How not to survey

I stumbled on an ad for a restaurant survey. Tell Zagat what you think of local restaurants (or some such) and get a chance to win a tablet blah blah. Well, the odds I’d win the tablet we’re pretty low but I like sharing what I know and think, and I’ve got friends and family who are restaurant people. But, when I hit the survey, the short list of restaurants didn’t even include the three that immediately came to mind.
Zagat is a name I’ve heard before. I already know about the national chains and have an opinion but I want a way to find the unique local stuff. My impression was that Zagat is a place you’d go, say when you’re traveling, to find great local places.
So I thought “no problem,” I’ll just find the suggest link. Nope. No such thing to be found. I’ve spent some time around publishing and marketing and realized that Zagat probably sells (one way or another) appearances on their list. Want to get seen and reviewed? You probably have to pay. Which immediately drops their value in my eyes to close to zero.
A survey implies something very different: they’re actually looking to harness the knowledge that’s out there. And that’s a wise approach. It’s called the wisdom of the crowd and it’s been shown to be as smart or smarter than the experts. Wikipedia, according to studies, is just as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica, for instance. To make that work, you have to listen. If someone else (even a crowd) knows more than you, be ready for them to go in a direction you don’t expect and know things you don’t. If you’re asking people what things (like restaurants) are great, you should expect they’ll know about things (including restaurants) that you don’t. The crowd has a lot of knowledge and the crowd likes to show it off. Give them a way to do that.
And those restaurants that came immediately to mind? Well, when you’re in Colorado Springs, check out moZaic, The Margarita at Pine Creek and Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub. Some days, you won’t even get a table at moZaic. Other days, Jack Quinn’s is overflowing (they’re a favorite of local running and bicycling groups and nationally known). And Margarita… they’re a quiet little local secret. Even if Zagat thinks none of them exists. And a hint, any of them are better in their own than all but maybe one place on Zagat’s list for Colorado Springs.