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How do you choose new categories?
Every year before The Best of Halifax polls open, the editorial staff meet to look at the categories and consider the requests we’ve received through the year for new categories. When choosing new categories we look for a critical mass of likely candidates. (Can you think of more than one local astrologer, for example? Not yet for that category, then.) We also try new categories just for fun. (We’re really digging Best Hair on a Local Personality! Bruce Frisko, you rock.)
Why do categories get dropped?
If there are categories that get consistently low voting numbers, we consider dropping them. We did a major cull in 2008, bringing the number of categories from more than 120 down to around 90, though it’s growing again. And if the world has changed, we try to change with it (rest in peace Best Rave-wear Store). We just like to shake it up, y’know?
Why do you include editors’ picks in a readers’ poll?
One of the perks of working at The Coast is noticing all the interesting work that happens in Halifax that maybe people don’t know about. Where good work is always rewarded in the readers’ poll, the editors’ picks allows us to shine a light on the under-appreciated we think deserve readers’ attention.
How do you choose the Hall of Fame?
A winner has had to have dominated a category for years, not only as a winner, but by a regularly insurmountable voting margin. When someone or something is elevated to the BoH HoF, the category is retired, and every year we print the Hall of Fame winners from previous years, to remind folks who are the kings and queens of the scene.
Why do you always encourage voters to choose local?
We believe in supporting the local business and creative community. This is why there are no novels by JK Rowling in the poll results and why Julia Roberts doesn’t feature anywhere, although they received plenty of votes. We allow a caveat for those who feel strongly that a chain is really the best: If you voted for a national or international chain, you would have to be specific about the location for it to count. Help us out here, Future Shop fans: Did you mean the one in Bayers Lake or Dartmouth Crossing? If you can’t tell the difference, maybe choose local next time.
How you keep track of voting numbers and ballot-stuffing?
Our online polling software stores all the results and voter information in a database that you can think of as a massive spreadsheet. Computer magic makes it easy to "normalize" the individual votes (so entries for "The Grand Parade," "grandparade" and "that square in front of City Hall" all count towards Grand Parade's total), and to count them. The software also recognizes irregularities, such as an unusual number of votes coming from a single IP address or one voter writing the same business in every category. It’s a form of cheating called ballot-stuffing, and we know.
Why do some categories include a list of possible answers instead of a place for me to fill in the blank?
In the 2012 Best of Halifax we debuted curated lists of strong contenders in several categories, especially Arts of the Year. The idea was to help you out a little bit with a reminder, instead of putting you on the spot to think of any recent book or theatre production, let alone the Best. And it seems to have worked, because voter participation in some of the curated categories went up 1,000 percent. So we are committed to the path of doing curated categories when possible, but we also realize that in making a list of likely contenders we've possibly left out a shining person, place or thing. So any curated list will include an open space for "Your Answer." This is for you to share with us anyone/place/thing missing from our list. And if you feel strongly about whatever you put in this space, by all means tell your friends to vote accordingly. After all, every Readers' Choice Award was decided by write-in voting before curated lists started, and there's nothing stopping a write-in from winning now.
How do you come up with the names you suggest in the curated lists?
By digging into the results from past surveys; taking suggestions from our journalists, local bloggers and industry professionals; putting out a poll to gather suggestions from you, the public; and deliberating, a lot. And since we're never going to get it perfect, we always have a place on the list for you to fill in "Your Answer."