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June 2nd, 2004

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07:02 pm - vos opinions ici
A long time ago, back when "bite me" was an acceptable and frequently hilarious punchline, Noah Smith and I wrote a sketch involving a radio show where folks called in to voice their opinions. Every time a caller tried to call in with an opinion, the hosts would shoot them down semantically or something. One fellow called in and hollered "IN MY OPINION, DES MOINES IS THE CAPITAL OF IOWA." This led to a discussion of opinion versus fact, and an explanation that opinions needed a belief behind them ("BUT I BELIEVE DES MOINES IS THE CAPITAL OF IOWA!") and other things. I don't think the sketch had a proper ending, and probably had been done better by someone else, and that's really not the point of it all.

The point is that I use the ad-supported version of Opera for my browsing which means there's a little ad banner up on the top-left corner of the application window. This doesn't bother me at all, except for the odd occasion when I go to click on one of the browser tabs and hit the banner by mistake and take all of three whole seconds to kill the newly spawned window. No biggie. Sometimes the content of the ad banners is questionable, especially when compared with the content I'm viewing at the time, but so far nothing's been truly annoying or neon flashing or whatever. Yesterday and today, though, I've noticed two new banners that call themselves "Surveys." Of course they're not real surveys, they're just marketing banners, and it doesn't matter which option you click, you go right to the registration page and whatnot and then can proceed to give away your demographic and contact information for a "chance to win a PS2!" But the guise under which they first show up struck me as odd. They're not even surveys to begin with.

"VOTE NOW!" the first one said. "True or false: Jessica Simpson is married to Nick Lachey."

"VOTE NOW!" the other one said. "Brad Pitt is in what new movie? Shrek 2, Troy, The Day After Tomorrow"

It's easy to see what happened here: somewhere along the line someone got "survey" and "voting" confused with "trivia challenge" (and not a very good one at that, for anyone even remotely familiar with American pop culture and MTV reality programs.) But nobody picked up on it, or cared enough to make some kind of change. And why bother, really? It's all a sham, and no results are counted or tabulated or whatever. You could treat the whole thing with a disaffected "ehn" and it'd be OK. But still, it irks me.

I mean, what exactly are we "voting" on here, guys, if I were to play along with you and pretend this "survey" was real? The validity of these answers? What would happen if 75% of those participating voted for Shrek 2 as Brad Pitt's film? Would he magically disappear out of Troy and show up fully rendered and do a Tyler Durden on Donkey? Is that what we said we'd want, having cast our "vote" for the sequel? Similarly, if we voted "False" to Jessica and Nick's marriage, would that render the marriage null and void? (Wait, that's a pretty appealing prospect there.)

Displaying recognition of a fact is, in effect, answering a trivia question. "Filling out a survey" and voting is, in effect, displaying an opinion. Someone needs to call in our opinion show. (In my opinion, Des Moines is the capital of Iowa.) Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2004 05:47 pm (UTC)
Hey, I would have had no idea on that first one if you hadn't given it away at the end of your post.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2004 06:06 pm (UTC)
I've always thought those fakey survey/trivia thingies are mind-numbingly easy so that numb-minded people would think "Hey, that's easy!" and click.

That's my opinion, anyway.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC)
Totally unrelated, but it annoyed me much in the same way that I've been annoyed by what you talk about above:

Back when I was still working, I registered at one of those get-paid-to-take-surveys sites for professionals who had some sort of power in their company, and today, months later and after I'd quit, I got my first survey invitation from them. So, I click on the link to the survey and there is this little note from the director of the survey site saying that by taking the survey, I would be entered into a cash drawing with prizes "averaging $1000. (Prizes awarded will be between $5 and $100.)"

Now, the company I worked for was a small potatoes company, but this site is designed to poll people who work for companies as large as the fortune 500 folks in capacities such as CEO and CFO and the like. And the director of the site doesn't know the difference between "average" and "total."
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2004 08:52 pm (UTC)
Enh, that could work. Presumably there are a number of drawings, and each drawing they pick a number of $5 to $100 awards. And if you average the drawings over time, you find out that each drawing totals about $1000.

No, I don't believe this is what they meant.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2004 08:50 pm (UTC)
Also not exactly related, but Opera 7.50 has ads by Google, so they're much less annoying and more non-stupid.
Date:June 2nd, 2004 08:58 pm (UTC)

I've actually noticed quite a few more upstanding websites having "web polls" that are, actually, little quizzes or whatever. I wonder if it's, perhaps, because the poll is designed into the homepage and they're sometimes feeling hard-pressed to come up with new polls.

Two examples: American Bankruptcy Institute (scroll down) asks:

Under Sect. 502, the allowance of a claim precludes a later challenge to avoidable transfers made to the claimant.

  • Agree Strongly
  • Agree somewhat
  • Disagree somewhat
  • Disagree Strongly
  • Don't know/no opinion

Now... I'm no bankruptcy expert, so I suppose that could be a point of contention right now due to an ambiguously written law. But if I had to bet, I'd say it's not really something with which one could "agree somewhat."

Example two: The Virginia Farm Bureau queries (scroll down, on the right):

How many tons of agricultural products from Virginia farms was exported from Norfolk in 2003?

  • 300
  • 3,000
  • 30,000
  • 300,000

Now, in this case, I've got no doubt in my mind that opinion can't enter into it. So, it's not just scam marketers... the English language is going down the shitter.

[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2004 07:40 am (UTC)


I think that SHREK 3 needs to have a fight club style scenario. with Donkey and Dark Donkey. Shrek would be Angel Face. Grant Morrison could write it.

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