When I first started work at US West (or U S WEST as they required us to write it at the time), I had a co-worker who constantly complained about the office temperature being too hot. He would occasionally adjust the wall-mounted thermostat near our cubicles, but most of the time he would find it already set to the lowest temperature (from the last time he visited it).
One day, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about how offices were placing decoy thermostats that could be “controlled” by employees. The thermostats weren’t connected to anything, but they created the illusion that employees could control their environment. I showed the article to my co-worker, who immediately got up from his desk, walked over to the thermostat, pulled off one of his cowboy boots and knocked the thermostat off the wall. It was a decoy. There wasn’t even a hole in the drywall behind it – it had just been glued on.
I was reminded of that story this morning when I saw the Denver Post’s annual Comics Poll, where readers can list their most liked and most hated comic strips in an attempt to influence which comics the Post keeps. As a subscriber, the Post has my address and my phone number. If it wants a statistically valid sampling of which comics are desired and which aren’t by readers, it could do that. But it would rather create a way for all the cranks who bitch and moan about the comics to think their voices are being heard.