Fun Trolling Facebook Polls (For Science (Actually Lulz)!)

I saw a Facebook Poll late last night that a friend had voted on. The question was something like “Which pair of shoes should I get?” The poll had twitpic.com links as answers, so the idea was that people look at the pics and let the guy decide which pair of shoes was better.

Apparently in Facebook Polls, you click on the answer to vote. And there’s no unvote (you can vote for another choice, but you can’t abstain after clicking). So people ended up clicking on the twitpic link thinking they’d see the image, and ended up accidentally voting on the poll. I fell for this, too. There were something like a couple thousand answers on that poll. I believe it’s been removed now.

I figured I could do better with a more salient question, so I made one up myself. “Which pair of glasses look better on me?” I made the question have two twitpic links, which you can view here and here if you actually copy and paste them in. I figured people are naturally judgers, and something like helping someone choose glasses to wear is an easy task (plus you theoretically get to see pictures of faces, which people just love, consciously or subconsciously).

I started the poll late last night, which probably didn’t help, but a few friends took the bait. I hope they forgive me as I did this for science the lulz! When I woke up this morning, there were currently 51 votes, from people I know, friends of friends, and even people two degrees out of my social network! I think it would be really interesting to see how this poll spreads through Facebook (assuming they don’t shut it down first).

I guess now that this post is published, any scientific value is gone (since you could be reading from anywhere and vote for my poll non-virally). The main point is that when you design systems very rigidly (in Facebook’s case, not letting people abstain from a poll, which believe it or not is a valid bit of information), interesting consequences pop up.

I’ll keep checking the status of the poll and see if it actually blows up, whimpers and dies or gets taken down quickly.

Analysis Edit:
I think another reason that this poll is so effective is that it makes it seem that the person who voted is the originator of the poll. Check out the newsfeed formatting:

The voter’s name is prominently displayed (though I blurred it) and the person who asked the question is nowhere to be seen.

Edit #1: The time is now about 12:40PM and the total number of voters has doubled to 99!

Edit #2: It’s about 1:10PM and the number has doubled again to 201!

Edit #3: The time is around 1:24PM and there’s 304 answers.

Edit #4: Alright, it’s 1:35PM and there’s 406 votes.
Edit #5: Wow. It’s 1:41PM and there’s 502 votes.
Edit #5: It’s 1:48 and there are 621 votes.
Edit #6: I’m just going to simplify my updates now…
1:53PM – 716 votes
1:58PM – 811 votes
2:02PM – 904 votes
2:07PM – 1031 votes
2:16PM – 1282 votes
2:22PM – 1442 votes
2:27PM – 1619 votes
2:38PM – 2013 votes
2:46PM – 2393 votes
2:50pm – 2604 votes
2:54pm – 2811 votes
2:58pm – 3038 votes
3:04pm – 3408 votes
3:11pm – 3861 votes
3:14pm – 4142 votes
3:23pm – 4761 votes
3:39pm – 6169 votes
3:47pm – 6806 votes
3:51pm – 7198 votes
3:56pm – 7693 votes
4:00pm – 8010 votes
4:06pm – 8624 votes
4:10pm – 9038 votes
4:19pm – 10,013 votes!
4:28pm – 11,007 votes
4:37pm – 12,009 votes
4:46pm – 13,046 votes
4:53pm – 14,009 votes
5:04pm – 15,216 votes
5:09pm – 15,886 votes (dinnertime)
5:45pm – 19,764 votes
5:55pm – 20,722 votes
6:06pm – 21,829 votes
6:30pm – 24,104 votes
6:40pm – 25,013 votes
6:51pm – 26,001 votes
7:02pm – 27,014 votes
7:14pm – 28,013 votes
7:26pm – 29,001 votes
7:42pm – 30,373 votes
7:53pm – 31,124 votes
(mini break)
9:41pm – 38,332 votes
10:14pm – 40,175 votes
10:34pm – 41,360 votes
10:50pm – 42,232 votes
11:38pm – 44,690 votes
12:12am – 46,761 votes
12:51am – 47,677 votes
1:48am – 49,358 votes
Day 2
10:10am – 53,601 votes
10:31am – 53,812 votes
12:48pm – 55,418 votes
1:07pm – 55,598
1:36pm – 55,923
2:32pm – 56,470
4:41pm – 57,559
10:36pm – 59,078
1:51am – 59,426
EDIT: Facebook finally deleted the poll, with something like 60,000 votes last time I checked.

