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Poll Results

All Previous Polls: 501-550

Poll 501: How often do you buy salt?

Total votes: 3449

Once a month or more: 81 (2.3%)
A few times a year: 607 (17.6%)
Once a year or so: 702 (20.4%)
Once every few years: 486 (14.1%)
Two or three times, ever: 230 (6.7%)
I bought salt once, let me check... yep, there's still some left: 669 (19.4%)  
You know, I don't think I've ever bought salt: 674 (19.5%)

This poll was inspired by a recent inventory of my pantry. I found in the back a plastic airtight container full of salt. I mean full - it weighs in at a hefty 714 grams (I just weighed it now on my kitchen scales). Presumably I bought it as a one kilogram box of salt.

When I set up house with my wife.

Twelve years ago.

At the rate we're using this salt, we'll need to buy another packet in about 2040.

I had intended this poll to be about edible table salt. I didn't specify because that's basically the only salt which we ever use for anything. As I discovered from various comments and responses, people in some parts of the world also buy salt specifically to soften water in their dishwasher, or to remove ice from roads and driveways. I did think of salt for swimming pools, but oddly nobody commented about that.

Poll 502: Reference material: Experience point.
Which of the following sentences are correct?
(A) This is going to be worth so many XP.
(B) This is going to be worth so many XPs.
(C) This is going to be worth so much XP.
(D) This is going to be worth so much XPs.

Total votes: 5209

C only: 1679 (32.2%)
B and C: 1106 (21.2%)
B only: 616 (11.8%)
A and C: 517 (9.9%)
Who cares?: 430 (8.3%)
A only: 254 (4.9%)
A and B: 218 (4.2%)
A, B, and C: 119 (2.3%)  
All four: 106 (2.0%)
B and D: 56 (1.1%)
C and D: 49 (0.9%)
D only: 32 (0.6%)
B, C, and D: 17 (0.3%)
A and D: 9 (0.2%)
A, C, and D: 1 (0.0%)
A, B, and D: 0 (0.0%) 

There's a long, complicated story behind this one. It refers to a recent strip of Darths & Droids: #408.

Darths & Droids is, as many of you know, written by myself and a collection of my friends. Everyone contributes, and we have lively discussions about plotting, characterisations, and the exact dialogue that goes into the strips. This particular one caused, well I won't say it was outright argument, but it was extremely heated discussion.

I was on the keyboard and, after our usual group brainstorming and discussion, typed out the last line of the strip as, "This is going to be worth so many XP." The others agreed that it was a good script, except some of them said that the last line was wrong.

I said, "What's wrong with it?"

They said, "It should be: This is going to be worth so much XP."

I said, "What? No, that's gramatically incorrect. It has to be so many XP."

They said, "No no no, you're wrong!"

I said, "You fascist Nazi bastards!"

At least that's the gist of it. After an entire lunch hour of this, with both sides absolutely refusing to back down, I agreed reluctantly that the strip could be made with the line, "This is going to be worth so much XP." And when the strip went to air on 2 May, that's what it said.

Except that when I saw it live on the website, my inner grammar Nazi recoiled in utter horror that such a travesty was visible on a website that I maintained. I apologetically e-mailed my friends at work and said I couldn't stand it, and was going to change the sentence back to the grammatically correct, "This is going to be worth so many XP."

Naturally this triggered an e-mail explosion between all parties concerned, which no doubt cost our work the equivalent of 20+ person-hours of skilled employee time. People were pulling out Google hits, dictionary definitions, grammar references, and official roleplaying game writer's style guides. The weird thing was that the latter - specifically the official Dungeons & Dragons Writer's Guide published by Wizards of the Coast - states quite clearly that XP stands for experience point or experience points. Nothing else. And "XP" is the plural form too - you do not add an "s" to make it stand for "experience points".

I saw this as completely vindicating my position. After all, you would say, "This is going to be worth so many experience points." You would not say, "This is going to be worth so much experience points." That would just be grammatically wrong.

Yet, oddly, and still to my total incomprehension, some of the other guys saw this as total vindication for their position that, "This is going to be worth so many XP," was just wrong and, "This is going to be worth so much XP," was obviously right.

At this stage I despaired of us reaching an agreement and rather bluntly pulled rank. It was on my website, and therefore I decided what version would be used. Less than 24 hours after the strip in question was posted publicly, I retroactively changed the line from, "This is going to be worth so much XP," to "This is going to be worth so many XP."

Our usual lunchtime meeting was somewhat subdued. We discussed other things, and not one of us was willing to raise the topic of this line of dialogue. After lunch, the e-mails resumed, somewhat more civilly, and someone suggested we should make it the subject of an IWC poll. So this poll question was born.

We never explicitly discussed it, but I think the general feeling was that my trump card of owning the website had won the day, and nobody was willing to raise the question again.

Until today. One of us is actually out of the country on his honeymoon, and found himself with 10 minutes in an Internet cafe. He reopened the discussion... and since then another several thousand words of e-mail have been exchanged between several of us, arguing the opposite positions once again.

