Polls Disabled

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Alex Frakt
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Polls Disabled

Post by Alex Frakt » Fri May 01, 2015 12:16 pm

After consultation with the Advisory Board, I have disabled polls on this site.

The general problem with self-selecting polls is that the results only tell you only about those who chose to respond to the poll. They cannot be relied on as reflecting the broader will of the participants of this forum, nor can they give any clear insights into the question asked. With written answers (beyond the pointless "+1"), a reader at least has the opportunity to review the respondent's reasoning for his or her answer. In addition to the lack of utility of polls, they required a disproportionate amount of moderator effort and were usually in violation of our requirements that posts be both personal and actionable.

I do understand some polls have a certain entertainment value, but our resources are limited and we prefer to focus on areas where we feel we can do the most direct good.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by livesoft » Fri May 01, 2015 12:28 pm

What? You didn't have a poll to see what forum members thought about this first? Bummer.

And I was working on a pretty good new poll, too. :(
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by nordlead » Fri May 01, 2015 1:02 pm

livesoft wrote:What? You didn't have a poll to see what forum members thought about this first? Bummer.

And I was working on a pretty good new poll, too. :(


http://www.poll-maker.com/poll307905x698D4375-11

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Ron » Fri May 01, 2015 2:56 pm

livesoft wrote:What? You didn't have a poll to see what forum members thought about this first? Bummer.

And I was working on a pretty good new poll, too. :(

+1 :twisted:

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by The Wizard » Fri May 01, 2015 3:02 pm

Fortunately, Bigfoot's net worth survey used an external spreadsheet to tabulate individual financial profiles.
So it wasn't a poll in the simplistic sense...
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by GoldenFinch » Fri May 01, 2015 4:13 pm

I really liked the polls! I think the majority of people on this site completely understood that the polls were not scientific. I understand the moderators dilemma, but I think the polls added something useful. Before killing them off, there should have been a poll.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by chessmannextmove » Fri May 01, 2015 4:17 pm

GoldenFinch wrote:I really liked the polls! I think the majority of people on this site completely understood that the polls were not scientific. I understand the moderators dilemma, but I think the polls added something useful. Before killing them off, there should have been a poll.

+1

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by BigFoot48 » Fri May 01, 2015 4:18 pm

The Wizard wrote:Fortunately, Bigfoot's net worth survey used an external spreadsheet to tabulate individual financial profiles.
So it wasn't a poll in the simplistic sense...

Actually that bobblehead's survey, I just do supporting grunt work.

+1 on having a poll on this decision. Got me to laugh. :beer
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by rayson » Fri May 01, 2015 4:28 pm

Polls was a fun feature of bogleaheads :confused

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by nisiprius » Fri May 01, 2015 6:32 pm

I sort of thought they were fun too--I had fun with them myself--but I can't honestly disagree with Alex. I think he's right.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Pinotage » Fri May 01, 2015 6:38 pm

nisiprius wrote:I sort of thought they were fun too--I had fun with them myself--but I can't honestly disagree with Alex. I think he's right.


Agreed, can certainly see his points. I say good change.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by pennstater2005 » Fri May 01, 2015 8:20 pm

The polls might have been entertaining but I agree most were meaningless. (including one I think I started :D )

LadyGeek said it best in this recent "Household Gross Income Poll" noting that at the time she wrote the post only 324 members had voted out of over 32,300 registered members with at least one post equaling ~ 1% voter turnout.

I won't miss the polls.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=163384&start=50#p2454174
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by LadyGeek » Fri May 01, 2015 9:31 pm

I can confirm that Alex did discuss this with the Advisory Board (which includes me).

One of the more frustrating things I see in this forum is that members will sometimes use a poll to help them make financial decisions.

You can't mess with your life savings (or at least a good chunk of money) based on anonymous information. You have know idea if (1) the member is guessing the answer or playing games with the poll - or - (2) why the member voted that way.