122 thoughts on “Fun Trolling Facebook Polls (For Science (Actually Lulz)!)

  1. mad facebooker, why are you so mad? Did you fall for it too? This is a simple analysis of an interface. If no such analyses were done, the internet would be a chaotic place full of terrible interfaces. Intelligent people find this sort of thing interesting. I know that you yourself are probably just trolling, but profanity makes you appear quite dim.

    1. As an intelligent person, I assuredly don’t find this interesting. Annoying? Certainly. A good way to point out a bad UI? Maybe. But not interesting.

      1. As someone who actually does research on phenomena occurring in networked data sets, I have to tell you you’re wrong.

        This really is an interesting phenomenon: It’s basically an infectious disease sweeping through a contact network where not everyone is susceptible.

        While it would be extremely useful to see facebook’s logs of how this actually propagated, even looking at the growth rate is fairly interesting.

    2. This isn’t an analysis. Nor is it science. There was no thesis, no goal, no outcome-dependent statement. This action could have been called “baking” or “mountain climbing” and have just as accurate a title as “conducting science.” The proper title for this is “quality assurance.” You’ve tested a website and let the programmers know about a particular shortcoming. Don’t go seeking out the Nobel prize, dude.

        1. I don’t see the awesomeness for me or most other people. I understand how it’s awesome for you — you created something simple and it spread around virally. Pat yourself on the back. That’s great. For you. For the rest of us it’s really just “meh.”

          I wasn’t “butthurt” over the word science. I was just saddened that a grown man—a college graduate—had no clue what science is and was able to confuse it for quality assurance of a web product.

  2. you can simply go to your own profile after either clicking knowingly or falling for this to remove the “update” from your own page – and thereby preventing yourself from propagating the spam.

    Personally, I wish facebook prompted to ask if you wanted this added to your feed, but there are a lot of things I wish they would do differently as well…

    1. Deleting the update from your own profile removes it from your profile, but I don’t think it removes the entry (that you voted on this poll) from your friends’ News Feed. I deleted it from my profile a while ago, but my wife still sees it on her News Feed.

      1. I think this would be a very common use case though…? As demonstrated by the comments from the people who were not taken in by it, due to using some convoluted, very uncommon browsing method?

      2. Their frontend is pretty, but their backend stuff has never worked correctly. Their photo app doesn’t display about 5-10% of the time, searching messages has seemingly never worked, their chat app is terrible, just to name a few. There are plenty of somewhat annoying UI features, for example that one seemingly cannot set it to the “real-time” newsfeed permanently instead of using some algorithm they’ve decided is the best way to display your newsfeed.

  3. This is hilarious! Why would FB design such a weird polling scheme?

    You picked a very interesting method of bringing this quirk to people’s attention. Not to mention you’ve probably just upped your traffic by a few thousand. Hooray for science!

  4. I feel like the real interesting ‘science’ would be to analyze those folks who voted for the second photo.

    If clicking actually casted your vote, most people would click #1 first…who decided to check out #2 first!?

        1. Yeah, I’d think it’d definitely be an interesting thing to check out. Especially if the attempt is to claim this is science.

  5. Nice poll. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a great sociological experiment (fallen for it :D ) and seen a s**tty user interface tested …

    Here’s hoping you find another social phenomenon and/or technology to tear to shreds soon!