This time the angle is slightly different. The objection (as I understand it) from my worthy opponents is that if "XP" stands for "experience points" then the construction, "This is going to be worth so many XP," sounds a bit like, "this is worth so many dollars," or, "it's so many metres away," or, "wow, it's a lot of degrees Celsius today". The point here being that these sentences all use a countable noun referred to with a non-specific number. The argument (as I understand it) is that these sentences are better expressed as, "this is worth so much money," or, "it's such a long distance away," or "wow, the temperature is really hot today."

The distinction here is that the non-specific number of countable noun objects ("dollars", "metres", "degrees Celcius") has been replaced by an intrinsically non-countable mass noun, ("money", "distance", "temperature"). To my worthy opponents, these latter forms of these sentences are in some sense better than the former versions. I have to say that while I agree in the temperature case, I don't really see anything wrong with the first versions of the other two examples, but apparently my friends do.

Anyway, bringing this back to "experience points", which is a countable form of a noun, the question is what is the uncountable mass noun version? The answer is "experience". So now we have these two different versions of what is essentially the same concept:

  • This is going to be worth so many experience points.
  • This is going to be worth so much experience.
Now I, personally, think both these sentences are perfectly fine. I'm happy to put my name on either one. Our problem comes from the the following facts:
  • I am of the firm belief that "XP" stands for "experience points". In written usage it does not, under any circumstances, ever, stand for "experience". As a game writer, who follows the appropriate style guides, I feel that using "XP" to stand for "experience" would be simply wrong. This means that, to me:
    • This is going to be worth so many XP. (correct)
    • This is going to be worth so much XP. (obviously and irretrievably wrong)
  • My friends believe that constructing a sentence with a non-specific number of a countable noun is weird, and that it's better to formulate such a sentence using the non-countable mass noun version. Also, they are happy to use "XP" in a more colloquial context in which it can mean "experience", rather than "experience points". This means that, to them:
    • This is going to be worth so many XP. (incorrect, or at least very odd or strange usage)
    • This is going to be worth so much XP. (correct)
Alas, we still have not resolved our differences. It seems the only way to do that would be to remove the abbreviation "XP" altogether, and make the line of dialogue read, "This is going to be worth so much experience." But even that has problems, as it loses the flavour of the roeplaying gamer jargon with the abbreviation.

On a lighter note, this is the first IWC poll since poll #189 where one of the offered options got no votes whatsoever. That was also a language usage poll...

Poll 503: You're eating out and want dessert. The place has both chocolate cake and cheesecake. Your reaction?

Total votes: 4668

The chocolate cake, every time: 1434 (30.7%)
I pick whichever I feel like at the time: 1265 (27.1%)
The cheesecake, every time: 875 (18.7%)
I pick something else: 576 (12.3%)
I pick whichever looks better: 369 (7.9%)
Oh man! I HATE this decision! I can never decide between these two!: 149 (3.2%)  

The reason I ask this is I recently faced this dilemma, and realised that I fall squarely into the last category. If a restaurant offers chocolate cake, I'll always pick that. If it offers cheesecake, I'll always pick that. If it offers both, I'm stuck in some sort of Buridan's ass situation and can't make the decision.

A few people suggested the correct course of action was to have both, which is probably something I should adopt!

(Or chocolate cheesecake, which is also a good option, but only if the restaurant has it.)

Poll 504: Twenty Questions, #11. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human, talking mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is its species carnivorous (as opposed to omnivorous/herbivorous)?

Total votes: 3422

Yes: 1850 (54.1%)  
No: 1572 (45.9%)

A carnivore it is! The next question will appear in a few polls' time.

Poll 505: 3D movies and TV:

Total votes: 4328

Will struggle along until glasses-free technology arrives, then take off: 2663 (61.5%)  
Will forever be a niche market, most stuff will still be 2D: 804 (18.6%)
Are a fad that will die out: 416 (9.6%)
Will take some years to really catch on, but is inevitable: 382 (8.8%)
Will be mainstream soon, nothing will be made in 2D any more: 63 (1.5%)

Poll 506: Graffiti:

Total votes: 3181

Vandalism: 2156 (67.8%)  
Art: 1025 (32.2%)

Of course vandalism and art are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Poll 507: Twenty Questions, #12. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it a feline?

Total votes: 3520

No: 1811 (51.4%)
Yes: 1709 (48.6%)  

Close one! Okay, the next question will appear after a few other polls.

Poll 508: If you were wealthy enough not to have to work for a living, would you still work?

Total votes: 3268

Yes, I'd switch to a lower paying but much more satisfying job: 1212 (37.1%)
Yes, I enjoy my work: 565 (17.3%)
No, I'd quit in a second and live a life of leisure!: 518 (15.9%)
I don't work at the moment, but I'd still look for some sort of job: 454 (13.9%)  
Yes, I'd actively use my wealth to generate even more wealth: 251 (7.7%)
No, I don't work currently, and wouldn't bother looking for a job: 234 (7.2%)
I already have enough money to not need to work, and I still work: 20 (0.6%)
I already have enough money to not need to work, and I don't work: 14 (0.4%)

Poll 509: Which Jules-Verne-inspired journey would you most like to take in real life?

