Members Express Strong Interest in Web Balloting
by Phil Lively
A survey recently completed studying ASTM members use of information
technology shows an adequate basis for, and substantial interest
in, Web balloting. Phil Lively, ASTM Vice President of Information
Technology Development and Application, talks about the results
of this survey. See where you fit in to the average ASTM member profile!
During the first quarter of 2001 ASTM conducted a study of technical
committee members to ask about their interest in Web balloting.
We also asked committee members how they connect to the Web, what
desktop software they use, and how they have been using the Internet
for standards development.
Background and Goals
Several developments have occurred in the past few years that
suggest Web balloting should be an option for technical committee
Almost all committee members can access the Web either at work
or at home.
Virtually all members have e-mail, which permits quick, cost-effective
notification about new Web postings such as ballots.
Connection speeds have increased, which improves the document
ASTMs Web capabilities have expanded. The Society currently
maintains pages for each ASTM technical committee as well as members
only pages that provide committee members the ability to download
minutes from meetings, view committee rosters, and obtain e-mail
addresses. In addition, committee members can use ASTMs Search
for Standards, renew their membership online, register for meetings,
check schedules, and select their free volume of the Annual Book
of ASTM Standards.
Most committee members author new and revised standards using
word processing software. The electronic file they create can
be easily transformed into a Web ballot item.
Many ASTM committees have expressed a need to speed up the pace
of their standards development activities.
In light of these developments we developed several goals for
Determine the actual level of interest committee members have
in Web balloting.
Learn about the technology they use to access the Web and what
software they have on their desktop to handle electronic files.
Learn how often committee members currently use the ASTM Web
site and what features they value.
About 15,000 committee members were sent an e-mail asking them
to participate in the member technology survey by hyperlinking
to a short set of questions. A total of 4,778 committee members
responded to the surveyan excellent response rate of 32 percent.
Using the Web to do this survey had some distinct advantages over
more traditional print or telephone surveys. Results came fast:
most responses were received within 48 hours. They were fed directly
into a database, eliminating keying delays and errors. And data
matching allowed us to easily link members to their committees
and sort responses by committee.
On the key question of Web balloting, 54 percent of committee
members expressed strong interest in Web balloting, as shown in
the chart below. Another 34 percent indicated that they were somewhat
interested. Our interpretation of this group of members is that
they see some obstacles to Web balloting, but would like ASTM
to explore its possibilities.
Eight percent of member respondents said they were not interested
in Web balloting at all. (See Table 1.)
Based on their member profiles, interest in Web balloting is strongest
among committee members who work in manufacturing or government.
Other member groups that express strong interest in Web balloting
are frequent users of the ASTM Web site and members who have belonged
to ASTM for five years or less.
Members least interested in Web balloting tend to work from home
and have dial-up connections to the Web. Our interpretation of
this data is that faster connection speeds over time and increased
Web usage may make online balloting more attractive to this group.
Another result documented by the survey is that most members access
the ASTM Web site from work where they are likely to have faster
connection speeds. (See Table 2.)
Most members use a permanent connection to the Internet, but one-third
still use dial-up access. Members with dial-up connections tend
to show less interest in Web balloting and see less value in the
current ASTM Web site features, which suggests that slower connection
speeds are still a barrier to Web usage. (See Table 3.)
It may come as no surprise that Microsoft products dominate the
desktops of committee members. This is true globally as well,
since the data showed no variation when analyzed by country. (See
Table 4 and Table 5.)
About 7,000 visitors come to the ASTM Web site each day, and committee
member visits comprise about 500 of this total on average. Individual
members tend to visit the ASTM Web site monthly or less frequently.
(See Table 6.)
When committee members go to the Web site they tend to either
visit a committee page or use the Search for Standards. (See Table 7.)
This survey proved to be rich and fruitful and we are most appreciative
of the excellent response rate from our technical committee members.
We believe ASTM members are pointing us to three main conclusions:
1. Committee members overall do want Web balloting, but as an
option, not a requirement. Many members will opt for Web balloting,
but others will not, at least initially, until it proves to be
more useful than traditional mail ballots.
2. Committee member transition to the Web is incomplete. More
and better features on the ASTM Web site, faster connection speeds,
and appropriate member help will be important factors in the transition.
3. Given the word processing software on committee members desktops,
ASTM should deliver Word files to most members for their standards
Therefore, I am happy to report substantial progress in these
areas. This fall ASTM will offer a web balloting option to any
ASTM main committee or subcommittee, a member help desk to assist
with technology issues, and Word files for revision work. //
Copyright 2001, ASTM