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Results of the Diplomatic Pouch Survey

Simon Szykman

As most of our readers will have noticed, last November we put up a survey to try to get an idea of who's visiting The Pouch, and what our readership thought of our efforts, and to solicit suggestions for improvement. In early February, we removed the links to the survey after receiving our 400th* reply -- many more replies than I had expected. Although the survey is no longer up, readers are welcome to send us comments or suggestions at any time.

The 400 replies tells us that we have at least 400 readers. However, it's difficult to gauge the true number since there are undoubtedly many readers who did not take the time to fill out the survey. It is also interesting to note that the number of survey replies dropped off somewhat from the initial surge right after the survey went up, but that after that early drop the number of replies coming remained pretty steady and didn't peter out. Based on that fact, the fact that we did receive 400 replies, and the hit counts for our front page (several hundred hits per week), I'd make a rough guess that we have somewhere between one and five thousand readers (though quite a few are not regular visitors). If anyone has any information about web access statistics or hit counts in general that could lead to a more accurate estimate, I'd be interested in hearing it.

The results from the survey are presented below. One of the things I was most interested in finding out about was what kind of people are reading The Diplomatic Pouch. I've heard it said that The Pouch is by and for PBEM players/rec.games.diplomacy readers, and that other player communities don't know about or don't utilize our resources. I've long felt that this was an inaccurate portrayal and this was one of the motivations for my creating the survey. A few comments on this point accompany the statistics which follow.

The first question in the survey asked what percentage of player's Diplomacy play was spent playing face-to-face Diplomacy, postal Diplomacy, judge play-by-email (PBEM) Diplomacy and non-judge PBEM Diplomacy. The pie chart below shows the overall percentages for the respondents. On average, half the peoples' time is spent playing judge PBEM diplomacy, and another 13% play PBEM without judges. This is not surprising since being an Internet resource limits our readership to people with computers, which biases us toward people who use their computers to play. I suspect that many people would have expected an even higher percentage of PBEM play.

Overall percentages

The above chart provides an interesting overall picture, but since players may play Diplomacy in more than one way, it is a limited picture. It is also interesting to look at what the primary mode of play is for the respondents. I also wanted to look at only people who are strongly dominated by one type of Diplomacy play. I decided to create a similar chart, shown below, which was limited to who played a given way between 90% and 100% of the time (the 90% lower bound was decided on more or less arbitrarily). Almost exactly two thirds of the respondents had a dominant mode of play; the other third were left out of the tally. It is interesting to note that well over one third of the readers who play Diplomacy almost exclusively one way, are not PBEM Diplomacy players.

Percentages of 90% or more

The next question in the survey asked readers how often they visited The Diplomatic Pouch, on average. Readers could pick from once or more per day, week, month and blue moon. The results from this question are shown in the chart below. When I was creating the survey, I wondered if I should bother creating an option for once or more per day, since I wasn't sure anyone would select it. But it looks like we have a nice core group of Pouch addicts who stop by at least once per day on average.

How often people visit

Next, we wanted to know how useful the readers found each of the sections of The Diplomatic Pouch (The Zine, Online Resources, Email, Postal and Face-to-Face). People could select from not useful, somewhat useful, very useful, or can't live without it. First, to get a rough idea, I assigned each of the above categories values of 1 to 4 and looked at overall averages. The Online Resources section was the most useful section, followed by the Zine and Email sections being almost exactly tied, followed by the Face-to-Face and Postal sections as fourth and fifth.

Average section ratings

The graph below gives a slightly more detailed look at the distribution of data instead of just average values.

Detailed rating breakdown

In retrospect, this is probably not the most useful question. The relative rankings of the Email, Face-to-Face and Postal sections do little more than reflect the demographics of our readership. If most of our people play PBEM Diplomacy as their primary mode of play and the fewest play postal Diplomacy, it's not surprising that the Email section comes out first and the Postal section comes out third. What may have been more telling would have been to look at what the dominant BPEM players thought of the Email section, the dominant postal players thought of the Postal section, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't have the patience to correlate the data to that extent.

To get an idea of what our readers did relating to Diplomacy when they weren't playing the game or reading our pages, two questions asked people about other zines they read. The first asked how many electronic zines people read aside from The Diplomatic Pouch, and the second asked how many postal zines people read. The most interesting thing to note here is that 15% of the respondents subscribe to postal zines. That means that even though only a couple of percent play almost exclusively postal Diplomacy, as discussed earlier, there are many other people who are involved in the postal Diplomacy community.