Total votes: 4117

Around the World in 80 Days: 1338 (32.5%)
From the Earth to the Moon: 1035 (25.1%)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: 786 (19.1%)
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth: 509 (12.4%)
Off on a Comet: 304 (7.4%)
Five Weeks in a Balloon (across Africa): 145 (3.5%)  

Poll 510: Choose a response that produces the largest cumulative insult:

Total votes: 4259

A. Everyone who votes B is slightly foolish: 194 (4.6%)
B. Half the people who vote C are complete idiots: 319 (7.5%)
C. If more than 15% of the votes are A, everyone who votes in this poll smells funny: 575 (13.5%)  
D. There exists at least one person who likes Highlander 2: 1372 (32.2%)
E. I refuse to insult random people for no good reason: 827 (19.4%)
F. "You suck!" multiplied by number of votes for E: 972 (22.8%)

Ya know, when I wrote this I wasn't trying to construct anything particularly insightful - I was just trying to come up with a weird question in a hurry. But I think I've shown pretty convincingly that Highlander 2 was, in fact, rather bad.

Poll 511: Twenty Questions, #13. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human, talking non-feline carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it a canine?

Total votes: 3340

No: 2045 (61.2%)
Yes: 1295 (38.8%)  

Okay, non-feline and non-canine! Tricky. The next question will occur after another few polls.

Poll 512: When was the oldest piece of music on your portable music player composed?

Total votes: 3702

before 1500: 514 (13.9%)
1500s: 149 (4.0%)
1600s: 271 (7.3%)
1700s: 463 (12.5%)
1800 to 1849: 205 (5.5%)
1850 to 1899: 128 (3.5%)
1900 to 1919: 46 (1.2%)
1920 to 1939: 101 (2.7%)
1940 to 1959: 157 (4.2%)
1960 to 1969: 296 (8.0%)
1970 to 1979: 186 (5.0%)
1980 to 1989: 122 (3.3%)
1990 to 1994: 45 (1.2%)
1995 to 1999: 47 (1.3%)
2000 to 2004: 25 (0.7%)
2005 to now: 17 (0.5%)
I don't have a portable music player: 930 (25.1%)  

Poll 513: When you return here and see the poll question hasn't changed, do you:

Total votes: 4001

Not re-vote; what would be the point?: 1285 (32.1%)
Not re-vote; that would be morally reprehensible!: 881 (22.0%)
Re-vote sometimes, if I feel like it: 698 (17.4%)
Re-vote sometimes, if I can't remember if I've already voted: 687 (17.2%)  
Re-vote every time, picking a different answer: 354 (8.8%)
Re-vote every time, picking the same answer: 96 (2.4%)

Poll 514: If you were a soup, which would you be?

Total votes: 2682

Chicken Noodle: 368 (13.7%)
Alphabet: 337 (12.6%)
Tomato: 245 (9.1%)
Clam Chowder: 235 (8.8%)
French Onion: 218 (8.1%)
Cream of Mushroom: 183 (6.8%)  
Pea and Ham: 171 (6.4%)
Minestrone: 167 (6.2%)
Hot and Sour: 152 (5.7%)
Gazpacho: 110 (4.1%)
Miso: 107 (4.0%)
Pumpkin: 103 (3.8%)
Vegetable: 86 (3.2%)
Mulligatawny: 85 (3.2%)
Vichyssoise: 46 (1.7%)
Bouillabaisse: 43 (1.6%)
Laksa: 26 (1.0%)

Poll 515: Twenty Questions, #14. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it male?

Total votes: 3008

Yes: 1845 (61.3%)  
No: 1163 (38.7%)

Poll 516: From left to right, which order are these stored in your cutlery drawer?

Total votes: 3301

Knives, forks, spoons: 1089 (33.0%)
Spoons, forks, knives: 627 (19.0%)
Forks, spoons, knives: 359 (10.9%)
They're sorted front to back, not left to right: 302 (9.1%)  
Forks, knives, spoons: 247 (7.5%)
They're all jumbled together randomly: 203 (6.1%)
Knives, spoons, forks: 192 (5.8%)
They're never put away in a drawer: 137 (4.2%)
Spoons, knives, forks: 107 (3.2%)
I don't have any cutlery: 38 (1.2%)

Poll 517: How do you eat corn on the cob?

Total votes: 4017

Randomly: 792 (19.7%)
In rows, left to right, rotating to eat the next row down: 754 (18.8%)
I never eat corn on the cob: 704 (17.5%)
In rows, left to right, rotating to eat the next row up: 396 (9.9%)
In rings working down, starting at left, moving right: 187 (4.7%)
Alternating rows left/right, rotating to eat next row down: 183 (4.6%)
In rings working up, starting at left, moving right: 164 (4.1%)
Alternating rows left/right, rotating to eat next row up: 158 (3.9%)
Cut the kernels off with a knife and eat with a fork or spoon: 155 (3.9%)  
Start in the middle, eat rings and work outwards: 122 (3.0%)
In rows, right to left, rotating to eat the next row up: 88 (2.2%)
In rows, right to left, rotating to eat the next row down: 77 (1.9%)
In rings working down, starting at right, moving left: 75 (1.9%)
Start in the middle, eat rows, and work down: 61 (1.5%)
Start in the middle, eat rows, and work up: 58 (1.4%)
In rings working up, starting at right, moving left: 43 (1.1%)

Poll 518: What month were you born in?

