Issue: March 2009
FROM THE EDITOR: Come One, Come All

By Tim Sayles

Risking hyperbole, I'll say this: Democracy has come at last to the Best of the Bay reader survey. Said survey, as you may well know, is our annual effort to quantify all the splendid things that, when you add them up, equal "Chesapeake Bay." The best crabhouses, the best marinas, the best anchorages, the best crab-flavored soft ice cream. I'm kidding with that last one . . . but, wait, maybe there's something to it. How about Old Bay flavored ice cream? No, never mind. I'm being told that somebody has already tried that.

I'm also being told I've drifted off topic. So, anyway, have you ever wondered whom we actually survey in the Best of the Bay survey? More to the point, have you wondered why you, a faithful reader for lo these many years, have never been asked to cast a vote foryourfavorite marina or anchorage or crab-flavored ice cream? Perhaps you have been asked--but more likely not, or at least not often, because computer-generated randomness is very . . . well, very random. And until now, (he says, casting a titillating bit of foreshadowing) random selection has been the name of the game. We mail outa lotof surveys, mind you--usually 5,000--but that's really only about 13 percent of our readership. That is, for every one reader who gets the survey in the mail, there are seven of you who don't--7.7 of you, to be exact, though I've always resisted the idea of fractions of readers.

That, I'm happy to say, ends now. No, not the idea of fractions of readers; that will be with us as long as there are statisticians. I mean the random selection thing.Thatends now. Beginning this year--indeed with this very writing--we inviteallour readers to participate in the Best of the Bay survey. Did I say "invite"? I meant "urge"--even, I dare say, "strongly urge." If it helps, imagine me pulling at your sleeve and giving you an imploring look. Yes, you there, you with the sleeve, I implore you. Why? Because this a fascinating and important experiment.

We've considered updating our survey method--going paperless, that is--for some years now. But our worries about diminished response have always, in the end, outweighed our enthusiasm for the new and presumably cheaper method. Now, though, we think most people have gotten comfortable enough with the web that conducting the survey online might actually increase the response, not diminish it--especially if, as a backup, we include a print version of the survey in the magazine [see page 21], giving the traditionalists a way to participate as well.

You can prove us woefully wrong here by ignoring this and going about your business (say, reading the rest of this issue, if I might suggest it). Contrarily, you can prove us wise and fabulously prescient by going in great numbers to our website,ChesapeakeBoating.net, clicking on the "Best of the Bay" link, and taking the survey--or by filling out the print version on page 21 and mailing it to us by March 31.

I'm no statistician, but I think it's safe to say that 100 percent of you will do one of those two things. Or was it three things? Whatever. I predict that you'll either take the survey or you won't. My mama always said I was good with numbers.