For example, I really hope these threads got good answers:

- DFA as a new 401k option - Poll
- Poll Question: Vanguard vs Fidelity taxable brokerage
- VFSVX or VSS for International Small Cap?
- POLL: Prepay car loan (1.75%)
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Fallible » Fri May 01, 2015 10:23 pm

pennstater2005 wrote:The polls might have been entertaining but I agree most were meaningless. (including one I think I started :D )

LadyGeek said it best in this recent "Household Gross Income Poll" noting that at the time she wrote the post only 324 members had voted out of over 32,300 registered members with at least one post equaling ~ 1% voter turnout.

I won't miss the polls.
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=163384&start=50#p2454174


LadyGeek's numbers did show the statistical insignificance of the income poll and that, plus the voter anonymity she also mentioned, would apply to other polls. And yet some posters (I don't know how many, but we could do a poll on it...oh, wait...) were later referring to the polls as showing what and who the Bogleheads are overall and even starting threads based on that, and nobody was questioning it. Also, if the moderators find the polls too much work, it's too much work. Alex and the Advisory Board have made a good and necessary decision.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by rob » Fri May 01, 2015 10:29 pm

It's a shame... I never took them deadly serious and thought they added value as part of the site. Yeah the results meant little in most cases but you could say that for a lot of our posts as well (especially the +1 nonsense) - people should not be making serious decisions based on anything here but should use it as a starting point for more research.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by serbeer » Fri May 01, 2015 11:13 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:I do understand some polls have a certain entertainment value, but our resources are limited and we prefer to focus on areas where we feel we can do the most direct good.


I started to write long post to respond to this, spent about 10 mins writing it, and then just deleted it all. I am just going to say that it is a bad idea to disable major feature of the forum without discussing it on the forum first, to get feedback from active members if nothing else, and it is going to detract from forum's value. My 2c.

If member votes count at that point, I'd like to see poll feature preserved.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by stingray5688 » Fri May 01, 2015 11:21 pm

LadyGeek wrote:You can't mess with your life savings (or at least a good chunk of money) based on anonymous information.


LOL. doesn't that render the majority of the threads on this forum useless?

99% of Internet statistics are made up anyway, everyone knows that. Polls are fun and interesting. Ridiculous decision.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by jidina80 » Fri May 01, 2015 11:36 pm

I like polls. Can we have a poll to decide whether to keep them?

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by 555 » Sat May 02, 2015 12:18 am

jidina80 wrote:I like polls. Can we have a poll to decide whether to keep them?
By a remarkable coincidence, the percentage of polls that are scientific is equal to the percentage of comments that are original.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by siamond » Sat May 02, 2015 12:34 am

serbeer wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:I do understand some polls have a certain entertainment value, but our resources are limited and we prefer to focus on areas where we feel we can do the most direct good.


I started to write long post to respond to this, spent about 10 mins writing it, and then just deleted it all. I am just going to say that it is a bad idea to disable major feature of the forum without discussing it on the forum first, to get feedback from active members if nothing else, and it is going to detract from forum's value. My 2c.

If member votes count at that point, I'd like to see poll feature preserved.

+1 (and yes, this is a meaningful statement)

I would also add that i am a little bit worried that moderation on this forum is getting a little bit uptight. There is substantial value in keeping and allowing some levity... And i am saying that out of 'tough love' as i truly admire the very effective moderation happening on this forum, and I've conveyed this appreciation to Ladygeek several times.

But suppressing polls? This is just ridiculous. You don't suppress tools in a toolbox because they are sometimes badly used. And making such decision in a dictatorial fashion? Nah, sorry, this isn't quite right.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Alex Frakt » Sat May 02, 2015 12:57 am

siamond wrote:I would also add that i am a little bit worried that moderation on this forum is getting a little bit uptight. There is substantial value in keeping and allowing some levity...

I enjoy levity as long as it's on-topic.
siamond wrote:You don't suppress tools in a toolbox because they are sometimes badly used.

