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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Singeing the Monkey's Tail

As you might suspect from the title of this post, what you may read here will heat up before it cools down. I've been chilling the content since February 23, 2007, already. If your can't stand the residual heat or the pungent odor, please skip this message.

The purpose of this response to an EVO survey is to cool down by metaphorically singeing the monkey's tail. Nine times out of ten (or more) that I bother to engage a Survey Monkey instrument, I get hot under the collar - for a number of reasons.

First and foremost is the off-the-wall time estimates that preface many surveys. If surveyors really want no more than five to ten minutes of our time, they don't want substantive feedback. They are just going through the motions. Or, they are lying up front just to get responses, and hoping that respondents will follow up on their time investments, once they get started. (Echo Neil Young's song, Piece of ..., about here.)

Second, even when the surveys and time estimates come from prestigious institutions (research universities and professional organizations), they fail to demonstrate rigo(u)r in item preparation (or I suppose, piloting). For example, items 8-10 of a recent Electronic Village Online (EVO) survey conflate any number of serious research questions. If you just tick a box, fine; but what does that mean; or, for that matter, what do three or four ticked boxes on a single item mean?

Almost every time that I engage a Survey Monkey questionnaire, I start humming and rehearsing the lyrics of Neil Young's song: "Take it back to the store; they give you four more...." Doing so used to get me through - sometimes an hour or more beyond surveyors' time estimates, but hardly does anymore.

Then there is the issue of feedback on feedback. In recent experience (say, the last three to five years), most Survey Monkey surveyors have neither prefaced their instruments with promises to provide feedback, nor (to my knowledge [with possibly one exception]) provided any feedback whatsoever to survey participants other than: "Thank you; you're done."

Why don't feedback loops involve contributors? Perhaps they aren't really loops, but vacuums.

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