How to Use Dot Voting Effectively

Dot voting goes by many names:

  • multi-voting
  • sticker voting
  • sticky-dot voting
  • sticking dots
  • dot-mocracy
  • dot democracy
  • dotmocracy

It is a simple group activity that tries to recognize group preferences among limited options:

  1. Participants are each given a set number of dot stickers.
  2. They place dot stickers next to options presented that they like.
  3. Options with the most dots “win”.

Dotmocracy is Broken!

Sticker dot voting is not reliable because of the bandwagon effect, vote splitting, choice overload, and how easy it is to mess up or cheat. It may be quick and fun, but you shouldn’t trust sticky dots with deciding anything important – not even pizza toppings.

Need to be convinced?   Read the compelling article “Dotmocracy is Broken” (with lots of photos).

Instead, you should use an easy, fun and very reliable score-voting analog tool called Feedback Frames.


Tips for Using Dotmocracy

If you are going to use sticker voting, you can do your best to promote some useful results by following these tips and best practices:

  • Review the suggested voting criteria and goal of the exercise to promote consistent meaning behind the votes.
  • Keep the number of options to about a dozen or less. Participants should be expected to review, consider and compare all options before sticking their dots, and too many options can be overwhelming.
  • New options cannot be added once dotting has started, as this would not be fair to the new additions.
  • Avoid similar or related options, as these can cause vote-splitting.  This may require you to combine options to be less specific.
  • Ask people to review all options and plan their dots before sticking them. This can reduce the bandwagon and encourage more independent voting.
  • Give each individual roughly a number of stickers equal to about a quarter of the total number of options available.
  • Be clear on whether participants can vote more than once on a single option.  If only once per option, you may consider putting a unique letter on each participants set of stickers so that it’s easy to see if there are multiple from anyone one person on an option (although this could reduce anonymity)
  • Have someone monitor the process to ensure no one cheats by adding extra dots, peeling off dots or moving dots. This makes the balloting less secret, but more reliable.
  • Provide dots in two colours for both positive and negative e.g. green and red. This will allow you to see which ideas have opposition.
  • Conduct the process more than once with the options presented in a different order, to see if the resulting patterns persists.  Often people will just ‘follow the crowd’ and dot where everyone else has already dotted.

Of course, it is more reliable to do this kind of cumulative voting using paper ballots or online, i.e. not with stickers. But that is just a boring survey or poll, and not as much fun as stickers.

Better Than Dot-Voting

If you want to use a much more reliable and empowering tool to help large groups find agreement (and still have fun without computers) checkout Feedback Frames.

Here is how they work…

Feedback Frames use secret score-voting with tokens to provide visual graphs of group opinions.

Learn more and order your set at