The 'Riffs Poll: Fishier Than a Florida Recount
It was 3 a.m. and I couldn't go back to sleep, so I did what many a journalist -- if not many an American -- does when insomnia occurs in the Information Age: I clicked on my computer.
I surfed a few blogs and news sites, then went over to my own blog to see whether there'd been any provocative comments posted since I'd left the newsroom. Soon, a comics poll I'd posted some days before caught my eye.
The online poll -- which asked readers what the funniest current comic is -- had drawn a few hundred votes. Now -- at 3 a.m., mind you -- the vote was increasing very quickly, steadily, like mercury rising or a rogue stock price. And the voting was conspicuously in favor of a couple of comic strips that had been polling near the bottom.
Obviously, something was fishier than a Florida recount. This wasn't a vote -- this was a movement.
Rapidly, the poll ballooned to nearly a thousand votes. What in the name of Gallup was going on? Gratefully, I got word from an anonymous syndicated cartoonist -- let us call him Deep Vote -- who solved my mystery. The cartoonist's advice, in short: Follow the Google group.
Sure enough, a Google discussion group had discovered the 'Riffs poll and decided to sandbag it for a particular comic or two. The time-stamps on the messages fairly jibed with the voting stampede.
Granted, this was no scientific poll, but still I wondered: How often do newspapers' comics polls get sandbagged these days? Turns out, after I made a few calls to several editors, I had my answer: way more than I even realized.
The verdict: When it comes to comics, some newspaper polls are about as scientific as a Sea Monkey. That is, they're eye-catching, colorful, often misshapen -- and often grow for entirely mysterious reasons.
So my question to 'Riffs readers is: Do you care when comics polls are overridden by rigged movements or hacked for technological skewing? In other words: How seriously do you take your online comics poll by any newspaper? We already know that some in the industry use them for sales.
The floor is now yours.
LATER TODAY: Cartoonists, syndicate editors and features editors discuss the trouble with comic polls these days.
| February 6, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
Categories: The Morning Line
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