Blaise Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Why choose Blaise?

A: Blaise is a powerful and flexible system. It can be used for many tasks, including computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), computer-assisted self-interviewing (CASI), interactive editing, high-speed data entry, and data manipulation and also has survey management capabilities. With Blaise you can perform various activities in an easy and user-friendly way.

Blaise has an excellent programming language for producing complex instruments and this is supported by programmed functionality. The interviewer interface is page-based (also called forms-based). The page-based design, along with 13 methods of navigation solve the navigational problems common among question-based systems.

Blaise is explicitly multimode; within the source code of an application, you can condition edits and routes on the mode of data collection. For example, it is possible to make an edit soft in an interview but hard in post-collection data editing. Blaise has a CATI call scheduler and a module that can be used for CAPI laptop management, among other things. Other tools such as Manipula for data handling and Maniplus for survey management give you even more flexibility and power.

Q: Who uses Blaise?

A: Blaise is used widely in Europe and North America. It is also used in countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Government statistical agencies, private research firms, and universities have all used Blaise. There are over 20 corporate licensees around the world and many noncorporate licensees. (See the Blaise Licensing and Ordering page for information on the types of Blaise licenses.)

Q: What does Blaise stand for?

A: The program was named after Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and scientist in the 17th century who invented the first mechanical adding machine. The Blaise system was originally programmed in Pascal; hence the name Blaise.

Q: What types of applications is Blaise designed for?

A: Blaise is designed primarily for survey data collection and processing. Blaise is especially useful for surveys that are complicated and long with many routing conditions, calculations, and edits. Blaise is also well-suited for surveys that have hierarchical data structures, where there is a need to navigate between the hierarchy levels and to compare data between them. Blaise handles these and other routing, screen presentation, and database issues.

The Blaise language is well-suited for producing instruments for programs of surveys, where re-use and standardization are particularly important.

Q: Can you use Blaise on the Web?

A: Statistics Netherlands is developing a web interviewing system to provide advanced web features using XML, XSL, and ASP. At the same time it will integrate with the existing advanced Blaise CAPI, CATI, and CADE capabilities.

Q: How can I integrate Blaise with other Windows systems?

A: You can achieve integration with Dynamic Link Libraries (DLLs) or with the new Open Blaise Architecture (OBA). The latter features an Application Programmer Interface (API) and other integration tools.

Q: What do the terms CAPI, CATI, and CASI mean?

A: CAPI stands for computer-assisted personal interviewing. CATI stands for computer-assisted telephone interviewing. CASI stands for computer-assisted self-interviewing. A single Blaise survey instrument can be run in one or more of these modes, providing support for multimode surveys.

Q: What is special about the Blaise interface?

A: Screens in Blaise are generated, not hand drawn. This is a huge productivity saver, especially in situations where questions or blocks of questions are added or deleted frequently. You can implement several styles of screen display, and these can be changed during the interview to handle certain types of questions.

Q: What about coding?

A: Blaise has a state-of-the-art coding module with three methods of coding: hierarchical, alphabetical, and trigram. These allow interviewers or coders to quickly and easily inspect coding frames of thousands of lines of descriptions.

The hierarchical approach allows point-and-shoot coding with the arrow keys, Enter key, or a pointing device. This is useful for coding frames that have a straight-forward structure. For example, coding automobile data might use the hierarchy of make, model, and body style.

But when a coding frame does not have a straight-forward hierarchy, Blaise offers two text searching methods: the traditional, alphabetical search and the more powerful trigram search.

The alphabetic search looks for exact matches starting with the left-most character of a description. The trigram is a kind of fuzzy matching algorithm that can search for near matches within a string, providing a robust search strategy that does not require an exact spelling. The trigram search works well for coding medicines, pesticides, and other hard-to-spell text strings.

Q: Tell me about the Blaise database.

A: The Blaise database is specially designed to meet the demands of interviewing. In an instrument of many questions, data storage is taken up for a block of questions only if the block of questions is encountered in the interview and responses have been recorded. The database is optimized for quick network access for CATI or data editing. Nonresponses such as Don't Know or Refusal are handled as statuses that are associated with the data item and do not occupy data space as responses.

Exporting data to statistical or database packages is easy with the metadata modules, which can recast the information from Blaise into the syntax of other packages. Data can be exported in quasi-relational data tables or in rectangular form.

Q: Is there a Blaise user's group?

A: There is an International Blaise User's Group based in London. It publishes a newsletter and posts those newsletters on its Web site. The user's group, in conjunction with Statistics Netherlands and a host country, organizes a Blaise User's Conference every 18 months.

Q: How can I evaluate Blaise?

A: An evaluation copy of Blaise is available from Westat. This license allows only evaluation and testing. No production data collection is permitted. To request a limited-use, limited-term evaluation copy of Blaise, contact .

Westat also offers training classes, providing another good way to learn about Blaise.

Also see the Blaise Documentation page to download the Developer's Guide and other Blaise documentation.