Total votes: 3362

Fragglich: 340 (10.1%)
January: 325 (9.7%)
April: 325 (9.7%)
March: 307 (9.1%)
February: 295 (8.8%)
Julie: 288 (8.6%)
Septmember: 278 (8.3%)  
Augustus: 270 (8.0%)
December: 266 (7.9%)
Octogon: 246 (7.3%)
Mary: 221 (6.6%)
Nonverbal: 201 (6.0%)

Now that's interesting. Each month should have close to 8.3% (except February, at about 7.7%), assuming people are born at random times throughout the year. Obviously there's some odd bias amongst Irregular Webcomic! readers.

Poll 519: Twenty Questions, #15. I know it's a specific male non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it from British literature?

Total votes: 3617

Yes: 2192 (60.6%)  
No: 1425 (39.4%)

Okay then! The next question will be in a few polls' time.

Poll 520: What industry sector do you work in?

Total votes: 3392

I'm still studying: 1120 (33.0%)
Information Technology: 548 (16.2%)
The inevitable category that I've forgotten: 402 (11.9%)  
I'm unemployed: 311 (9.2%)
Education: 237 (7.0%)
Government/Military: 178 (5.2%)
Retail/Sales: 126 (3.7%)
Health: 107 (3.2%)
Arts/Entertainment/Sport: 85 (2.5%)
Trades/Skilled services: 69 (2.0%)
Finance/Economics: 68 (2.0%)
Administration: 45 (1.3%)
Hospitality/Tourism: 35 (1.0%)
Community/Non-profit: 34 (1.0%)
Primary production (agriculture, mining, etc): 27 (0.8%)

Poll 521: Can things be both funny and offensive?

Total votes: 4187

Yes - they are orthogonal axes, it may be in awful taste but can still be funny: 2808 (67.1%)  
It depends - some things are NEVER funny, but other offensive things can be: 1246 (29.8%)
No - if it's offensive, it's NOT funny: 133 (3.2%)

Poll 522: What do your parents think you do for a living?

Total votes: 3300

Something to do with computers: 1101 (33.4%)
Still depend on us for food and shelter: 699 (21.2%)
Goes to an office: 328 (9.9%)
Nothing worthwhile, you could do so much better: 270 (8.2%)  
Creative stuff: 240 (7.3%)
Good-for-nothing layabout: 220 (6.7%)
Medicine or Law, we're so proud: 146 (4.4%)
Stuff that's far too dangerous: 101 (3.1%)
We don't like to talk about that: 99 (3.0%)
Alas, my parents are no longer around: 96 (2.9%)

Poll 523: You've just woken up. You need to have a shower and leave the house. How much time do you need?

Total votes: 4026

5 minutes or less: 133 (3.3%)
more than 5 minutes, but 10 minutes or less: 440 (10.9%)
more than 10 minutes, but 15 minutes or less: 661 (16.4%)
more than 15 minutes, but 20 minutes or less: 700 (17.4%)  
more than 20 minutes, but 25 minutes or less: 408 (10.1%)
more than 25 minutes, but 30 minutes or less: 516 (12.8%)
more than 30 minutes, but 40 minutes or less: 507 (12.6%)
more than 40 minutes, but 50 minutes or less: 231 (5.7%)
more than 50 minutes, but 60 minutes or less: 150 (3.7%)
more than an hour: 280 (7.0%)

Poll 524: Twenty Questions, #16. I know it's a specific male non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from British literature or poetry. Does it wear any clothing?

Total votes: 2700

Yes: 1516 (56.1%)  
No: 1184 (43.9%)

Wears clothing it is. The next question will appear after a few intervening polls.

Poll 525: What do you consider to be the defining characteristic of a carnivorous animal?

Total votes: 4346

Eats meat: 1024 (23.6%)
Must eat meat to survive: 745 (17.1%)
Only eats meat, nothing vegetable: 415 (9.5%)
Almost only eats meat, may eat plants rarely: 881 (20.3%)
Mostly eats meat, may eats plants occasionally: 706 (16.2%)
Eats at least 50% meat: 49 (1.1%)
Eats a significant amount of meat, may be under 50%: 80 (1.8%)  
Eats some meat, may be fairly small amount: 30 (0.7%)
A member of the order Carnivora: 416 (9.6%)

Poll 526: Ginger ...:

Total votes: 3514

Ale: 865 (24.6%)
Bread: 742 (21.1%)
and Mary Ann: 520 (14.8%)  
Snap: 496 (14.1%)
Beer: 467 (13.3%)
Spice: 216 (6.1%)
and Garlic: 149 (4.2%)
and Lemongrass: 59 (1.7%)

Yeah, okay, I forgot Rogers. Sorry about that!

