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Interesting Poll Shows the Supreme Power of Self-Selection

The first thing one should always ask when reviewing any kind of poll result is “Who’s in the survey population?” I was forcibly — and humorously — reminded of this essential basis for analysis upon taking a poll in an article about the impending release of Windows 8.1 (it’s due out about 10 days from today) entitled “11 days until Windows 8.1 rolls out for Windows 8 users, are you ready for it?” (from the Website, If you stop for just one second to consider that anybody who actually reads an article like this has to have some kind of interest, not just in Windows 8.1, but in its approaching release date, the following poll results make perfect sense:

Nearly 9 out of 10 respondents plan to install Windows 8.1 "right away!"

Nearly 9 out of 10 respondents plan to install Windows 8.1 “right away!”

Does this poll remotely approximate a cross-section of the general public (or even the whole population of IT professionals)? No freakin’ way, my readers, no freakin’ way! The population is what statisticians call “self-selecting” in that an indication of strong interest — namely, clicking a link to get to an article about the upcoming release of Windows 8.1, and then making it all the way to the end of the article before the poll even shows itself — is required to enter the population of survey respondents in the first place. Nevertheless, I find it very interesting that the vast majority of those respondents are apparently panting with lust to install the release as soon as it becomes available. That makes me wonder why they haven’t installed the RTM version already, itself widely available through MSDN and TechNet downloads for nearly one month now.

All of this goes to show that not all surveys are the same, nor do all convey genuinely meaningful information, either. If you see anybody quoting survey results, especially for surveys like this one, please take the time to find out where those results originate, and you may also be able to conclude that while these results may be interesting or amusing, that they also are not terribly informative about the attitudes or mindsets of the general population. If anything, these results are a perfect inverse of the general population, where I would be highly surprised if even 10 percent of Windows users plan to install 8.1 soon after the October 17/18 impending general availability (GA) date.

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