Tuesday, March 9, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 10 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“I think a lot of people are under the impression that everything was shut down at the Centre.”
- Elizabeth Anderson  
- on Indoor Playground’s   
continued operation   


A Fragile Lens- Nathen Gallagher
This week we’re going to talk about polls, and why some people simply lose their minds when the results of relatively meaningless polls don't go their way.
In recent months, the Pass Herald has been running a series of weekly polls on our website, www.passherald.ca, and publishing the results in the newspaper. This week you won't find any poll results, because something very strange happened with our last poll.
We asked if our readers felt that the four percent per year raise to municipal workers was fair. The options to choose from were: 1) Yes, it's fair; 2) No, they deserve more; 3) No, it's too much.
The Pass Herald wasn't offering a judgement on any of these options, nor on the matter itself. It was simply a fair question to receive what we thought would be a fair response. After all, asking questions is, occasionally, a thing that newspapers tend to do.
Yet as the week went on and we watched the incredible poll results on our website, it became clear that something was wrong.
Previously, the biggest response we had to a poll on our website was 37 responses, to a question about River Run. Within four days of the pay raise poll going up, however, there were well over 200 responses. I watched the numbers for a time myself, and saw them go up in short, suspicious bursts. This is, I feel, an improbably large increase in the number of votes to one of our polls.
While we cannot prove anything, we highly suspect that people were cheating on this poll, using computerized work-arounds to vote multiple times for the option of their choice. People were doing this for more than one option, possibly as people on one side detected cheating on the other side, and then doing some cheating of their own in an attempt to even things out. It escalated, obviously.
Because of this suspicion of cheating, the Pass Herald will not be publishing the results of that poll. We consider said results invalid.
We have worked with our website designer and the mechanism for how votes are recorded on our website has changed. It will now be more difficult for people to cheat, as only one vote per internet connection will be allowed.
With that explained, I'd just like to say that I think it's pretty pathetic when people feel the need to cheat on an internet poll. On the long list of Things That Are Important In This World, internet polls rank pretty low.
These polls aren't meant to influence public policy or even to represent the general opinion of the community. They are simply questions we ask in order to collect a few opinions. They are interesting. But they are not important.
One truth of the internet is that people who read a particular website are likely to hold particular opinions. Any simple poll you find online is very unlikely to represent the true feelings of an entire community, province, or country –– they simply represent the opinions of the people who happened to vote on the poll.
Unless a poll is done by a professional company in a controlled manner, you shouldn't consider the results to be worth much of anything. They are interesting, which is why we do them, but they should not be relevant.
For anyone who gets worked up over things like this, I can only suggest you take a deep breath. There are more important things in your life and in other people's lives.
And for anyone who uses polls like these to guide their decision-making processes, I suggest you reconsider your information-gathering methods.
... See the March 9 issue of the Pass Herald for the full article.
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   Volume 80 - Issue 10 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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