  6. first of all, kudos to you on this one! i didn’t actually fall for it myself as I could kind of see it coming (no, really, I swear!) second, I’m in Ireland so the poll has officially gone international :)

  7. i noticed that for both polls, roughly 70% people voted for option 1 and 30% option 2. This is evidence over a huge sample size that produce consistent results. Want to take a guess at the reasoning behind this?

    1. I think the explanation is simple – most people click on the links thinking they will see a picture corresponding to that choice. Most people will click in order from top to bottom, and hence, a lot more people click on option 1 first.

  8. So I didn’t fall for it and here’s why: when it appeared in my news feed that several of my friends had taken it, I got suspicious because the friends it listed definitely do not know each other and it would be a crazy coincidence if they had a mutual friend asking the question. There were a few from my high school, a girl I went to college with, and someone I know from grad school in a completely different part of the country. I can see, however, how this could work for people with a more limited friends list or for whom that thought wouldn’t have immediately occured to them. My boyfriend specializes in UI, so he’ll be very interested to hear about this experiment. I generally hate fb spam, but I support this for the sake of science. bravo!

    1. i didn’t fall for it for the exact same reasons. that being said, this is probably one of the most amazing things i’ve seen in awhile. great work!

    2. That is actually the reason I clicked on it – I saw several people had responded who I couldn’t have imagined would know each other, and I thought, what the heck? I needed to investigate. D’oh.

  9. Being someone in User Interface design, I get ticked off by stupidity like this. It’s called user testing, Facebook. And I love how people are getting pissy at you for FB’s short-sightedness. XD

    I actually didn’t get tricked by this, but I voted when I saw what it was about. Does that screw up the science? :P

  10. um, no it’s not “science” since science does not force people to engage in something unwittingly. Further, since you don’t allow people to remove or opt out of the situation, you’re not actually allowing them autonomy and spamming facebook. Nice work, asshole.

      1. misanthropicanthropologist: Define “force”. I do not think anyone had you at gunpoint and made you click on a link to see someone in glasses. You fell for a terrible FB interface. No force needed.

        Science is exploring new things and trying to find new phenomenon.

        Also, Hung is not the one how doesn’t allow you to opt out, facebook doesn’t allow you to. This is an experiment illustrating poor UI. I am also a User Interface Engineer (as are all those who seem to “get” this!).

        1. Actually, there are plenty of decent usability tools out there. There’s a whole segment of research called anthropology + design — something that most UI people are too egocentric to explore.

          You’re correct I was not “forced” to click, but I was trying to see something my friend posted. As Hung, who apparently does not yet know that the word you has three letters and not one, has gloated, the application tricks you into thinking that your friend (a person whom I’ve selected as a person I trust and want to be part of my social network) posted the link. This is untrue and disingenuous.

          You’re correct that FB has shitty UI. We can completely agree with it — and certainly this is just a small example of FB’s complete disregard to user-centered controls. I spend time actually deleting things from my wall, not clicking most inane shit that’s thrown up on FB, and using adblocker to avoid seeing incoherent ads. But that doesn’t mean that Hung’s “experiment” was terribly experimental. There is actually a difference between deceit and scientific experiment.

          What I’m mad about is not a stupid little link that I “fell for,” but rather Hung’s seeming pride in his ability to program. Nice work, hot shot. Being a programmer is not a fucking ninja skill — at least not on this base level.

          Science + social sciences do explore “new phenomena” but there are plenty of ways to do that in more sophisticated and thoughtful ways. Plenty of experiments (Tuskgee, etc.) were done on people who had no say, and most scientific ethics boards would discredit such methods.

          So, dear “UI who gets it,” please do a little reading and think a little harder about all the embedded tools to “track” users’ behaviors, etc. Most market research informs its users/participants that they are participating in an experiment. Whether they know exactly what element is the experimental one is less crucial than providing them information with what they’re participating in.

          On these terms, Hung fails.

