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surveys on the Net

Date: 20 Dec 90 22:16:00 EDT
   From: "AGORICS PROJ (LACOBIE)" <xanadu!gmuvax.gmu.edu!agorics>

   Hi Mark,

   Sorry if most of our communications go through you.  It's just that you're
   the person I/we know the most!  So, if you want to pass on this letter for
   someone else to respond, please feel free to delegate the task.

PLEASE PLEASE don't be sorry!  I love hearing from you guys even if
I'm sometimes too busy to get back to you for a while.  I'll try to
answer best I can, but I'm not very familiar with nettiquette, so all
you on the "cc:", consider yourself delegated to :-)

   The question at hand now is surveys.  I've an idea to use the USENET    
   newsgroups to ask a few survey questions for research purposes. Specifically,
   I'm investigating amateur activities in small satellites and amateur radio.
   We (Bert Loan and I) happen to know that many participants in these communities
   use USENET (specific newsgroups exist for both).  Using cyberspace would
   seem to be an efficient method to communicate and receive feedback from
   these communities.

   The simple question, which you can send back a one line YES/NO reply to,
   is Surveys a kosher use of the USENET?

I think using the net for such surveys is an excellent idea.  I
believe no one considers such queries to be inappropriate, and I
believe I have seen such activity.

By the way, the term "cyberspace" is not normally used for the current
net.  I believe it is used a) for a participatory / sensurround(sp)
simulation of 3d physical reality (the AutoDesk usage), or b) for
participatory immersion in a social world set against a backdrop of a
simulated physical reality (as in Habitat, which Don, Bill, & Howie

Personally I find it distressing that the term "cyberspace" has caught
on, because it leads people to think that the novel "Neuromancer" is
what we should be striving for.  I hated the novel, and found it's
image of "cyberspace" to be quite ignorant of the nature of
computation (which the author, William Gibson, readily admits to).
The other term which has gotten some press is "Virtual Reality", and
oxymoron of highest order!  Personally my favorite is "The Other
Plane", the term used by Vernor Vinge in "True Names" where he said it
all first and best.  (well, first except for "The City and the Stars",
Arthur C. Clarke's first novel)

   I've never heard anyone else use such a research tool before.  And since
   I'm not on the USENET much, I've never seen it done.  But with proper
   precautions, and a proper frame of mind (we'd be seeking personalized
   responses, not fixed answers for statistical manipulation), the net
   could be a potentially useful way to communicate to a diverse user      

The only survey-like things I've seen were informal ones that were
from personal curiousity.  I also don't know if it's ever been used
for a real SURVEY.  Still, I would guess it to be no problem.  There
is a tradition on the net that when one conducts an informal survey in
a group, that one afterwards summarize the results to that group.

   Of course, some special considerations would have to be met, but I'm
   pretty strong on the interviewing method, and I feel I could conscientously
   devise a method for cyberspace interviewing as well.

   Well, what's your opinion.  Do you think user reaction will be positive,
   negative, ambivalent?

I think having a paper on "how to use the net to conduct interviews
and surveys" could well start a lot of interesting activity along
those lines.  Hopefully Xanadu will be an even better medium for such
things.  I would guess that the reaction of netters would be quite

   Enjoy the holidays, and take care.

You too.  All the best.

   Kevin Lacobie
   The Agorics Project
   George Mason University