For a while, I walked the face of the earth with half a beard. I had shaved off the right half and thought: let's keep it this way, and see what happens.

I walked around like that for weeks. Nothing happened. The only response I ever got was from a little boy, who didn't say anything to me, but to his mother. The mother ssh-ed him, presumably to avoid any further eavesdropping.

It's been over 10 years since I tried this experiment, but a stranger mentioned it to me only recently. To my surprise.

If you are a more approachable person, no doubt you will get more responses, but I'd be surprised if the response level correlates with the signs you wear or the messages you try to convey. I'll bet it's largely a gut level thing.

Sociology must be a tricky business. How can you ever be sure if observed responses correspond to what the respondents are really thinking or seeing?