Okay, E2 is full of hilarious shenanigans and comedy polls and I respect that. But you people are abject failures at extracting usable data from each other when you actually need to test the water on something.

The following are all problems I've observed in real E2 polls.

  1. When a poll is framed in the form of selectable radio buttons, all of the options should be mutually exclusive:

    Do you eat meat?

    • Yes
    • No

    As opposed to:

    Do you eat meat?

    • Yes
    • No, I'm a vegetarian
    • No, for religious reasons
    • No, meat makes me ill
    • No, for ethical reasons
    • etc.
  2. Don't list the same option twice in one poll.

    Should E2 have downvotes?

    • Yes
    • No
    • None of the above, and I will explain why in a /msg
    • None of the above.
  3. The options supplied should adequately cover all possible responses. (The fact that Everything2 enforces a "None of the above" option at the bottom of every poll does not discharge your responsibility. "None of the above" is only there because you're bad at making polls. In many cases it shouldn't be necessary.) Thus:

    Are you married?

    • Yes
    • No

    As opposed to:

    In what industry sector do you work?

    • Agriculture
    • Fishing
    • [no other options at all]
  4. The options supplied should answer the question. As opposed to answering some other question:

    Do you like poetry nodes?

    • I love poetry
    • I hate poetry
  5. If your question has a vast range of nuanced viewpoints ("Do you believe in God? How do you feel about allowing comments beneath writeups?"), don't try to represent every viewpoint with an option. This is futile. A poll is the wrong way to ask these questions. Start a discussion.

  6. For the same reason, don't ask open-ended questions ("What was your childhood like?"), ask closed ones ("How many fingers do you use when you type?").

  7. Your poll question may be as convoluted as you like and link to as much explanatory information as you like, but if any of your poll options are longer than ten words, you're doing something wrong.

  8. Don't put words in people's mouths:

    Did you notice that E2 was down for an hour last night?

    • Yes
    • No, good job!
  9. Don't spread one opinion across many options:

    Do you think the new poll guidelines are good?

    • Yes
    • No, because they're too long
    • No, because they're too stringent
    • No, because they're not stringent enough
    • No, polls shouldn't have guidelines
    • etc.

    The result here is obviously 10 "Yes" votes and 2 or 3 for each of the "No" votes, so that "Yes" appears to win, even though it hasn't really won.

  10. Where there is a clear spectrum of possible responses, they should be presented in a logical order. As in:

    "jaybonci is a strong leader":

    • Agree strongly
    • Agree slightly
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Disagree slightly
    • Disagree strongly

    And not:

    Do you like poetry nodes?

    • Sure, I guess
    • No, not really
    • I'm indifferent
    • I hate them
    • I love them
  11. Don't provide one option which will accumulate every vote and obliterate the others, such as:

    What's your favourite side of the coin?

    • Heads
    • Tails
    • Edge [hint: everybody on the planet will pick this]
  12. Don't mix comedy options with serious questions. If your poll is intended to gather data on a subject which is important, every comedy vote is a wasted data point:

    Do you think that user sam512 should be banned from Everything2?

    This is equivalent to:

    • Yes
    • No
    • I can't be bothered to form an opinion on this important question and you obviously can't be bothered to collect it from me

    with the last option obviously accruing a substantial percentage of the vote.

  13. Don't put "All of the above" as an option if you haven't handled every other possible combination of options:

    Are you:

    • Left-handed
    • Gay
    • Coeliac
    • All of the above

    In fact, never use that option at all. Try:

    I am:

    • Tall
    • Stupid
    • Both
    • Neither

    or even - shock horror - gathering the information you need in multiple orthogonal polls.

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