To find out what the world is thinking, NYC start-up, URTAK is creating some serious conversations with their new tool – by easily letting users start their own surveys and polls. URTAK is democratizing public opinion polling as they encourage everyone to ask questions. These ‘conversations’ challenge current polling methods through multi – dimensional questions as discussion, with hopes to foster change.
Many traditional polling systems, according to the founders of URTAK, masquerade as being objective. With URTAK, users who answer randomized questions by the options: Yes, No, or Don’t Care – are then shown the percentage of answers from those polled. Users can then generate their own questions, through the site or facebook app, spawned from their thoughts about the poll or survey. As this blog is written the site is approaching 10 million responses and almost 50 thousand questions asked. The site is now translated into 5 languages with more in the works.
I interviewed the founders of URTAK, Aaron Gibralter and Marc Lizoain, at their go-to local bar on Houston St. off the Bowery in NYC, after meeting them weeks earlier at a 2011 social media week event, The Emerging Skills of Tomorrow’s Journalist, hosted by Mashable. The up-front guys are creating a voice within the voids of old established thinking. They were inspired to build a tool to promote conversations based on ideals they both shared as roommates attending Harvard University. Once development of the tool began, only then did they realize URTAK as business. Aaron explained that it was not a search for an idea to fit a business model first. They became entrepreneurs afterwards.
The founders share a passion for political philosophy and an interest in understanding people. Their follow through from conversations years ago created a tool that is attempting to redefine and displace traditional polling systems – painting a true picture of what people are thinking.
The summer following their college graduation in 2007 saw Marc living in Toronto decompressing from four years of intense study, and Aaron a New York native, back home working a steady programming job and freelancing, as they stayed in touch and continued political conversations. Aaron’s personal challenge to work with a new programming language and Marc’s idea to further pursue what began as collegiate discussions, prompted the two to team up in NYC and start developing the first URTAK prototype, launched in February 2008. In 2009 they teamed with Sasha Mombartz on visual design and illustration. When asked what the ideal situation would be for URTAK both mirrored a ubiquitous role challenging the current model of opinion polling – all people should be able to ask questions.
It is known that questions promote discussion. Discussions bring about change and today’s opportunity for change has never been better. In talking with Marc and Aaron it was mention that a question is powerful and can expose who a person is. URTAK is doing something useful with polling by empowering users with a tool that can expose truth. Take, for example: Middle East protests, change in our news delivery, growth of e-books, music, conversation styles, ways of learning and evolving business models – these new approaches to communication and media bring about change simply by questioning. The applied uses for URTAK’s public opinion polling tool are growing. I urge you to visit their site for “a better way to find out what people think” and find out what you can expose.