Zero gravity questionnaires

Zero-gravity A highlight yesterday was Tom Ewing's excellent post The information game on the future of research where he talks about how the professional high priesthoods of which research is one – get confused between scarcity and quality. And charge for quality when the information they provide is so plentiful that quality may not be an issue. Have a read.

Today I concluded a week long online seminar with digital marketing masters students on the subject of research communities. And one of the themes which seemed to catch them was the concept of zero gravity questionnaires. A perennial problem in research communities is keeping people interested and motivated. And to ensure that the quality of participation is maintained.  There are a whole battery of techniques to do this.

But one tool is to think differently about the research question. Virtually all research questions have a gravitational pull. The more of them you answer the less you feel like answering any more. It is the reason why surveys only last a few minutes and most last longer than they should. But one of the more successful phenomena of the internet has been surveys which teach the respondent about themselves and allow them to compare their scores with their friends. These I would call zero gravity questions because there is no cost or penalty – the respondent actually wants more questions and wants to share the questions and answers with others.  As soon as you recognise the gravity inherent in all questions it changes things. Because you will start to think of ways to get rid of the gravity – to make sure the respondent gets at least as much as the person setting the question.

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