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The ready, fire, aim method: RTT's BlogPoll balloting for 2008

Burnt Orange Nation is going negative and slinging the mud, telling voters that pre-season polls hate America. He's right, of course, and yet we all do them, don't we? (By the way, if you haven't heard Peter's introduction of Brian on last week's EDSBS Live, you need to hear it. Absolutely hilarious.) The first BlogPoll ballot is due Monday, and I'll have my draft posted here Saturday or Sunday at the latest so y'all can have your input. Brian's posted his thoughts on voting philosophy along with an acknowledgement that no matter what he says, folks are going to do as they please:

There's only so much control you can pretend to have when the most respected college football blogger around thumbs his nose at some of the poll's published guidelines and the funniest one slaps up haphazard ballots 30 minutes after the deadline, usually after IMing me something like "oh crap give me a few minutes."

Still, Brian's stated his preference, and that preference is for each voter to focus exclusively on the teams' respective resumes "once you have enough information."

So I have ideas. Ideas that make fellow RTTer hooper and all right-thinking people cringe. Ideas that are destined to elicit pointing and guffaws and "bless his heart" shakings of the noggin. These are they:

The resume method still has a good deal of subjectivity built into it, because how one views a team's accomplishments inevitably differs from another's view. This is the scent that critics are sniffing when they decry computer rankings, which are essentially resume rankers on steroids. They accept data input, crunch numbers, and spit out a result that is always, at the very least, internally consistent, yet they are indeed afflicted at birth by their programmer's own biases. This is not a problem, per se, unless the result is presented as Subjectivity Free. It's not. It's merely consistent, which runs against human tendency in a fallen world.

Even internal consistency has its dark side. Because there is no mid-season correcting of the algorithm (as far as we know), computers are often known to spit out results that only a human can recognize as wonky despite their consistency.

So. The plan. This season, RTT's ballot will be, if I can get it done before crying uncle, informed by computers but regulated by humans. The current plan is to begin the season looking at the numbers but opening the throttle on human intervention. After all, they are last year's numbers, and the only real correction for that flaw -- looking at returning starters -- is grossly insufficient and changing on a daily basis. Just ask Georgia offensive line coach and Florida's synthetic ACL provider.

The computer will be given more and more deference as the season progresses and my ability to mentally juggle the factors decreases and tendency toward inconsistency increases. Still, if the thing grows hair and teeth, I'm leashing it. Also, as far as the subjectivity inherent in the programming goes, I intend to rely heavily on stats that others more attuned to this stuff than I appear to think matter most. Think Phil Steele and SMQ's excellent stats relevancy watch series. Oh, and I'll subject myself to widespread and hearty ridicule by disclosing the formula I'm using. This open source aspect of the thing will be for the purpose of soliciting constructive feedback, improving the system, or at least aspiring toward a consensus among folks who know more about this than I do as to which evils to shun and which to embrace.

I think that this method is in keeping with Brian's encouragement to voters to focus on teams' respective resumes "once [we] have enough information." Keep in mind that RTT's ballot will still be only one of hundreds in the BlogPoll, and it will still be a human ballot. It will just be informed by a computer program. I will keep the kill switch close by.

So here's the current plan.


  • Finish the durn program.
  • Each Monday or so, I'll post the vomit the program spits out in the form of a drafty draft draft ballot and open it up for discussion and human intervention. Early in the season, plan on Full Override Mode, 25 Override Options, or some such nonsense. Myself and the other front page authors are the Overriders, but we're mostly just representatives of the RTT community, so it's really your opinion that matters. Ballots will be submitted late Tuesday night or first thing Wednesday morning.
  • Each week, provided the program doesn't contract rabies, the overrides will decrease.

Note this: Hooper, who knows more about numbers than I'll ever know and whose opinion I value, and I have been talking about this for much of the summer. He's not been overly enthusiastic about my jumping off this cliff, and he has good reason to be concerned. Still, I'm forging ahead into my foolishness because I'm a blogger, and that's what I do.

So that's the plan.

Ready, fire, aim, emphasis on the post-fire aiming thing.