I was told there would be no math. But for this issue there was, in fact, math. Lots of it. There was, specifically, our 2010 Best of the Bay Survey, the results of which you'll find beginning on page 30. And because managing editor Ann Levelle, who ordinarily handles the tallying of said survey, was busy with her feature article on the West River, also in this issue (page 24), guess who was appointed chief tallyman? Yes, yours truly, mister math weenie.
Actually, though, it was kind of fun (said the sous chef attempting brain surgery), especially since Ann did most of the hard work: setting up the online questionnaire, downloading the responses and then distilling the data into readable and countable form. Indeed, the challenge for me was not so much in the math (what did we do before calculators and spreadsheets?) as it was in the judgment calls. As you may have read elsewhere by now, we have gone high-tech with the survey--making it available to one and all on our website, rather than mailing directly to 5,000 random readers. The upside of the online survey, we learned when we first tried it last year, is that everyone can participate, and therefore we get a considerably higher number of surveys. The downside, we learned, is that everyone can participate, and therefore some of those additional responses are attributable to . . . there's only one way to say this succinctly: ballot stuffing.
Gasp, you say? Yes, that was our first reaction too. And our solution to the problem last year was to list the winners alphabetically, rather than ranking them by order of votes. That way, Jake's Storm Door Company & Marina couldn't wind up at the top of the list of the Best Resort Marinas on the Bay just because Jake had 75 different e-mail addresses and lots of cousins. Jake might wind up on the list, but not likely at the top of it, at least not without changing the name to A-1 Storm Door Company & Marina. That seemed like the best way to handle it, without having to root out the questionable ballots--which we assumed would be very difficult, if not impossible, to do fairly.
Having necessarily revisited the issue this year, though, we've discovered that it really isn't all that difficult to weed out bogus ballots. Yes, there were 875 ballots this year, far and away the most we've ever had. But even with that many responses we found it to be fairly easy, by way of the database's sort function, to sift out the one-vote wonders (i.e. respondents who answered only one question) and those who gave the same answer to every question. Best resort marina: Jake's. Best crab soup: Jake's. Best museum: Jake's. Best original screenplay: Jake's . . . etc.
So . . . we deleted those. And we returned to our tradition of listing the winners by order of votes. Simple as that. It was not only easy to do, it was easy to rationalize. Sure, we had to toss 70 or 80 ballots, but they weren't really honest contributions to the effort, were they? Granted, we never said a person couldn't or shouldn't vote in just one category, or for just one business. But neither did we say that such votes would be counted. This isn't about plugging your cousin's business, after all; it's about Bay lovers sharing their knowledge and experience and judgment with other Bay lovers. That's right, Jake, there's a lot of love in this room, and we're not going to let you spoil that.