Civic Science: How MSN’s New Polls Allow You to Effect Change

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The audience comes first at Microsoft News. We’re always looking for ways to better understand the people who use our sites and apps, so we know what content and features matter most. We’ve added something new to do just that.

As I wrote in the blog in July, people who seek out news and information in digital media want to do more than only read about news and events. They want to participate. Polls help us listen while giving you the opportunity to shape Microsoft News. For two years, you’ve been responding to questions on our homepage and some sections on MSN, and now we’re using some new technology to deliver Microsoft News polls on articles.  With the help of Microsoft Research, we’re working with data scientists at a research company called CivicScience to provide tools to create polls and quizzes and help Microsoft News analyze your input.

Here’s how it works: we ask a series of questions on news of the day and other interesting topics. Real-time results displayed with poll questions reflect the responses of everyone who has taken the poll. While the results are immediate, they’re not “scientific” or based on representative samples. However, they can provide insights that are interesting, and sometimes surprising. Here’s one example:

Civic Science Poll

We also create statistically valid, scientific results by weighting results based on demographic data and other mathematical models. We’ll occasionally ask profile questions like age and gender, but no personally identifiable information is stored. People who vote in our polls are anonymous.

Knowledge from the new article polls has helped with our Causes initiative, where we target issues like poverty, missing children, biodiversity and homelessness, and curate content intended to help people take action.

We’ve also launched a Microsoft News Poll page where you can respond to as many questions as you like. It’s addicting and I’ve found myself voting away just so I can see how my responses compare to the responses of everyone else who has answered the same question.

Civic Science Poll on MSN

You’ll also find articles and interactive infographics that Microsoft News and our content partners have created from statistically accurate, weighted poll results, and a link to let you review (and delete, if you like) your poll responses. Our passion for data is outpaced only by our commitment to your privacy.

You’ll see this new feature first across MSN Autos and MSN Sports, and in many of the top stories on the homepage. Soon you’ll see these polls all of MSN. You’ll also see articles and infographics from Microsoft News and our content partners that analyze what we’ve learned. We hope you’ll find the results as fascinating as we do.