Saturday, November 07, 2009

The BW questionnaire

I've just completed the survey questionnaire which BW sent me. GRRRR! Questionnaires are always so frustrating because they don't ask the right questions or, worse, they ask questions you can't answer properly.

How many locks and how many miles do you do in a normal cruising day? Well it all depends where you are doesn't it. Between our base and London we do 17 miles and no locks. If we're going north up the GU we might do 8 miles and 13 locks.

Does the canal in your area have sufficient depth (Yes or No). Well up the Slough Arm NO, but everywhere else in our area YES. But you only get to say one or the other.

Typically how much do you spend on a normal cruising day on a) eating in pubs or restaurants, b) takeaways c) food shops? How do you answer that? In any day you do one or the other rarely two yet alone three.

What worries me is how they draw conclusions from the answers to these questions. Any answers won't be worth the paper they're printed on, but worse still it'll be all too easy for people to jump to false conclusions.

Now in my professional career I designed a lot of questionnaires and surveys, and I know how hard it is. However there should be a golden rule. Tick box and one word answer questionnaires should only be used in unambiguous situations. For the rest, its far better to do interviews with a representative sample, and statistically that sample can usually be surprisingly small to get meaningful results.

Grumble over. At least I have a chance to win the draw and get a free year's licence.


Vallypee said...

Really frustrating aren't they Neil? There should always be an 'other' box you can tick with the chance to add comments.

What did you do in your former career?

Neil Corbett said...

I had many roles over the years but latterly I was Head of Review for a County Council, whch meant I headed up a team doing performance reviews and select committee investigations and inquiries. We had to gather data and views from a wide range of stakeholders, analyse it and produce reports and recommendations. Surprisingly interesting actually, but I'd rather be in the great outdoors!