Working at DARPA and online questionnaires

I was reading a New Scientist book review about working at DARPA.

It struck me that it would be interesting to see two things:

  1. What other New Scientist readers thought about the jobs at DARPA
  2. How easy it is to create an online survey

So I ran an online search for survey tools.  I took the third one (mainly because I couldn’t see how it ran without giving it a try) and created a survey.  I put a link (which is the same system as to it on the New Scientist site and went away for a day.

That took a few minutes.  The survey questions were created on the fly.  If you did this regularly it would be quicker, and automation might be possible.  (Respondents can pick as many answers as they want.)

When I came back to look at the results, the next day, 22 had participated in the survey.  Here’s the results:


The next day (2009-11-14) I captured the results again.  This time there are 27 responses.  Here’s what they look like (as computed by the service).  The percentage numbers are worked out in an odd way.  I make the “I have an ongoing…” question ticked by 48% of participants so multiply the percentage column by about 2.4 to get % of respondents.

The results look much the same though we now might have one response from somebody working at DARPA or a similar place.



  • This isn’t a scientific survey as much as exploring an idea to liven up the web.
  • The sample size is small, 27 respondents.  The readership who responded seem overwhelmingly to like the idea of what DARPA does.  A lot of them think they would make a good contribution.  One of the other responses is basically saying he would like to do the unclassified work and would not be prepared to do any classified jobs.  A fair number indicate a willingness to do this for free, I’m not sure how that would stack up if they were actually offered the opportunity, but it does seem to show a high level of enthusiasm.
  • I would prefer a different analysis to that automatically calculated.
  • The free membership at freeonlinesurveys doesn’t offer a database/spreadsheet data download.  This is a pity but the capture of the screen image isn’t too bad.  For a fee you can get a data download!  The free version gives 50 respondents and it works for 10 days.  That is too restrictive for many purposes.   (I had a look at the HTML generated for the graphs.  I was not impressed with the way it had been done.)
  • I found a few reviews of these poll / survey systems after I did this.  They offer a range of features.  Some of these are: freeonline surveys, PollDaddy, Question Pro, Survey Monkey, Zoomerang, SurveyGizmo, SurveyPro…  If you were serious  it would be worthwhile to look at their features more thoroughly.
  • I find much online content falls far short of what can be done online.  It’s derived from ideas of newspaper and magazine publishing, without recognising the capabilities of the web.  The web can do so much more than printing.  Interactive pages, polls, some real computation power can be unleashed through a web interface.  I’d love to see more of this smarter web in future.
  • Conclusions:  *In a few minutes a survey can be set up to gather worthwhile information.  *This sort of thing is more attractive to me than plain text.  *It takes longer to write this up than it does to create the survey.