Twitter Polls: An Early View

(Originally posted 2015-12-05.)

It’s very early days for Twitter Polls but I think they have promise.

So here’s a post on my experience with them in their infancy. [1] The point of writing about it is twofold:

  • To encourage others to try it – both as a pollster and as a respondent[2].
  • To encourage Twitter to tweak it a bit.

I’m always looking for ways to interact with people. As you probably know Twitter is one of my favorite ways. So it was with some anticipation I learned of Twitter Polls.

Twitter Polls

As a Twitter user you can easily create a poll, with up to 4 choices. Other users have 24 hours to cast their votes – using the Twitter web application. They can vote only once.[3]

After 24 hours the poll is closed and the results published on the pollster’s Twitter page. Both the votes and the % for each option are shown.

A Little Experiment

The only way to form a view about something like this is to try it. So I created a test poll…

This blog is called “Mainframe, Performance, Topics” so asked which of these 3 I should concentrate most on.

It wasn’t a very serious poll, and I made that quite clear. But I have to start somewhere.

20 hours in I had the following votes:

  • Mainframe – 4
  • Performance – 2
  • Topics –2

Not many votes overall – but that’s OK. So I tweeted a chivvy and got 1 more vote. 🙂

The final results were:

  • Mainframe – 4
  • Performance – 2
  • Topics – 3

I found it straightforward to conduct a poll but I have some observations.

And, by the way, the poll wasn’t meant to actually help me decide too much on what to write about. Focus groups aren’t my thing. And I’m not dejected by the low turn out: 9 out of over 2000 followers.


When you create a poll it’s very easy. But you can’t write much for the poll question, and especially not for the choices. I suspect it’s fitting inside 1 or 2 standard (140 char) tweets, or maybe a 256-minus-protocol-byte block.

More poll “real estate” would be helpful.

And I’d like the choices to include pictures: Suppose I wanted my followers to help pick my blog’s new masthead graphic.

I’ve only seen the poll show up properly in the Twitter web application. Talking to the developers of Tweetbot – usually quick to adopt – they tell me there is no public API for Twitter Polls. I want to add “yet” as clearly that helps make this more pervasive.

More Twitter clients participating means better polls.

Not to insult my pollees but maybe people who use the web application have different views from those that use e.g. mobile clients.

In my poll I’d’ve liked pollees to be able to vote more than once. I suspect they’d’ve liked it, too. Voting more than once might be multiple thumbs up and encouragement. Which takes us on to use cases – in conclusion.


Because you can only vote once you can’t show support for multiple propositions. You might, for example, have wanted to encourage me to write about “Mainframe” and “Performance”. But you can’t. So this instrument is a bit blunt.

So we’re down to “make your mind up” sort of polls. Which I think are still valuable.

I do think Twitter Polls show a lot of promise and I sincerely hope they develop into something that fulfils that promise. Some of the points in “Conclusions” look more resolvable than others. But what do I know? 🙂

  1. Early December, 2015  ↩

  2. I like the term “pollee” but I fear it doesn’t exist.  ↩

  3. It appears the pollster can’t themselves vote.  ↩

Published by Martin Packer

I'm a mainframe performance guy and have been for the past 35 years. But I play with lots of other technologies as well.

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