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Science

#TwitterPolls: Was asking about bugchasing for World AIDS Day a touch too much?

Do you engage with online surveys such as Twitter polls? What questions do you respond to? Are there questions you would never touch? We at DW's science desk have been running an experiment.

When Twitter announced its (still relatively) new poll function on October 21 we, as others, were pretty keen to give it a whirl. As

Twitter said on its blog

at the time, it had been possible to conduct surveys before by tweeting questions and tracking the replies. Or by giving options like RT=Yes; FAV=No.

But it was now possible to create your own "two-choice" poll and monitor its progress live.

Just the other day Twitter increased the number of choices you can offer. And we used this to fairly good effect for a poll about autonomous cars.

Polls on social media are great for a number of reasons. They can help raise engagement and interaction with your followers, they also tell you a lot about your followers and how they see the world, or at least their part of the world. And they can encourage debate, but not always.

Just an experiment?

Before Twitter polls came along, we had been experimenting with various other online survey tools for a while - for starters, we've used Facebook, we've created polls with ScribbleLive and embedded them on

dw.com

, and we've also used

Google Forms

.

2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting - paper poll

One of my paper polls from the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

At this year's

Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

I even deployed the analogue methodology of traipsing around the venue with a blot of paper and pen, jotting down responses from the young scientists... and ducking nervously whenever a Nobel Prize winner accosted me for asking dumb questions.

Little did I realize how astute their observations were.

Good question

Journalists love hearing their interviewees start an answer with the words: "good question." We hear it often, but all it means is the interviewee is stalling for a good answer.

A good question is harder to come by than you would think, as working with surveys has shown us time and again.

In the run up to World AIDS Day (December 1), we wanted to experiment with a provocative question to see whether Twitter polls could handle it. So we ummed and ahed until we settled on a question about HIV "bugchasing."

If you've never heard of bugchasing, don't worry. It seems bugchasing is not very well known at all. In fact, it may not even exist. There is very little research on bugchasing, and I should also say we've done no original reporting to support our poll - but that was sort of the point.

Bugchasing - it is alleged - is the practice where healthy people go to HIV "conversion" parties to have unprotected sex with HIV-positive people and get infected. The healthy person is the "bugchaser" and the other is known as a "giftgiver."

There are

many possible reasons

why people might engage in such practices. But the one reason you do often come across is that some people feel that being HIV-positive bestows a special status upon them. And there's the feeling that you can now "live with HIV" because treatments and medication have improved. People feel it's no longer an immediate death sentence to be HIV-positive - although research and real-life experience shows what a fallacy that can be.

@GerardoZeron made his feelings quite clear in Spanish. "#BugChasing… is pure bulls**t." But he failed to elaborate - other than to link to

the Wikipedia entry

.

So but back to our poll

We wanted to use a Twitter poll to gauge whether people know about bugchasing, whether they think it's an urban myth, and perhaps most importantly whether people are willing to engage with such a topic on social media.

Finally, we wanted to take our first steps in trying to work out whether we feel it's at all possible to infer answers to any of these questions from three simple options: true, false, and are you kidding?

Only 15 people took part in the poll - and most opted for "are you kidding?"

By comparison more than 140 people participated in our autonomous car poll, so it's not the polls themselves.

It leaves us with two options. Either the question was bad, or people were unwilling to engage with the topic. The hashtag #bugchasing was only used 12 times in the past 30 days. So perhaps it's just too niche to be true.

But why don't you tell us in our latest poll:

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