Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Announcing a New Poll . . . But First!

There’s a baby on my horizon.  A big beautiful time-consuming baby (helloooo, new blogging thrice a week schedule).  With that in mind it’s time for . . .


Yeah.  I’m not sure exactly when I will have said poll what with the aforementioned Bird spawn, but it’s going to be in 2011, you bet.  And I’m going to keep the nature of the poll a secret for now.  In the past we had the Top 100 Picture Books Poll and the Top 100 Children’s Novels Poll (which lost ALL its images when we moved to a new site, consarn it).  I’m not a YA person so we’ll eschew a Top 100 Young Adult Novels Poll for now (Persnickety Snark, amongst some others, already covered that territory more than adequately anyway).  So what will it be?  It’ll be good, you bet.  But more on that later.

For now, I need your help, citizens of the world.  Here is how a typical poll has worked the last two times:

  1. Betsy announces poll.
  2. Betsy receives votes from one to ten in the order of a person’s preference, with their number one choice getting 10 points, their number two choice getting 9, etc.
  3. Betsy then systematically calculates each one of these numbers onto a spreadsheet, eating up sheer hours of time that could be better spent rewatching old episodes of The Good Neighbors (also known as The Good Life to you Brits out there).

I think it is time for the madness to end.  How?  One little word: Algorithm.  Is there any way for someone to create an Excel or similar spreadsheet algorithm wherein the poll’s creator plugs in the data and the spreadsheet calculates the points?  I have no idea.  Spreadsheets aren’t really my thing, but my faith in them (as of right now) is extreme.

So I appeal to you, oh readers who are cleverer than I.  Does anyone know of such a program?  Or, better yet, how to create one?  Once we get that little detail down the poll will officially begin.  Stay tuned . . .

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. OK… I’m a musician, not a data analyst, but here’s what I would do.

    Use Google Forms to create the poll, and it’ll generate the spreadsheet for you. Imagine that the names of voters are in the first column, with their book titles in columns B-K.

    So what you do is create a row beneath all voters for each book receiving votes (the only major data entry, and I can’t think of a way around it). There is a formula (countif) that counts how many times a particular string characters appears in any given column or row, so you just use that in each row to count how many times that book appears. Then a little addition/multiplication formula in column L and you’re set!

    Sample formulas:

    For each book, use something like =countif(B1:B335, “Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book”) in each column, B-K.
    and then in column L, it would be something like =B336*1+C336*2+D336*3 all the way till +K336*10, etc.

    The biggest hurdles is typing in every book that receives a vote, but you can probably find a shortcut for that. The one challenge is that you’re depending on accurate typing by all voters in the poll…if someone mistypes a word, it won’t be counted using my system above. (You can create a double check, adding all the spreadsheet-totaled votes in each column to make sure it matches the number of votes.)

    Gosh, that sounds much more confusing written down than in my head. Hopefully someone else has a simpler explanation or method…

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Considering the kind of poll I’m thinking of, I do indeed have a shortcut in mind. Thanks! This is far better than what I’ve been working with, after all.

  2. Aww. For a second I thought this was going to be a baby name poll! 😉 Regardless, looking forward to a new poll, whatever it may be.

  3. I don’t know anything about algorithms but Good Neighbors is a great show.

  4. Ooh, a new poll. How exciting. I didn’t get to participate in the picture book poll, but I did have fun with the chapter book poll. Betsy, I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I love the idea of a baby name poll. My fear, however, is that my readers have too good a sense of humor and I might end up with a Chronicle Bird after all (which, let’s face it, is an AWESOME name). And Matt, next time I see you we are talking Tom & Barbara.

  5. Maybe Survey Monkey? You might be able to configure a survey that is poll-esque by using the Rating question type. It’s pretty easy to use, the basic version is free, and you can download the data into an Excel spreadsheet.

  6. A table with 13 columns. A is author, B is title. C-L are 1st through tenth place. In C you put in the formula: # (of votes) times 10. In D you put # times 9, etc. In the last column (M) you put in a formula that sums C-L. And when you have all your data, you sort by M (and then by A and then by B). If you want other information, add more columns and adjust accordingly.

  7. I’ll send you an email sometime this weekend.

  8. Mark Flowers says:

    My co-workers did a Baby Name poll for my son and told me I had to name him Dewey Hugo Flowers.