The point is that polls are not a tool. They have no utility at all. There is nothing you can do with a poll that can't be done without one. Most sites encourage polls because they are clickbait. We don't get paid by the click so there is no reason to have a "feature" that is designed to encourage division and pointless argumentation while providing nothing of practical value in return.
siamond wrote:And making such decision in a dictatorial fashion? Nah, sorry, this isn't quite right.

Part of the reason we have an Advisory Board is to give me a reality check on issues like this (see below from the forum policies). If I had posted on it, the results are predictable because those who feel the most strongly, especially those that feel that something they like is being taken away, are the most likely to respond.

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The Advisory Board includes site officers - Site Admins, Moderators and Wiki Admins - and at least two regular members of the community who are selected by general agreement of the existing board. Moderators shall not make up a majority of the Advisory Board.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by The Wizard » Sat May 02, 2015 1:58 am

Some polls are borderline non actionable due to one-dimensional limitations in the polling structure.

A useful data gathering exercise might be: what is your age and your AA?
Results would be presented as a scatter plot with age on x axis, stock % on y axis.
The old poll concept can't do this.
It would have to be done by manually compiling data from each post in the thread, or by setting up a google sheet for users to access.

I think it is still "legal" to request & compile data in this manner...
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by LadyGeek » Sat May 02, 2015 6:01 am

Remember that we've only disabled the poll feature (option) of the forum software. We haven't removed the ability to conduct polls, which can be thought of as a "data gathering exercise" (as The Wizard notes).

Here's an example: A quick poll--pension annuity vs. lump sum

Each answer is clearly a member's opinion with a reason why one option or the other is chosen.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Tanelorn » Sat May 02, 2015 10:40 pm

LadyGeek wrote:Remember that we've only disabled the poll feature (option) of the forum software. We haven't removed the ability to conduct polls, which can be thought of as a "data gathering exercise" (as The Wizard notes).

Here's an example: A quick poll--pension annuity vs. lump sum

Each answer is clearly a member's opinion with a reason why one option or the other is chosen.

The problem with a "sorta poll" where you are asking each person for a reply is that:

1. Many people would give a quick click poll response but not bother to write a full post, so you get fewer opinions and worse statistics

And more importantly,

2. Now people who respond will have very likely read all the earlier responses first, which can biases their replies, encourage group-think, and lead to first responder effects where the discussion can be directed very differently by the way the first couple people choose to frame the issue.

It is now impossible to conduct a good poll on this site and I think that's a bad thing. The fact that most BH members didn't put enough thought into making their poll carefully shouldn't preclude those who did from being able.

Sadly, I suppose if the Board cared about our opinions they would have made a poll, and since they did not, it is likely this whole discussion is probably a waste of all our time.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by 555 » Sat May 02, 2015 10:43 pm

99.9% of forum members who don't care about the lack of polls, won't bother posting in this thread.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by rob » Sat May 02, 2015 10:47 pm

555 wrote:99.9% of forum members who don't care about the lack of polls, won't bother posting in this thread.

and 65.4% of statistics are made up :D
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by siamond » Sat May 02, 2015 10:57 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:
siamond wrote:You don't suppress tools in a toolbox because they are sometimes badly used.

The point is that polls are not a tool. They have no utility at all. There is nothing you can do with a poll that can't be done without one. Most sites encourage polls because they are clickbait. We don't get paid by the click so there is no reason to have a "feature" that is designed to encourage division and pointless argumentation while providing nothing of practical value in return.

Alex, I am sorry, but this seems quite backwards. It is EXACTLY because polls entice people to click that they are valuable. Since it is very easy to select an answer out of a pre-canned list of answers, and since answers are anonymous, you will typically find many more answers to a poll than distinct posters on a given thread. Some of us are outspoken, others are not. Polls are a powerful and unique way to make the 'silent majority' speak up (well, not all of them for sure, but some of them). While I have yet to understand the value of NOT having polls.

