Why I don’t do polls on Coastsider
Reader polls have been on my "to do" list since before I launched Coastsider three years ago, but I’ve held off because I anticipated some serious problems. The Review’s poll this past week on what to do with the Pilarcitos Creek park site points out exactly how easy it is to go wrong.
I’ve received plenty of email from various sources urging people to vote, and asking me to point to the poll. But it is so easy to vote more than once on the Review’s site that the whole thing is worse than meaningless. It gives a very concrete but utterly false sense of what people are thinking. No disclaimer in the world will keep people from being influenced by a graph of the results.
It’s too easy to vote more than once on the Review’s poll. They’re not even setting cookies properly, let alone using IP addresses to prevent cheating. For you non-geeks out there, they’re not only leaving the front door unlocked, they’ve left it wide open. I still plan to do polls in the future, but when I do, I’ll have some safeguards in place to cut down on cheating, and I’ll be careful about what questions I ask.
Watching the vote for "sell the site" drop from about 45% to 33% on Saturday, and then rally back to the mid-40s, it’s clear that we’re not seeing a random sampling of anything. Everybody’s cheating on the poll. Considering the stakes, they’d be crazy not to.