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The Media

MSNBC Accused of Rigging OS Poll 236

KlausBreuer writes "According to the German news report Heise MSNBC has produced a poll for the most popular operating system. This time, the poll was rigged rather blatantly: Friday morning, Linux hat 28% (18.500) of the vote, but miraculously dropped to 3% by sunday evening (European time). It appears that 126.500 votes came in on Sunday - all of them for Windows." Now, not knowing people at MSNBC or anything like that, I would offer the possibly that someone ran a script against it. These things have been known to happen before. Thanks to Donald van de Weyer who pointed out that this originally appeared on LinuxToday.
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MSNBC Accused of Rigging OS Poll

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  • The page in question is in German (duh), so here is ye olde Bablefish translation:

    Web inquiry:
    Windows quite far in front In the inquiry after the best operating system on MSNBC the page turned in wondrous way. If morning was appropriate still for Linux, like reported, with 28% of 18.500 voices in guidance on Friday, then the voice proportion of the free operating system sank until Sunday evening on 3% of 384.848 voices. The inquiry took a strange process: Thus Linux achieved a high on Saturday mornings against 3 o'clock with 39% - from that up to then delivered 29,100 voices approximately 11,350 was allotted to the free operating system. In the following 20 hours 126,500 voices were then added, from which however 800 (according to 0.6%) was surprisingly only allotted to Linux. Thus the being correct proportion doubled itself both from Windows 95/98/ME and NT/2000. now moves with some the suspicion, there must have been manipulated. Trust no statistics, which you did not falsify...

    ----
    Kinda messy, but I didn't want to change it from what BF put it as.
  • If it's Perl, then you don't need the semi-colon, as it's the last line in the while block.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    but somebody created a bot. We in the BeOS community knew of this poll a while ago. It was attached to a story on Mac OS X. The day the story broke, BeOS was way in the lead (with nearly 40% at peak). Now I would assume, the story would not be read as much after the initial day of release. At that time, something like 40,000 people had voted. This weekend, you could literally watch 500 votes added every 10 seconds for windows. Some Win2k fanatic rigged a bot to vote. Now at well over 500,000 votes, Win2k is way ahead. Whatever. What is the truth? Who knows. The poll was biased already by us Be-ers who went and voted the first day. Nothing can be gleaned by the poll IMHO.
  • Yep, this is called a self-selecting population, and it's really bad for your statistics. This becomes worse in things like political polls where people are self-selecting. You end up getting situations where vocal minorities who really do care about an issue can completely outweigh moderate or even apathetic majorities.

    You mean like in elections?

  • (2) LinuxToday did not ask the readers to rig the poll, just to go and vote.

    Which in and of itself, rigs the poll.

    The poll was meant for MSNBC readers; it wasn't meant for Linux Today to send lots of people who didn't regularly read MSNBC to tip the balance.

    Announcing the poll skews the results. It's meant to be a poll of their *regular readership*.

    Not that it matters anyway.

    Si
  • I found that I had the same exact problem, not only there but on other sites also. I was told that I needed cookies enabled. I checked and sure enough, they were.
    What do they want?

    "Take my advice, I'm not using it!"
  • Yeah, these things have been known to happen ... as in Slash's own Pudge (Chris N.) causing an uproar [slashdot.org] over scripting the ballot-stuffing of the All-Star game for Nomahhh. Coincidentally, this in-house instance of poll abuse goes unmentioned here. I guess one is just a silly sports poll and the other one is serious (i.e. MS-related), right?

    Enjoy Pudge's semi-smug commenting on his own fracas in the above link.

  • By this definition you are saying that the way Americans are voting is unscientific and unreliable.

    Perhaps they should elect their president with a scientific poll?

    It would increase voter turnout for non-Presidential elections, at the very least. Still, there is the problem of people who want to be politically vocal but who happened to eat out the evening the pollster called for their vote...

  • Hmm you mean kind of like when there's a Linux poll and Slashdot announces it? Then all the Slashdot readers run like rabid dogs over to the website to vote for linux? I think we've all witnessed that several times.

    So are you upset over the fact that some online Windows magazine beat you to the punch of rigging the results or something?
  • is no malice intended, just that people who like Windows and read MSNBC all spend their Saturday evenings online reading MSNBC and for a real blast, take the online polls! Get a life, Windows users.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "As a keen[1] student[2] of footnotes,[3,4] I have long[14]"
  • Stop spreading FUD.

    Tell that to The Register [theregister.co.uk] - they reported it first.

    -------------
  • I just don't see why everyone's so uptight over this. It's not like it's impossible or anything....

    Let's suppose that this is just a statistical fluke and that the actual percentage of Windows users is indeed 100% - 28% = 72%. (Sorry, Mac users, but you are too busy playing with your cubes to vote anyway). The chance that 126500 consecutive "Go Windows Woo!!" votes came in is merely 2.75 * 10^18047 to 1. Far from impossible--what say we give the impartial folks over at MSNBC the benefit of the doubt?
  • Get a life, Windows users.

    Umm.. its Slashdot that has 200 comments about this whole mess.. seems like its the *nix community that has the biggest fixation on this little issue.



  • Heaven forbid that Windows won the poll because most of the world's computer users run windows, and after Linux picked up a bunch of votes early on (Likely because assorted Linux sites saw the poll and linked.) Windows won out over the weekend.

    I don't like M$, and I hate Windows, but how can you not expect Windows to win a poll on a news site? Especially one frequented by Windows users that get there via IE's built in links or links from MSN!

    Windows won this poll because most of the world's computer users buy a PC, and run Windows because Windows comes with the PC. Those people outnumber Linux lovers now, and will continue to for quite some time. Stop creating a conspiracy where there isn't one.
  • Don't complain about lack of options- You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.

    This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important- you're insane.
    --

  • Actually, Nader is included in most polls, as is Buchanan. They usually score about 3% and 2%, respectively.

    I have been contacted for a political poll once. It was reasonably well balanced, asking questions like, "Of the following candidates, for whom are you most likely to vote?" Then they mention the candidates' names in a random order. The question was brought up about three times (phrased differently) total in the poll, mixing up the names each time. The whole thing lasted about ten minutes or so.

    I believe that they mix up the names to weed out the people who will automatically answer with the first name, and get real results.
  • Because of people who don't want to "waste their vote," and people not being aware of less high-profile candidates, which candidates are listen in a poll can affect the results of future polls, by increasing or decreasing awareness of certain candidates.

