Monday, October 1, 2007

Survey Monkey...sneaky or just clever?

I am not one to give a TV show my undivided attention. I often do have TV on in the evenings, but usually I am surfing the web at the same time. It takes a fair amount of enticing to get me to take my hands off the keyboard and focus on the TV screen. But I have to admit getting very involved in the new-ish game show, "The Power of 10." When it comes on, I put the computer aside and sit forward in my chair. I may even shout out instructions to the contestants and gesture wildly with my hands, encouraging them to raise or lower the percentages that indicate how many people in America feel a certain way about a given topic. For some reason I have always been fascinated by polls. I love to see numbers indicating how people feel about issues, and where my opinions stand in comparison to those of others. This interest leads me to frequently ask listserv friends how they feel about things. And last week, it also led me over to Survey Monkey.

Survey Monkey is a "free" service whereby you can post questions and invite participants to respond online at the site. All that is required is registration. I had visited the site in the past, and had participated by responding to some surveys, but had never tried it out until last week. Then I got the idea to poll people about Web 2.0 participation, and especially ask how they feel about blogging. So I went to SM and registered. Setting up the poll was easy. I had a little fun playing around with various color combinations and background styles. I keyed in some ranking questions and also some open-ended queries, because to me on of the best things about polls is gathering people's comments. Once I was satisfied with my product, I took the URL that SM provided and checked to be sure it worked. I also forwarded the address to two friends who tried out the poll as well. Then, confident I was ready, I announced my poll on my favorite listservs, LM_NET, EDTECH and TLC, and waited for results. Alas, although I got a couple of takers early on, I got many more messages from people for whom the URL did not work. Instead of taking them to my survey, it just took them to the main page and asked them to register. Evidently the URL was not compatible with some (many) people's email providers At that point I was pretty peeved with Survey Monkey, and tempted to give him the boot out of my virtual life. Before doing so, though, I decided to give Mr. Monk one more chance. I converted the URL to a shortened tinyurl and posted this to the listservs.

Voila! That evidently solved the problem, and I ended up with 83 participants, having hoped for only 40-50. Next, I went to the survey site and analyzed the results. Voila again! I got a nice display showing both numbers and percentages for responses, and also displaying all comments. All Right! I thought! Now to share!

That is where I have to ask the Survey Monkey sneaky or just clever? When I clicked on the button for displaying results, I got a message that my little primate friend would not do that unless I paid for upgraded service. And he is proud of this service, to the tune of $200/year! My first reaction was...forget it! I will just share on my own. But I really liked the display as it appeared at the site. I wanted all those nice people who had participated to see the final results of the poll. And I knew that I was going to refer to the poll in a couple of articles and presentations. I decided that I would cough up the money, opting for convenience and nice looking presentation of the data. So what is the best way to describe Survey Monkey? Sneaky? Clever? I think SM is both. I could have repackaged the data and avoided the cost, and having used the site still would have been worthwhile because it was a great way to collect responses. I made the choice to go ahead and pay the fee. Either way, the site does offer an easy way to conduct informal or even formal polls. Take a look:
And here is the URL for those results! For goodness sakes visit...after all I paid for it!


  1. Hi Mary Ann,

    I was not real happy with SurveyMonkey when I discovered this either. Instead of paying, however, I used a screen capture program to get the charts (unethical, I suspect). But now that I know, I simply take the raw data and make my own charts in Excel. Yes, I AM cheap.

    Will you interpret the results in a a blog posting for us?



  2. Doug, as we say down here in Texas, I am fixin' to post just such an entry! Thanks for commenting! And by the way, if you take a look at the favorite blogs named by people, yours is mentioned again and again...kudos to Blue Skunk!

  3. Hi! What are teh ethical implications of storing data in an undisclosed commerical location? In canada, we have a differnt set of national rights and freedoms and I understand that in the US the Patriot Act gives authorities special powers to dig into sites, etc. is this correct or incorrect? In any case, what would be the implications of asking senstive information such as medical info. or drug use in a surveymonkey fashion? I would love to hear the views and practical aspects on this. Thanks. Francisco

  4. Google "Forms" is just as easy--if not as colorful--and completely free. Give that a whirl.