Poll 527: How many raw, whole eggs in your kitchen right now?

Total votes: 3933

None: 1073 (27.3%)
1: 76 (1.9%)
2: 140 (3.6%)
3: 98 (2.5%)
4: 212 (5.4%)
5: 173 (4.4%)
6: 322 (8.2%)
7: 132 (3.4%)
8: 198 (5.0%)
9: 121 (3.1%)
10: 192 (4.9%)
11: 71 (1.8%)
12: 289 (7.3%)
13-15: 296 (7.5%)
16-18: 164 (4.2%)
19-21: 71 (1.8%)
22-24: 60 (1.5%)
More than 24: 245 (6.2%)  

Poll 528: Twenty Questions, #17. I know it's a specific male non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking clothes-wearing carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from British literature or poetry. Is it either one of a bear, badger, mole, or weasel?

Total votes: 3152

Yes: 1946 (61.7%)  
No: 1206 (38.3%)

Aha! The next question will apear in a few polls' time.

Poll 529: When you need to type a multiplication sign in a document (i.e. not computer code), what do you use?

Total votes: 3671

A lower-case letter x: 1569 (42.7%)
An asterisk (*): 1365 (37.2%)
Insert a proper multiplication symbol from a tool palette: 209 (5.7%)
I never need to type multiplication signs in non-code files: 194 (5.3%)  
Type \times: 183 (5.0%)
Type some other code to produce the correct symbol: 83 (2.3%)
Type Alt-0215 on the numeric keypad: 53 (1.4%)
Type ×: 9 (0.2%)
Type Option-00D7: 3 (0.1%)
Type ×: 2 (0.1%)
Type 0215 Alt-X: 1 (0.0%)

Writing technical reports and papers, I often need to type multiplication signs. I use the Alt-0215 method, having long ago memorised this particular keyboard code. The most common "other" answer that I saw in comments was \cdot.

Poll 530: You have a question about a website. What do you do?

Total votes: 3717

Check if the site has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page: 321 (8.6%)
Check if the site has some sort of "About" page: 83 (2.2%)
Both of the above: 714 (19.2%)
Check if the site has some other place where your question might be answered: 21 (0.6%)  
All of the above: 1345 (36.2%)
Try the above, then e-mail the site owner if you have no success: 695 (18.7%)
E-mail the site owner and ask the question, without trying any of the above: 12 (0.3%)
Put the question to a public discussion forum thread about the site: 32 (0.9%)
Post the question in your blog/journal/twitter feed/etc.: 5 (0.1%)
Just ponder the question without any expectation of it ever being answered: 489 (13.2%)

Poll 531: Twenty Questions, #18. I know it's a specific male, talking, clothes-wearing carnivorous bear, badger, mole, or weasel, originally from British literature or poetry. Is it either a bear or a weasel?

Total votes: 2754

Yes: 1617 (58.7%)  
No: 1137 (41.3%)

So, either a bear or a weasel. The next question will appear in a few polls' time.

Poll 532: How polarising will this poll be?

Total votes: 3612

Totally! Everyone will answer one of the two extreme options!: 373 (10.3%)
Very. A large majority of people will answer with the extreme options.: 142 (3.9%)
Substantially. Most people will answer with one of the four extremes.: 219 (6.1%)
Somewhat. There will be a bias to the extremes, but plenty of middle votes.: 718 (19.9%)
A little. The middle range will be slightly less popular.: 298 (8.3%)
The votes will be evenly spread amongst all the options.: 338 (9.4%)
A bit less than random. The middle range will be slightly more popular than the extremes.: 756 (20.9%)  
Not much. The middle range will be significantly more popular than the extremes.: 281 (7.8%)
Very little. Most people will answer with a few central choices.: 129 (3.6%)
Extremely little. The vast majority of votes will be for one option.: 64 (1.8%)
Not at all! Everyone will vote for the same option!: 294 (8.1%)

Poll 533: Your favourite sports team wins a game only because of a blatant refereeing/umpiring error. Do you:

Total votes: 3630

Exalt wildly, rubbing your ill-gotten victory in the noses of the opponents: 103 (2.8%)
Cheer as if it was a normal victory - it's all part of the game: 136 (3.7%)
Celebrate, tempered by the fact that you know your team had a lucky escape: 351 (9.7%)  
Think it was a good result, but a shame it had to happen that way: 512 (14.1%)
Feel a bit ashamed that your team had to win like that: 288 (7.9%)
Feel disappointed that your team obviously didn't deserve to win: 115 (3.2%)
Wish the mistake had never been made - better to have lost fairly: 354 (9.8%)
Feel really bad for the opponents, they really deserved that victory: 103 (2.8%)
I care so little about sports that this question is irrelevant to me: 1668 (46.0%)

Wow. Not much love for sports in the readership. I'm always somewhat bemused by people who don't like sport. I enjoy most sports. Particularly the more tactical and strategic team sports. They can be very intellectually stimulating, as well as aesthetically pleasing when watching marvellous displays of athleticism and skill.

