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Re: ZD Poll and Deception
On Fri, 5 Dec 1997 01:08:18 -0500 (EST), Christopher Pall wrote:
>AM-INFO DIGEST 69, Topic No. 11
>Subject: Re: ZDnet Poll "Expired"
>>>>>>> Second, when did you open and close this poll?
>This would be nice to know.
It might help to interpret the information provided (re: liars and statisticians).
>>>>>>> Third, do you really think that adding an "expiration date" is sufficient,
>>>>>>> given that the appearance and "response" of the active links still gives
>>>>>>> the impression of an interactive site?
>I think it is sufficient and you do have to give them a chance to fix it....
Its a start, but if that date were not sufficiently prominent, it would do nothing to correct the
problem. The public is cautious when it comes to dairy products, but do you think most
people read the expiration date on every web document before they read the text? or even
after? And it wouldn't take that much longer to just "fix it".
>>>>>>> I would suggest a more thorough "rewrite" of that page and its links so that
>>>>>>> 1) you eliminate what appears to be the option of entering a vote
>>>>>>> (the vote entry options and "vote" button)
>>>>>>> 2) you replace them with a link to the "results", posted as a final tally along
>>>>>>> side the information I requested (date and duration of poll data collection), and
>>>>>>> 3) clearly note that this is a final static tally, and the "vote" is over.
>>>>>>> Otherwise, you are still publishing a rather misleading document.
>I wouldn't say that it were RATHER misleading, just annoyingly deceptive - let me qualify
>the deceptive part of that. Deceptive in that it makes you feel like you are voting even
>though you are not, but I really don't feel like it's a major issue - but it does need to be
>fixed. Give em a chance, ZDNet is a little slow... ZDNet is bad for reasons other than
>having a broken web page. Oh yeah, and as for your suggestions, they all seem fairly good.
I chose "misleading" rather than "deceptive", to avoid the implication of a sinister motive.
- ie to "give them a chance". However, I am not convinced this webpage is simply "broken",
anymore than I am convinced it was, by design, a MS propaganda tool .
My point about "the impression of an interactive site" was precisely your "feel like you are
voting even though you are not". We all have our opinions, but in my mind fooling the public
into thinking that they do indeed have a say (a vote), when in fact their "vote" does not even
register, *IS* a "major issue". Particularly given the "results" are at odds with many other sources.
What would you think if AM-INFO, sensing a trend toward an "undesirable" collective opinion,
simply stopped relaying posts that supported that opinion, but could somehow maintain the
appearence of an open forum. I understand that this would be far more difficult than simply
"freezing" the results of a poll, but it still makes my point. You expect your opinion to be "heard"
(read) by all, and that what you read represents the complete input of the group. Anyone
visiting the ZDnet page, BY ITS APPEARANCE would expect their "poll" to register their "vote"
and to provide "results" that reflect both their "vote" and all others cast. Anything less is misleading
at best (because it appears that way) and intentional deception at worst. I know that few people
view ZDnet from the same perspective as they do essential.org. But most people expect that
information presented in a "news" format should be more reliable than that presented in a paid
Since the world seems hellbent on "marketing" everything, I think we had better insist on
adherence to our "truth in advertising" policies and regulations. "Caveat emptor" may spring to
some minds, but that only means we can't trust anything to be what it appears. That may be a
sufficient response for the Social Darwinism fans out there, but it is not , in my opinion, an
acceptable effort to protect the truth as we know it.
All of this "poll" business may be a petty diversion from the serious discussion of the legal and
economic ramifications of MS's business practices. Afterall, even the worst interpretation of the
"poll" story would not be evidence of criminal activity. But much of our discussion comes down to
our relative acceptance of deception on the part of others. We hold different opinions, but all of us are
sensitive to the least indication of a misleading arguement - either by false assumption, defective
logic, or, deception by design.
For those who strongly believe that anything MS might have done is acceptable in defense of a "free"
market (we should have no laws), we have no need to address the question of deception. Not only is
All fair... , but the concept of fairness is irrelevant.
For those who believe that this market is fundamentally different than those for which the laws were written
(these laws don't apply here), we have no need to address the question of deception on MS's part,
because in this arena, All is fair, etc. I find the question applies to those who invoke this "special
dispensation", since it appears to be based on economic theories that can never be proven (but then,
are there any other kind?).
For those who are not sure if what MS has done specifically fits the assumptions and definitions
set forth in the law (on what basis could we apply the law), deception could work both for and against
MS according to the specific interpretation(s) of the law. Thus, is it the "wrong" kind of deception, advanced
by methods specifically addressed and/or proscribed by the law? Or were they clever or lucky enough to
stay "inside the lines"?
For those who are certain MS defied the law, in letter and in spirit, but are uncertain about what specific proof
may be at hand, deception on MS's part is a given, and further, an indication that the proof exists but is
Still others are certain MS defied the law, see the evidence of their criminality and deception everywhere
in the "Microsoft Way", and wonder why it isn't as obvious to everyone as it is to them.
Where ever you fall in this spectrum of opinion (the failings of my characterization notwithstanding), you
(and I) have likely chosen three acceptable levels of deception, one for yourself, one for those who agree
with your position and one for those who don't. Rare is the individual who has a tight enough grasp on
the limits of these influences to be truly objective.
As such, if we resort to a "poll" of the list members, not only should we be certain of its inclusiveness
(all should be counted), but maybe we should give everyone three votes? ;-)
Glenn T. Livezey, Ph.D.
Director of Perinatal Research
Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of Nebraska Medical Center
600 South 42nd Street
Omaha, NE 68198-3255