In general, I've noticed that there are many circumstances where lowering your sampling rate leads to greater happiness and more interesting surprises (for example, frequency of news reading, email checking, "everything OK honey?" questioning, ...).
It's like complaining about down-votes; it's unfortunate that a quality comment is down-voted but it usually corrects itself with a little time.
Anyway no one's putting a gun to my head and making me read it, so carry on. :)
Actually, I think this poll gave a much more balanced view of OS distribution on HN than the comments I read here all the day. It takes much more passion to write a comment "I am using $OS because..." than to vote for one's OS in such a poll.
For example, I was a little bit surprised about how many HN users actually use Windows as their primary OS, given that Windows tips and tools rarely show up on the frontpage.
So, in my opinion, polls are useful in getting a more objective view of HN interests than one can get from submissions and comments.
"(Please be sure to also vote this poll up as well as vote for a choice; voting for a choice doesn't up vote the poll!)"
I don't care about the karma from polls per se. I mean it's nice, but I've been an HN user for a while now (580 days) and haven't felt the need to seek it out.
I feel the choice of OS is an interesting question these days. The OS climate has changed significantly over the last few years.
Asking the question has also spawned quite a bit of discussion (currently 310 comments) with relatively little flaming going on, so that demonstrates another interesting property of HN readers: that we're capable of having non-childish discussions about things.
For me, as a long time linux user, the question seems relevant as well. I've seen quite a few posts in recent weeks declaring that linux is dead on the desktop. And yet, so far in my poll, it beat out windows and is not that far behind OSX among HN readers, who we'll assume are synonymous with "technical users". With the number of votes that's been collected, I think we can call it a decent sample. The results are definitely not what I would have expected.
I think most of us would agree that the quality of participants (and their participations) here on HN is a refreshing change from the rest of online communities (Ya, I know, it was better before, quality degrading, yada yada yada, how original).
The point is, we generally like the people here and we want to know more, profile more (doesn't it fit with the mindset of the community?). This is why we care about favorite languages, primary OS, (expect a favorite browser poll soon) and the sort.
In a way, every poll results from people wanting to know, what tools do all theses cool people use/prefer/promote ...
It's just you. As soon as somebody determines why HN karma is worth a damn, then it's a problem.
And because of that, "cheap ways to get a bit of karma" matter, because by their definition they are acts of people who are valuing karmic return over quality of submission, resulting in low-quality discussions that appeal to our lowest common denominators, not to our curiosity.
To take the discussion further... First, I wouldn't neccesarily say that polls are a cheap way to get karma. Is karma meant to be a reward for effort, or for value? Sure, a poll might get more points per minute it took to create than a great blog post or Show HN post, but it doesn't neccesarily mean it was less useful to have on HN. And in comments we don't discriminate, I've seen plenty of extremely-short comments get high upvote numbers.
And finally... while some people may be motivated more by karma than anything else, is this automatically a bad thing? Arguably if a poll (or anything else) gains the user karma, it is (in theory) a sign that what they submitted was good content, and therefore better that somebody submit it to get karma than for nobody to bother at all.
This is good actually, because rude or completely pointless comments are severely downvoted, this being the punishment instrument that the community has for people that break the guidelines.
Add me to the list of people that really don't give a damn.
It would be interesting to see a list of the 10 most-downvoted comments. (I might have multiple entries.) Some things just need saying: People who will say them and endure such ignominious downvotes might well have a bit more experience than the avg user here. They say them to plant seeds in less-experienced folks, knowing that it may well take years to germinate.
There is a lot of value in expressing opinions which go against the grain, even if they are not easily accepted. It's only through honest debate that the truth can be found.
While HN's voting system is superior to that of other social news sites, I still think that the down arrow should have a "report" link instead to make people think twice about down-voting someone's opinion, assuming that the opinion is honest. Upvotes are harmless, assuming that spam is taken care of, and I see no problem with that aspect of the behaviour of such a system.
Personally I would generally care about being downvoted because generally I don't comment anything that I would expect to be downvoted, and therefore if it does it annoys me to know that either I was wrong in my judgement of what I said, or that the downvoter was wrong in how they read it (or that the downvoter is just an asshole - the ultimate conclusion I always come to when wondering why somebody downvoted me!)
But I'd never care about it as more of a signal of how a comment was received... if I felt there was a valid reason for me to reply with a one-word comment to somebody simply saying "Cunt." then knowing that I would be downvoted wouldn't come into it.
So far I don't think I've ever written that comment on HN, but I have written a few that I expected to get quite a few downvotes for - often accurate expectations, occasionally completely wrong. And as long as I know that they're downvoting for the reasons I expected, not that I've said something I wish I hadn't, I'm fine with that.
edit: How ironic that in this discussion you got downvoted for a useful comment.
:) That certainly wasn't my intent. The usefulness of upvotes is that the most useful information goes to the most readable place. (Usefulness being defined by the number of upvotes!)
Having a history of providing useful information might be good for somebody's personal ego, to which I say: Get a life. But does anyone here bother to look at somebody's karma count and say, "Now THAT person needs listening to!"
However, getting negative karma hurts, for some reason.
Often if I'm down voted, I assume I've done something wrong and either try to fix my comment or remove it altogether.
I hope no one down votes this comment down just to see if I remove it. :)
It's come up on HN before that popular blogs have bots running against them that post new articles to HN as soon as they appear on the RSS feed. I don't really care about the karma side of this but it encourages behaviour in some that just adds noise to HN (IMHO).
As for the polls, there have been a lot these last few days. Not excessively so but we might want to lay off for a few days. Some of the comments have been interesting. The results of the polls themselves are completely meaningless.
EDIT: to clarify, voluntary polls are meaningless. Properly conducted polls with random sampling are of course an effective tool. Of course, none of the HN polls fall into this category (hence "meaningless" in terms of results).
One good thing about polls is they do bring a good discussion and a nice demographic insight, when they are not overused.
I find both the polls, their results (even considering HN is a very biased sample) and, most of all, the discussions they generate very interesting. When the kind of smart people who comes here debate, I always end up enlightened.
Is the number of polls getting out of hand?
... to me that's a no, they give a glimpse of the HN community which I find interesting
Are the polls a cheap way to get some karma?
... to me this is "quite possible" and I often wonder if the poll would be created in the first place if there was no promise of karma gain
Otherwise, it's just people trying to take a temperature. It doesn't bother me, as the polls I notice are typically in some way relevant to the community at large.
For example, had you asked the question, as "Do people mind the surveys on HN?", I suspect, you may have got a different response.
Particularly, I liked both the polls today, as I was curious to know about how long people had been programming for and the default OS, which BTW was not a surprise.