A Small Muse On Polls

Over the years, my “phone etiquette” has changed. Dramatically.

As a child, I was trained to answer the phone with “Hello, this is {my name}” often followed by ‘how can I help you’ or something similar. If someone asked for another person, you were to state if they were available, or not, and then offer to fetch them.

That was in a small farm town with 4 digit phone numbers. We were one of the last places in the country to get 7 digit numbers; and that was only after the local newspaper went on a campaign to get people to complain about it. (Most of us were fine with it, but he made a lot of long distance calls and didn’t like that he couldn’t just dial them, and worse, that nobody even knew our 3 digit prefix for dialing inward.)

Eventually, we got 7 digit numbers. Just about the time I left high school… and I learned how to call home by dialing “all those numbers” from the dorm phone… Then, later, 7 digits became mandatory for inside of town calls too.

Then people selling stuff started to creep in, and pollsters, and then scammers. Now we teach our kids to never give out their name nor say who is at home… or where anyone has gone.

Protocol & Methods Now

Now, in the age of caller ID and GPS and all, my phone etiquette has changed to be “unknown is presumed hostile”. So what does that mean in practice? It means a white list.

My standard protocol now is pretty simple. IFF you have an entry in my telephone and your name displays, I may answer if the time is convenient. (i.e. not driving or in the shower or…) but if you have no entry, and either “Unknown” or just your phone number displays, well, those go to voice mail. Leave a message and I’ll evaluate it. Don’t leave a message, I presume it was some kind of Highly Undesirable Contact. HUC’s (and HUCksters) come in many forms. Sales guys. Promoters. Political parties. Companies. Governments and legal crap. And, this season, likely Pollsters too.

Turns out this is a highly effective filter against almost ALL offensive calls. Seems that just about none of the folks you don’t really want to talk with will bother to leave a message. And if they do, you know not to bother calling back 😉 There is the occasional ‘new friend’ or ‘friend of a friend’ call you miss, but most of them do leave a message and a quick call back adds them to the whitelist. I suspect I may have missed calls from a few job recruiters over the years, as they only leave messages part of the time, but it is an acceptable price to pay.

FWIW, I conducted a test with a ‘burn phone’, now that resumes are often shared over the internet, in databases, in hacked systems, etc. etc. So “going forward” my resume protocol will be to have a burn phone number listed and it evaporates with the job acceptance… This preserves my privacy, yet lets me know to ‘go ahead and answer any old number’ on ‘that phone’ during the job search time. The same ‘burn phone’ is used to respond to things like Craig’s List car adds, where some scammers are now putting in ‘too good’ ads to harvest phone and email information. I ran into one of those. AFTER collecting contact info, he launched into a ‘story’ about the vehicle being out of State and someone else would hold the money and such. ALWAYS, use a burn phone and disposable email address for responding to ads, or in your own ad…

Now I’ve generally found the “We want to be your FRIEND!!!” bull pucky being pushed by many financial institutions lately to be just a PITA and to some extent a lie. I don’t need a ‘personal relationship’ with my bank, just an arms length financial one. I used to have 2 American Express cards. One private, one for my company. On several occasions, I’d go on one of my sporadic trips. I’d get about 600 miles and the card would stop working. I’d call them. “Well, we tried to call you, we suspected fraud so disabled the card.” Me: “Oh, so whenever I use your ‘travel card’ for travel, I can expect it to not work? Got it. Thanks.”… THEY expected me to be available at their whim to validate myself. They needed this due to the credit card companies implementing horrid security protocols. Maybe with the advent of ‘chip and pin’ we can get something better… At any rate, my solution was simpler: Drop the cards and save a couple of hundred $ a year of ‘membership’ charges along with annoying phone calls and folks tracking me…

FWIW, I now use a WalMart Debit card when traveling. I can refill it at ANY Walmart at all sorts of non-bank hours any day of the week, and it seems to just always work… and no phone calls either! I bought the ‘expensive’ one that cost $6, but has no refill fees. The ‘cheap’ $3 one charges you a few bucks on every cash fill, so one fill and you have paid for the better one. Oh, and if you run $500 a month through it, there’s no other charge, any low month is $5 (so still less than the AMEX monthly hit). Between gas and groceries I usually hit the monthly usage, and when on trips especially. Oddly, the Walmart Gift Card gets you a discount on gasoline prices, but their Debit Card does not (likely as it is through some bank…), but I digress.

