I got to thinking about what I love about evaluation and it occurred to me that at least one aspect of it is particularly appealing due to its remarkable resemblance to shopping. Yup, that’s what it is. What I love about evaluation is collecting data!

The same rush of excitement I would get during a day at the mall I now get checking SurveyMonkey for incoming responses. It’s that “thrill of the hunt”, the acquisition, the addition to the collection that ignites the passion. As I become less materialistic and more fiscally responsible (as my golden years approach), I find myself engaging more in the latter than the former.

It happens even prior to data collection. Have you been to the Mall of America? Like planning out my day – thinking about what am I shopping for, how much I really need vs. how much I want, and which stores I will visit – I love designing the surveys. Who do I need to reach? How many of them? What do I really need to know from them vs. what I want to know? How will I get the biggest “bang for my buck?”

Aren’t online survey platforms the best? You can sign in multiple times in a day and watch in real time as people submit their responses. I calculate and recalcuate my response rate as the days go by, hoping for that next mini-spike in responses right after the reminder email goes out…wondering if I should extend the deadline just a few more days in hopes of getting even more data.

And it’s not just survey data. I love interview transcripts, field notes – or pretty much anything you can collect in a spreadsheet. It’s all data and it’s all good until…it needs analysis. You know, when the real work begins – that moment when you realize that all the cool stuff in the bags and boxes you just hauled in from the car and dumped in the front hallway has to be put away. Now. In different places.

And I don’t know where it’s all supposed to go…

(Many thanks to the great and powerful Chris Lysy who drew this cartoon and penned its clever caption when I shared this analogy with him.)