PoFo Test FAQ and General Apologies - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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I have not replied to some PMs from nearly a month ago now over the PoFo test. This is because I find it a drag to enter in new names and passcodes to register people to participate.

I'll send out replies today to those who have requested passcodes and I sincerely apologise for not getting back to everyone sooner. To make the process quicker (and thus make me more likely to reply as I get requests), I'll just send the passcode in each PM from now on, without the attached text.

Instead, to give people a quick guide as to where the PoFo Quiz is at, I thought I'd write a very brief FAQ to save too many questions in the future.

Q: What is the PoFo Quizz?
It's actually more a survey than a quizz. About two years ago (March-April 2004), to try to redress the lack of good political tests out there, I wrote my own with some testing and input from other PoFo forum members. There are 80 core questions in the quiz, with an extra 20 for forum members and at the end it tries to tell you what your political views are.

Q: What was the rationale behind the Quizz?
The idea was to have it as a tool for PoFo goers in the main, but also to distance it from other political tests and their ways of thinking about politics. Most people here pretty much *know* where they stand vis-a-vis models like Liberal/Conservative or Radical/Moderate, so I didn't want just a simple x/y graph of where you stand. The idea was actually to 'tease out' the taker's overall political stance in areas that they hadn't necessarily thought about before. To do this, 8 binaries were chosen.

Q: What are these 'binaries'?
After you've answered the 80 questions, you will be given a raw score anywhere from 0-100 in 8 different categories to which the questions pertained. These categories are called (somewhat wrongly, by me) 'binaries'. The eight different scales were pretty much the only ones I could think of as being relevant for PoFo goers. They are:
  • Social/Individual
  • Theist/Materialist
  • Big Government/Small Government
  • National/International
  • Protectionist/Free Trader
  • Absolute/Non-Absolute
  • Controlled Market/Liberal Market
  • Marxist/Non-Marxist
Obviously there's some overlap, and quite a few questions actually contribute towards your results in multiple categories. The Marxist/Non-Marxist category in particular was stuck in in recognition that there are quite a few Marxists here at PoFo, and asking questions in the context of a non-socialist state failed to tease out their position well enough. The same might be said for fascists and Platonists perhaps.

Q: What about my overall 'categorisation'?
This is something that was, by-and-large, done in great haste. After I had category results, I added in a number of 'archetypes' - thinking, for instance, that someone who was quite Marxist and a social thinker would probably be socialist, while someone who was a theist, believing in a controlled market, would be your old-fashioned conservative. So I set up about 20 such categories that people would be put into if the relevant binaries fell within certain ranges. There have been several problems with this - one is that the categorisation is not that nuanced and another is that it was based on certain categories here on PoFo (and, for instance, back in 2004 we didn't have a 'libertarian' category). Lots of people had too moderate views to ever be classed as anything much so were called something wishy-washy like 'borderline internationalist' (that includes me).

Q: How does the PoFo passcode-enabled version differ from the standard version?
The standard version of the quiz asks you 80 questions, calculates your binaries and then outputs 9 pages of results - your binaries and how you compared to all test takers on each question. Because you're just entered into the database as one of thousands of 'Guest' takers, you can't retrieve any of these results again once you close your browser.

The PoFo version asks you 20 more questions for a start: 10 are 'general knowledge' questions that were written by me to give us some idea of the knowledge of posters and another 10 were 'demographics' questions that were written to give us some idea about who we were and how to make this forum better. At the end of the quiz, however, the PoFo taker is presented with 5 more pages of results (where you can see how other PoFo goers answered, check out the map of PoFo goers, look at demographics stats, see where you place on any binary compared to all other PoFo takers etc.) and s/he can also happily close the browser and relogin any time to view the results (which are being updated constantly as more people take the quiz)

Q: How do I get a passcode?
I give you one (eventually) when you PM. You have to be a PoFo forum member.

I'll reply back just with your passcode, but I used to give the following stock reply, with a bit more information:

Your passcode is "XXXXXXXX". You should log in at http://www.orgburo.com/pofoquiz/pofo.php , using this passcode in the green portal to begin the test.

Once you've finished the test, you can also log back into the results section again at any later date by using this passcode. This will be handy to compare your answers again as more members complete the test.

I recommend Internet Explorer for best compatibility.


Q: Can I take the test again? My views have changed.
You can, but you don't need a new passcode - the results would be mucked up if some people had multiple sets of answers. Instead, you can retake the test at any time without my interference.

What happens when you enter your passcode on the PoFo Quizz start page is that a session is started on your computer where you are validated as your PoFo identity. You are taken straight to poforesults.php if you've already completed the test. To retake the test, all you need to do is change this url in your address bar to the first page of questions and as you go through the test again, your old answers will be written over. Please note that your categorisations/binaries etc. are only updated after you click on the button following question 80 to finish the test, so you have to do ALL 80 QUESTIONS to have your results change successfully.