About Polls

Now as you might guess, I’m not the only one doing this kind of thing. LOTS of folks now have a public (disposable) and a private email and / or phone. I used to just ‘get in the grill’ of folks demanding my phone number and simply refuse. That works most of the time, but with some PITA factor. Having a burn phone with a number that rotates every few months is a lot easier… It also leaves a load of data stream pollution behind you for those data-consolidator types to try and sort out. So, for example, you make a DBA Filing. That’s a “public record” and your address / phone / etc. get sucked up by various companies and put on the internet. (Unlike when the laws were passed and interested parties had to go to the county courthouse and search by hand…)

Well, when that address is a P.O.Box and the phone rotates, it’s not so much of a security issue. Google maps can’t check out your home and cars in the driveway, and the phone will not be leaking your GPS location (being left unpowered until needed… which is only after a number change and a job search starts 😉

A Brief Digression on Phone Switches:

A Phone Switch is a very specialized computer that talks to phone lines. The Telcos use a lot of them to build their phone systems. What folks often don’t realize is that the PBX (Private Branch Exchange) box in a company is basically the same thing. (I actually bought an AT&T – later Lucent Tech. one for a company where I was Director of I.T. and stuff). Now these are interesting devices. See, the Phone Companies have to be able to spit out phone number information to make Caller ID work. They do this in the PBX. They guy who configures the PBX tells it what number to say it is…

This means it can lie. Now you can’t lie about your home phone or your cell phone; but a company can lie via their PBX when they call you. So a scammer or pollster in, say, the Bahamas or NYC can tell their PBX to display a Texas (or whatever your home town is) area code and prefix on any call they make to you, and it will. Many such folks do this since many folks learned not to answer 800 area codes or strange ones from out of State…

So lately my Cell Phone has racked up a variety of “odd numbers” that didn’t bother to leave a message. Many of them in my area code… I figure those are likely political polls (but could be worse). Looking them over, I noticed a bit of ‘pattern’ to the numbers. Now phone numbers are NOT randomly assigned. The “best ones” are harvested by the Telcos to hand out to favorite clients.

I know this because as Director in charge of telephones my phone service salesman from the Telco offered to get me a vanity number with ‘good digits’ (and I took it… it was easy to remember and, well, pleasant somehow.) The “left overs’ get handed out to randoms in the residential space. So, say you were in a 415 area code, 415-415-xxxx would likely be a block used for special customers. Similarly, 415-xxx-1234. Zeros are one of the ‘better numbers’ for reasons I can’t ken.

Most of the numbers in my missed call list had a zero in them, typically in a central or last position. Just not a random lay. There were some other aspects of the numbers that just set off my “person picked this out of the air” sense. (Lack of repeating digits, hardly any 7s but lots of 6’s, etc.) When you work with telephony for a few decades you get familiar with how a normal number ‘feels’ vs one that was ‘human picked’. I’m pretty sure those were PBXs lying about their number.

The Bottom Line

So put it all together:

Lots of folks ‘catching on’ to the game, going to burn phones, white-lists, turning off their cell phone during prime polling hours (dinner time – 6:30 – 8:30 or so), etc. etc. The pollsters are missing a LOT of folks.

Those folks will have shared traits and behaviours. I don’t know all of them. Some will be antithetical to each other. So, for example, drug dealers are unlikely to take calls from unvetted sources but the same will be true of ‘security guys’.

My assertion, based on little other than ‘gut feel’, is that the kind of person who is Grumpy At Government and not particularly liking how Big Business has been treating them; will be more likely to also be something of a Surly Curmudgeon when it comes to unsolicited phone calls from strangers. Thus they will be highly under sampled compared to the typical frothy headed SJW (Social Justice Warrior) type. Any attempt to fix up the numbers to correct for this will be prone to huge error since at any given time folks will be in flux on their emotional state about the whole thing AND as they adapt to changes in the world, shifting what box they are in. I have progressively gotten ever harder to reach and while I occasionally was polled 30 years ago, I’m now essentially impossible to reach except if I choose to call back.

The implication of this is that Political Polls will have far more college students, secretaries of executives, lonely seniors, non-working home keepers, and such; and far fewer business owners, executives, lawyers, doctors, security guys, pissed off farmers, Grumpy Gus construction workers, and in generally Surly Curmudgeons who have found ways to stop the crap calls from reaching them.

All of which leads me to two simple conclusions:

Most polls are getting crappier and have likely reached the point of being not very dependable (ever wider error bands).