    I don't think this means that every candidate should appear in every poll...you might get people saying they'll vote for Bo Gritz or something just because they haven't heard of him.
  • That would be a bit skewed. I (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) have to use MonopolyNT at work with IE and so some of my server logs would come from NT and not from Linux. It would still be quite interesting though, I agree.
  • The facts:

    (1) if you read the LinuxToday responses carefully you will find that no more than 2 or 3 respondents said they voted twice. And you do not know how much their votes swayed the results, so stop the false accusations. You do not have any evidence.

    (2) LinuxToday did not ask the readers to rig the poll, just to go and vote.

    (3) if you read the story carefully again, you will find that Linux actually LOST votes during the poll.

    (4) one person rigging polls after another person rigs polls does not make it right. Two wrongs do not make a right. Another example of MS apologist hysteria on Slashdot was the article about MS using Solaris/FreeBSD to run hotmail. Immedialty, we had screams from the MS Zealots that SUN no doubt use Windows PCs in their office. So what? No body was touting Sun as the next "unix-killer". Sun definately use Solaris (and other UNIXs to run their web-site) so why all the hysteria? Even if they did not, again one person being a hypocrite, and another person being a hypocrite does not make a right.
  • Besides, who believes that the majority of people who vote on places such as CNN or MSNBC know anything about the technical superiourity of the various OSen? These polls are worthless to anyone but the most ill-informed; the average Joe will probably be annoyed that his brand-new Dell with the $150 Win2k "upgrade" doesn't run his games as well as his "free" Win98 that came with it. The 14-yr old script kiddie, who just read about Linux may vote for it, reagardless of knowing anything but the most cursory knowledge about it. Face it--popularity contests for these things are meaningless, except to the marketing departments.

    That said, I applaud Hemos for giving MSNBC the benefit of the doubt. I just wish /. editorial crew contacted MSNBC and found out the real story (though they may already be doing this...)


    --
  • by nebby ( 11637 )
    Let me see, if there are ever any polls on the web for OS'es, what do we do, we hit them with scripts and basically fudge the results so Linux wins.

    Now a company fudges their results and we complain. Everyone (us and them) knows polls are meaningless marketing tools, so who cares?

    I'll laugh if any threads pop up here about the need for validity of poll results and how they should be true reflections of the internet population. Fat chance :)

  • I had always heard Twain, perhaps you are correct
  • Does anyone here really believe that any Microsoft-affiliated organisation would actually run such a poll if they thought it possible that Linux would come out on top?

    That would fly in the face of all we know about Microsoft. They would only put up such a poll if they were assured of winning it. Whether they rigged it by pushing up Windows votes, or by disallowing certain browsers/architectures from posting, I think we can be pretty much guaranteed that should Linux have stayed ahead, something would mysteriously have happened to the poll.

    In interfering with the poll on the MSNBC site, if in fact they did, Microsoft have violated the integrity of MSNBC as a "news-gathering organisation". However, as news is not Microsoft's core business, it isn't surprising that something like this has come to light. If they can't show integrity in their core business, how can they be expected to do so anywhere else.

  • It is commonly believed in Germany that this quote is from W. Churchill.
    Indeed it is from Joseph Goebbels (Nazi Propaganda Minister) who claimed it was from Churchill.
    --
  • If an online poll marked a "no response" category for every webhit that didn't vote we'd see an alarming amount of apathy...

    Interesting how a no response is seen as "apathy". Especially with a poll lacking a "none of the above", "not interested", etc type catagory.
  • by Frac ( 27516 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:09AM (#771270)
    But what it really comes down to is the disclaimer I think I've seen on some net polling sites, which is something along the lines of "These numbers are very unscientific, and if you use them for anything important, you're insane".

    Ah yes. I remember I saw a similar disclaimer somewhere. It was some obscure site with some punctuation in its name.

    Slashdot Poll [slashdot.org]:
    This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important- you're insane.

    So close, yet so far... ;)

  • Just putting in my $.02 here also.
    It is strange how a jump like that occured, but does it really matter?

    Do you think a poll such as that is going to make you or myself go "Oh my god, according to this poll, Widows is SO much better. I've got to change my OS right away!"

    I really don't think so. I believe the people who like Linux will stay with it. The ones who finally get fed up with MS will one day migrate over.
    Polls are meaningless and by reading the previous posts, we all tend to agree.

    "Take my advice, I'm not using it!"
  • Or in this case... whose poll is it anyway? With your host MSNBC... Yes, it's the poll where the results are made up and the points don't matter, yes they don't matter, just like a tooth brush to the British they just don't matter....

    (sorry to all those brits out there, I know it was a little scathing, but laugh a little, ok?)
  • Microsoft's business tactics are cutthroat and unfair.

    They have never even tried to hide this fact. Even during the anti-trust trial, Microsoft breached the anti-trust laws flagrantly.

    Why would they suddenly show a desire to be seen as nice guys? They hold their monopoly, they still abuse it, and Linux is (however distant) a threat to their market.

    I don't believe Microsoft's image is of huge concern to them. The vast majority of people don't care about Microsoft's morals, or lack of them. Many highly-principled people the world over use Microsoft operating systems, because they believe it's easier, regardless of what Microsoft may have done to some other people, some other company. Microsoft know this. They will keep knocking Linux, and MSNBC will continue to broadcast more anti-UNIX/Linux stories than any other news agency.

    Most new UNIX vulnerabilities are highlighted on MSNBC in big headlines, and are kept around for a few days, linked from the main page of the site. Vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems are briefly reported with a reassuring promise from some Microsoft big-shot & quickly swept under the carpet. If you disagree with me on this, then please watch MSNBC a little closer, you might be surprised at what you see.

    I wasn't.

  • I guess that MSNBC will have to apologize to its viewer [microsoft.com] and its web audience [microsoft.com]. Ballot stuffing is nothing new. Just take a look at out Judicial Quota System; I'll bet that Antonin Scalia got shoved in there by all those conservative senators, who are also the result of ballot stuffing. Nothing new, for we all know who the real President of the United States is: a Mr. William C. Gates, III.
  • The real problem is that it's those vocal minorities who will go out and vote, while the apathetic majority stays home on the couch.

