October 31st, 2011
We’re pleased to announce that a new tool for communicating with both Jehovah’s Witnesses, former Witnesses, and non-JWs is now available – an online, world-wide, opinion survey website:
The original survey was conceived and initially executed by a gentleman from the UK known as “Cedars.” He suggested setting up a survey in late September as his reaction to some of the discussions taking place on the Jehovahs-Witness.net forum. [Link to original thread.]
Cedars tried to design the survey in a way that anyone connected to Jehovah’s Witnesses in any category (current JWs, former JWs, elders, Bethel members, etc.) could feel they have a voice and be able to freely express their opinions. Cedars worded the questions to be neutral, neither pro or con as they relate to the Watchtower Society or its teachings. Cedars admits that he hopes to hear from more active Jehovah’s Witnesses than some of the other groups. That way he can get a better feel for what current rank and file JWs are really thinking.
One poster on that first thread suggested that Cedars try using the online polling services provided by Survey Monkey. Cedars took that suggestion, came up with a list of questions, and installed the poll on Survey Monkey. The first version of the Global Survey of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2011 was online and ready for business on September 21, 2011.
From the very beginning, reaction and support for the Global Survey was amazing. Within just three days over 400 visitors had logged in and answered the survey. Although the first responses to his survey tended to be very positive, there were a few who followed his forum thread with suspicions about his intentions. A few posters made serious accusations about both Cedars and his motives.
Part of the problem began when Cedars informed the other JWN posters that Survey Monkey’s “free” polling service was only “free” for small surveys for a very short time. Unfortunately, Survey Monkey wanted at least $400 USD to offer a level of service he needed beyond the first month. Cedars had hoped to get over 12,000 responses to the survey through the end of 2011.
When he mentioned the financing issue on JWN, several posters (and even a moderator) began criticizing his project on several levels. Surprisingly, he actually received some small donations in response to his initial appeal for financial help – which he immediately refunded. Others accused him of possibly being an undercover agent for the Watchtower Society; there were suggestions that he might be helping them collect IP addresses and locations from survey participants so that the Governing Body could hunt them down and expose them.
Cedars realized that the purpose of the survey and its results would be tainted and his motives questioned unless he personally financed the survey – something that was impossible for him to do on his own. With no source of funds and a growing backlash against his project, within days he was ready to just give up and forget his survey idea. Although he knew that he had many enthusiastic supporters, he was also facing and having to answer almost constant and rather harsh criticism from a growing number of posters. For a few days the tone of some of the forum threads turned mean-spirited:
“What kind of a scam are you pulling? Yea yea you said you didn’t want to talk money but you say you are negotiating with the board owner. be assured that I will pass this info on to him…”
Within hours the debate over the value of the survey and Cedar’s motives spiraled out of control. He was almost convinced to give up the fight and let the survey die a premature death. Then, surprisingly – like a shifting wind – things cooled down. After several encouraging posts seemed to change the overall mood, Cedars decided to give it another chance. [Link to JWN discussion thread.]
An Offer to Help
The webmaster for Ex-JW.com and InsidetheWatchtower.com contacted Cedars and offered his technical assistance and other support – an offer Cedars quickly accepted. A new stand-alone website was engineered and readied within days. The Survey Monkey version of the Global Survey remained active and in place until October 18. At midnight the new survey site went online. By that time the Global Survey had over 800 responders. The webmaster moved the results from Survey Monkey to the new site and the survey picked up right where it left off the day before. [Link to discussion thread.]
Within hours Cedars went back online to JWN and announced the new website to the world. [Link to thread.] Since then support for this project has exceeded expectations. Dozens of visitors have actually registered on the site, made comments, and offered some excellent suggestions. In the first twelve days that it was online (October 19-30), the site had over 3200 page views and another 100 Global Survey participants.
An added feature of the new website are frequent “mini-surveys.” The first of these surveys discusses various views about who the “faithful and discreet slave” really is; that survey has already had over 200 participants. A new “mini-survey” will go online on November 1, to be followed by another on November 15, 2011.
One nice feature of all the surveys is their “instant feedback.” After you’ve voted on a particular question, you will instantly see the current results. You can then compare your answers to those who have already voted. At the end of the survey, there is a short form that allows you to make a brief comment that will be instantly delivered to Cedars. He’ll use what he learns from those comments to improve his questions and the survey processes in time for the 2012 survey.
There is a blog feature that will be used more often in the future. But for now, Cedars is just interested in getting your opinions and comments. His ultimate plan is to package up the results after the New Year and then make them available online to news organizations and study groups. He also plans to send a formal package to the Watchtower Society’s Governing Body.
While any changes by the Watchtower’s leaders are unlikely, Cedars expresses his hope that maybe someone at a high level within the organization will review the survey and try to learn something from those results.