Thursday, August 5, 2010

Almost all the online news sites in America run meaningless interactive polls.

They are meant as an amusement, a diversion, something to generate a few more hits on the site. And they are about as scientific as the Flat Earth Society. (Discussion group on forum: Sometimes the Facts Don't Matter.)

Did I mention that online polls are meaningless? (Thursday's Quick Question on Have you undergone a full-body scan?)

Sometimes an online news site will ask a question that assumes that all its readers are swamis. ('s You Decide on Thursday: Will Kagan Tilt the Court Further Left?)

And sometimes the questions are meant simply to allow readers to vent their spleens. (Tuesday's poll question: Should Carmel City Administrator Rich Guillen be fired?)

In Carmel, there are few kerfuffles in town that aren't incapable of spinning a whole new network of dread controversies.

The Rich Guillen thing is certainly a bonafide fuss, worthy of the attention it has received. But now the The Herald's unscientific poll seems to have generated a whole new controversy in town.

As it turns out, some pest apparently ruined the fun and hacked the online poll. In a matter of a few minutes, nearly 1,000 votes were cast in Mr. Guillen's favor. The casual observer might conclude that 82 percent of online readers think Guillen should not be fired.

Outrage has ensued. Letters have been written. Phone calls have been placed. Declarations have been boldly asserted regarding the accuracy of the poll and the ramifications of the poll results on the future of Carmel.

For the record, the readers' polls on all media websites are unscientific samplings. And they are meaningless.

And it is possible to hack away at online polling sites to skew results. You can learn how with a simple Google search.

So if zealots and the naive are using the results of this meaningless and unscientific Guillen poll to support or oppose public policy in Carmel — and people are taking them seriously — then the political climate in Carmel is much worse than I could have imagined.

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