Sunday, July 11, 2004

Reader Queries 

An anonymous reader asks,

Can you describe what constitutes a "valid ballot?"

I've heard a lot of noise over the years about "unexpected" results being discarded. The Sharon Lee and Steve Miller controversy comes to mind.

Reply: There are roughly three types of *invalid* ballots. The most common is when someone filling out the online ballot inadvertantly hits the 'enter' key (rather than the tab key) and causes their partially filled-out ballot to be submitted via email. They realize their error, complete their ballot, and submit again. This results in 2 email ballot submissions from the same person within a couple minutes of each other. In these cases, the latter is counted as valid; the earlier (partially completed) is discarded.

Another kind of invalid vote is where someone deliberately votes for the same item more than once in the same category. The rules say not to do this, but some voters try it anyway (sometimes 5 times in a category!). Needless to say, we here at Locus Online have sophisticated database queries to detect such multiple votes -- since we can't personally examine every one of the 5 or 6 hundred ballots -- and all such invalid votes are discarded. We could be much harsher than this, and discard the entire ballots of those who commit this violation, but we don't--we count one vote per item per category, in the lower/lowest position the multiple voter placed it, and disregard the others.

A variant of violation #1 is where a voter submits a second ballot several weeks after submitting their first. Sometimes they even fill in their name and subscriber number both times--as if to flaunt their violation. (Well, maybe they forgot they'd voted before.) Other times they don't, but the pattern of votes (along with survey responses) is obvious. Again, we could be harsh and disregard *both* submissions, but we don't; we disregard obvious repeat votes, but count the first (or most complete) from each voter.

The final category of suspect ballots is where numerous submissions are received within a short period of time that all vote for the same item--often only a particular item, leaving the rest of the ballot blank. This presumably occurs when a notice is posted about the Locus Poll ballot on some writer's site, whose fans are prompted to link to the online Locus Poll and vote for their favorite writer's currently eligible book. To some degree, this happens almost every year. In most cases, it doesn't affect the final outcome. This happened a few years ago described as the "Sharon Lee and Steve Miller controversy", though in that case the online poll was a parallel poll, and those votes didn't affect the official Locus Poll results whether or not those votes were included or not.

Another anonymous reader asks,

What's the print run of LOCUS?

Answer: roughly 9000. Less than 10K. Locus Online, meanwhile, has 5-6K unique visitors per day, or 30+K unique visitors per week.

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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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