Thursday, July 31, 2008

Open Question: Poll Crashing

You've probably all seen PZ's new binging on poll crashing, where he directs readers to certain polls, often overwhelming the votes made by presumably regular readers. It's fun.

But I've got some nagging feeling about it. Those sorts of polls are never scientific, so it doesn't really matter. It's also getting word out that there are people who care about issues to click on a contrary opinion... assuming there aren't too many people dropping multiple votes. About the worst I can imagine happening is websites upping the polling mechanism to combat vote tampering or disposing of unscientific polls altogether (which might be good).

But I've still got that nag in my head. Your thoughts?

7 comments:

King of Ferrets said...

I'm not entirely sure I understand what your trying to get at. Personally, I find it fun; if you haven't noticed, I've been trying to get him to crash mine.

Bronze Dog said...

I was the second to vote yes.

And I'm not sure why, but I've got a tiny doubt about the process. I suspect it might be the last vestige of false "politeness" that's shrinking away, but I thought I'd give some people a place to say something if there's an aspect I forgot to think about.

Tom Foss said...

I only vote once. I assume everyone else who reads Pharyngula does the same. I can't find anything unethical in that.

And if some terrible, terrible people are exploiting poorly-designed polls that allow you to vote multiple times, well, that's their fault. Maybe this will teach them not to skimp on the script.

Akusai said...

I figure since the polls are unscientific in the first place, and the people offering the polls PZ crashes are probably insulated from any contrary ideas, it might just be a minor lesson to someone. Not that it'll change their mind, but that they'll realize "Oh. There are other people in the world besides me and my church."

Plus I have a sadistic, elistist bastard streak, and poll-crashing apologist websites appeals to that side of me.

Bourgeois_Rage said...

Whoever put the poll up thought that it was worthwhile, so even if it isn't scientific they must put some stock in the results.

In the end maybe they'll learn that online polls don't mean jack due to their ability to be crashed. And I think that's a positive thing.

Dunc said...

My take? Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke - online polls are all jokes anyway.

Lifewish said...

To be honest, I lost my qualms about this sort of thing the first time I went to a public "does God exist" debate. It turned out half the audience had been bussed in from local churches.

The reason they do this is because it's effective. When people feel that the crowd they're in is all moving one way, they tend to move that way. So I see this as a useful tool for targeted promotion of less scary viewpoints.

And come on, when the poll question is "should atheists be banned from holding government office", it's quite hard to feel you have the moral low ground.