This error will be biased toward Progressives and against the Independent / Surly Curmudgeon voters (and a little against Republicans).

Which then leads to the further conclusion that, as with BREXIT, the Trump / Hillary polls are likely to be off about 5% even after “correction”…

The only way I can see to get a valid poll would be to do a door to door and then match the individual particulars of the folks reached to the population percentages (though even that will have errors from folks, like me, who look out the door at folks with clipboards and “just say no”)… Or I’ll take the poll and give the ‘expected’ answer. “Why yes, I’m all for Hillary”… Surly Curmudgeons are like that, and our ranks have grown a LOT under Obama…

Folks are also slowly coming to realize that any “information leakage” can be damaging and finding ways to ‘dirty the data’ for their own protection. I would never have thought of it 20 years ago, yet now I do it as a standard behaviour. Someone on the street wants some information from me? I have no idea who they are our how it will be used against me in future years. So they get useless non-data.

Since data harvesters now harvest public records and ship them to the entire world: Want Russia or want Communist China to know your home address, name, car you drive, financials? -all the better to blackmail people – just open a business and do the required DBA filing at the county courthouse… or find a way to ‘dirty the data’. Rich folks have done this for decades by using their lawyers to do the filing or using shell companies overseas for indirection. Now it’s time for the ‘common Joe and Jane’ to learn the trick…

So that’s my conclusion. Folks are learning to ‘dirty the data’ and be unreachable via various indirections. That makes polls ever more error prone and not very useful.

Humor / Epilogue

I ran into this video via a link to a link… It’s an “epic rant” by a rabid Feminist SJW going batshit crazy at a guy. He’s given testimony that supports a new police station, then is interviewed by a news team. The BSC-SJW just can’t stand it, and does a “name and shame” attempt attack. “What’s YOUR NAME!!!”, that can only be for purposes of future abuse. The “target”, just tosses her some ‘dirty data’ and then the ballistics start. It goes on for a while, and eventually hits a security guard, corporate security manager type, and even the police get a call. Always the same attack “WHAT IS YOUR NAME!!!!” and then rant.

Now my name is ‘special’ in that 1 in 2000 people have my name (based on every place I’ve worked). So I could state it publicly and it is still functionally ‘anonymous anonymous’. But for most folks, their name is the key to much more information about them that can be easily used for attacks. I’ve spent a while thinking about a pseudonym to use in such circumstances… I may have found one I like 😉 I’ve also thought of changing my name to Noneov Theabove and running for office 😉 So maybe Noneov C. Theabove would be handy to use… At any rate, enjoy watching someone with little clue and zero self control completely lose it, alienate everyone around her, and damage her cause:

It’s about 9 minutes, with some embedded commentary to explain some of the context (there are many dirty words in it… like x rated):

Then here’s another take on it (also with strong language… really a flood of them… 9 minutes):

Now I’m very happy with his “dirty the data” approach, and I’d only note in passing that using a pseudonym is not generally illegal… note that authors and actors rarely use their given name…

Now think that guy is more or less likely to ‘take a poll’ than would be her and her friends? Hmmm?

Do note that since “name and shame” is clearly a planned tactic, you need to be prepared with an appropriate pseudonym…

I think maybe Alby Dissin… or Cimore Fox… or maybe Hugh I. Pitty…

And that kind of ‘risk’ is why you won’t ever get me on any poll, or any interview on the street, nor will I give you my name if you attack with a ‘name and shame’ approach.

Now just ask yourself, given this kind of crap, how many folks would publicly answer such a person with “Trump” vs “Hillary”? I’d answer “Hillary” every time… said Mr. Semper Lion…

Oh, and I’ve learned a new trigger word… “regressive left”… Apparently if you use that, you are automatically “Alt-Right” (at about the 5 minute mark). There’s an interesting exposition in this otherwise slightly boring video that discusses things in a way too rational way most of the time. Oh, but still works in some swear words. Oh, and it seems that Harambe (the gorilla) is somehow racist… but having just learned about Pepe The Frog “memes”, it’s unclear racist toward whom by which. Then again, I never thought of frogs and gorillas as racist.:

It seems that there’s a whole world of SJW vs “young turks” vs ??? vs “ALT-right” vs… out there that I’ve not discovered until now. These folks seem to know about each other and there seems to be a fair depth of video history. (Though I have no idea who the ‘young turks’ are, or really any of the persons named either). I suspect it’s some kind of Gen-X or Millennial thing that I’m just not in touch with… but it does look like some backlash is in the younger generation culture.