Oh well, to each their own.

Poll 534: Twenty Questions, #19. I know it's a specific male, talking, clothes-wearing carnivorous bear or weasel, originally from British literature or poetry. Is the character a villain?

Total votes: 3370

Yes: 1713 (50.8%)  
No: 1657 (49.2%)

Wow, close one! Okay, the final question will appear in a few polls' time. Exciting!

Poll 535: When you change your toothbrush, do you:

Total votes: 3734

Pick whatever colour strikes your fancy at the time: 1407 (37.7%)
Pick whatever is closest to hand, paying no attention to colour: 1062 (28.4%)
Try for the same colour, but settle for something else if it's not in stock: 468 (12.5%)  
Pick from a subset of preferred colours: 406 (10.9%)
Get the same colour each time: 199 (5.3%)
I don't brush my teeth: 167 (4.5%)
Cycle systematically through a set of colours: 25 (0.7%)

Apparently, if some e-mailers are to be believed, some people never change their toothbrushes. Or only do so when their dentist gives them a new brush.

Poll 536: In general, if something offensive is funny, is it more justifiable to do it than if it isn't funny?

Total votes: 2880

Yes, people should lighten up and laugh sometimes: 1992 (69.2%)
No, it's exactly as unjustifiable no matter how funny it is: 779 (27.0%)  
No, if it's funny it's even worse than if it's not: 109 (3.8%)

Poll 537: Retail loyalty programs:

Total votes: 2965

Love them! It's like a fun game I play to get bonus stuff!: 79 (2.7%)
Like them. If I pay attention I can get free stuff, what's not to like?: 546 (18.4%)  
Neutral. I really couldn't be bothered with them.: 833 (28.1%)
Mixed feelings. Getting stuff is good, but it's so fiddly.: 694 (23.4%)
Dislike them. Why should I have to keep track to claim rewards?: 199 (6.7%)
Hate them. It's just a marketing scam to lock you in to one retailer.: 614 (20.7%)

Poll 538: Twenty Questions, #20! I know it's a specific male, talking, clothes-wearing carnivorous bear or weasel villain, originally from British literature or poetry. Is it... Iofur Raknison from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy?

Total votes: 3851

No: 2194 (57.0%)
Yes: 1657 (43.0%)  

Ah well, close. After question 19, I really only had two choices that I could think of. Iofur, or the Chief Weasel from Wind in the Willows. I had to pick one to frame the last, hopefully winning, question, and I really had no idea which might be the more popular choice. Obviously, I plumped for Iofur, and didn't get the over 50% I needed to consider this a success.

Of course, perhaps 7% or more of you were thinking of something else entirely, in which case neither option could have got me over 50%. In fact, perhaps less than 43% of you would have answered yes to the Chief Weasel, in which case I did as well as could be expected.

Throughout this set of 20 Questions, I realised that it would be difficult to come up with something that everyone agreed satisfied all the answers. I first realised this with Question #11: Is it carnivorous? The answer was yes, so I thought that meant it could be a type of cat, or dog, or various other carnivorous mammals including pinnipeds, toothed whales, mustelids, and some others. Most likely a cat or a dog.

But discussion in the forum turned on the question of what exactly is carnivorous? Most people, but not all, decided dogs were out of the running, since they argued that dogs were omnivorous - they eat vegetable scraps and dry dog food, which is mostly made of cereals, and a bit of meat. I didn't say so at the time, but I disgreed with this. Dogs eat meat. They only eat vegetable scraps and cereal-based foods because we give these things to them - mostly because meat is too expensive to feed a dog with all the time. But dogs are basically just wolves plus a few thousand years of breeding, and wolves and wild breeds of dogs pretty much eat nothing but meat. Wolves eat the odd berry apparently, but I doubt anyone would seriously argue they are not carnivorous. I figure dogs, deprived of human pet food, would also be unquestionably carnivorous.

But apparently many people disagreed. Nevertheless, I felt I had to spend a question (#13) asking if the mystery creature was a canine, which it turned out not to be. At this point I realised that you, the voting public, were most probably split on what you considered to still be valid creatures. Some of you probably thought badgers (to pick a random example) were okay, while others thought they weren't. Bears came up - people pointed out that they're not carnivorous, they're omnivorous. Well, except for polar bears, which primarily eat seals. So they stayed in.

Then Question #16 determined the creature wears clothing. Did that include armour? Again, some people on the forum argued yes, others no. So in the end I had to conclude that armour-wearing polar bears were not necessarily excluded, even though some of you very likely thought they were.

It was an interesting exercise overall, but in the end I think the vagaries of personal definitions mean that it's very hard to pin down a final answer that everyone actually agrees satisfies all the questions. Which makes my job as the asker very difficult. I may not have "won" the game, but I think I did pretty well, considering. Thanks to everyone who played along!

EDIT: Some years later I found this blog post, which discusses the different possible definitions of "carnivore", inspired by none other than this series of poll questions, and the discussion above!

