Welcome to Gambit's Best of New Orleans 2016. (Around the office we just call it BONO, and on Twitter it has the hashtag #BONO2016.)
This year's BONO is different in several ways. It's the third year since we've eliminated paper ballots, and the ballot was further refined to make it easy to vote via smartphone or tablet. Every year we get questions about methodology, and I've tried to answer a few of those:
How do you pick the categories?
We start working on Best of New Orleans in May, when we meet to review the issue from the year before, culling some categories (sorry, "Best Vape Shop") and adding new ones. We also consolidated several categories and reduced the number of votes you had to make to submit a ballot — both in response to reader feedback.
How do you count all those ballots?
We couldn't keep track of tens of thousands of votes without managing editor Kandace Graves, who has kept BONO on track for more than a decade via various platforms, back to the fill-it-out-by-hand and snail-mail days.
Do people try to cheat?
Of course they do, and we have ways to weed them out.
Are the results really real?
Absolutely, and they reflect the tastes of the voters, not necessarily the tastes of the staff — sometimes definitely not the preferences of the staff. In a few past years, we've supplanted your choices with editors' picks, but usually we defer to the city's collective wisdom — as we did this year. No complaining about the results; they reflect the choices of those who bothered to vote.
Do the winners know they're winners before the paper comes out?
No, although they do know if they've placed in the Top 3. Advertising has no role in the results; it's strictly a popular vote. About all businesses can do is encourage their customers to vote for them.
This is your Best of New Orleans. Now argue among yourselves as to what you got right — and what you got wrong. — Kevin Allman, editor