A couple weeks ago, I saw an item over at the Anandtech Forums saying that Intel would pay a $20 Amazon gift certificate
to those completing a survey. I went to the survey, completed it, looked like a good deal, so I told you about it.
Those of you who did the same thing have gotten or will get a message from the survey company saying they weren’t going to pay up.
First, we’re sorry if you ended up wasting a bit of time doing this; I’m in the same boat.
Second, this is not an Evil Empire tale. This survey was outsourced out to Surveysite.com.
The problem here is that Surveysite.com did a bad job in keeping anybody and everybody away, and is now trying to cover its butt.
That doesn’t mean Intel should automatically shell out $20 to everybody, depending on how many people jumped on the various
links to this, that might mean Intel paying a couple million for information that may well have (and should have been)
What is does mean is that Intel should insist that the companies who do random surveys for them put in appropriate safeguards
for restricted surveys. Otherwise, they get blamed for the subcontractor’s sloppy work.
Since someone at the Anandtech forum claims to have gotten a response from this email address promising to look into this, I sent the following email:
From: Edward Stroligo [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2001 7:16 AM
Subject: Random selection of survey compromised
A short time ago, I saw in a computer hardware forum a post notifying readers that Intel was offering a $20 gift certificate from Amazon.com for completing a survey. I clicked on the link and completed the survey without incident. Since this seemed to be an open survey, I mentioned this at the website with whom I’m associated.
Last night, I received the following email:
You recently took part in an online survey that was authored
by Intel Corporation and managed/maintained on Intel’s
behalf by SurveySite, Inc. – Intel’s online research partner.
This survey was part of a research program Intel undertook to
improve the experience of visitors to its Home Computing
website (www.intel.com/home). The study was designed such
that an invitation to take part in the survey “popped up” to
randomly-selected visitors of the Intel Home Computing site
at the site itself. Those who agreed to participate clicked
on a link that took them to the online survey hosted at a
site maintained by SurveySite.
Based on tracking software that SurveySite uses, we were
able to confirm that you accessed the survey by clicking on
a survey link that had been “lifted” from SurveySite’s code
by an unauthorized person and posted to a website not
authorized by Intel. Because you did not access the survey
through the Intel.com/home site, we will not be able to
fulfill the $20 amazon.com gift certificate incentive.
Please accept our thanks for your participation and note
that we did attain our desired goal of completed surveys
from Intel Home Computing website visitors as of the
beginning of last week, therefore, data collection efforts
at the site have ceased.
Thank you for your continued interest in Intel.
Intel Corporate Market Research
SurveySite Market Research
I went back to a copy of the webpage, and this was the survey link:
There doesn’t appear to be any identifying cookie or other form of code which specifically identifies a survey participant as one selected at random, just a rudimentary log=accept, followed by the Website address.
Had there been an appropriate identifier, a properly encoded survey would have either not allowed completion of the form or at the least would have recorded a multitude of responses using the same identifier.
The abovementioned letter indicates that your subcontractor could only attempt to identify non-randomly selected users by other means. It is not clear whether or not such means could in fact remove all non-randomly selected entries, which would be necessary to preserve the statistical validity of the survey.
The response leaves unclear whether or not information gathered from non-survey participants was discarded or used in some form by the subcontractor.
While Intel and its designated contractors certainly have the right to conduct randomly-selected surveys and discard those entries not procured in that fashion, in this particular case, there were no safeguards to ensure that only randomly-selected individuals had access to the survey.
The reality of the Internet is that attractive offers like this one will attract attention, and letters like these sent by subtractors which essentially cover up their own poor design and implementation only serve to create negative feelings about Intel.
Those responsible for the survey should take appropriate action to find out why appropriate safeguards were not taken to prevent non-random entries from being recorded. They should determine whether or not information gathered from non-random participants was used in any reports to Intel, and if so, why.
In the future, Intel should take steps to ensure that subsequent surveys include appropriate safeguards to prevent the inevitable attempts by non-selected people to complete the survey. To do otherwise is to allow others to shoot you in the foot for their own shortcomings.
Thank you for your attention.
While this is hardly tragedy, when something like this happens, the most appropriate action is to make constructive suggestion to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If I get a response, I’ll update this.