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Debate and Discourse: AWESOME POST in "Penny Arcade is a contender for Best Webcomic of the Dec
If I say to you "CycloneRanger, what is the best movie you've ever seen?" and you answer me without you understanding what I mean by "best," then you have communicated absolutely nothing to me.
If I say "D&D, what is the best movie you've ever seen?" and I get a bunch of answers without qualifying what the individual answer means by "best," or requests to explain what I mean by best, then the thread is a total failure. I have asked a vapid, meaningless question and received vapid, meaningless answers.
I assume the point of a poll is for the elicited results to communicate something. If it is, then the question as it is phrased prevents sensible communication for the reasons I've explained three times now. And if the point of this poll is not to communicate something, then my point stands anyway as the only other option is for the poll to be meaningless sitewhoring bullshit.
A radio button on a poll does not allow anyone to put their vote in context. But for someone to choose something that is "best," they need to tell you why, or you need to put the term in context so that the poll has some commonality/universality. This one does not provide context and has no metric for gauging what the voters consider "best" to me, so you are left with a paradox. You are left with a selection that communicates nothing, and is meaningless.
Taken that all votes for this poll express the same utter lack of context and thus utter lack of meaning, I conclude that the poll is unable to fulfill its purpose of communicating any meaningful statistic and is thus objectively meritless.
Really? Where can I answer this implied question?
There is no implied question. There is only "which comic from the below list is best?" Polls are statistical in nature. As "best"can mean a wide range of things, there is no statistic that communicates anything sensible. At the end of the day you end up with a number that could mean anything: that the winner was most popular, is the funniest, has the most continuity, has the least continuity, etc. It doesn't say anything about the comic or about the poll as a whole. There is no way to answer this "implied question" you are suggesting exists.
Whew! At least you understand this much. This is my point. The above is exactly why this has no objective merit at all. When you ask a poll question that has no clear meaning, the results also have no clear meaning. Let's say 90% of the voters end up voting for Penny-Arcade? What does that mean? That is meaningless. You have to go to the root of the question. If everyone says "Penny-Arcade is the best" you have to tell me what the hell that means for it to actually mean anything. Alone, without context, that is a totally meaningless statement.
No, it has value in gauging how people will vote because in a political context, people vote for the candidate they prefer. Those polls don't communicate anything of substance, though. And "prefer" is a different word than "best." I would not at all complain if they asked "which is your favorite webcomic." "Best" is a weasel word. The fact that you don't know that is not my failing. Look up "weasel word".
So, considering the existence of these webcomics are not contingent on how people vote here and that their vote doesn't predict anything about the future of these webcomics, I would say the analogy only serves to prove how meaningless this poll really is.
When my life and happiness as a citizen depends on how funny Penny-Arcade or Least I Could Do is, this analogy will become relevant.
Or no it won't because the point of a presidential election is not to actually communicate statistics but specifically to establish the most popular candidate as the figurative leader of our country.
Also, there IS an implication, if asked who you think would make the "best president" that "best" means "most beneficial to have leading the country." Here, in this webcomic context, it has no implied meaning. It can mean one of a hundred things.
I mean, do you really not see the difference between "which do you feel is the most well-drawn comic?" "which comic do you prefer?" and "which is the best comic?" All three are different questions. The first is at least approaching respectable poll question integrity. It's still not very good because it polls laymen and industry experts alike. The second is an honest poll question because everyone can answer what they prefer. The last is wholly dishonest because "best" can mean a hundred different things.
The comparison to an election is slick, but let's not blow up the scope here. And please try to comprehend my ultimate point: That "best" is a noted weasel word - a meaningless word meant to sound objective or authoritative - and that journals like The Washington Post and IGN and what-have-you word polls like this specifically because they are interpretative and thus meaningless specifically to spur argument which directly leads to site hits. But this is about webcomics. I'm not trying to trivialize the subject. Art is certainly important to me. But why you decided to bring something like politics into this is a mystery to me.
I'll beat you to it and namedrop Hitler now. Without context. A meaningless Godwin. Just as meaningless as this poll.