    More likely the vocal minority are busy lobbying full time. (The only difficult bit here is the first part of "bootstrap" lobbying to get themselves funded.) Whilst other people have to spend their time doing other things, like earning a living.
  • Most Microsoft users aren't fanatical about their OS. I know that some are (I work with one), but for the most part people run Windows because that's what came with their systems and they don't know any better

    Except that only a very small proportion of fanatical Microsofters still adds up to a lot of fanatics...
    There is certainly no shortage of such people posting to everywhere from Slashdot to ZDNET.
  • Just out of curiousity, has any statistically accurate polls ever been done on this topic? If so, anyone know where the results can be found? Or, is it possible to try and push one of the news corporations into performing such a poll?
  • ...anybody notice the MICROSOFT prefix in MSNBC?

    Wouldn't that imply a *cough* SLIGHT bias in the polls?

    Windows won, gee imagine that... duh
  • Incompetent press more like. Their JavaScript generator is a bit crap. Use Mozilla or Galeon, they work fine.
  • Bzzt. Godwin's Law does not state that the invoker of Hitler, Nazism, or whatever loses. It merely states that the discussion is over at that point.
  • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @09:52AM (#771281)

    Ugh. This got modded up? While I can appreciate Godwin's Law in circumstances where it is warranted, some people can't seem to recognize a valid analogy even if it sits on their face and wiggles. When someone makes a comparison to Nazis or Hitler to discredit or silence the opposition, then Godwin's Law should certainly apply. However, when some Nazi-related idea or symbol is used simply to illustrate a point rather than to attack the opposition, why should it be declared invalid?

    Personally, I think there should be a similar law invoked when people try to declare that the opposition supports child pornography if they don't agree with censorship. I lost count of how many times people tried to play the child pornography card in the discussion of the Freenet story earlier. It amounts to the same thing as playing the Nazi card really.

  • Wassn't there a story about some idiot on CBS.com wrtting about how linux was the worst OS ever? MS has deep pockets for people lije this.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @12:24PM (#771284)
    Kevin Reichard posts a number of links to polls on various ZDNet, MSNBC, CNN websites encouraging readers of linuxtoday to go out and stuff the ballot box.

    Then on one of the polls their is a movement by some other group of Windows users to go out and stuff the ballot box in return.

    And Linux Today accuses Microsoft of cheating?

    I don't get it.

    Maybe if it'd been a fair and realistic poll, but the Linuxtoday editors pretty much destroyed that when they decided to encourage stuffing the ballot box.

    They sad thing is Kevin Reichard probably doesn't even realize the harm he is doing to the Linux community by encouraging online poll stuffing.

    I suspect Kevin used to be a member of Team OS/2. :(
  • Yep, this is called a self-selecting population, and it's really bad for your statistics. This becomes worse in things like political polls where people are self-selecting. You end up getting situations where vocal minorities who really do care about an issue can completely outweigh moderate or even apathetic majorities.

    It's also a problem in other self-selecting poll situations like elections. Especially the part about vocal minorities.
  • However, when some Nazi-related idea or symbol is used simply to illustrate a point rather than to attack the opposition, why should it be declared invalid?

    Because it is almost invariably used to raise the amount of
    righteous indignation involved in an argument. It is usually
    unnecessary: there are usually less emotive examples.

  • by Chris Hind ( 176717 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @07:55AM (#771289)
    No-one ever believes these polls. People with vested interests always try to rig them (note that Linux Today asked all its readers to go vote for Linux, which is the sole reason why Linux was ever ahead). Grow up, and move along - there's nothing to see here.
  • I don't see the problem with the argument here. It's either a valid argument or it's not. The fact that it mentions Nazis doesn't have any bearing on the validity of the argument. Some people may have trouble seeing the validity or lack thereof due to the mention of Nazis, but that's just a reflection of their ability to reason.

  • You're correct, of course. I was using the term incorrectly. Of course the poster I responded to was apparently using it incorrectly as well, or at least in the incorrect context (i.e. not in a Usenet thread).

  • However, when some Nazi-related idea or symbol is used simply to illustrate a point rather than to attack the opposition, why should it be declared invalid?

    Quite simple... in logic, it's what's known as using loaded terminology to make a (false) argument. Godwin's law applies here because using a Nazi-analogy (or reference to ideological works of Nazism) inherently invokes a negative response in people. Basically you're making an attempt at appealing to people's emotions, because your logic is flawed and standard rational argumentation won't get you anywhere. There are plenty of analogies that can be used to illustrate any point without invoking Godwin's law.

    ----
    Dave
    MicrosoftME®? No, Microsoft YOU, buddy! - my boss
  • by rotor ( 82928 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @07:58AM (#771300) Homepage
    Much applause to Hemos for taking a neutral stance and giving MSNBC the benefit of the doubt. I seriously doubt that they would have done something so obvious when one half of the MS/NBC partnership so desperately needs to start reconstructing their image as a company that ISN'T cutthroat and unfair.
  • It's only Windows users that really don't seem to fixate on operating systems.

    Really it sometimes looks as though Windows users are highly fixated on operating systems... With attitudes like won't use it if it isn't Windows, etc.
  • This country (that would be the US) is really going over the top nowadays with polls. I don't know if the upcoming elections has anything to do with it or not (probably not). Some of the latest abuses are the real-time online polls during sporting events. I used to think that polls such as "Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?" were stupid enough. My response was always, "Let's wait until January and find out." But the real-time ones are even worse. Saw one the other night during a football game where a questionable call was challenged and reviewed on instant replay. During the review (while the play was being shown from every conceivable angle except Cup-cam (tm)) the viewers were encouraged to vote whether they thought the play would stand. As if that has any meaning at all. Hey everybody, if we just wait around for a couple of minutes we'll *know* the answer - we won't have to guess. It's not as if the officials said, "Well, we think the play should stand, but let's consult the ESPN online poll before we make a final ruling." It worries me that anybody would even bother to respond to a poll like that. (The kicker is that the play was overturned even though one of the replays clearly showed that the on-field official made the correct call. The poll was about 50/50, if you're curious.)
  • Ok, you tell me how the earlier post was making a false argument. Just because something related to Nazis is mentioned, doesn't necessarily invalidate the argument as Godwin's Law would claim. Godwin's Law is arbitrary. You should have the intelligence to take it in context and not read anything more into it. If it was an statement meant to inflame and that does not actually support the poster's argument, then point that out as well. Let's not resort to childish games of ignoring people simply because they say certain words. Consider the context and intent.

  • Seems to me that Godwin's Law gets used as a form of censorship. Just because Nazis, the Holocaust, etc., generate a lot of emotion in people does not make them invalid examples in a discussion. They can be used to inflame rather than to support an argument, but it is that tactic that invalidates the argument, not the simple use of the words. Godwin's is just arbitrarily condemning any mention of anything relating to Nazis or the Holocaust. Seems like a dream come true for the Holocaust denial crowd. Regardless of whether other or even better examples or analogies can be presented, willfully ignoring a dark chapter of human existance is not a good way to deal with it. The Holocaust happened. It's a real event. Nazis are real people. None of this is hypothetical or arbitrary. Refusing to continue a discussion simply because something that is related to these people and events is mentioned is ignorant. Take it in context. He wasn't trying to stir up emotion. That much seems obvious. Why then should the discussion be ended? The example he offered was a good one. Deal with it.

  • by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:15AM (#771326) Journal
    Here's the deal:

    LinuxToday got wind of an e-mail that went out to WinME beta testers that encouraged them to rig a poll at ZDnet regarding whether people would buy WinME. Soon after, LT found out about another poll. This was the MSNBC favourite OS poll. They encouraged LT readers to go vote in it, noting it wasn't as easily rigged as the ZDnet poll. A couple LT readers figured out the poll could be rigged by deleting a cookie MSNBC placed on a voting machine and checking for on future votes. It's likely the Linux number of 28% came from a flood of LinuxToday readers, a few using the cookie-delete trick, though I'd like to hope most didn't stoop that low. It should be noted that LT itself didn't promote poll-rigging in its own posts. At one point, Linux had more votes than WinNT/2K.

    Early Sunday morning is when the apparently faked votes started flooding in. One report from a reader claimed that for a while, all votes were going into NT/2K, then switched to adding votes for every OS but Linux - the percentages for Mac, BeOS, and Win9x/ME didn't significantly change like the NT and Linux counts.

    It looks like the whole thing is a popularity pissing contest. LT is still encouraging their readers to vote (fairly) in polls that have appeared in the last few days, and LT released an open letter to MSNBC regarding the sudden, suspicious increase in NT/2K votes.

    Of course, if MSNBC were really carefully rigging things, they also would have rigged the other poll on the same page as the OS popularity poll - the one that showed only 8% of voters were going to buy WinME, opposed to 92% saying ixnay:)
    -------------
  • by Frac ( 27516 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:17AM (#771330)
    t appears that 126,500 votes came in on Sunday - all of them for Windows.

    I wouldn't be surprised if that came from 63,250 corporate IP addresses with signed up with the Microsoft Select plan.

  • Here it is in English, per Babelfish (you'll have to muddle through a bit...German never translates well):

    ----

    Web inquiry: Windows quite far in front

    In the inquiry after the best operating system on MSNBC the page turned in wondrous way. If morning was appropriate still for Linux, like reported , with 28% of 18.500 voices in guidance on Friday, then the voice proportion of the free operating system sank until Sunday evening on 3% of 384.848 voices.

    The inquiry took a strange process: Thus Linux achieved a high on Saturday mornings against 3 o'clock with 39% - from that up to then delivered 29,100 voices approximately 11,350 was allotted to the free operating system. In the following 20 hours 126,500 voices were then added, from which however 800 (according to 0.6%) was surprisingly only allotted to Linux. Thus the being correct proportion doubled itself both from Windows 95/98/ME and NT/2000. now moves with some the suspicion , there must have been manipulated. Trust no statistics, which you did not falsify... ( odi / c't)

  • On September 12 (the second day the poll was going) BeOS was leading with a whopping 45%. I guess as soon as an "alternative" OS was taking the lead, someone decided it was bot-time.

    This is the future of democracy: online ballot stuffing bots!


    ---
  • Precisely. Online polls aren't statistically legit because the sample is self selecting. In order to extrapolate to the world at large such a poll needs a randomly selected set of pollees, not those who have something to say.
  • Considering that the BeNews slashbox directly to the left of this news article links to an article telling BeOS advocates about this very poll, with a line saying 'You know what to do', I fail to see why people are upset about Windows users doing pretty much the same thing.
  • FWIW || IIRC, someone posted on LT saying that they checked the poll several times during the morning that day, and calculated that NT votes were coming in at (IIRC) something like 6 per second, while the competition's votes were hardly moving at all. Almost certainly a bot (or perhaps that's what all those h@x0r3d Red Hat systems with the DDoS kits were really used for!).

    Not that I care. On-line polls are probably worth less than vendor benchmarks. Let the k1dd135 on both sides have their fun. Think of it as a scripting contest rather than an OS popularity contest.

    --
  • > Considering they fired at least two journalists before they found one who wrote articles about the MS trial they could approve, I don't think I'd consider them 100% neutral.

    I'd certainly like to have more information on that episode.

    --
  • Seems like a dream come true for the Holocaust denial crowd.

    No. Godwin's law only applies when someone brings in the Nazis in
    the context of a different subject. The `law' doesn't apply to
    serious discussions *about* fascism, Hitler or the Holocaust. I don't
    believe there is any danger of these subjects being ignored in the
    near future.

  • However, when some Nazi-related idea or symbol is used simply to illustrate a point rather than to attack the opposition, why should it be declared invalid?

    Fair enough, but there was nothing particularly appropriate about a Mein Kampf analogy there. There were dozens of simple examples that might have been used instead of the Nazi overkill.

    Either way, I wasn't trying to invalidate FascDot's insightful comment -- I was going for funny, and that is how it has thankfully been moderated.

  • I ran a public voting script similar to this one yesterday. I was available on a sub-sub-sub directory of my server. It was open for 10 minutes, and in that time I voted 52 times, and my friends voted a total of 218 times as well. Windows scored 0 votes during this poll, thus proving that it has no market share.
  • They're not completely meaningless. For instance, in this poll we have learned that someone likes Windows enough to learn how to write a script so that they can boost its image. Take it for what you paid for it...

  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:26AM (#771365) Homepage
    So some online poll on some website is showing fluctuations. Where one option was leading earlier, another one is now. What am I missing? Why in the world is this news?

    When was the last time anyone actually trusted or paid any attention to an online poll, anyway? If you do, I have a bridge in New York I'd like to sell you.

    And the insinuation that MSNBC rigged the poll is preposterous at best. Besides the point that it's hardly worth the effort or risk for them to do it, the far more likely possibilities are that 1) someone with a script skewed the numbers or 2)that the initial spike was because of Linux Today asking its readers to vote on that poll or 3) The initial spike was because someone with a script pumped up the Linux numbers and MSNBC took those votes away or 4) Horror of horrors, more people actually Use NT/2000!!

    So is this news worthy of posting on Slashdot because it involves Microsoft or because it involves Linux or because it slings some mud at Microsoft based on some pretend charges, hoping some of it will stick?
  • This was not the only problem. A Linux/Netscape browser could not even get to the page to vote. If you clicked on "Complete Story" nothing would happen. The only was I was able to vote for Linux was to access it from an IE browser. In other words, the poll prevented non-IE users from participating. This fact is a lot worse than ballot stuffing because the latter could be blamed on users.
  • Compared to Slashdot's polls [slashdot.org], at least MSNBC is being subtle about the way they cheat...
  • This is nothing new. All web polls are inherently invalid because of numerous faults in sampling method.

    I remember during Apple's really dark times being on the Evangelista email list. My god did we slant some web polls. I would say at least weekly, a post about some webpoll somewhere would pop up, and "the power of mac way" would give them pollsters some religion.

    I don't really have any bad feelings about doing this. We were in a death match over mindshare, and I'll be damned if I was going to sit by while nobody did anything...letting MS win by default. We were the only major group fighting for alternative CONSUMER OS's at the time, and all's fair in love and war.

    Now I truly dig the free software movement, because now I can fight tech opression AND help shape what I'm fighting for.

    In this instance, the webpoll is a bit moot. It's no longer which OS you use, it's what you do with it that makes a difference. The windows sheep can vote in polls all they want. I'm running the same net/web app they are, only my VM is more stable.
  • Score is 1:1

    When is the next fight^Wpoll?
  • Actually, what happened before that was Be was leading due to a post on BeNews. Then, LT encouraged its voters to stuff the ballot and extinguish Be's lead. Conspiracy! Conspiracy!
  • Im curious why Slashdot is posting this as well. Online polls (especially OS related ones) have to be the WORST way to proove anything. I myself have read alot of posts on Mac forums (Lets vote on every Mac vs. Win poll in existance) posting URLS to polls where Windows was dominating, the next day MacOS is in the lead. Stupid polls like "Which is a better gaming platform" and the Mac ends up winning even tho it had an ATI 128 (vs a GeForce SDR in the PC).

    Ditto for Linux users. It's only Windows users that really don't seem to fixate on operating systems. The people that vote in these polls are the ones that are the underdogs. For a long while, the "best operating system" poll at deja.com was like this:

    1. OS/2
    2. BeOS
    3. Amiga OS
    4. Free BSD
    5. Linux
    6. MacOS
    7. Windows

    Kind of in order by lack of marketshare :)
  • First, it should be noted that the poster who invoked Godwin's Law was merely going for laughs; the resultant fallout has taken him way to seriously (perhaps an appropriately placed smiley face would have been helpful; then again, maybe not.)

    Be that as it may, trying to invoke Godwin's Law to end an argument is a misapplication of the principle. Godwin's Law is merely a statement of probability, not an arbiter of disputes. It is the corollary Usenet tradition, not the Law itself, which declares that any invocation of Hitler or Nazis ends the discussion.

    Similarly, attempting to equate Godwin's Law with a point of logic is a non sequiter. Again, the Law is merely a statement of probability, not a rule of logic.

    Godwin's Law, I would argue, is universal. Wheter Usenet tradition is applicable outside Usenet is open for debate.

    Lee Kai Wen

  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:28AM (#771394)
    No one operating system is perfect. Even Linux. Deal with it.

    A smart engineer uses the best tool for the job. If I want a general-purpose programming workstation, I use Linux. If I'm building a firewall, I use OpenBSD. If I want a gaming box, I use Win9x. If I'm building a mission-critical database server, I'm going to use Solaris or AIX. Each tool has it's place and an appropriate use.

    Pointless bickering of the "My OS is better than your disro" or "My Linux distro rocks; your distro sucks" variety wastes everyone's time. It reminds me of pointless high school arguments over cars or bands.

    Opinion polls are worthless. Does an engineer base his decision on what OS to use for a project on what Joe Sixpack thinks is "best"? If opinion polls really mattered, professional wrestling would be an Olympic event (and probably our national sport).


    "The axiom 'An honest man has nothing to fear from the police'

  • Only those people who care enough to answer respond

    Yep, this is called a self-selecting population, and it's really bad for your statistics. This becomes worse in things like political polls where people are self-selecting. You end up getting situations where vocal minorities who really do care about an issue can completely outweigh moderate or even apathetic majorities.

    Other problems with online polls is that since it's the internet, there isn't always a reputation backing the poll. The US Census beareau and things like the wall street journal try to do very accurate polls because their ass is on the line in any number of different ways. These polls don't make or break anybody, so they don't have as much effort put into them to be fair. Mix that in with the editorial bias that MSNBC may or may not have, and the results are going to be suspect. (I.e. Amoco reveals a new study saying that 99% of americans prefer gasoline cars to the newer electric cars, etc)

    Usually real polls also have a way of "writing in". that way if an answer that is statistically significant keeps getting given by the people taking the poll, you can either redo it or adjust your options. In online polls, you can't write in, and you can't make it known that you would have written in. So you could get polls like this:

    Best Operating System:
    - Windows 98
    - Windows 2000
    - Windows NT
    - Windows ME

    that treat the domain of a person's choice as a forgone conclusion. Ever seen political polls on the net:

    I will vote for:
    - George Dubya Bush
    - Al "The Stiff" Gore

    umm...where's Ralph Nader? Where's Pat Buchanan? Where's David McReynolds?

  • Keep calm. There are other explanations as well. Say, someone posted news about this poll in some MS newsgroup (something a la Slashdot effect). Or, and this is a sad explanation, but quite likely IMO[1], they discovered some fake votes coming from the same address, and removed them. That would be even more probable to me, since it is *much* easier to do something like that using a one-liner in bash then using Windows[2], and since this wouldn't be the first time.

    I would be a little ashamed, as a /.er and Linux user, if this turned out to be true, especially after seeing such this type of headlines on Slashdot.

    Best regards,

    January

    [1] There ain't no such thing as a "humble" opinion.

    [2] In fact, almost anything useful is.[3]

    [3] And in other breaking news Mr. Edison invented the lightbulb, this contributing greatly to the Usenet humor[4]

    [4] But I digress...