Also, because I didn't want people retaking the general knowledge questions once they knew the answers, you cannot update your answers to these 10 questions. Don't worry about looking like a fool though - the database stores answers to these questions anonymously, so no-one will know how well you did.

You CAN change your answers to the demographics questions (your location, age, favourite forums etc.) if you want. Since these don't have a bearing on your binaries etc. you could just submit your answers to the demographics questions again without needing to redo the whole test if you didn't want to. No-one can be bothered to 'update their age' on it every year though, and either should you.

Q: Can you just summarise that last answer, for dummies?
To redo the test:
1] Login at http://www.orgburo.com/pofoquiz/ again with your original passcode.
2] Go to the address bar and change poforesults.php to pofo1.php to take all 100 questions again, including the demographics questions, or pofo3.php to take just the 80 political questions again.
3] Make sure you answer all 80 politics questions if you want your binaries/categorisation to be readjusted.
4] You will be writing over your old data as you submit each page of the quizz again.

Q: I'm having technical problems.
First off, that isn't a question. Secondly, people have completed the test on Firefox, Mozilla, IE, Safari, Opera etc. So I'm inclined to blame you if you have issues. A most common issue seems to be people's results not updating when they redo the test. As far as I know, however, this is always a BTKATC issue. If you do have a problem and don't think it's the fault of you or your computer, bring it to my attention. First, if possible, try using IE if you were using an alternate browser: the code was originally written for IE and recoding some bits for Firefox stuffed me around.

Q: What technology is used in the coding?
Nothing you couldn't program. PHP is the basis of dynamic pages. MySQL is used to house all the database information - some 5MB or so - on my server and the PHP pages ask for specific information that they then output to you every time you load a page. Javascript was used for the question pages to work with the radio buttons etc. The pretty graphs were generated with JpGraph, which is a freeware add-on that you can use if you've got PHP set up on your website with the GD image libraries installed (almost all paid webhosts will).

Q: Are there plans to update the Quizz?
You might have noticed that it feels a bit old, and indeed still calls itself 'version 1.0'. With the exception of altering the text in the question about the 2004 US elections recently, I haven't made any real changes to the Quizz in two years. And I like it that way.

Q: What about another Quizz? Even on a different topic?
Again - no plans. While I have all the code to spew out another quiz there from this one, it would still take considerable time. Most specifically, if I did another quiz I'd want it to be thought through much more than the PoFo Quizz was when it was being implemented. This would mean having a popular idea, formulated by a few people with a whole bunch of us writing questions, designing the algorithms to categorise people and going through a couple of weeks of testing. Call me jaded, but I don't think we're ever going to get such an approach on PoFo.

Another plan, long ago, was to 'integrate' the quizz into PoFo - have data on your results display in your profile, or as your ideology in your side bar and not have people having to put in a different passcode and go off site to do the quiz. The problem with this is that it would be too much hassle for the pay-off, most probably. It would require having Fox make coding changes to PoFo that would be a bugger whenever the board needed to be updated (which is more than once a year).

Q: You must have a pile of interesting data there. Can I do something with it?
If you've got a reasonable proposal for it, I'll release the data... or at least all of the data that's presently publicly available (Again, I will NOT be giving out people's answers to the demographic questions, but everyone's answers to each of the 80 political questions is already accessible by any PoFo member with a passcode). I would love for someone with free time and some concept of how to do statistical analyses to try correlating different answers or binaries (eg. "I found that people who supported Bush were more likely to say that abortion should not be allowed" - surprise surprise!), but you should at least demonstrate you've got some serious proposal for the data. It's in a MySQL database at the moment, so I can easily send it to people as an Excel or .csv file.

Q: I lost my passcode!
You really annoy me. Write it down or something! Stick the PM I send you with it in your savebox! Email yourself with it! Invent a mnemonic! If you've still lost it, you can PM me and ask what it is. Be advised, however, that it takes me a few minutes to actually go searching for a passcode, but only seconds to generate one in the first place. Your passcode, btw, is an 8-digit alphanumeric string if that helps to ring any bells.

Q: What's the address of this quizz again?

Q: Where has the address gone to on PoFo?
It's now only in the Link Exchange >>

Q: Any other interesting websites on the quizz?
  • The forum member map, showing the location of the forum-goers that have taken the quiz is here
  • Graphs of the frequency of each raw score for all members on all binaries can be found here

Q: Why are you always misspelling 'quiz'?
Fox started a tradition when the quiz was described on official links here as "PoFo Quizz". The name kindof stuck.

I might link the PoFo Quizz start page to this FAQ.
March, 2006.

EDIT: I have now corrected the backlog of one month of unissued PoFo Quizz passcodes. If you still haven't got yours, apologies for overlooking your message and please PM me again.
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