You may be tempted to set up on-line polls to gather opinion from a group of
people you are interested in influencing or selling to. Setting up these
polls on a web site is not difficult. Even easier, many discussion boards
which allow you to set up your own discussion groups have this feature built
Resist the temptation to put on your own polls, or to believe the results of anyone else's. The results are never valid and are more likely than not highly misleading.
And Vice VersaThe very unreliability of on-line polls can be, and has been, used against results that were more or less valid. Here is one infamous incident which demonstrates how much trouble you can get into.
InfoWorld, a prominent computer technology weekley, had, for several years, put on an on-line poll to let the readers chose their favorite products for the year. As it happened, OS/2 was a winning reader's choice 4 years running. Stewart Alsop, editor in chief, swore each year it could never happen again - then he turned the editor in chief job over to Sandy Reed.
Sandy made the statement "Windows NT is clearly the future", and set out to make it true, come hell or high water. By time she left, this once highly respected magazine was (and still is) little more than an echo of Microsoft's marketing machine.
Anyway, a very high number of readers of InfoWorld's on-line Web site, IWE (for InfoWorld Electric), and participants in their on-line forum were technical professionals, and a great number of them were OS/2 users (they still are, but InfoWorld's forums are defunct and hardly anyone goes to their Web site any more). Naturally, OS/2 won the reader's choice poll a fifth year running.
Sandy Reed wrote in an editorial that the "balot box was stuffed by OS/2 zealots", that the results were invalid, and were withdrawn. Sandy absoutely refused to produce any figures or any evidence of ballot box stuffing. It is presumed, then, that she had no evidence and the figures were probably a fairly legitimate reflection of the site's on-line readers.
Sandy then organized a "scientific" pole that was by invitation only with the demographic carefully selected to assure a Microsoft win. Anyone with real technical skill was eliminated in favor of bosses and desk jockys. Neither the questions nor the rational were ever released for public viewing. Some of the published results were, however, quite amusing, showing a rather low level of product knowledge by the participants. Perfect for Sandy, who despised technical proficiency wherever she found it.
As you might expect, the on-line readers had plenty to say about Sandy's integrity, and exactly what so obviously unqualified a person was doing as editor in chief of a (formerly) technical publication (no, she wasn't accused of sleeping her way to the job - that wouldn't have been credible in view of the viewable evidence).
Incidentally, upon the total collapse and demise of InfoWorld's on-line IWE forums (due to an entirely incompetent "upgrade"), the participants opened their own forums at IWEThey where technical (and other) subjects are still discussed.
©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access
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