Do try to set up a poll on the fact that we should keep polls or not, as was suggested by multiple posters on this thread. I guarantee that you will get many more answers than explicit reactions to this thread. And my point will then be easily proven (irrespective of the outcome of the poll itself).

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by TallBoy29er » Sat May 02, 2015 11:06 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:The point is that polls are not a tool. They have no utility at all.


Quite an overly broad statement here. At some point one must stop trying to save people from themselves. It is an offensive sentiment, particularly to the members of this forum.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Christine_NM » Sat May 02, 2015 11:17 pm

Can you add some automatic boilerplate as a footnote to each poll, something about our polls being unscientific, don't change your life based on a poll (or a post, for that matter), proving nothing, reader beware -- whatever you want.

We live in a checkbox/radio button world. Might as well learn to deal with it. The polls are fun and a different way of seeing the group. Sometimes they are silly but that is not a crime.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by stlutz » Sat May 02, 2015 11:34 pm

99.9% of forum members who don't care about the lack of polls, won't bother posting in this thread.


I'll be in the .1% and say that I couldn't care less one way or the other. Most of the time I usually ignored the actual poll result and just read the comments anyhow. So I guess my forum experience will be exactly the same. :happy

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Alex Frakt » Sat May 02, 2015 11:35 pm

Tanelorn wrote:The problem with a "sorta poll" where you are asking each person for a reply is that:

1. Many people would give a quick click poll response but not bother to write a full post, so you get fewer opinions and worse statistics

It is now impossible to conduct a good poll on this site and I think that's a bad thing.

It was always impossible to conduct a good poll on this site. That people like yourself could feel otherwise is an important reason I felt it necessary to cut them off.

A good poll requires that the respondents be a representative sample of the polled group. Real pollsters go to great lengths to ensure this and spend much of their time trying to eliminate obstacles that could potentially skew the sampled population. OTOH, if respondents are allowed to self-select, such as the polls here, the results have no validity at all as far as being representative of the bogleheads view. Or at least, it's impossible to tell if they have any validity, which is functionally equivalent.

Here's a short article on the event that established the importance of controlling your sample. In the 1936 US Presidential Election, the Literary Digest polled 2.4 million people and declared Alf Landon would be the victor by a large margin. While they were conducting their poll, an upstart named George Gallup polled a mere 50,000 (.05 million) and correctly predicted both the election and Literary Digest's flawed results. The Literary Digest screwed up on two major fronts. The sampled population was not representative of the voting population (selection bias) and the respondents were a self-selected fraction of even that group (nonresponse bias). As it says in the article, "People who respond to surveys are different from people who don't."

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Christine_NM » Sat May 02, 2015 11:56 pm

^^^ The root problem here is that the word "poll" means many things. Call it something else -- an opinion survey, but snappier than that.

I would have thought that everyone understood the limits of self-selected polling. And for those who haven't figured it out yet, where better to learn something new than Bogleheads? We learn from others' mistakes, not from the perfect examples they set.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Valuethinker » Sun May 03, 2015 5:18 am

I have not really thought the issues through.

It seems to me many polls were 'bragging rights' about how much money we have saved, how much we earn.

Since participation is self motivated they have no value in a statistical sense.

If Alex thinks it's too much work, it's his board (in effect, their board) and they can able/ disable as they see fit.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by nisiprius » Sun May 03, 2015 5:50 am

Tangentially, even with the best of intentions, I think anyone who actually tried to create a poll discovered how amazingly difficult it was to do--it's like writing a computer program, there are always bugs. I do NOT mean anything interesting--like unconsciously biasing responses through wording,

e.g. "Which is better? a) Index funds b) Poison ivy."

I just mean the bedrock problem of writing clear, unambiguous questions... for example, presenting numeric ranges well.

