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[802SEC] The Problems with Electronic Polling

EC and Whitespace members,


I just wanted to quickly review the issues I've had with electronic
polling.  In general for short questions and motions where everyone is
on the system it works fine.  However if you go beyond the simple stuff
you quickly run into trouble.


1)       Questions beyond about 128 characters get truncated.   So you
need to keep it short.

2)       You need to be presenter to edit the polling questions.  So you
can't have one person handle the webex presentation and work on poll
questions in the background.  The presenter has to prepare the

3)       Sometimes you want to add preliminary clarify text to explain
back ground or what kind of responses are acceptable.  It is difficult
to do this in the webex polling facility.

4)       Not everyone may be on webex.  Some people may be in-person
only, and some may be teleconference only.  The time it takes those
people to shift to webex may be prohibitive preventing their

5)       Crafting questions in real time can be complex.  The buttons
are not very intuitive when it comes to laying out the question and
acceptable answers.  This means a lot of trial and error which is
painfully time consuming when you have a group of 50 or more people
watching you try and edit.

6)       Ultimately, there is a way to compose the questions in advance
and save them.  I tried this.  At least one time I thought I had save a
corrected question set, but when I went back the fixes I had made were
gone.  It may have been 'operator error' but the result was when I ran
the poll that question was unanswerable and there really wasn't time to
fix it in real time.

7)       The file format the questions are saved in is a bit bizarre.
If you change the file extension to text you can look at the questions
in a human readable form, but it looks like hypertext.  So it isn't easy
to rebuild or format the question outside of webex, and I don't know how
to do that without running an actual webex session.   You really want
the editing tool to be stand alone so that you don't have to bring up an
actual webex meeting to do editing.

8)       If you use yes or no questions the post processing is pretty
simple.  Otherwise the post processing quickly get's complex.  On some
of the questions I ask for responses as integers in the range of -5 to
+5.  However the +5 answer was treat differently then when someone
answered 5.  So you need to combine the two responses with post
processing.  In addition people often don't follow instructions.  If you
ask them for a -5 to +5 answer where -5 mean highly unsatisfied, and +5
means satisfied, they may give you an answer like 'Satisfied' which of
course is not a number as you requested, but is permitted by the webex
system.  Does 'satisfied' count as a +1, a +3, or a +5?  Worse yet,
sometimes they will give you a whole paragraph (or as much as the webex
will accept) and no number at all.  Then you've got to figure out what
to do with it.


All in all, if you are doing anything more than simple questions the
polling tool is very unwieldy to use.  I'm sure there are web based
tools that are better and it may be worth some investigations to find




Matthew Sherman, Ph.D. 
Engineering Fellow 
BAE Systems -  Network Systems (NS) 
Office: +1 973.633.6344 
Cell: +1 973.229.9520 


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