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“1984” was a book of fantasy. A society where everyone was being watched by the all-knowing “Big Brother.” Today, this presence is actually felt in our day-to-day lives. Though, it is not nearly as ominous. Usually, it comes in the form of interest surveys we as consumers take without even knowing it.
If you own TIVO or shop on a site like Amazon you would be exposed to these invisible surveys.
TIVO watches you watch your programs. Then, based on the shows you choose it will go off on its own and record stuff of similar interest for you to watch. Amazon will actually look at your last purchases then suggest similar-type books that you might like to read.
These two cases are pretty harmless and actually helpful. Though, it should serve as a warning to you that you are being watched.
One of the best ways to voice your opinion about a particular interest like war, the environment, or animal cruelty, is to take a “Public Opinion Surveys.” These are surveys about today's hot topics and they are given by a variety of institutions or companies. The results are usually used to send a message to the government or big business. The best place to find a list of these Public Opinion Surveys is online. Before you take any of them check the organization's credentials and read what they will be doing with the results, and if the right people will be hearing them.
Career aptitude tests are another form of interest surveys. They were either handed out at the guidance counselor's office or taken as a school wide test. The idea was that these questionnaires would help guide your future and offer advice on what career path would suit you best.
Out of all the types of surveys, this is one of the few where the results are fashioned for the individual taking the survey. Whether it is a career or romance the one thing you should do when taking these tests is be honest. Since the only one you'd be trying to fool is yourself.
You may love rocky road ice cream, but others might hate it. You can't blame them - it's their opinion.
When creating an opinion survey you should take this into account. Especially if you are making an argument for one side of the issue.
If the survey doesn't completely cover all view points it will seem slanted. In this situation it would probably be best to use the Likert-Scale method. Since you can easily gage how strongly people feel about each side of the issue without peppering the answers with your own opinions.
Interest surveys are very popular with most of the big websites today. These surveys usually appear when you are buying something or applying for membership to a website. Essentially, websites want to know what your interests are so they can customize the messages they send to you. You can either request information through mail or email. But be sure to pay careful attention to the survey when filling it out.
Some of the bigger sites will also ask if they can give your information to advertisers or other third-parties. This could cause a spam overload in your email if you're not careful. Fortunately, most sites include a box you can check if you don't want to receive anything at all.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|