Monday, February 28, 2005

Advertiser poll on fiber

[Inserted 3/1/05 @ 10:31 this obnoxious Advertiser poll on a bond vote is at 54.4 for fiber and 44.7 against fiber. I still think both sides ought to denounce this poll and demand that it be pulled down. I've done that already; the fiber411 guys should do the same. It's poison and the sort of thing that causes folks to say what they later regret. I see over at the fiber411 site that Bill is saying [Chatbox: Tuesday 01 March 2005 - 18:01:21] that the profiber boys are rigging the vote. Come on. We've been making a little progress here. This is a dumb, divisive poll. It can't be trusted by either side. And no side can legitimately take any comfort from a positive result for their cause.

The only thing served by this "poll" is the Advertiser's page counts. Popularity polls are promotional devices for the websites that post them. Notice all the obnoxious pop ups/pop unders? My bet is that the Advertiser is being paid for each and every "pop." If we were smart we wouldn't play their game.

Lafayette Pro Fiber has denounced it. LUSFTTH has ignored it (probably smarter.) Fiber 411 has promoted it. Guys who ignore it and who denounce it aren't likely to have much motive to rig it since they would look a little strange promoting a good outcome for the home team.

Doug, Tim, Bill, Neal, (gumbofile, baycock, whoever) feel free to actively denounce this in the comments. Let's neuter this thing.

Note: why the change? Not at all sure but I do know that profiber folks like myself have given up on getting it taken down and have hit their email address book and listservs. I don't like promoting this thing in any way and held off hoping first that it would come down and then that the fiber411 guys would join me in denouncing it in order to build their good government credits. Hasn't happened. Still should.]

The Daily Advertiser has a "poll" on the bond vote on its front page. All you profiber folks ought to get yourself over there and vote.

First go over to: and vote.

Now come back here and let's talk about it.

Update 2:18 pm

Unscientific popularity polls of this sort are a bad thing and debase the political process. I hate 'em and have complained to Juli Metzger about using them in reference to the political process before—entirely outside the context of the fiber battle.

This "poll" is particularly bad because it is vulnerable to tampering and anyone with a rudimentary sense of how these polls work can figure it out quickly. I did so in less than five minutes of effort. So have others who have emailed me.

This one is particularly bad because it is published on the day when Bill Decker, who posted the poll in his guise as online editor, also published a column attacking the fiber-to-the-home plan in his guise as a columnist.

No one will be able to rely on its results honestly once this is known. It only measures two things: the level of enthusiasm of the partisans involved and different levels of dishonesty to which the two camps are willing to go. Which will be the more influential in the final outcome is impossible to know.

It is only divisive at this point.

I call on both sides to urge Juli Metzger to take it down.

Just for the record: when I first emailed the editor the numbers were running at 60-40 pro fiber. (Ask Bill @ 411 how it was running when he posted.) I didn't post to this blog at that time because I didn't want it up at all, even if my side was winning. I only posted after it appeared at fiber411. I have a history of being against this sort of thing and the politics of the moment are not the reason I oppose these polls.

Here is my larger reasoning about why all such polls, and not just this one (which is also bad for the special reasons stated above) are a bad idea when used in reference to serious political issues.

These polls do not measure public opinion, they measure "popularity." This is true of any poll that allows people to vote. Even if it weren't possible to vote multiple times, this would remain a problem. The results don't tell anyone anything about how a real vote on the bond issue would go. Nevertheless, it will be used by one side or the other to infer "the opinion of the people." That will be a serious misuse. That fact alone should be reason for both sides to want it taken down, and failing that, for both sides to condemn it. I do so here and now.

My objection goes deeper than the fact that such polls are inaccurate and prone to misuse. To the extent anyone is interested in them it is because, by simply using the term "poll," it dishonestly trades on the popular understanding of real polls. As people come to understand that these polls do not tell you anything about public opinion, they will come to distrust real polls--which give you real information. This type of thing debases the process of a real conversation; to have a conversation we must be able to trust what is being said and to know the true opinion of people. Putting up such polls will inevitably result in people coming to distrust honest polls. And our polity does not need more paranoiac distrust than we already have.

This is not a new problem.

