A reasonable question to ask.
The First Commandment for writers is: Know Your Audience.
We’ve always been more prone to ask people than most other sites, though we’ve never had a “just cast a vote” poll. There’s a good reason for that.
A “cast your vote” poll is easier for you, and certainly would be a whole lot easier for me. However, a poll just tells you what people think. They don’t tell you why they think it, what motivates them to think the way they do.
And that, in the long run, is a lot more important than what what is at any given moment.
Up to now, our “focus group” questions have been, well, boring Joe Friday nuts-and-bolts type of questioning.
It doesn’t have to be that way. This is an experiment to see if we can’t find out the same things in a different, more creative, more entertaining way. Hopefully, a way that will exercise people’s imaginations.
It’s clear people like to be asked questions. It’s also clear based on earlier surveys that a fairly big chunk of our audience likes science fiction, and they like being entertained while on the Internet. So we’re trying to combine these together.
It’s also helpful to ask people questions where the purpose isn’t exactly clear. That way, people are more likely to say what they think rather than say what they think you want to hear.
For instance, the aliens selling computers for $25,000 is really a different way of asking, “Why are you into computing?” I asked the same question Joe Friday-style a while back, and it will be interesting to compare the two results.
I can tell you from that article that a very sizable chunk of the audience doesn’t want a fast computer. They want a computer they can make faster.
That makes a hell of a lot difference in what to cover or not (at least for that particular group).
“The aliens want our women” may seem to have nothing to do with computing, but actually, it was a direct result of the answers I got from the first alien article. (I’ll explain in the followup.)
Why Are You Doing This?
We’re hardly the first to do this kind of thing with this audience. The more sophisticated manufacturers certainly do; it’s called “market research.”
Why they do it is pretty simple; they want to push your buttons so you buy their products. Some of those manipulations can be awfully subtle.
However, that information can be used two ways, to induce you, or to tell you how you’re being induced.
In order to counter that inducement, you have to have an idea what buttons are out there.
Are we selling this kind of information to people? No. Do we plan to? No. If we ever do anything like that, we’ll tell you upfront.
Rather, this information is mainly meant for my head and Joe’s to help us craft articles and messages most likely to reach our audience where they live.
Joe People and Ed People
For instance, this audience is hardly monolithic. It’s rather diverse, and indeed, an article that pleases one group will be met with indifference if not dislike from another.
This audience has a north and south pole, which largely reflects the differences between the two major writers. Let’s call the North Pole Joe and the South Pole Ed, and those attracted to either pole Joe People and Ed People.
The Joe People tend to be very literal, nuts-and-bolts, spare-me-the-theory-and-just-tell-me-what-I-need-to-know mechanically-inclined type folks.
The Ed People tend to be more analytical, wholistic, theoretically-inclined, and appreciative of tangential subjects and occasional fits of fancy.
The more extreme Joe People would be happy if they never saw another irrelevant Ed article again, while the more extreme Ed people go comatose faced with the 787th “how-to-build-this” article.
The irony is both sides need each other, because each side has what the other lacks. The Joe People need to take off their blinders and look at the whole forest, while the Ed People need to get out of the clouds sometimes.
A good first step is to make the two sides aware that the other exists. 🙂
Do You Like This Or Not?
This isn’t going to become Ed’s Science Fiction Cave, just a different way of doing something every once-in-a-while we’ve been doing all along, and hopefully more fun. Drop me a note if you like the idea or not.