  • by vslashg ( 209560 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @09:05AM (#771402)
    Posted by Hemos on Monday September 18, @1:48PM
    from the i-call-it-a-sporkle dept.

    CharChar writes "According to MSNBC news, Slashdot has produced a poll for the name of that plastic spoon/fork combination you get at cheesy restaurants. This time, the poll was rigged rather blatantly: Friday morning, 'spork' had 28% (2,213) of the vote, but miraculously dropped to 3% by Sunday evening. It appears that 70,102 votes came in on Sunday - all of them for 'foon'." Now, not knowing people at Slashdot or anything like that, I would offer the possibly that someone ran a script against it. Still, occurances like this make you question the validity of Slashdot poll results, no matter how significant or important the question.
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @09:05AM (#771403)
    Does /. post server logs anywhere?

    It would be interesting to see what OS'es people have been visiting /. from. There are a lot of free OS people posting around, but is this a vocal minority these days, or is this still representative of the audience? Come on /., which is the most popular OS amongst your readers?
  • by AntiPasto ( 168263 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @07:58AM (#771410) Journal
    I saw this on there earlier today, and they mentioned "Guess who is leading : )"

    When I visited and voted to see who was on top, NT/2000 came up... I dunno... I think this is just a fluke... I doubt they themselves rigged it. What would their motive be?

    I personally think either there are a lot more windows fans out there that read thegeek.org or MSNBC, or something (er... yeah... ummm that's it)... or Perhaps just someone running a script that thought it'd be a good gag.

    ----

  • The comment was incredibly appropriate.

    If you try to determine what percentage of people like science fiction by polling outside of a Star Wars premiere, you'll get biased results.

    If you poll for opinions about black equality outside a KKK rally, you'll get biased results.

    Those are very obvious, the completely biased results make this easy for everyone to understand.

    Now, if you said "It's like polling about BeOS outside of a Amiga user's group" that wouldn't mean anything to most people, though hardcore Amiga users are probably fairly biased towards various other OSes, both for and against...

    The difference is that this isn't as obvious to outsiders. Not everyone know's what an Amiga user would feel about BeOS or other OSes. Everyone knows that Star Wars fans are fanatical (esp the ones who go to crowded opening-night movies), just like everyone knows that KKK members are fanatical.

    Perhaps saying "Like asking a poll about best economic system at the end of Adam Smith's _Wealth of Nations_" would be just as accurate, but few people have heard of Adam Smith and _Wealth of Nations_ compared to the number who have heard of Adolph Hitler and _Mein Kampf_.

    You may not like anything Nazi related, but it's perfectly valid to talk about.

    Being that the talk was about polling and ways polls can be biased, discussing asking leading questions to fanatical people is on topic. Readers of _Mein Kampf_ are likely to be somewhat fanatical and thus it's a fair comparison.
  • by m00 ( 234084 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @11:13AM (#771414)
    "Errrr......... I've made a mistake"
    It's a shame to see all these people claiming "they rigged the vote" children..
    The truth..
    Linux starts out with some rigging on a mammoth scale. BeOS responds with organising taking place on a BE sponsored mailing list of all places(BeUserTalk). So I decide to level the playing field :) but then someone else decides to
    And then when the phantom Mac votee strikes back with an impressive votebot, retaliation was called for unfortunately it got rapidly out of hand at this point..
    "It's only a gameshow,
    It's only a gameshow"
    m00
    --
    For future reference and for "how" here's the source to the Windows votebot.. Link with wsock32.lib and you can roger any vote you want ;)
    "You live by the sword, you die by the sword"
    ------------------------------------------------ -
    Not fantastic but it was cobbled together in a few minutes..
    inline unsigned int RDTSC () {
    int a;
    _asm _emit 0fh
    _asm _emit 031h
    _asm mov a,eax;
    return a;}

    #include
    #include
    #include
    #include

    void GetHTTP(LPCSTR lpServerName,LPCSTR lpFileName);
    #define PRINTERROR(s) fprintf(stderr,"\n%: %d\n",s,WSAGetLastError())

    void main(int argc, char **argv)
    {
    WORD wVersionRequested = MAKEWORD(1,1);
    WSADATA wsaData;
    int nRet;
    if(argc!=2){fprintf(stderr,"\nSyntax: GetHTTP ServerName\n");return;}
    nRet=WSAStartup(wVersionRequested,&wsaData);
    if(nRet){fprintf(stderr,"\nWSAStartup(): %d\n",nRet);WSACleanup();return;}
    if(wsaData.wVersion!=wVersionRequested)
    {fprintf(stderr,"\nWinSock version not supported\n");WSACleanup();return;}
    _setmode(_fileno(stdout),_O_BINARY);
    long g1=0xD1497877,g2=0x8BC411D4,g3=0xACC70080,g4=0x5FD 7E96E;
    char *fcmds[4][3]; // Errr, Let's be a bit lazy here ;)
    fcmds[0][0]="/modules/livevote/vote.asp?t=2&LVname =Operatingsystemspoll&Q1=";
    fcmds[0][1]="1& HTTP/1.0\nAccept: */*\nReferer:

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/459053.asp?cp1=1\nAcce pt-Language: en-us\nAccept-Encoding: gzip, deflate\nUser-Agent:

    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0)\nHost: www.msnbc.com\nCookie: MC1=GUID=";
    fcmds[0][2]="; P1=0\nConnection: close\n";

    fcmds[1][0]="/modules/livevote/vote.asp?t=2&LVname =Operatingsystemspoll&Q1=";
    fcmds[1][1]="2& HTTP/1.0\nAccept: */*\nReferer:

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/459053.asp?cp1=1\nAcce pt-Language: en-us\nAccept-Encoding: gzip, deflate\nUser-Agent:

    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0)\nHost: www.msnbc.com\nCookie: MC1=GUID=";
    fcmds[1][2]="; P1=0\nConnection: close\n";

    fcmds[2][0]="/modules/livevote/vote.asp?t=2&LVname =Operatingsystemspoll&Q1=";
    fcmds[2][1]="3& HTTP/1.0\nAccept: */*\nReferer:

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/459053.asp?cp1=1\nAcce pt-Language: en-us\nAccept-Encoding: gzip, deflate\nUser-Agent:

    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0)\nHost: www.msnbc.com\nCookie: MC1=GUID=";
    fcmds[2][2]="; P1=0\nConnection: close\n";

    fcmds[3][0]="/modules/livevote/vote.asp?t=2&LVname =Operatingsystemspoll&Q1=";
    fcmds[3][1]="5& HTTP/1.0\nAccept: */*\nReferer:

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/459053.asp?cp1=1\nAcce pt-Language: en-us\nAccept-Encoding: gzip, deflate\nUser-Agent:

    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0)\nHost: www.msnbc.com\nCookie: MC1=GUID=";
    fcmds[3][2]="; P1=0\nConnection: close\n";

    srand((unsigned)RDTSC()); // Should be suitably random enough ;)
    g1+=rand();g2+=rand();g3+=rand();g4+=rand();

    int votingorder[5]={0,1,1,2,3};
    int which=0;int maxwhich=5;
    for (int i=0;i=maxwhich)which=0;
    }
    WSACleanup();
    }

    void GetHTTP(LPCSTR lpServerName, LPCSTR lpFileName)
    {
    IN_ADDR iaHost;
    LPHOSTENT lpHostEntry;
    iaHost.s_addr=inet_addr(lpServerName);
    if(iaHost.s_addr==INADDR_NONE)lpHostEntry=gethostb yname(lpServerName);
    else lpHostEntry=gethostbyaddr((const char *)&iaHost,sizeof(struct in_addr),AF_INET);
    if(lpHostEntry==NULL){PRINTERROR("gethostbyname()" );return;}
    SOCKET Socket;
    Socket=socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM,IPPROTO_TCP);
    if(Socket==INVALID_SOCKET){PRINTERROR("socket()"); return;}
    LPSERVENT lpServEnt;
    SOCKADDR_IN saServer;
    lpServEnt=getservbyname("http","tcp");
    if(lpServEnt==NULL)saServer.sin_port=htons(80);
    else saServer.sin_port=lpServEnt->s_port;
    saServer.sin_family=AF_INET;
    saServer.sin_addr=*((LPIN_ADDR)*lpHostEntry->h_add r_list);
    int nRet=connect(Socket,(LPSOCKADDR)&saServer,sizeof(S OCKADDR_IN));
    if(nRet==SOCKET_ERROR){PRINTERROR("connect()");clo sesocket(Socket);return;}
    char szBuffer[1024];
    sprintf(szBuffer, "GET %s\n", lpFileName);
    printf("%s\n",szBuffer);
    nRet=send(Socket,szBuffer,strlen(szBuffer),0);
    if(nRet==SOCKET_ERROR){PRINTERROR("send()");closes ocket(Socket);return;}
    while(1)
    {
    nRet=recv(Socket,szBuffer,sizeof(szBuffer),0);
    if(nRet==SOCKET_ERROR){PRINTERROR("recv()");break; }
    fprintf(stderr,"\nrecv() returned %d bytes",nRet);
    if(nRet==0)break;
    // fwrite(szBuffer, nRet, 1, stdout); // Write to stdout
    }
    closesocket(Socket);
    }
  • "Everyone I know..."

    The problem with saying that is that you tend to hang out with people similar to you. "Everyone I know" is demonstrably meaningless unless you do truly have a cross-section of society in your circle of friends.

    /Brian
  • 2) Only people who read the site see the poll. Imagine if they put a poll about "best skin color" at the end of "Mein Kampf"--do you think "black" would win?

    Godwin's Law [science.uva.nl] invoked. You lose.

  • Insightful? Where's the insight?
  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @09:07AM (#771429)

    Another way to (ab)use polls is to phrase the questions in a manipulative way. There, you don't care what the results are, you're using the 'scientific neutrality' of being a polltaker to lure people into believing what you say.

    example:

    PONDS: "Sir, I am from the Ponds Institute of Knowledge, and I wanted to ask you a few questions about skin cream. It is, after all, For Science.

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "Well, since it is For Science, I'll just put my dinner on hold and answer a few questions for the sake of Pure Research."

    PONDS: "Yep, that's right. So, sir, do you use skin cream?"

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "Well, no, not really."

    PONDS: "Do you suffer from any skin conditions?"

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "No."

    PONDS: "Are you experiencing symptoms of dermal dehydration? Is that a condition you suffer from?"

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "I don't know what that is."

    PONDS: "The symptoms of Dermal Dehydration are dryness of the skin, occasional irritation, and some sensitivity."

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "Well, when I shave, it does sometimes get a little sensitive in places. Especially if I haven't shaved in a few days."

    PONDS: "OK, then, I'll put you down as a yes for skin conditions in this Completely Academic survey."

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "Wow, I really do have a skin condition. With a medical sounding name and everything! I wonder what the cure is?"

    PONDS: "Well, that isn't our survey, sir, but on a Totally Off Topic Note, this condition is completely treatable with the application of a topical dermal hydrating application, known to Laymen Like You as a skin cream."

    JOHN Q. PUBLIC: "Oh! I'll have to buy some!"

    PONDS: "Good for you! Now, on to our last question. Are you aware of the fact that only Ponds (tm) skin cream hasn't been reported to cause festering sores, which ooze pus at the dinner table?"

    Results: 100% hadn't heard that report, but 100% have now. Not that they know who reported it, or where...

    Note, I totally and unfairly single out Ponds, which to my knowledge has never done a poll at all, let alone a 'push poll'. I pick ponds out because of that Ponds Institute they always talk about on TV-- kinda like the Halls of Medicine, or the Center for Bubbliciousness Studies (last my invention). But the point is that you can use a trick like a scientific survey to manipulate people without them ever hearing the results. And since these are usually targetted calls, your competitors never hear about the rumors you start until it is way too late.

  • by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Monday September 18, 2000 @09:07AM (#771432) Homepage Journal
    The program did indeed run under Windows.

    The program was structured like this:

    1) autorun vote program
    2) vote
    3) reboot

    Microsoft identified a bug in Windows 98 that caused the step #3 to execute slowly. You will find that the new operating system from Redmond, called "Windows Me Harder", fixes that bug causing step #3 to take much less time than before. Indeed, the ballot stuffing was much enhanced when run on the new operating system.

  • Guess what? Not everyone likes or uses linux. Why is it whenever someone writes an article pointing out shortcomings and their dislikes you always assume microsoft has paid them off?
  • The news media rigs polls routinely to dupe the public into getting their candidate elected. (Hey! rigging ones own poll is not illegal, right?) And right now the media wants Gore. So they release poll after poll favoring Gore in the hopes that republican voters will say "Why bother? CNN said Gore's clinched it" and not vote. Everyone I've talked to favors Bush. Who gets included in these "polls" anyway? Do they stand outside the DNC polling people "at random"? I've never been asked to participate in a poll. Have you? Think about it. I think election polls ought to be banned just as news coverage is banned until voting closes in all US time zones. (This is done so people in PST still vote when EST, CST, MST polls close and the presidential winner is already decided.)
  • Perhaps it was just somebody who wanted to cause a lot of uproar in the Linux-fanatic crowd.