    I went with Taran (which, you probably don’t recall from my Chapter Book Poll entry, is the hero of one of my ten favorite children’s book – it all ties together).

  9. Sarah McClure says:

    When is this little baby due, by the way? I find myself checking your (wonderful) blog not only excited for Fusenews but for baby news, too! I do NOT mean this in any kind of weird way, promise.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Thank you, Eric. I knew I could count on you.

      And Sarah the wee bird is due June 12th! Which, if I know anything about my family history, probably means June 26th instead. I did a big post on it a while ago, but the name of it eludes me. “Bird” was certainly in the title in some way. Hmmm…

  10. Jeannie B. says:

    Sarah! I didn’t know. How very extremely exciting. Secret Garden, yes?

  11. Karen Gray Ruelle says:

    Oh, I was hoping for a New-Baby-Naming-Poll, too. By the way, I Love Good Neighbors, too!

    Say, if Baby Bird is five days late s/he will be born on MY birthday! (I’m just sayin’.)

  12. My company has used SurveyMonkey in the past, I recommend it (user friendly and free!). And maybe you could do two polls, the rather being not of the name, but of the due date? That seems more up in the air!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Well, the only problem with online sites like SurveyMonkey (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that you can’t plug in the info yourself, right? Wouldn’t these work better if a better laid out the choices and then people voted? I want people to list whatever name they want, nothing pre-established.

      All due dates are up in the air, little sis. Just because you have one doesn’t mean it’s a go necessarily. Ya gotta give it some time, just in case.

  13. Jeannie B. says:

    Okay, so I realized in the middle of the night that I’d gotten my Burnett novels mixed up. Of course I meant the other one about the Princess. Whose name was spelled Sara, I think, not Sarah. Maybe I’ll change my whole tack and guess that you’re naming Baby Bird after he second sister in ALL OF A KIND FAMILY. Signing off in embarrassment . . .

  14. I asked my husband, who is getting his PhD in Social Research Methodology (basically, running stats programs), and just off the top of his head he also thought that creating a Google forms poll might be a good way and then exporting the data into Excel. (I’m sure you encountered this in past polls, but one of the problems is that each person will submit and input data (i.e., titles) differently and it becomes time-consuming to standardize that. Hence, it may be a good idea to have people submit via a poll/survey website.) He was rambling off ways to plug in pretty simple formulas to assign points to titles, but somewhere along the way I totally lost him. Of course, he would prefer to run the data in his stats programs but I have no idea how to even begin describing how to do that. I would be more than happy to get more details from him if you’d like … he kind of got excited when I asked him about it; he doesn’t usually get excited when I talk about children’s literature.

  15. Just another voice of encouragement to use a Google Form since it populates a spreadsheet automatically. If you play around with the different poll formats and see what the results are like, you’ll get an idea of how it might best work. The first comment here gave the formula you will probably want to use (COUNTIF). I use Google Forms for student work and polls all the time and I just look in the Google help forums whenever I run into trouble. Someone always has it spelled out for me perfectly clearly. Can’t recommend the whole setup highly enough.

  16. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Here is the post when you announce the wee one:

    (I have it bookmarked because I keep looking for updates)

    I’d use a database for what you want — better reporting capabilities.

  17. LOVE The Good Neighbors — Penelope Keith is my idol. If you’ve never seen TO THE MANOR BORN, it’s a hoot!

  18. I have no idea, but my husband, an economist, says:
    Have individuals supply the ISBN number in addition to the title. Then you can sort and sum on the ISBN number.

  19. So, my entry in the baby naming poll: Free.

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  20. Assuming last name Bird, of course.

  21. Ooo! If the baby comes on June 14th, we will share a birthday! And your baby will be proud all his or her life that her birthday is a HOLIDAY! The best holiday in the year: Flag Day!

  22. So. A poll….

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yep yep yep. Just as soon as that baby starts eating up slightly less time, I finish my nonfiction book (this month), and I’m back to work (next month) we’ll get that poll ah-rolling.

  23. Tayyab Saeed says:

    Wow! I’m REALLY excited! I just recently found out about the previous polls. Good lists, (though many times I disagreed with some of the choices and such) so a new one would be even better! So what is it going to be this time, huh? Top 100 Nonfiction books? I would love that one (especially because Snowflake Bentley was not in the Picture Books list).