Posts Tagged ‘survey’

Sir, if you would be so kind...

Nearly 30 years ago I stood outside the public library in Olympia, Washington with a sheet of paper in one hand and a pencil in the other. I stepped nervously toward anyone who came near me. “Excuse me, I have a few questions about the Falklands War and…” the last few words spoken to their backs as they walked away. I was an introverted kid with an extroverted school assignment. I needed 40 people to take my survey, but after 45 minutes I had only 3. So in the end, I sat down on the sidewalk as the sun dropped behind the Black Hills and made up 37 people. Some of these imaginary people had strong opinions about the Falklands War. Others were not sure. Conveniently for my research, their responses spanned the complete range of available choices.

I did not tell this story to my 14-year-old as he went off this weekend first to Costco, and then to Trader Joe’s. He needed 100 people to take his survey and he was willing to talk to complete strangers to get it done. He also talked to neighbors and called everyone on his mother’s cell phone list. But after all this, he was still only halfway done. So in the end, he sat down at the computer and created an online survey.

Before long, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, he had more than enough responses to finish the assignment. Conveniently for his research, these responses spanned the complete range of available choices. And these were real responses from real people across the United States and Canada. For the latter, he added metric equivalents to the questions about mileage (now if only I knew the metric equivalent for the word mileage).

The online results confirmed things we already know about social media: That the average Tweeter is 25-50 years old; that social media brings people together from across geographical and political boundaries; and that people are, by nature, actually very helpful. 

Best of all, sharing an online survey is faster and easier than making people up. So maybe I should go back and find out what people really think about the Falklands War.

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