No doubt many of you have heard of the Bloggies, arguably the most prominent blogging award there is. I say “prominent” and not “best” because I know a thing or two about the selection process that you may not fully appreciate.
Here’s the official publicized procedure: people fill out a web form nominating blogs in all sorts of categories. Votes are tallied and then the organizer chooses 200 random voters to decide on the finalists from a list of the top vote-getters. The voting form asks if you’re willing to be chosen when you submit your nominations, presumably to ensure that judges don’t complain about all the work.
This year, I served as one of the ever-so-deserving 200 on the judging panel.
The organizer sent me an extra-special link to my ballot about two weeks before the voting deadline but, since I rarely check the email account that’s attached to my blog, I did not see the message until two days before the ballot was due.
Now for some math. Each judge reviews the semifinalists for ten categories (out of 30) and there are approximately 15-20 blogs per category. I’d estimate that it took about half of the two days to load all those blogs. And that’s just the home page for each one. Also transpiring during those two days: sleep, job applications, cooking, eating, the occasional potty break, bathing, and enjoying the snowflakes outside my window. That left me with enough time to click to a second page on most of the blogs I was evaluating.
As you can see, I focused on my judging duties in accordance with the sacred trust I was given. Diligence is key. It’s not like I ever promised to do a good job.
Of course, other issues did come up. Take a look at the judging instructions:
Ten categories have been randomly selected for you. For each, select up to five weblogs (or six in the Weblog of the Year category). If you encounter blogs that aren’t eligible for their category, just skip them. If you encounter a broken link, try adding “www.” to the beginning of it. I encourage you to vote in all the categories available to you, but it isn’t required. If you don’t have time to complete the whole ballot now, you may submit a partial ballot and return later to complete it.
Um… I know this may be a stretch, but shouldn’t a blogging awards site be able to provide links that will open properly?
And come to think of it, is it too much to ask that semifinalists be pre-screened for basic eligibility before I’m asked to spend my time judging? Or, maybe the semifinalists should have been double-checked to make sure they were actually blogs. (Granted, some of those questionable websites may have contained blogs somewhere on them. However, if I can’t immediately locate your blog, you lose.)
Nevertheless, I thought it would be exciting to review these best-of-the-best blogs and see if I could find anything worthwhile. And so I checked the first category: Best Australian or New Zealand Weblog. I must admit that I learned more about that region than I could have ever imagined possible. For instance, at least three semifinalists had blogs focusing on culturally enlightening arguments against the existence of global warming. I say “at least three” because two nominees were in Spanish (I think) and another refused to load.
I’m not spending my time trying to decipher a foreign language because it wasn’t in the job description. If I can’t judge the writing quality, you lose.
Of course, I didn’t get to delve so deeply into any of these blogs… at least to the extent that something called “depth” could be discerned. I, like most other people, happen to have a life and it’s relatively easy to figure out which blogs are crap after a very brief perusal. I’m not giving up my potty breaks so that I can look at an extra few posts. I’m not even giving up my potty breaks so I can search the blog for a link to archives of posts that were published during the year the blogging award is for. I stopped hunting once it became clear that many blogs did not include such links.
And remember, I’m not 1 of 200 who are judging these categories. I’m one of 66 or 67. (200 judges total, but each of us only judges 1/3 of the categories.) My voice matters big time no matter how uninformed it might be.
Next up was “Best Designed Weblog” and, as some of you may know, I take a great interest in innovative blog design… even if my own blog’s design is on the divisive side. I could select up to five blogs from among twenty choices.
I picked two.
Yes, only two. A few were so seriously flawed that I can’t believe they became semifinalists on the basis of legitimate votes. (On the other hand, I have an abiding belief that people are stupid… so maybe the votes were on the up-and-up.) Other nominees were generic and, therefore, indistinguishable from the millions of other blogs out there. Of course, I could have judged the blogs’ navigation but I really don’t think effective navigation is such an unusual or difficult thing that people deserve an award for doing it properly.
The person behind the Bloggies also decided to randomly assign me the “Entertainment” category as well as “Fashion or Beauty.” I tend to think that blogs on these subjects are crap even when they’re well constructed. So as not to hurt people’s feelings, I will not continue on that line of thought.
Okay, I lied. If I hate your topic, you lose. That may sound unfair but no criteria were given for the assessment of a blog’s quality. I figured that my personal prejudices would work just fine.
The “Best Group or Community Weblog” category also focused on a special group of blogs. I think it had more parenting blogs among the nominees than the “Best Parenting or Family Weblogs” category that I was also asked to judge.
I guess all it takes to become a semifinalist is for members of a topical blogging group to go vote for each other en masse. Just a hypothesis…
And then there’s “Best Photography of a Weblog.” Here’s the category’s definition:
Photoblogs and other weblogs with a focus on presenting photography.
Please note that the category name does not mean the same thing as the given definition; the category name implies that all blogs containing photography can be nominated regardless of the blog’s overall focus . Nevertheless, I did find a couple of blogs among the nominees that deserve an award. I saved a copy of my ballot so I could find these (and a few others from the remaining categories) again.
Yes, it took that long for me to think “hey, I’ll want to see some of these again.”
By the time I reached “Best New Weblog,” I wasn’t much in the mood to do the basic assessment of eligibility that the Bloggies’ administrator should have performed on all nominees before sending out the ballot. It’s possible that I may have voted for a blog that wasn’t new last year. I didn’t check.
The final two categories I judged were European blogs and blogs about politics. Both had some keepers, especially the political category which had a good share of famous and commercial blogs whose writers surely couldn’t care less about the award. I voted for a lot of those.
And then I must mention the blogs that were nominated for numerous categories. Contrary to what you might believe, this thrilled me. I thought a lot of these blogs were crap the first time I saw them, meaning that each repeat listing represented one less blog for me to look at. Of course, I did return to those blogs when the category was design or photography or something I hadn’t considered as heavily in my original assessment… and that’s in spite of my suspicion that some of these bloggers may have found a way to stuff the ballot box.
Stuffing the ballot box wouldn’t be too difficult and I doubt the organizer (yes, it appears to be one person) is taking sufficient measures to prevent it. If he isn’t reviewing the semifinalists’ eligibility, we can probably assume that the more time-consuming or technically savvy measures aren’t being pursued either.
Overall, I found the experience disappointing. With the opportunity to cast up to 50 votes, I cast fewer than 25. I follow a few blogs that outshine most of the semifinalists.
And with that in mind, I would like to encourage all of you who were not nominated to disregard the disregarding of your work. I can promise you that the awards do not reliably track quality and they may not even measure popularity all that well. However, I’m sure they effectively predict an increase in traffic to the selected blogs; for that reason, I humbly request that everyone reading this post please nominate me for as many categories as possible next year. I won’t even ask you to consider the possibility of opening some new free email accounts so you can nominate me multiple times.
And if you happen to be selected as a finalist, please don’t take offense at what I’ve written here. I am a judge; you bow to me. If you think I’m a looney or that I didn’t take the job seriously enough or that I have bad taste, I have news for you: the randomized selection of judges results in random judges and not necessarily qualified judges. Be thankful that I’m literate above a seventh-grade level; you never know who else might have been judging your work.
And be thankful that I didn’t vote by just clicking on random blogs.