  11. I’m surprised the rate at which its growing is not increasing faster. I’ll highlight a few
    3:39pm – 6169 votes
    3:51pm – 7198 votes (+1029 votes in 12 minutes, 86/min)
    4:00pm – 8010 votes (+812 votes in 9 minutes, 91/min)
    4:10pm – 9038 votes (+1028 votes in 10 minutes, 103/min)
    4:19pm – 10,013 votes (+975 votes in 9 minutes, 108/min)
    4:28pm – 11,007 votes (+994 votes in 9 minutes, 110/min)
    4:37pm – 12,009 votes (+1002 votes in 9 minutes, 111/min)
    4:46pm – 13,046 votes (+1037 votes in 9 minutes, 115/min)
    But it is accelerating!

    1. I noticed that, too. I think it probably has to do with the fact that for each person, you’re not exposing it to that many new people. A lot of people are those who were already “exposed” to it. So it’s not exponential outright, but it is growing, probably as people become more susceptible to it when more of their friends vote.

        1. This would be the simple model (infected people never leave the system), because I doubt exposure to this poll would cause anyone to give up facebook :)

  12. My question is, how can this be classified as “science” if you’re not measuring anything? Your point was already proven by the first poll. What’s the use of creating a second poll if only to gain some unwarranted attention and credit?

    1. I think that you must assume that when the first words of a post are “Fun Trolling Facebook” that the science part is somewhat tongue in cheek. I’m collecting the numbers, but besides that, this is really just for the lulz.

  13. I got tricked and it’s funny, but I had no idea that people would rage over this. I’m glad you posted this because once I clicked and didn’t see a pic I thought I did it wrong. Turns out Facebook did it wrong. Good science, it’s like finding a hole in the fabric of society or something where all these ppl expect everything on FB to work as they expect and then when it doesn’t they get mad. Like it’s not a free service. Like it actually hurts them to click a dumb button.

  14. Can I say something though? You can delete this after you read it, I just had to say it to someone.Totally unrelated but not. You/me/yr friends are well versed in the verbage that’s associated with a certain site that begins with a number and ends with an an, yes? Up until a few weeks ago I was a bemused viewer of content on that site, particularly the sub-section that begins with a letter that is not a or any of the letters including or after c. So, last time I was there someone posted a whole thread of pics that can only be described as horrible criminal abuse footage involving BABIES, like under a year old and very small children, not teens but toddlers, being abused. It’s caused me no end of anguish and sadness to know that it is real and such sick people have done such sick things and it’s not a funny joke like CP CP Mods are asleep. It’s so so sad. Don’t know why I am posting this here except to say that that site is ruined for me now and I don’t think I can ever look there again. And I am not very sensitized uptight person. At all. Too bad because it is funny to read someone making comments like U MAD? and know where it comes from.

    1. Yeah, it’s bad to lump all that bad stuff with the more general geek culture. I think reddit (along with cheeseburger, etc) are helping spread that leetspeak stuff. I don’t lurk on 4chan, but some of the culture has definitely seeped out to the mainstream.

    2. Because 4chan users are actually all one person? Or all 4channers have the same strange predilections? Sorry you got scarred, but that stuff doesn’t happen everywhere on the site.

      1. I didn’t get scared, I know how you feel Ryan B, it’s not for the faint of heart. And I’m not anti-chan. But dude if you had seen these pics you would be scarred for life like I was. Beyond strange predilection – this was actual child abuse like a pic of a toddler kept in a dog cage. I hope you never do see them. That is all.

  15. Even for science it does not make sense to cheat and make people do something they do not intend to do. Also, it does not make sense for you to not allow them to undo their option. I feel somebody stole my right to decide about it, I do not understand how you could even create something similar if you somebody did this to you too. I guess you have a different way of reasoning. It worries me that you have this logic. If somebody do something bad to you, you do not want to do this to other people you have to try to stop it. Am I right? I think so, otherwise please convince me I am not. Thanks.

    1. I won’t try to convince you you’re wrong. You are entitled to a different opinion. I just wanted to see if I could replicate what I saw, and perhaps make it more viral. If anything else it proves a point that Facebook’s current way of doing polls is kinda wacky.

