And the Survey Was… Annoying!
I just packed up my loaner iPhone to ship it back to the American Institute of Consumer Studies, having completed my participation in what has to be the most irritating survey ever conceived. To recap how I spent the last ten days of my life: every half an hour I entered where I was, what I was doing, who I was with and what media I was consuming into a loaner iPhone. It was even more of a pain in the butt than I had anticipated – but it was also enlightening. Here’s what I’ve learned.
First, a half-hour is an incredibly brief period of time. So brief, in fact, that I can blink and realize I’ve missed three entries into that damn iPhone. Many things in life take more than a half-hour to complete. Work out and take a shower? That’s three entries, please. Want to watch a movie? That’s four. Eat lunch? Two entries…unless you have to drive to and from a destination, then it could be three or even four. It is inconvenient and distracting, whether you interrupt what you are doing to make the entry, or try to play catch up after the fact.
Secondly, this study is so inconvenient that any accuracy that might have been gained by uploading real-time info via an iPhone is counterbalanced by the urge to just lie and say I haven’t even looked at the Internet or listened to the radio – just so I don’t have to answer a few extra questions. When you make over 20 entries a day, answering the same questions, you quickly learn which responses are going to create more questions and therefore eat up more of your precious minutes. I swear, I tried to be honest with my answers…
If you are in the business of creating or interpreting surveys, you do want to be cognizant of how the survey format itself may influence the data. If it is too long, your participants might end up rushing through to the finish line, costing you accuracy. If it is too disruptive to the very routines you are trying to study, your data will likewise suffer.
In this particular case, I have come to suspect the entire survey isn’t really about nailing down what media people consume and when. Instead, I think it is an experiment to determine people’s willingness to follow through on an inconvenient commitment. Regardless, I certainly regret signing up for it. It’s ironic: a study that made each half-hour of my life rush by was simultaneously capable of making this the longest ten days of my life.