The results to my poll asking "How much coffee do you drink in a day?" are in. Here are the votes cast:
- 0 cups: 1 vote
- 1 cup: 4 votes
- 2-3 cups: 6 votes
- 4+ cups: 2 votes
The winning option was "2-3" cups. That's the option for which I would have voted, but as the poll operator I decided to abstain from voting.
Running this poll not only led to results -- thank you to all of those that voted! -- but also many interesting learnings about how to run a poll where participants vote using their personal websites.
In the poll, I asked readers to send webmentions to the link that corresponded with each answer. The links took you to almost bare pages on my site that displayed the text of the answer. I could have made this more intuitive but the goal for the poll was to explore, not to build a finished system for conducting polls. The rationale behind this approach is that I could count the votes that went to each link, in theory making counting easier. This is because webmentions all being sent to the same page felt difficult to manage when I first set out on this experiment (how would I know which comment was for each vote on a page? The text of the answer? Unique formatting (even though said formatting could not be guaranteed)?).
Having separate links to which one should send a Webmention to vote was not an optimal solution. My tally above accounted for both Webmentions sent to those links and also the Webmentions only sent to the root question page. Some voters did not send Webmentions to the answer page. Some voters sent Webmentions to both the answer page and the root question page. This made counting confusing and an incredibly manual process.
A better system would be to have some kind of action button on my site that lets users vote for a particular option. This would be more similar to how polls work on social networks where there is usually a button you can click to cast your vote. This button would then take a user to their Micropub endpoint where they could submit an answer. The answer would be prefilled with the answer text. The back-end logic for the poll would then accept Webmentions only to the root question page and count votes based on the number of Webmentions that mention each answer by its text (i.e. "2-3 cups").
This arrangement would be easier for users to understand, too. Asking people to send webmentions to one of four links in my poll (one link for each poll option) was not intuitive, either for me as the person monitoring and counting the results or for people who want to cast votes. A click of a button that then lets you publish a vote answer sounds a lot easier. Also, my site could support a system similar to commentpara.de so that readers who do not have a personal website or a site that can send Webmentions can still cast votes. A web action button would work similar to the Twitter "reply" buttons that let you share a link to an article you have been reading on Twitter.
I have not yet done enough research to figure out exactly how the system above would work. I have read a bit about "web actions" (buttons to trigger a particular action, like replying to a comment or liking a post) but I need to do some brainstorming on the logistics of the above feature. How can I create a button that takes a website visitor to their Micropub endpoint and lets them draft a response to my site? I don't know how to do this but I think it is possible. If you do know the logistics of such a system, please reach out!
Social polls where answers are posted to one's personal website are an incredibly exciting prospect for me. We're still figuring out how all of this would work. It feels good to be breaking new ground in distributed social interactions. Because polling is such a common feature across social networking applications -- and is really fun, too! -- I would love to figure out what a polling solution for personal websites would look like.
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