      Do you think it would have been more effective for me to email Facebook about it? Do you think they know about it now? Do you think they’re working on a fix for it now?

      I only mentioned the science thing to be tongue in cheek, really. This was more of an experiment to see what happened. I think it’s also good that I made the thing pretty inert (no spam, no spyware or anything, just a little time wasted).

      1. fyi I know for a fact its being circulated through actual fb employees as the friend I clicked on it from works there. I also will say that they probably don’t care about your experiment at all..
        also, your site is just as stuipd as it puts unchecked links tagged to anonymous usernames.. :rolleyes:

        1. I think that if the only point was to try to prove Facebook polls are wacky you did not need to involve all these people. We are all wasting time and having different reactions (mostly negative ones) to an unexpected result. The fact that the poll way did not allow to undo an action is not a problem for us (at least if the options were clear we decided to vote and could have asked FB if we still wanted to undo the action) There is a problem now when somebody post in our wall or if FB tell our friends that we did something we did not intended to do. We feel that somebody cheated on us and it is a not a good feeling. I do not like to create that feeling in other people because I know how it feels. Thanks god I met people in my life that made me understand that I can not have fun at the cost of other people sadness/embarrassment. I just want to make sure people are getting this message. It might not be understood right now but at least I want to try to get the message to them. It worth a lot if at least one prank is avoided because of it. Thanks.

          1. Citation needed for “mostly negative ones.” The poll and post were obviously done in a playful manner. Most comments I see are similarly playful. Plus you’re on Facebook. Are you really concerned about wasting time?

          2. Augh… Johanna, he’s not trying to trick people just because he thinks it’s funny – he’s illustrating how a design flaw can be unintentionally self-perpetuating.

            This is a FB poll that you accidentally voted on. It doesn’t matter. In the general scope of things, literally every other thing you’ve done today should be more important than that.

          3. Honestly, Johanna, People who get made about “time wasting things’ while on facebook, irritate the hell out of me. Your’re on facebook, scrolling through your news feed, and looking at pictures. you are already wasting time. As for voting, Its a click. 3 seconds to read the question, and a half second more to move the mouse and vote. it wasnt that big of a time waster now, was it?

  16. It’s the same with the new “questions” thing that appears randomly on your newsfeed. It makes it seem like a friend of yours is asking the question, when really it’s someone you don’t even know, and their name is nowhere to be found. Very strange.

  17. So yeah, I saw this poll on my feed just now. I was perplexed at how the friends that voted appeared to be completely unrelated, but nevertheless I assumed that a friend of mine made the poll.

    The reason I didn’t get trolled was I tried to right click and open the links in a new tab, and I couldn’t do that. So that made me go to the polling page and copypaste from the “____ voted for ____” headlines.

    But yes, very scientific indeed. I applaud you.

  18. You know, Facebook actually might not think all this “trolling” is bad. If anything, it’s brought attention and engagement to a feature that was previously not as well publicized. I certainly didn’t know you could create a clickable poll that would show up in my friends’ newsfeeds.

    1. Also part of the misleading UI is intentional on FB’s part, highlighting the part where “yourFriend voted on…” and leaving out the original author is a way of increasing engagement and is used in most of the responsive ads on FB(and some of the more spam-y aps: “yourFriend answered a question about you…” “yourFriend liked X, click Like to see X”)

      If nothing else, FB can point this out to advertisers, “Look how easy it is to get 50,000 page views, sre you sure you don’t want to upgrade from a sidebar ad?”

  19. This is going to be, well, for lack of a better word, epic.

    Extra credit science/lulz: graph of how many people swore at you vs. congratulated you over the course of the experiment. The visceral negative reaction to your little trick is something I don’t necessarily understand, but I guess some people don’t like getting tricked, even if there are no negative consequences.

