Net used to help poll the world

Probably ambitious market research plan

What's it like to be a human being? Well researchers Harris Interactive and 3Com want to know and have teamed up to carry out what they claim is the largest ever poll of Internet users, and their counterparts in the non e-world.

Spanning four days, from 15-18 November, the research has been dubbed Planet Project and is a kind of census of the online community. Topics range from health to religion, sleep to sex, marriage to child rearing, and crime to politics.

3Com is hoping that people will fill in the questionnaire out of the goodness of their own hearts and the "thrill" of being part of such a huge survey, since there is no reward to lure potential respondents to the site.

As well as the online community, there will be teams of "pollsters" sent out into the real world armed with web pad style devices to collar the non online folk too. The companies are also working with organisations who work in the developing world. A spokesman said that the lack of access to technology must not be an impediment to taking part in this survey.

Nearly 1,000 questions have been devised by the researchers. Gordon Black, chairman and CEO of Harris Interactive, said that it was quite a feat, given the global nature of the Internet.

The questionnaires, available in eight languages, were designed to take around five to ten minutes to complete depending on connection speed.

Surfers who take the time to answer the questions will be able to get instant feedback from the site, showing where their answers fit in globally. The statistics can be sorted by age, geographically by gender, and so on. A 3Com spokesman said that they were expecting millions of visitors.

In the UK 3Com has also worked out a scheme to encourage schools to take part. A competition will be launched asking entrants to say who they would most like to ask a question of, providing the subject is still living. The winner will get the chance to ask the question they wanted to ask and be filmed by the BBC Newsround camera crew, as well as winning kit for their school.

Fortunately for our inboxes, there will not be a massive mail out of questionnaires, rather interested parties will be able to fill in the questionnaire on the survey's web site at PlanetProject.com.

A real time compilation of the results will also be available on the site so respondents will be able to compare their ideas with the opinions of others. ®

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