Electronic zines read Postal zines read

Another question asked people whether or not they read the rec.games.diplomacy newsgroup. No chart is required here -- the results were split almost perfectly down the middle, with half of the respondents replying yes and the other half no. I mentioned above that I didn't think The Pouch was only for PBEM Diplomacy players, but that result surprised even me. I expected that a much higher percentage of people would be r.g.d. readers, but I was happy to be wrong on that point.

The next question asked how people rated the design and aesthetic appeal of The Diplomatic Pouch on a scale from one to ten with ten being best. The average was an 8.2 out of ten.

For the earlier question on how useful people find each of the sections, I wanted to get an idea of the big picture so I didn't try to filter out any replies. However, players who play PBEM and FTF all the time may not find the Postal section useful. Asking everyone how useful a section is partly related to the popularity of a section.

This next question asked people to rate the content of each of the sections on a scale from one to ten. Consider the same player who plays FTF all the time -- that player may not care about the content of the Postal section, or may not read it enough to comment on it. So here I specifically wanted to limit replies to people who have an interest in a section since they are in a better position to rate the content. So for this question, players could select a numerical rating, but if the section wasn't one they were interested in they could also select "N/A". The chart below shows the percentage of people who had an interest in each of the sections, which is to say people who didn't select "N/A".

Overall percentages

The next chart shows the average ratings given by the interested readers for each of the sections. This chart is qualitatively similar to the earlier one for the question about how useful each of the sections are. The ordering is almost identical, with the Online Resources first, followed by the Zine and Email just about tied for second, then FTF, followed by Postal. However, as expected, the spread between the highest and lowest ratings is smaller because the ratings of the less popular sections was not affected by popularity as it was with the earlier question.

Overall percentages

Well, that's about it for the results of the data gathered from the survey. The last question asked for comments or suggestions for improvement on the design or content of any part of The Diplomatic Pouch, what people like, what they don't like, and what they'd like to see. We received some flattering praise from people who love The Pouch, and a bunch of "thank you" messages from people who use our resources often and from newbies whom we helped get started. Disappointingly, however, very few of the people who gave low ratings took the time to give feedback about what needs improving or suggestions for what they'd like to see. A bunch of people submitted questions with their replies. I answered these where possible, but not everyone included an email address with their replies, so if you never got a reply from me feel free to contact me directly by email.

We did receive a good number of suggestions, though. The variant summaries on the variants page were prompted by a suggestion received through the survey, as was the new link added to the front page for quick access to the maps page, and the link to the openings list at the top of the Online Resources section. We had a few suggestions for topics for zine articles, some of which we are trying to follow up on and get them into coming issues of the zine. A couple of people suggested indexing The site and making it searchable (this was already in the works and is one of the reasons The Pouch moved to a new site). But probably the biggest impact of the survey was a comment regarding difficulty of getting into PBEM games. Although this comment didn't suggest the idea, it sparked the idea of the creation of the new game queues which make it easier for people to get into popular types of games and have resulted in the creation of dozens of games.

That's only a sample of some of the changes we've implemented resulting from survey comments. We're always interested in finding out how to improve The Diplomatic Pouch. The survey is no longer up (maybe we'll put it back next year to see if anything has changed), but if you have any comments they can be sent to me by email at the address at the bottom of this page.

* A note on the statistics: The number of replies (400) refers to what I considered to be meaningful replies. We actually received some replies which I didn't include in the statistics. Some of them were completely blank replies, many of which were probably sent accidentally by a reader before the survey was filled out and some of them were from people saying something to the effect of "this is my first time here so I don't have anything on which to base an opinion." These were excluded to prevent biasing the statistics, since some of the fields in the form had default values which we didn't want included for non-meaningful replies. Another type of reply that was clearly non-meaningful (and therefore excluded) was a small number of malicious replies -- losers who stumbled across The Pouch and had nothing better to do with their time than to waste our time. One example was a survey returned which had the lowest values selected for every possible rating and a comment which said "Welcome to the jungle. Die, die, die!!!" or something similar to that. These too, were excluded.
Simon Szykman

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