  20. Ah yes, I actually noticed the poll last night about pairs of shoes and immediately began collecting data.

    I’ve been collecting data on your poll every 5 seconds since 7:45 CST, and I do research in information and social networks. We should compare notes when it finally gets shutdown.

    Thanks

    1. Nice. was there any way for you to get location based data? a visualization of the spread WRT time and geography would be awesome. internet makes it able to travel far, but people are mostly checking their up on local friends.

      1. I have the IP addresses of the people who went to this blog from the Facebook poll, so I could theoretically do a geoip lookup on those and do a timeseries thing. Dunno about the accuracy but it might look cool :)

        1. perfect. how many IP’s do you have compared to number of votes? is it people who followed the link to here or just people who commented?

          1. My blog has gotten hit pretty hard today. I think most people who voted followed this link. I’ll have to see what the exact numbers are when I process the log file.

          2. Whoa, I totally want to see a map of who voted for this and see their locations spread out over time.

  21. Another UX/HCI fail for FB. They have a few. Check this minor one out: http://blog.hectorparra.com/post/1369653700/a-simple-ux-fail-facebook-can-fix-right-away

    I, like many here, fell for this and truly LOL’d when I actually visited the URLs. Like your edit mentioned, I initially thought a friend created this poll. If anyone is creating spam, it’s Facebook, by making me think such a thing.

    In terms of human subjects, you participated in deceit. I doubt you’re going to publish this result, but I think you can spin it anyway using FBs own TOS. We sign all are rights away the second we login. We might as well volunteer for experimental surgery. HGP

  22. Hahaha, great job! I saw all my friends voting on it. I was going to click the links, but decided it looked suspicious (because in clicking would i be voting?) so I went to your fb page instead. And was like what? I don’t know this guy OR have any friends in common with him. Then I saw the link and had to see what was going on (plus I was curious to see which pair of glasses looked better on you… hahaha). I suppose all this could have been avoided had people been smart facebook users and looked at who asked the question/poll first?

  23. Funny how many people have no internet humor whatsoever. Just do yourself a favor and quit using the internet if you’re gonna over analyze the work of an internet troll. “It’s not science.” Yeah? No shit. thatsthejoke.jpg

  24. You know, it’s the damnedest thing – I’ve used the poll feature before, so I knew what would happen, but I clicked on it anyway.

    Resistance is futile.

  25. Looks like this dude deletes the comments he doesn’t like… kinda ironic considering his little trolling experiment, oh well.

  26. I knew it was a trap once I saw that stupid picture. I feel cool for being on the first people to click on that thing. FB chose some poor affordances here.

  27. This is just fun!

    I love that you found a way to exploit Facebook’s relentless efforts at information gathering! It’s also an interesting social commentary that so many people are taking the bait.

    Make sure you add this to your resume. :)

  28. Someone mentioned that it’s immoral or whatever to not tell someone that they are part of a research experiment.

    I’m not sure of the morality of it, but every person who uses virtually any commercial website—Apple.com, ebay, Amazon, as well as hundreds of thousands of marketing-minded sites—participates in unwitting, über-scientfic, marketing and usage research CONSTANTLY.

    This stuff is not a game, it’s a science. Contemplate what Google ALONE knows about what we do online, given that Google Analytics is the de facto (free) software installed on millions of websites around the world, and that they track by IP address. The data gathered is invaluable to anyone who does business online.

    I say, no harm no foul. Very interesting trends, regardless of the accuracy of your data.

    Makes me wonder if FB wasn’t just testing a new UI in the same way I would split-test advertising placement on a web page, or split-test an email subject line for open and click-through rates.

    You have found a very interesting behavior pattern and a significant impetus to repeat this experiment. This time, with more scientific principles involved.

  29. Nice way of putting FB on the spot… though you can still erase your vote by posting a comment in the poll’s FB page and then deleting it. Still, good wake up call.

  30. If we really wanted to get into talking about trolling questions and everything, what about the math questions that randoms ask? they do it JUST to troll.

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