Thought for the day. Fountain Abby ruins and the Royal Yacht voted favourite U.K. attractions. But are they?

September 3, 2022

Thought for the day. Fountain Abby ruins and the Royal Yacht were voted joint-favourite U.K. attractions. But are they?

The result came from a poll reported in the authoritative consumer magazine Which

Which commented that it was ‘easy to see why’ the two won over better known visitor magnets such as Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London.

Not so, I muttered to myself. What’s going on here, then? Closer inspection of the news item (reported in most of the print media) gives a clue.

Which has its long-established way of arriving at the best products from cars to carpet cleaners, computers to climbing frames. It involves listing a set of desirable features and adding them up. The product with the best total score is rated the best. 

This approach provides an answer, a league table of products. 

Unfortunately it is, to put it mildly, only as credible according to what these days might be described as its algorithm, the list of criteria, and any weighting allocated to each criterion.

These are also influenced by the people doing the rating. 

So: the rating of this survey was ‘during April and May’ 

The attractions were ranked by ‘nearly 3000 Which members’

According to: 

Value for Money

Staff helpfulness

Lack of Crowds

Dubious aggregation

 I have a general suspicion about this sort of aggregation to select a clear winner. It just about works in sporting events like heptathlon, then gets more dubious with beauty contests (including Strictly Come Dancing, Crufts dog show, and the Booker Prize for Novel of the Year).

In this particular case there is also an additional flaw which I am leaving for readers to puzzle out. Any comments will be studied, and the best selected for mention on our weekly newsletter. 

Puzzle rules

How will the best be chosen? Not, of course, by votes of ‘nearly 3000 TudoRama subscribers

Yes, you’ve guessed. The editor’s decision will be final. Competition closes on September 30th. Results will appear in a subsequent TudoRama newsletter.