$1000-2000, $2000-3000, $3000-4000?
$1000-1999, $2000-2999, $3000-3999?
$1000.00-$1999.99, $2000.00-$2999.99? $3000.00-$3999.99?
[$1000-$2000), [$2000-3000), [$3000-3999)? (Not likely!)
$1000-1400, $1400-2000, $2000-2800? (I.e. exponentially widening ranges, like f-stops or resistor ohmage values)

Do you make sure to include crazy-low and crazy-high values ("personal income $1-5 billion")?

If it's word questions, do you include enough alternatives and catch-alls that everyone can actually find an answer that fits them?

Do you deal with strange in-between cases, i.e. give DFA investors an alternative to "index" versus "active?"

I'd guess that 3/4 of all polls here, certainly mine, were fatally flawed by some little problem in formulating poll alternatives. That is to say, they would have been invalid even with a 100% response rate.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by bengal22 » Sun May 03, 2015 6:56 am

I agree with Alex's decision. For the most parts the poles were pretty much worthless for information, especially actionable information. There is an art to constructing a useful pole and the real information is in the comments. Oh you said Poll.

Nevermind.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by flybynite » Sun May 03, 2015 7:34 am

siamond wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:
siamond wrote:You don't suppress tools in a toolbox because they are sometimes badly used.

The point is that polls are not a tool. They have no utility at all. There is nothing you can do with a poll that can't be done without one. Most sites encourage polls because they are clickbait. We don't get paid by the click so there is no reason to have a "feature" that is designed to encourage division and pointless argumentation while providing nothing of practical value in return.

Alex, I am sorry, but this seems quite backwards. It is EXACTLY because polls entice people to click that they are valuable. Since it is very easy to select an answer out of a pre-canned list of answers, and since answers are anonymous, you will typically find many more answers to a poll than distinct posters on a given thread. Some of us are outspoken, others are not. Polls are a powerful and unique way to make the 'silent majority' speak up (well, not all of them for sure, but some of them). While I have yet to understand the value of NOT having polls.

Do try to set up a poll on the fact that we should keep polls or not, as was suggested by multiple posters on this thread. I guarantee that you will get many more answers than explicit reactions to this thread. And my point will then be easily proven (irrespective of the outcome of the poll itself).


I agree with this post, polls gave some utility and on another news related website I read I regularly click on poll responses that I would not bother joining the discussion on. I personally find the statements about adequate representation somewhat laughable. I having a job and family and other obligations don't read Bogleheads every day and I suspect a large portion of the "user base" has even less usage, for instance has posted a couple of times to get answered specific questions they have on their own personal financial situation. To say that because a "poll" doesn't adequately represent the user population could easily be said about threads in the forum as well, hopefully we aren't going to disable those with similar logic. Clearly if folks aren't aware that web polls aren't scientific, we could add such a note or rename the feature as another user commented.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Wildebeest » Sun May 03, 2015 7:39 am

If I could, I would vote for the Poll feature if it had a disclaimer.

May it should be called Voting Folly exercise and have a disclaimer with it that states that the Voting Folly is for entertainment only that has no meaning other then stimulating discussion. Acting on it would be hazardous to your financial health.

Will I miss the polls? No.
Polls did have a tribal aspect to it as in how it differentiates Bogleheads from the rest of the world.

I would enjoy a reincarnation such as a Voting Folly though.

I hope that Bobblehead's Networth Survey will survive.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Sun May 03, 2015 7:53 am

serbeer wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:I do understand some polls have a certain entertainment value, but our resources are limited and we prefer to focus on areas where we feel we can do the most direct good.


I started to write long post to respond to this, spent about 10 mins writing it, and then just deleted it all. I am just going to say that it is a bad idea to disable major feature of the forum without discussing it on the forum first, to get feedback from active members if nothing else, and it is going to detract from forum's value. My 2c.

If member votes count at that point, I'd like to see poll feature preserved.


