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Do-A-Poll allows students to voice their views

| Staff Reporter

Washington University students who want to measure the opinions of their peers, or see how their views measure up, can now do so online., a Web site created over the past year by a development team consisting of two Washington University students, a student from MIT and others, is a forum for visitors to vote on topics that interest them.

The polls are user-generated, and the decisions of which polls get featured on the site’s front page are based on how users rank them.

Aaron Bock, a first-year MBA student in the Olin Business School and founder of the Web site, says he and the other developers came up with the idea for the site last fall after it occurred to them that similar sites, such as—which has visitors vote on user-posted links, lacked a key feature.

“We thought it would be cool to add a new dimension to [sites like Reddit] to allow people to create a question along with the link, or just be able to ask the question and have people vote on different options,” Bock said. “It drives a better discussion.”

Bock and the other site creators began working on the site last winter, and recently launched it in its final form.

Senior Christine Board, a communication design major in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and another one of the site’s developers, said that the Web site’s creation process was a positive experience.

“It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to be involved with something like this, something that has a good idea behind it and a lot of potential right from the beginning,” said Board, who operated the site’s layout. “I’ve enjoyed being involved.”

Throughout the site’s creation—which involved students’ diagramming, coding and designing the page—members of the development team held transparency as an important feature of the Web site.

“We believe that transparency will allow people to get a more accurate view of the topics at hand,” Bock said. “It’ll allow people to generate a more interesting and productive discussion. With transparency, people are able to see exactly what others are thinking.”

To ensure that users engage that transparency in a productive manner, the site’s polls operate on an algorithm that measures the number of “boost” or “veto” votes to measure a poll’s popularity and the recentness of the votes made on it.

The algorithm then drives the most popular polls in both criteria to the top of the page, resulting in a changeover for the polls that Bock says takes about a day.

Polls recently at the top of the site have included “What do you think about McCain’s choice for VP?”, “What do you think of Johnny Depp as a potential for the Riddler in a Batman movie?” and “Do you ever speak in Internet memes in real life?”

Each of the polls offers a variety of possible answers, often includes a link to a site relevant to the poll, as well as a space for users to leave comment.

The polls are also categorized into sections such as “News,” “Politics,” “Entertainment,” and—just for fun—“Curiosity.”

The Web site’s community also monitors each of the polls with “flagged” polls appearing below a certain threshold—where they are inaccessible to any who might find them inappropriate—until they have been investigated by the site operators.

This aspect of the site touches on another key feature of Do-A-Poll: user feedback. Feedback, especially from Wash. U. and MIT students, will also affect the direction the site takes in the future.

Board says that the Web site could go in a number of directions.

“It could support a move toward social networking with more developed profiles and adding friends,” Board said. “Alternately, the polling could become more developed, with more refined categories and a more advanced comment system.”

Either way, the site’s creators say that the users will ultimately define the success of Do-A-Poll.

“Success would be for people to have a place to hang out to find out more about each others’ views and to generate an interesting discussion,” Bock said.

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