Poll 539: When you come back from vacation, what fraction of your photos have people in them?

Total votes: 3129

None: 122 (3.9%)
At least one photo, up to maybe a third: 985 (31.5%)
Somewhere between a third and two-thirds: 690 (22.1%)
At least two-thirds but not all: 488 (15.6%)
Every. Last. One.: 57 (1.8%)
I would be required to divide by zero to obtain this fraction: 787 (25.2%)  

Poll 540: How did you approach the Twenty Questions polls?

Total votes: 4380

I didn't have anything in mind, I just answered by whim: 1376 (31.4%)
Each time my object was eliminated I chose something new, consistent with the answers so far: 995 (22.7%)  
I deliberately answered each question to make your job difficult: 620 (14.2%)
I tried to do option 2 above, but gave up after a while: 450 (10.3%)
I didn't participate at all: 345 (7.9%)
I chose an object, answered truthfully, and stopped answering when it was eliminated: 211 (4.8%)
I answered in some other way: 130 (3.0%)
I chose an object and answered all the questions based on that, even after a "No" answer: 128 (2.9%)
I chose something else which wasn't eliminated along the way: 77 (1.8%)
I actually chose Iofur Raknison at the beginning: 48 (1.1%)

Poll 541: Go get an orange and peel it. Go on, this poll will be here for a few days. How many segments are inside?

Total votes: 2643

1-7: 60 (2.3%)
8: 262 (9.9%)
9: 158 (6.0%)
10: 269 (10.2%)
11: 183 (6.9%)
12: 160 (6.1%)
13: 38 (1.4%)
14: 30 (1.1%)
16: 32 (1.2%)
More than 16: 42 (1.6%)
No, I couldn't be bothered: 1409 (53.3%)  

Poll 542: What feature of Irregular Webcomic! do you most want to see again soon?

Total votes: 4405

A really long scientific annotation: 992 (22.5%)
Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs: 557 (12.6%)
The Allosaurus: 481 (10.9%)
Star Wars spoofs: 423 (9.6%)
The Nigerian Finance Minister: 347 (7.9%)
The Supers: 311 (7.1%)
Fantasy shown as a roleplaying game with Me as GM: 307 (7.0%)  
James Stud: 241 (5.5%)
The Imperial Romans: 183 (4.2%)
A hobbit pun: 180 (4.1%)
Harry Potter spoofs: 171 (3.9%)
Space shown as a roleplaying game with Me as GM: 113 (2.6%)
Alvissa discussing elven philosophy: 99 (2.2%)

That's a fairly decisive result from a poll with so many options. I'd like to say there are some coming soon, but alas I've been very busy lately and unfortunately I don't have any particularly long annotations in the buffer at the moment. But I'll try to find time to write some longer annotations soon.

Poll 543: How many different types of fruit do you have in your home right now?

Total votes: 3073

None at all: 464 (15.1%)  
1: 322 (10.5%)
2: 426 (13.9%)
3: 528 (17.2%)
4: 424 (13.8%)
5: 320 (10.4%)
6: 193 (6.3%)
7: 121 (3.9%)
8: 82 (2.7%)
9: 27 (0.9%)
10: 52 (1.7%)
11-12: 41 (1.3%)
13-14: 11 (0.4%)
15-16: 7 (0.2%)
17-18: 3 (0.1%)
19-20: 1 (0.0%)
21-25: 2 (0.1%)
26-30: 1 (0.0%)
31 or more: 48 (1.6%)

There was some interesting discussion about this one on the forums. As usual, I left the question open to different interpretations, and people discussed whether they should just count fresh fruit, or also dried fruit, or even fruit in products such as jams or cakes, or even sauces or even more processed foodstuffs. Then there was (of course) the question of whether or not to count tomatoes, and then also pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, and further into nuts. Many people on the forums included all of these and ended up counting well over 31 different types of fruit.

It seems from the results, however, that most people probably went the other extreme and only counted fresh fruit, or maybe dried fruit as well.

And then someone suggested the question was not asking how many fruits you had, but how many types of fruit: fresh fruit is 1, dried fruit makes 2, preserved fruit 3, and so on.

Poll 544: How do you press the button to activate a pedestrian crossing?

Total votes: 3846

Carefully once, more is wasteful: 772 (20.1%)
Randomly whack it once: 1426 (37.1%)
Twice in quick succession: 388 (10.1%)
Three times: 62 (1.6%)
Four times: 5 (0.1%)
Five or more times, the same number each time: 21 (0.5%)
Repeatedly a random, large number of times: 191 (5.0%)
A small number of times, then more if the light doesn't change quickly: 456 (11.9%)  
Repeatedly until the light changes: 125 (3.3%)
I never press the button, it could be dirty: 77 (2.0%)
There are no button activated crossings where I live: 323 (8.4%)

Poll 545: What is your second favourite thing on this list?

