Browser Choice and Voting Online

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In my last post, I joked that the reason that someone gave me all 1s in my talk was a misunderstanding of the evaluation form. In truth, I just assumed that someone out there really didn’t like what I was showing and that’s totally fine. It was something I found funny and I didn’t really care too much.

But I received a message from someone that they tried to evaluate the session from the conference hall, but the evaluation form was really screwy on their iPhone. For example, here’s how it’s supposed to look in IE.

survey
ie

I checked it out with Google Chrome which uses WebKit, the same rendering engine that Safari, and thus the iPhone, uses.

Here it is (click to see full size).

survey
webkit

Notice anything different? :)

The good news here is that nothing really at stake here for me, as speaking is a perk of my job, not a requirement. It doesn’t affect my reviews. I’d bet this form has been in use for years and was built long before the iPhone.

However, if we ever start deciding elections online, this highlights one of the subtle design issues the designers of such a ballot would need to address.

It’s not just an issue of testing for the current crop of browsers, it’s also about anticipating what future browsers might do.

Such a form would really need to have simple semantic standards based markup and be rendered in such a way that if CSS were disabled, submitting the form would still reflect the voter’s intention.

For example, it may be hard to anticipate every possible browser rendering of a form. In this case, one fix would be to change the label for the radio buttons to reflect the intention. Thus rather than the number “1” the radio button label would be “1 – Very Dissatisfied”. Sure, it repeats the column information, but no matter where the radio buttons are displayed, it reflects the voter’s intention.

In any case, I think the funny part of this whole thing is when I mentioned this one evaluation score, several people I know all laid claim to being the one who hated my talk. They all want to take credit for hating on my talk, without going through all the trouble of actually submitting bad scores. ;)

If you were at the conference and saw my talk, be sure to evaluate it. And do be kind. :)

UPDATE: Be sure to read John Lam’s account of the PDC as well. He has some great suggestions for conference organizers to improve the evaluation process.

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Comments

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9 responses

  1. Avatar for Mike Swanson
    Mike Swanson October 31st, 2008

    Thanks for the feedback. I've already passed along a note to the vendor we work with on the session surveys.

  2. Avatar for Jon Galloway
    Jon Galloway October 31st, 2008

    Wasn't me. :-)
    I worked on microsoftpdc.com with the exception of register.microsoftpdc.com and sessions.microsoftpdc.com. We tested in Chrome, and as far as I know the only thing that didn't work well was the Silverlight video player due to use of windowless mode.

  3. Avatar for haacked
    haacked October 31st, 2008

    @Mike Thanks Mike!
    @Jon nobody's blaming you. ;)

  4. Avatar for Kevin Pang
    Kevin Pang October 31st, 2008

    Don't worry. I'm sure when it comes to something as serious as voting software the proper due diligence will be taken to make sure there is no possibility of a wrong vote cast.
    Oh wait...

  5. Avatar for Guru
    Guru October 31st, 2008
  6. Avatar for Glen
    Glen October 31st, 2008

    Good thoughts, but I hope we never go to online voting. There is simply no way to make it secure.

  7. Avatar for Dragan Panjkov
    Dragan Panjkov November 1st, 2008

    Phil,
    can you share your VS color scheme from your PDC session?

  8. Avatar for Shiju Varghese
    Shiju Varghese November 2nd, 2008

    Hi Phill,
    You talk on ASP.NET MVC was good. Some traditional people are always against changes and I assume that you got the negative votes from that guys.

  9. Avatar for haacked
    haacked November 3rd, 2008

    @Dragan It's Rob Conery's Textmate theme for Visual Studio.