    I've heard that the poll is supposed to only allow one vote per unique IP address. Could somebody fake hundreds of thousands of IP addresses if they knew that the "fake IP" data streams would always be routed through their host?
  • by dboyles ( 65512 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @09:17AM (#771440) Homepage
    ...who said, "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." Too many people base too much of their opinion on statistics. As is obvious in this case, one side or another can flood the ballot, either by legitimately sending a large number of individuals to the poll or by having a few people run a script. As another poster mentioned, if "What's the best OS" was run on Slashdot, I doubt any Windows systems would top 5% of the vote. Numbers in this case are simply meaningless.

    After one of the concerts I went to last spring in Huntsville, AL, I was notified about a poll that a Huntsville news station was running. The wording was something like the following:

    This past weekend (band's name) played at (venue name). Approximately a dozen fans were arrested for drug charges... Should (band's name) be invited back?

    That wording still isn't very accurate (I can't remember it verbatim), but the way the poll was worded made it clear which way they felt readers should vote. What would have happened if it had been worded like this?

    This past weekend, (band's name) came to town, bringing thousands of loyal followers. The majority of the fans were well behaved, and spent thousands of dollars with local area merchants. Should (band's name) be invited back?

    I think it's pretty obvious. But the poll really pissed me off because I could just picture the report on the 5:00 news about how 96% of poll takers don't think the band should be invited back because of the wording of the question.
  • Vote-Smart.org [vote-smart.org] lists 157 presidential candidates. Granted, most of them wouldn't get more than a couple votes, but the fact that all options aren't presented kinda screws up any poll, doesn't it? I guess they could throw in an "other" option, but it would still make the poll biased towards those candidates that are actually listed.

  • Nah, one of the really bigass linux news sites linked to it. Hence the large percentage. Honestly, I'd more likely believe that a random user pumped up the win32 platform than msnbc, they've been pretty good about being fair.

    But, we do remember the old "grassroots" movement for Win16 against OS/2 on the OS/2 BBSs. I'm sorry but one must also remember that MS really isn't above this childish bullshit.

    --

  • by Uruk ( 4907 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:00AM (#771450)
    You know this sounds kind of odd to me, because even though they are called *MS*NBC, they haven't been that bad with journalism. I remember seeing links on slashdot to articles on MSNBC about linux and so on, and they seem to have had some editorial independance in the past about what they write on relating to the tech field.

    I'd also like to point out that 28% for linux sounds high to me, even if that is the figure that I'd like to believe. It's equally likely that some fool ran a script to pump linux's numbers up, and that windows wasn't the only "cheater" in that poll.

    But what it really comes down to is the disclaimer I think I've seen on some net polling sites, which is something along the lines of "These numbers are very unscientific, and if you use them for anything important, you're insane".

    All that said, who cares about some nonsense popularity contest? Linux doesn't need to be ELECTED prom king in order to kick ass.

  • by Millard Fillmore ( 197731 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:00AM (#771451) Homepage Journal
    The babelfish translation is worth it in its own right, and the story is mildly interesting. But the best part of it is the last line, as translated by the fish (which means it could be a real idiom or an artifact of machine translation):

    "Trust no statistic which you did not falsify."

  • by nullspace ( 11532 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:02AM (#771453)
    Check out the original English version from LinuxToday. [linuxtoday.com]
  • You end up getting situations where vocal minorities who really do care about an issue can completely outweigh moderate or even apathetic majorities.

    The real problem is that it's those vocal minorities who will go out and vote, while the apathetic majority stays home on the couch. That's why the minority has such power and can get such ludicrous legislation passed. Because nobody else gives a damn enough to make their feelings known to the politicians and to go out and vote to back it up.

  • Since Babelfish does tend to make amusing translation errors, I asked a German co-worker. The last sentance does roughly translate as "Trust no statistic you did not fake yourself."
  • Things are a bit more insidious than that.

    Take a poll, choose your favorite color.

    Ask 10 people. The choices are red and green.. hmmn well 7/10 people like red.

    They will extrapolate from that that Green is the most hated color on the planet.

    These polls barely have kernels;) of truth in them at all. They ask totally off the wall questions like "Do you like what clinton did in this bill, which they know most people will answer yes to, and then they convert that to a rating of the nations opinon of clinton."

    So whenever I see a poll results it tranlates into something like a lie, benchmark, or something equally nefarious and gets discarded from my mind so that I form my own opinons :)

    Jeremy
  • LinuxToday got wind of an e-mail that went out to WinME beta testers that encouraged them to rig a poll at ZDnet regarding whether people would buy WinME

    Really? Well, I'm a WinME beta tester, and received no such email. Stop spreading FUD.

    Simon
  • by mooredav ( 101800 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:02AM (#771472)

    How many votes will you cast in this poll?

    • 0
    • 1
    • 10
    • 100
    • while(1) { vote("CowboyNeal") }
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Monday September 18, 2000 @08:04AM (#771478)
    The sample is non-random in several ways.

    1) Only online people are included--less than 4% of the world is online. Probably moot in this particular example, though.

    2) Only people who read the site see the poll. Imagine if they put a poll about "best skin color" at the end of "Mein Kampf"--do you think "black" would win?

    3) Only those people who care enough to answer respond, even if they see the poll. A real poll goes out and asks people (on the street, on the phone, whatever) and requires an answer be marked down (even if it is "no response"). If an online poll marked a "no response" category for every webhit that didn't vote we'd see an alarming amount of apathy...

    4) It is always possible to stuff the box--setting a cookie is useless since it can be deleted. Recording IP address is mostly useless since it doesn't work very well for dialup--not to mention privacy and spoofing issues.

    In short, never pay any attention from an online poll. Magazine polls have most of the same problems, ignore them as well.
    --
    Linux MAPI Server!
    http://www.openone.com/software/MailOne/
  • There must be some sort of caveat?

    Something along the lines of:

    "This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important- you're insane."

    Sound familiar?

To downgrade the human mind is bad theology. - C. K. Chesterton

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