

Hi everybody Rob Leech, Product Development Director from Airsweb, I'm here today to talk about something I actually despise: the word Other. To anyone who's interested in data or analytics the word other should never be an option in your system so let me just say why our little whiteboard session today is about the easy way out using other.

So if you've got a form that a user fills in drop-down list and you have A, B and C and then the word other. Or you have a checkbox of A,B,C and then other. Or even any type of selection where you've got other as an option for the user you're gonna get hopeless data. It's an easy way out for people. You think you're doing great it's the worst thing you can do put some more thought into A, B and C. Don't use the word other because what you end up getting is fantastic analytics like this which are really important KPIs and you get everything skewed by the fact that other: everybody's picked it. Cuz they do that's what they'll pick. They're not sure: they'll pick other.

Now there is a light at the end of the tunnel if there's no way you can get rid of other. If you've searched every combination of options and you still think you need the user to pick other to carry on entering the form. The only way to do that is to put a solution in place. So the solution for me would to put a gatekeeper function in. Now, with AVA what you can do is, you could say other is an option, but if anybody picks other from a drop-down list a further field appears and says, "Hang on a minute Rob, if you pick other, I'd like to know why." So you make the user classify 'actually what was it in the list that wasn't there that you want to pick that made you pick other?' So maybe it's just I've got A, B or C I really wanted to put F in. It's not there. You let them pick other - a mandatory field appears and says, "Well tell me Rob - what did you want?" And I might pick well I wanted to pick F. What it'll do then is it will email your administrator and say that just select my administrator now Rob Leech has clicked other in this form in record 55 - he really wanted F in there - that was his choice the administrator then might go: "You know what - that's a good idea." Update the lists recategorize it to F and your data is clean. So it's not the end of the month when you get a graph like this on someone says now I've got to reconfigure all of these records and don't know what the user was actually thinking of.

Whereas you do it piecemeal as you go through and you get then maybe only one or two others at the end of a month or a week that you have to classify or reclassify. So other is the devil: I'll be blunt. You should always keep away from other it's not the easy way out it creates garbage analytics but if you must have it put some rules around it hopefully your solution like AVA it's very easy to create some rules to say if you're picking other I'm gonna hold your hand and make you tell me why and then the administrator can update the records. Anyway that's my rant over from other. I've been Rob Leech thank you.


Rob Leech

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