Let's agree that this is a bad idea that ought to go away.


GumboFilé said...

I concur. The only purpose of these polls is to get visitors to their website so that they can brag about the visitors to their website.

John said...

Thanks gumbofile,

You are absolutely right. From the standpoint of the paper (and, to be fair, a ton of other websites that use this tactic) the point is to drive traffic. But it's not only bragging rights. Their ad revenue depends upon getting "page views" high as well.

Anonymous said...

You guys may be right about the accuracy of the poll. Besides the only one that will matter is the vote itself. Lets get on with it. It's going to happen, that should be obvious to everyone by now.

baycock said...

Geez!! What’s with you guys? First you urge your supporters to go to the Advertiser’s poll and vote, and a few hours later you post a dissertation condemning the poll. I guess that being a pseudo-intellectual is so-o-o-o-o confusing.

I do not believe that anyone ever claimed that the poll had any remote foundation in science. It should never be considered to be any thing more than what it is, a cheap dime store barometer of public opinion.

It pains me to see you so distraught. You should take heart and recall the 1948 presidential election. There stands Harry Truman holding the newspaper with the headline … DEWEY WINS!! DEWEY WINS!!

Just keep repeating to yourself … I THINK I CAN … I THINK I CAN… I THINK I CAN.

John said...


I'll continue to try and respond to silliness with some reason. It would reassure me some if you did your derisive sniping in the open, under your own name and not under the cover of anonymity. Who are you?

There is a lot of hot air over at Fiber411 about good government and keeping the process clean. It's a little hard to take entirely seriously since Fiber411 allies itself so thoroughly with incumbents who are serious and well-practiced manipulators of the political process--almost always to the detriment of the regular guy.

I am quite serious about being upset about this poll thing. Feel free to call Juli Metzger and ask her if I didn't have a long and pointed dispute with her over the misuse of polls during the presidential season. Including a poll which was obviously managed. This isn't some game I am playing. I actually care about the quality of the political conversation.

This is an opportunity for Fiber411 to demonstrate that they actually favor good government at a moment when they have something to give up. So far they only seem to only want those things when it rebounds in favor of their ultimate cause: defeating LUS' fiber. And people, rightly, judge them accordingly.

A direct call, again: We should both agree that this poll can only be divisive and innaccurate and call for it to be pulled. I've already done so. First in private, directly with the editor. Then, repeatedly, publicly. Ball's in your court.

There has been a lot of froth, baycock, since you asked me what my qualifications in economics were. It seems to upset you and others that I actually have some training there. Be aware that I would not have brought that into the conversation without your derisive question. I think arguments should stand on their own and I have not trumpeted my qualifications in economics, sociology, education, or technology. I can't avoid and don't wish to avoid my training; a lot of my convictions flow directly from my education. But you seem to think I should be embarrassed by it. I'm not. So sorry.

GumboFilé said...

John, It's obvious that I disagree with you on many things, and your response to Baycock is no exception, but for the moment I'll put that aside. I agree that some of your opponents sometimes post silliness, and as your opponent I shouldn't offer any coaching, and you should take this with a grain of salt, but don't you think it would be best to ignore things like this rather than allow it to divert our attention from the real issues? Both sides are guilty of using inappropriate tactics, and it's appropriate to point it out when it happens, but to go beyond that is to start down a neverending rabbit trail.

GumboFilé said...

ps, I don't mean to imply that I've flip-flop in my opinion on polls. I agree with you on that.

baycock said...

My name is Aycock, Billy Aycock
The screen name is baycock just as it appears @ Fiber411, where my full name (christian and given) is
clearly displayed in the member profile.

John said...

Thank you.

I am not a member there so I wouldn't be able to see it.

I appreciate the forthrightness and withdraw any implication that you were hiding behind anonymity. Turns out I was wrong. :-)

baycock said...

I invite you to sign up. You may find an unexpected jewel. Every story has more than one side.

You may possibly find a convert.

GumboFilé said...

I second the motion. A chatbox makes it very easy to engage in debate. Of course it also makes it very easy to submit something without much thought. There are some proponent regulars but I'm sure they get tired of being outnumbered and would love some more teammates.