Every single site on the Internet seems to be running an online poll these days. Read a story online and you will probably be asked to cast some sort of inane vote about the content of the story you just read. “Do you think Saddam Hussein sleeps in full military dress?”

Watch any sporting event on television for five minutes and some “instant poll” will inevitably pop up, begging you to go online to vote about some vital issue. “Should Mike Piazza have beat the hell out of Roger Clemens for throwing that bat at him in the World Series?”

Given the explosion of online polling, we thought we would take a look at a couple of examples of online polls gone awry.


Forbes recently ran an article about the best media blogs, complete with the requisite companion poll that allowed users to vote for their favorite blog mentioned in the story. The blogs selected as the “best” were fairly well known sites, such as MetaFilter.com and BlogCritics.org. Forbes left itself open for mischief by including an option to vote for “None of the Above”.

The folks at Fark.com got wind of the story and were annoyed/amused that they were not included in the piece. Deciding to take action, Fark.com posted a link to the poll and encouraged their constituents to visit Forbes and vote “None of the Above” as the best media blog. At the time of this writing, “None of the Above” was chosen as best media blog by 83 percent of respondents, garnering over 6,000 more votes than the other entries.*


On its Sunday night show announcing the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets, ESPN made a big show of revealing which teams ESPN.com visitors thought would win each game in each round of the tournament. ESPN announced the results of the online survey during the show, and encouraged users to go to ESPN.com to vote as each round of the tournament was completed via online vote.

The results were a triumph of groupthink. In the first round, ESPN.com visitors picked the higher seeded team in virtually every game. The #1 seed in each bracket ended up advancing to the Final Four of this “online” version of the NCAA tournament, as the announcers did their best to pretend like the whole exercise was a good use of our (and their) time.

The whole thing was really silly.


So what can we learn from all this? Probably two things:

(1) Most Internet Polls are inane. They are easily manipulated and almost always end up stating the obvious. The use of online polls, particularly those with television tie-ins, is a trend whose time has passed.

(2) Don’t mess with Fark.com.

*This is nothing new for Fark.com. The site, which has a rabid following, posts links to the interesting stories from around the Internet on a daily basis, often crashing the site’s they link to in the process. All of the media-darling sites listed in the Forbes poll have value, but I would guess that Fark.com attracts more usage than all five of the sites listed in the poll combined.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.