Home > 1. technology, 2. politics > “SLOPs” and the unintended irony of “freeps”

“SLOPs” and the unintended irony of “freeps”

September 7th, 2007

SLOPS were originally “self-selected listener opinion polls” and now often refer to today’s ubiquitous “self-selected online polls.” As I found out in today’s roundup on techpresident.com, Ron Paul’s supporters are defrauding every SLOP that they can find. They’ve been excluded from one straw poll for their antics, and succeeded in winning a different poll about the latest republican debate based on text-message voting. At e-thePeople.org, we’ve had similar problems with freerepublic.com (“freeps!”) and other libertarians making sure that they were more than adequately represented in our polls.

Now, my advisor at Stanford Jim Fishkin loves to lampoon this old chestnut. He vigorously believes that researchers should control the public opinion process, through techniques like random sampling and moderated discussion. I certainly think that there is a place for his deliberative polling enterprise, but I don’t find it in opposition to SLOPs.

I think SLOPs have an important but different role to play. When I presented at the SXSW conference, I asked for a show of hands for who was republican. Not one of the 100 or so people in the audience raised their hands. SLOPs can give a powerful sense of “who’s in the room,” but only when we have adequate understanding of how the counting is done and what room we are talking about.

Which brings me back to the irony of Paul’s supporters and other free marketers that abuse the rules and intentions of these SLOPs. Aren’t they just proving why rules and regulations are needed to avoid anarchy?

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