Why do we even need this poll?
How does it work and how is it different from all those other polls?
The world of theme parks and coasters is chock full of polls and "best of" lists. Every year, there are lots of them competing for your attention. Every year, they release their results and coaster enthusiasts completely lose their minds.
"NO WAY that coaster got #1!" "This poll is rigged!" "I can't take this seriously, WTF?"
Let's face it: most of the "best of" lists are simply the opinion of the writer and most polls don't accurately reflect reality. Even some very popular polls are using a tabulation formula that unfairly favours good coasters that lots of people have ridden over better coasters that fewer people have ridden. Thus, newer or more off-the-beaten-path coasters don't have a chance of being ranked where they should be. Here's why:
You might've seen a poll with a ballot that looks like that. You might've seen several of them. This is a very popular way to run a poll because it's easy to understand, it's easy to fill out a ballot, and it's easy to tabulate. Usually, what happens is whatever you put as #1 gets 10 points, #2 gets nine points, etc until your #10 choice gets just one point. All the points are tabulated from the ballots received and the coaster with the most total points is declared the winner. Sounds good at first, but it can skew the results. Have a look at this:
The winner should be Awesomesauce. Literally everyone who rode it said it was the best coaster they'd ever ridden. Every. One. But since only 9 of the 100 voters had ridden it, it didn't have a chance. Bananaboater got more points... lots more points, even though nobody who rode it ranked it as their #1 coaster. What's worse is that looking at the individual ballots might even show that those nine people who rode Awesomesauce had also ridden Bananaboater... which means that every one of those people thought Awesomesauce was better than Bananaboater, but Awesomesauce still lost. Worse than that, Coconut Crush comes in second place solely because nearly everyone had been on it. Everyone ranked it at #10, meaning that every single one of those voters thought nine coasters were better than Coconut Crush, but it still ranks at #2. There's a better way.
Enter mitch hawker
Back in 1993, Mitch Hawker launched the Best Wooden Coaster Poll (whether you read that as "Poll to choose the Best Wooden Coaster" or whether you read it as the "Best Poll to choose a Wooden Coaster" doesn't make any difference - it was accurate either way). Rather than assigning points to coaster ranks, he developed a ranked pairs algorithm that looked at each possible pair of coasters across all the ballots and asked a simple question: Of the voters who've ridden both of the coasters in this pair, which coaster did most of them prefer? It seems like such a simple thing, but it revolutionized the whole coaster poll landscape. Before long, the accolades were coming in and people deemed it the most accurate and most respected poll out there.
Sadly, Mitch stopped conducting the poll in 2013. The ElloCoaster Wood Coaster Poll seeks to fill that void and provide an accurate and respectable poll to determine the best of the best. Here's how it works:
Head-to-head pairs ranking
The ballot contains every wood coaster on earth that was operating this year. Voters simply rank the coasters they've ridden in order of preference, with #1 being their favorite and going down from there. The ElloCoaster tabulation program collects the rankings from the ballots, looks at each coaster (as of this writing, there are 198 coasters on the ballot), then goes one-by-one comparing that coaster to every other coaster to see how many people rode both coasters and whether the coaster won, lost, or tied with the coaster it's being compared to. With 198 coasters, there more than 39,000 possible pairings! To insure accuracy in the calculations, ElloCoaster uses a custom-designed program to do all the tabulation. (Realistically, there are half that many pairing combinations, since a pairing of Coaster A to Coaster B is the same as pairing Coaster B to Coaster A. Nevertheless, the program looks at the pairings from both sides as a means of error-checking.)
determining the results
For each ballot, the tabulation program looks at each coaster the voter rode and one-by-one, pairs it with every other coaster that voter rode. For example, if a voter rode five coasters (A, B, C, D, E), the program will look at coaster A and B. If coaster A got a higher ranking on the ballot, it receives a win. If it ranked lower, it gets a loss. If they got the same rank, it records a tie. Then it compares coaster A with coaster C and records win, loss, or tie there. Then A/D and A/E. Coaster B is then compared to A, C, D, and E. This continues down the line until every coaster is compared to every other. The number of wins, losses, and ties is tallied and the program loads the next ballot. Once all the ballots are tallied, it calculates the "win percentage" for each coaster - in other words, in all the head-to-head comparisons that this coaster 'competed' in, what percentage of the time did it win? That percentage is what determines where a coaster comes in the final rankings after all the ballots are tabulated, assuming the coaster had enough riders to be counted (the threshold is usually set around 9% of total ballots, so if 100 people vote, a coaster needs at least 9 riders to be included in the results).
The head-to-head comparison model eliminates the bias that most other polls inadvertently give to coasters that have been ridden by more people. This also helps coasters outside the US get a fairer chance at placing where they should (since voter pools tend to be dominated by US voters, overseas coasters usually have fewer riders and rarely get fair placement in other polls. This system fixes that.) It's not about how many people rode a coaster, it's about how good the coaster is compared to the others.
Here's what to do now
Voting runs from Nov 1 thru Dec 31 each year.
Head on over to the ballot page, which will explain how to fill out and send in your ballot.