Whilyam wrote:[...] While this likely has an effect on their opinions, you overcompensate for this at your peril. Find the facts, to be sure, but don't use potential bias as an excuse to be deaf to concerns. The loudest concerns are often trying only to be heard and acknowledged.
That is a fair and valid observation. It is always difficult to measure the strength and validity of a claim or counter-claim in these circumstances. One of the issues, I guess, is whether the vocal faction represents a majority or minority of the user base, and I think that's always going to be hard to judge - a lot of people won't make their feelings felt either way. Is that good or bad? I don't know, but I'd probably tend towards seeing it as "bad" (or at least "not good" if you appreciate the subtle difference).
Where I'm going on this is the often quoted terms like "vocal minority" and "silent majority" - these are slightly prejudiced terms because they are really cover for a lack of information that may either support or contradict an argument, when the fact is that no-one really knows how much support any position really has.
As an arbitrary (and possibly pointless) exercise, I took a contentious thread from another forum (I moderate 4 forums and administer 2 so I've plenty to choose from
) with around 140 posts: Within that were some 30 different posters, 12 of whom supported the OPs argument, 6 opposed it, 4 or 5 looked to be entirely neutral and queried for more information and the rest found bits on both sides that they could agree with. There are roughly 600 active users on the forum. So what does it tell you? Well frankly, not as much as I'd hoped - only 3% expressed a definite opinion either way and 95% of people didn't post on the subject - the "Silent Majority". Why they remain silent is a key question, but one that will remain unanswered: Lack of knowledge of the subject? No particular opinion? Didn't read the thread? Didn't understand the thread? Felt their view had been covered by someone else's post? etc. These are people who do post regularly, so it's not that they're shy. Make of it what you will, or not. "There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics"