Did that study show IE users are stupid? Or that the pollsters who did it are fools?
IE users and the press were played by pollsters willing to skew data to make headlines
The company that released a study last Tuesday showing users of Internet Explorer had lower IQs that those using other browsers reports it has been flooded with hate mail from IE users – much of it badly spelled, no doubt.
AptiQuant – an HR-consulting company that specializes in psychological testing as a way of judging an applicant's suitability for a job – put together its attention-grabbing study in the most scientific way available that didn't cost any money or much effort.
It posted a free IQ test, then compared the results from more than 100,000 self-selected volunteers who had nothing better to do with their time than take the least-accurate version of a test already assailed as a deeply flawed way of evaluating intelligence.
Then the company matched results of the test to server records of the browsers being used. Here's a PDF of the results.
Luckily there was absolutely no indication of bias for or against any individual browser..
Except maybe for this, from the press release about the study:
Internet Explorer has traditionally been considered a pain in the back for web developers. Any IT company involved in web development will acknowledge the fact that millions of man hours are wasted each year to make otherwise perfectly functional websites work in Internet Explorer, because of its lack of compatibility with web standards. The continuous use of older versions of IE by millions of people around the world has often haunted web developers."
The press release that came one day after release of the study reported the company receiving "a lot" of hate mail from IE users.
There's a good chance AptiQuant only did the study in the first place as a way to get some publicity.
The second release obviously shows AptiQuant was as pure in its intentions as it was in its methodology.
I mean, what company that was only looking for publicity would follow up the release of a provocative study with another just one day later talking about the reaction to the first release?
Especially since most of the news coverage on the study (way too much of it) didn't hit until Friday and over the weekend?
The second release quoted the company's CEO uttering soothing words to IE users:
"I just want to make it clear that the report released by my company did not suggest that if you use IE that means you have a low IQ, but what it really says is that if you have a low IQ then there are high chances that you use Internet Explorer." –Leonard Howard, CEO, AptiQuant.
We are not calling IE users stupid, he's saying. We simply regret, for your sake, that you are so stupid.
Which should put a cap on the whole bucket of stink.
If they weren't obviously too stupid to understand they were being trolled, it wouldn't be IE users who would be mad at AptiQuant.
It would be the people who hire AptiQuant for theoretically valid quantitative assessments of job candidates, not to mention pollsters, statisticians, and anyone who dislikes junk-science masquerading as sociological research.
Every company needs to do a certain amount of self-promotion, especially within its own area of expertise.
It is de rigeur for any company trying to sell the depth or freshness of its insight, or skills in analysis and market evaluation to put out data that is interesting, revelatory or useful about its own sphere of expertise.
It's the only way to give potential customers a taste of your product.
Putting out a poorly designed study with a shallow and obviously biased analysis is just bad practice, especially if your conclusion – however provocative and viral – is so obviously unsupportable by other data.
IE users may very well have done poorly on the version of an IQ test posted by AptiQuant. That doesn't mean even those who took the test are less intelligent than those who took it using other browsers.
Scoring poorly on a short, unproctored, incomplete version of an IQ test doesn't indicate much about the IQ of one person, let alone the rest of the IE-using population. The sampling methodology saw to that.
For the record, I really dislike using IE, and avoid it whenever possible.
That's a choice based on personal preference, however.
Like most people, I assume those who make personal choices that are different from mine do so because they are impaired in some way – cursed with bad taste or burdened by a poor upbringing, deep character flaws and possible psychoses that make effective decision-making impossible.
That doesn't mean I consider it valid that someone else smear the whole benighted lot of them simply for their obviously poor choice of Web browser.
And it doesn't mean I or any of AptiQuant's customers should have any more respect for the company for having presented bad analysis and poor research as a vehicle for headlines at the cost of their own credibility.