Monday, August 23, 2010

Did you know that...

Every year the ALA (librarian-speak for the American Library Association) reveals the Teen's Top Ten--the books judged to be the top ten new titles for teen readers?

But the ALA doesn't pick them. You do.

You can now skip my whole rant by going to the Place Where Voting Happens:

Vote here!

Now that you're done, you don't have to listen to me anymore. Isn't that nice?

If, however, you chose to stick around, you get to hear more fascinating information about the 2010 Teens Top Ten list!

Lots of you just left, didn't you?


In order for the list to happen, teens nominate their favorite books of the previous year. Nominators are members of book groups in 15 schools and public libraries all over the country. Kind of like what your math or science teacher would call a "random sampling"--a smallish-group of teens that can represent the whole (which is you).

Now we get to talk statistics! Because I feel like it, that's why.

When you hear on the news, "80% of today's youth finds this blog post boring," it isn't just a made-up number like that statistic is up there. Why? Because that would be a lie and the news people would get sued. Or eight out of ten of you would all think that this blog entry is boring, because the news said you had to. Wait. Maybe not that last one.

You can tell my statistic is made up because it is a very low number for a blog about statistics. I mean, if I really asked you how boring you found statistics, you would say "VERY BORING!" or roll your eyes and walk away. Most of you would do this. Except for my friend Kat who actually went to school for Math and Crunches Numbers all day long. She told me I could call her if I needed to do math in my head, like to figure out sales tax or how big a tip to leave. Kat is nice.

But most of you, I'm guessing, would call statistics "boring," leaving me with no other choice but to MAKE YOU BORED! And if I really asked all of you, we might, perhaps find out that 99.9999% of you find statistics to be skull-crushingly, mind-bendingly, sleep inducingly boring.

Or we might find that 33.8% of you hate statistics, 12.2% of you don't really care whether I talk about statistics or not because you're indifferent to statistics in general, and all the rest of you LOVE statistics and dance around the room when someone starts talking about them.

In order to find out how many of you think I'm boring, I could go out and ask you each, "Do you think statistics are boring?" And then you would answer me. Then I could tally up my results and tell you with complete certainty that X% of you think I am boring and Y% of you hang on my every word.

But let's face it. I am not a people person. I like to sit in the back of the room with my book and pretend I don't exist. That makes things quieter, you know? So I would need to do what all other scientists and pollsters around the world do, which is CHEAT.

That's what it is, really. At least, that's what it is when you're me and someone tries to explain statistics to you.

Most statistics are complied using Random Sampling (which is not a proper noun, but it looks more important that way). Using my Boredom Poll model, I would feed, say, the yearbook from your high school into a computer. The computer would then spit out names of people it picked using a complicated formula that makes it random. This is where the philosopher in me wants to say, "Nothing is random." But that's a blog for another day. An accurate sample is BIG--the more people the better. Let's say, for the purpose of argument, that I rounded up 100 people from all the area high schools using my computer program and asked them my questions. That would be a Random Sample. And, given how our country schools are pretty tiny, it is an okay-ish sample size. I would then take your answers and have Kat crunch the numbers to tell me the real percent of you who think, "Laura is being very boring in this blog post, and I wish she would talk more about sneezing pandas

or angry goats,

or the time you got caught in the revolving door,

which kind of looked like this but without all the broken glass.

Now back to my point.

The ALA takes a random sample of teens from around the country and asks them, "What were your favorite books this year?" And they give the ALA lists. And the ALA takes the lists and compiles them into a Master List and then YOU VOTE!

And once you've voted, the ALA compiles the votes AGAIN and then during Teen Read Week, which is October 17--22, it announces the 2010 TEEN'S TOP TEN!

And then we throw a party because Paper Towns won. Oh. Wait. That was last year.

Voting for this year's list opens TODAY! So...


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