Get a mop and wipe it up!

Survey Companies Cheating On Participants

, posted: 19-Sep-2012 19:12

There are various internet survey companies who pay their panels of members at below minimum wage to fill in online surveys.

The attraction to the public is a little pocket money. The survey company is attracted by the low cost -- far cheaper than paying staff to phone random telephone numbers. So a WIN-WIN situation.

Or is it?

For any survey, the company needs to know if it has reached its quota for each demographic sector, normally split by gender, age bracket, and location, and sometimes by other criteria, such as ethnic group, income, and survey-specific factors.

So, how are the companies cheating?

By asking actual survey questions, disguised as questions to filter out participants, before eliminating potential respondents. For example, I'd regard it as a reasonable filter question to ask about broadband v dialup internet. But to then ask which broadband company and which mobile phone company a person uses before the door is slammed shut...
Thank you for your interest.
We have reached our target number of participants and the survey is now closed.
There is normally no indication when the Actual survey questions begin. Nor any opportunity to comment on the filtering questions.

How is this cheating?

Because the survey company is gathering all the answers to these questions for free. There is no compensation for the time taken by participants to reach that point.

It is time for smarter survey companies.

Some companies maintain a detailed profile of participants to pre-filter surveys to better match their panelists. This is to be commended as it wastes less time. Companies should establish a reputation system to determine which participants on their panels are the most valuable -- across such metrics as Honesty (via consistency of answers), Availability (via speed of response), Intelligence (via comprehension of trickier concepts), and Suitability (as a measure of broadness of surveys for which they meet the filter conditions). I'm sure there are others.

With such an infrastructure, the survey companies would reject less participants, and gather higher quality data faster. They could afford to pay their quality panelists higher, attracting more people with quicker surveys (less mind-numbing filter questions) and more interesting surveys (aimed at a higher intelligence level).

Who will do it?


Best New Device for 2013?

, posted: 21-May-2012 22:22

What's the next must-have high tech device?Question mark

After the iTouch, and the iPad. Is it the iLick?


Early indicators point to the TechStik.

It is early days, but this NZ-developed clean green sustainable device has the potential to spread around the world in no time. The uniquely-transparent entrepreneurial accounts of the genesis of this product, inviting would-be users' feedback offers opportunity to crowd source features and "user experience".

I think TechStik will particularly appeal to technology people with a sense of humour.

What do you think?

Disclosure: I have no past or present pecuniary interest in TechStik.

The Activists Are Crazy

, posted: 25-Apr-2012 10:56

Greenpeace started out well, with rational and effective campaigns to reduce whale killing and eliminate atmospheric nuclear testing. It didn't last long though, before they resorted to attacking things more for the sake of having a fund-raising "cause", rather a logical basis for argument.
Atmospheric nuclear test. Mururoa Atoll, 1971.

This is the central theme of a very eye-opening book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout - The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist, by Patrick Moore, one of the early leaders of Greenpeace.

Here are selected quotes that stood out to me...

Solar Power and Forestry

Environmental activists place huge importance on solar panels made from aluminum, silicon and gallium arsenide when in fact the most important solar collectors are the leaves and needles of trees and other plants. (p197)

Dangers of Nuclear Power

U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics confirm that it is safer to work in a nuclear plant than it is to work in either real estate or financial services. A study of 54,000 nuclear workers conducted by Columbia University and published in 2004 found these workers had significantly fewer cancers, less disease, and lived longer than their counterparts in the general population. (p234)

Danger of Pesticides on Food

In the 1990s, the Cancer Research Institutes of the U.S. and Canada collaborated on a multi-year study of all scientific publications about the connection between cancer in humans and pesticide residues on food. They could not find a single piece of evidence connecting the two. (p273)

Climate Change

In one of the most surprising surveys taken, 121 U.S. television weather presenters, all members of the American Meterological Society, were asked their opinions on climate change in April 2010. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed were accredited meteorologists. When asked about the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's statement, "Most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced," a full 50 percent either disagreed or strongly disagreed. Twenty-five percent were neutral and only 24 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed. (p334)

Ocean Acidification

"Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104 (a change of -0.075)." One has to wonder how the pH of the ocean was measured to an accuracy of three decimal places in 1751 when the concept of pH was not introduced until 1909. (p361)

Personally, I enjoyed the book very much -- except for the parts that made me angry (mostly when parties in a dispute resort to "terminological inexactitudes", as Winston Churchill calls them.)

If you're interested in it, check out this excerpt.

Intolerable NZ Police Speed Tolerance

, posted: 16-Mar-2012 22:40

Regarding speeding tickets at 55 km/h:

The NZ Police will suffer from a severe loss of respect with this policy. Traffic in Auckland generally travels near 60 km/h in 50 km/h zones.

A better approach, if the Police are going to be so pedantic, is to raise the speed limits by 10 km/h, everywhere, and impose a zero tolerance. This would result in (nearly) all of us suddenly becoming law-abiding citizens, and puts the onus on the motorist to know if their speedometer reads high or low.

It might also reduce road rage by encouraging some of the drivers who favour 40 km/h to perhaps manage 50 km/h?  

The current policy evokes disrespect: "the law is an ass".

Referendum on NZ Voting System

, posted: 20-Nov-2011 13:54

No voting system is perfect.

FPP is definitely the worst option. Only swing voters in the "marginal" electorates influence which party governs. Everyone else is effectively disenfranchised.

MMP is better, but suffers from List candidates -- people who have never had the endorsement of the voters.

My recommendation is for STV. There are no List MPs. Instead, there are larger electorates with 3 - 7 MPs. So a typical electorate might end up with 2 National MPs, 2 Labour MPs & 1 minor party MP. Some argue that it is complicated to cast ranking votes. If this dissuades some people who find it too complicated, then I think this is a good thing, as raising the average IQ of voters might raise the average IQ of MPs!

dmw's profile

David White
New Zealand

Goon fan, .NET developer, contrarian seeker of truth