Anonymous Responses Are Useless

One of my current projects has a major survey component. The survey ends with:

“If you’d be open to follow up questions, enter your email address below.”

There’s about a 60 / 40 split on responses with emails and those without. The responses without email addresses have skipped questions, irrelevant answers, and are generally unusable. This is so much the case, that I’ve found it a better use of time to check for an email address first – then read the response.

It’s interesting that people comfortable with being contacted give useful answers, while those providing non-useful responses don’t provide a way to be contacted.

Conventional wisdom on requiring accountability has it backward. Accountable people want to be responsible for their actions. Those that aren’t don’t. Forcing it doesn’t change anything.

On a related note, perhaps my observation is related to Ben Hammersley’s explanation of why wikitorial died.

3 Replies to “Anonymous Responses Are Useless”

  1. I’ve worked with many surveys in my career and I’ve found that it really depends what you are asking. If you are trying to acertain concrete facts (how many TVs someone owns) then data tend to be valid and useful. If you are trying to capture personal attitudes (what is a person’s opinion of the War in Iraq) then you tend to get more noise from those who wish to remain anonymous.

    The other side of the coin is, if you are asking for email addresses, people may not respond because of spam and identity theft.

  2. I agree that any survey that asks for information like email, phone, address etc will make people think twice before answering it.
    My problem is how do I get my survey publicized? How do I get people to take it? All this without running a promotion like Free iPod.
    You seem to have figured that out. Could you give me some pointers?

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