Total votes: 3501

The Order of the Stick: 573 (16.4%)  
Science: 438 (12.5%)
Reading: 426 (12.2%)
Pizza: 389 (11.1%)
LEGO: 333 (9.5%)
Star Trek: 286 (8.2%)
Lazy Sunday afternoons: 284 (8.1%)
Sushi: 202 (5.8%)
Coffee: 184 (5.3%)
Vacations: 180 (5.1%)
Cute baby animals: 138 (3.9%)
Aquariums: 68 (1.9%)

Poll 546: You see some candy in a bowl at a relative's house. Judging from experience, what flavour are the green ones most likely to be?

Total votes: 2922

Apple: 738 (25.3%)
Lime: 684 (23.4%)
Sour apple: 468 (16.0%)
Peppermint: 310 (10.6%)
Spearmint: 278 (9.5%)
Watermelon: 91 (3.1%)
Wintergreen: 84 (2.9%)
Pear: 62 (2.1%)
Sour lime: 54 (1.8%)
Jalapeño: 49 (1.7%)
Grape: 31 (1.1%)
Green tea: 30 (1.0%)
Kiwifruit: 26 (0.9%)
Honeydew melon: 17 (0.6%)  

Several German readers commented that of course it would be woodruff! Apparently all* green candies in Germany are woodruff flavoured. I'd never even heard of woodruff before!

* Hyperbole. I'm sure there are other flavours.

Poll 547: Hottest male in Irregular Webcomic!?

Total votes: 2866

Me: 480 (16.7%)
Draak: 316 (11.0%)
Isaac Newton: 241 (8.4%)
Kyros: 199 (6.9%)
Steve: 189 (6.6%)
Monty Jones: 179 (6.2%)
Will Shakespeare: 178 (6.2%)
Erwin: 166 (5.8%)
James Stud: 163 (5.7%)
Man in Black: 83 (2.9%)
Nigerian Finance Minister: 79 (2.8%)
Charity Collector Guy: 76 (2.7%)
Adam: 73 (2.5%)
Jamie: 73 (2.5%)
Mordekai: 66 (2.3%)
Mercutio: 65 (2.3%)
Professor North Dakota Jones: 62 (2.2%)  
Ishmael: 47 (1.6%)
Minnesota Jones: 45 (1.6%)
Colonel Haken: 21 (0.7%)
Spanners: 20 (0.7%)
Captain Long Tom Short: 16 (0.6%)
Serron: 15 (0.5%)
Lambert: 14 (0.5%)

I swear I did not rig the poll! Although I did get a few people writing to say they voted "Me" because they were clearly the hottest male in the comic themselves. I guess that's what I get for making you a character in my comic.

Poll 548: Hottest female in Irregular Webcomic!?

Total votes: 3205

Alvissa: 614 (19.2%)
Dame Jane Goodall: 482 (15.0%)
Young Jane Goodall: 415 (12.9%)
Wendy Wenchgood: 351 (11.0%)
Head Paradox's Receptionist: 316 (9.9%)  
Dr Ginny Smith: 310 (9.7%)
Ophelia: 304 (9.5%)
Loren Ipsum: 201 (6.3%)
Paris: 114 (3.6%)
Terry: 98 (3.1%)

So if we discount the fact that Jane Goodall's vote got split, she ended up with the most votes!

Poll 549: Hottest being of indeterminate, non-specified, ambiguous, changeable, neuter, or potentially wrongly assumed sex in Irregular Webcomic!?

Total votes: 3466

The Allosaurus: 765 (22.1%)
Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs: 626 (18.1%)  
The Mars Rover: 518 (14.9%)
Cthulhu: 495 (14.3%)
The Yeti : 276 (8.0%)
Head Death: 214 (6.2%)
Death of Inhaling Hatmaking Chemicals: 129 (3.7%)
Iki Piki: 121 (3.5%)
Head Paradox: 120 (3.5%)
Quercus: 104 (3.0%)
Martian 2: 45 (1.3%)
Martian 3: 25 (0.7%)
Death of Choking On A Giant Frog: 14 (0.4%)
Martian 1: 14 (0.4%)

Someone suggested the Fire Elemental.

Poll 550: In what order do you normally put on socks and shoes?

Total votes: 3350

Randomly based on environmental variables: 1193 (35.6%)  
Left sock, right sock, left shoe, right shoe: 766 (22.9%)
Right sock, left sock, right shoe, left shoe: 754 (22.5%)
Left sock, right sock, right shoe, left shoe: 222 (6.6%)
Right sock, left sock, left shoe, right shoe: 130 (3.9%)
Left sock, left shoe, right sock, right shoe: 63 (1.9%)
I consciously vary it: 62 (1.9%)
Right sock, right shoe, left sock, left shoe: 56 (1.7%)
I don't wear socks: 54 (1.6%)
I don't wear shoes: 28 (0.8%)
I have zero or one foot: 22 (0.7%)

My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
My blogs: (daily updates) | 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe (science!) | Carpe DMM (long form posts) | Snot Block & Roll (food reviews)
More comics I host: The Prisoner of Monty Hall | Lightning Made of Owls | Square Root of Minus Garfield | iToons | Comments on a Postcard | Awkward Fumbles
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This work is copyright and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International Licence by David Morgan-Mar.