Polls Are A Great Prioritization Tool, Except When They Fail Spectacularly

Democracy is great, right? We'd all prefer to have direct participation in the decisions that affect our lives, from which multimillionaire will represent us common folk to which features we'd like to see in the next version of Microsoft Office. (Please, please, PowerPoint team, just copy Keynote's auto-align feature already.) The more voting we do, the more we feel that civilization has advanced, and the better the quality of the products or politicians we get.

Polls Are Valuable But Inadequate
In recent years, application development teams have grown increasingly open minded, and in many cases even enthusiastic, about voting or polls as a prioritization mechanism. Worried that your requirements rely too heavily on interviews with a potentially unrepresentative sample of users? Take a quick poll to get a more accurate estimate of real demand for the work you might do.

As important as polls can be, they're not perfect. Even if you don't go crazy with how you use the results, the quality of these findings depends a great deal on the questions you ask. Even if your survey question kung fu is great, other risks exist, such as the unfortunate tendency of people with no opinion answering the question anyway because they don't want to appear foolish.

One peril that holds special relevance to application development (or product development in general) is the missing part of the sample. By their nature, polls omit the customers you think you should have but don't yet have. 

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