+1

I'd have polled about the annoying " etc. change as well.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by The Wizard » Sun May 03, 2015 8:11 am

There are two types of people in the world: those who participate in Internet polls and those who don't.
Setting up a poll on whether to eliminate them would have a foregone conclusion...
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by livesoft » Sun May 03, 2015 8:18 am

Most readers of the forum do not post anything … they simply read the threads. I think polls allow for more participation from "lurkers" in that they remain anonymous and do not have to type anything in except a username and password. It is true that they have to register though. I think lack of polls narrows the participation in the forum and focusses the forum even more in a direction the forum should not go in.

OTOH, there aren't that many polls anyways and there is a lot of nitpicking in them. I actually found the nitpicking interesting and sometimes useful. It told me something about human beings and how they get upset by little things that probably do not matter in the long run.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by ruralavalon » Sun May 03, 2015 8:34 am

I am sorry to see this change.

Even with self-selection and limited participation a poll can still give insight into general Boglehead views on investing topics, such as:
"What is your equity allocation to international?"; and
"What portion of your bond allocation is in TIPS?".
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The Wizard
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by The Wizard » Sun May 03, 2015 8:42 am

ruralavalon wrote:I am sorry to see this change.

Even with self-selection and limited participation a poll can still give insight into general Boglehead views on investing topics, such as:
"What is your equity allocation to international?"; and
"What portion of your bond allocation is in TIPS?".

True, but we can still have those threads now.
How hard is it to post a reply: "34%" ?
Well, if we still have a 5-char minimum, it might be hard.
And as noted, it's often the discussion justifying why I chose 34% that matters more to people on the fence trying to decide their own percentage...
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by JW-Retired » Sun May 03, 2015 8:45 am

Sorry about the moderator effort, but I strongly agree with the consensus here that this is a very unfortunate change. Polls certainly reflect the "broader will of the participants of this forum" a heck of a lot better than a typical long thread dominated by the usual small group of responders.
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Tycoon
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Tycoon » Sun May 03, 2015 8:45 am

The Wizard wrote:How hard is it to post a reply: "34%" ?
Well, if we still have a 5-char minimum, it might be hard.


Thirty-four percent. Not hard at all. :P
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by Bracket » Sun May 03, 2015 9:05 am

I will miss the polls.

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femur
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by femur » Sun May 03, 2015 9:10 am

I felt the polls were useful and interesting. I am also sorry to see them go.

I do appreciate the significant effort the moderators of this forum put forth,

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ruralavalon
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by ruralavalon » Sun May 03, 2015 9:58 am

Tycoon wrote:
The Wizard wrote:How hard is it to post a reply: "34%" ?
Well, if we still have a 5-char minimum, it might be hard.


Thirty-four percent. Not hard at all. :P

Not hard at all. But you will get more responses if the member can just mark a poll choice, it's much easier. And the poll automatically compiles the results.
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xystici
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by xystici » Sun May 03, 2015 12:01 pm

rob wrote:It's a shame... I never took them deadly serious and thought they added value as part of the site. Yeah the results meant little in most cases but you could say that for a lot of our posts as well (especially the +1 nonsense) - people should not be making serious decisions based on anything here but should use it as a starting point for more research.


Agreed 100%. It is a shame... A poll is a poll; you take it at face value; same as for other posts made in the forum. Not all members contribute with their opinion to any particular topic.
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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by rotorhead » Sun May 03, 2015 1:52 pm

I am glad to see the polls disappear. I thought they were a distraction at best, and at worst a nuisance. Bogleheads Forum is a terrific resource, which I personally find enormously informative and helpful. And we all enjoy it for free. It surely consumes a lot of Alex's and the mod's time; and if they have decided to stop the polls, that's their prerogative. I won't miss them.

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Re: Polls Disabled

Post by BTDT » Sun May 03, 2015 4:18 pm

I enjoyed the polls, but it's not my forum. As to being a distraction, I found it rather easy/simple to not read a poll I was not interested in. :oops:
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