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Straw founders Craig Kitterman, Jason Wilmot, Ben Rudolph and Nate Gunderson are neighbors in Snoqualmie, Wash., who all work for Microsoft by day.

After seeing Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer pitch a no-hitter on TV this weekend, I was initially convinced that Pittsburgh Pirates hitter Jose Tabata purposefully leaned in to get hit by a pitch and break up Scherzer’s perfect game. After watching the replay, I wasn’t sure. So just for fun, I decided to conduct a poll.

01_askquestionI opened the Straw app on my phone, and a few taps later, my poll was live. It was distributed to my friends via my social accounts, as the app has done since it launched. But since I was testing a new version of the app, I was also able to distribute my poll anonymously to Straw’s broader community of users and followers, using a new feature called StrawCast.

The StrawCast feature was launched publicly today as part of Straw 2.0, available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. By giving users the option to poll a broader community without revealing their identity, the Straw team hopes to help people reach a broader audience and also avoid snarky comments from friends.

“You can give your poll dramatically more reach than just posting to your friends,” explained Ben Rudolph, one of Straw’s co-founders. “You can also get a much broader sample size and a much less-biased sample size.”

On the flip side, StrawCast gives users the ability to vote in polls from people they don’t know, which could further increase engagement with the app.

The Straw 2.0 update also includes a revamped user interface, embed codes and the option to keep poll results private, among several other new features. The app continues to offer the ability to upload pictures (to ask which outfit you should wear or buy, for example) along with the ability to distribute polls to your followers via connected Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google accounts, as well as text message, email and WhatsApp.

Straw was created as a side project by four Microsoft employees: Rudolph, Craig Kitterman, Jason Wilmot, and Nate Gunderson. They all live near each other in Snoqualmie, Wash. One day they were talking about college football, and the conversation turned to how difficult it was to get aggregated opinions from social media followers in any meaningful or quantifiable way.

“The app started like so many great ideas do — over beers,” Rudolph said.

For the Straw team, the app is still a side project, not a full-time company. “We’ve definitely thought about it, but we obviously have great day jobs,” Rudolph said.

Straw 2.0 is available for free for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS. In case you’re curious about the popular sentiment on Tabata and Scherzer, here are the results from my Straw poll, in an aggregated dashboard of responses from my followers across various social networks, and StrawCast voters. Yeah, he definitely leaned in.


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