The Bloggies Insult My Intelligence

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.

Just look at that face!  You don't need to keep him from complaining...

Just look at that face! You don’t need to keep him from complaining.  (Image requires no attribution.)

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.

You never know what task will end up requiring some heavy lifting.  Fortunately, judging wasn't one of them.  (Photo credit: tunnupus)

You never know what task will end up requiring some heavy lifting. Fortunately, judging wasn’t one of them. (Photo credit: tunnupus)

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.

Yay me.

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.

No explanation necessary, I assume.  (Image credit: Plognark)

No explanation necessary, I assume. (Image credit: Plognark)

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.

Imagine the possibilities!  (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Imagine the possibilities.  (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

And be thankful that I didn’t vote by just clicking on random blogs.

Presumably…

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Bad Background Images Insult My Intelligence

I’ve spent enough time online to see some horrific blog designs.  Some are a matter of personal taste, which I have no intention of criticizing openly.  However, a few folks obviously have no clue what they are doing.

They’re morons.

In the spirit of enlightening you in the ways of me, I would like to point out some common errors and show you some easy methods for developing better backgrounds.  All images in this post were modified using free and simple photo editing software and I just played with all the nifty little buttons without knowing what they are.  You’ll find no evidence of Photoshop or other costly applications here.  (I’m unemployed, remember?)  Caveat: I do still have a scanner from my grad school days.

Also, you don’t have to like these images; I only focused on technique and some of the creations here are quite loud.  I wouldn’t use all of them myself but then again lots of good images aren’t an appropriate match for some individuals.

If you want “Matchmaking for Blog Dummies,” you’ll need to go somewhere else.  I don’t do romance here.

That said, let’s cut the preliminaries and dive in with four basic rules.

1- Your original photo should have a high resolution. Subjecting images to technological torture often causes them to bleed their detail away, leaving them as limp as a corpse.

2- When detail bleeds away, colors often go with it.  Your photographs or scanned images should normally contain at least as many colors as you’ll want in the final product.  It’s usually harder to add colors to an image than eliminate them.

3- Similarly, it’s easier to reduce the file size of a high-definition picture than it is to make the image more robust.  If only dieting worked that way…

4- Don’t forget to crop your images; if it doesn’t end up appearing on the screen, you don’t need it.  A smaller image takes less time for people to download.  Your visitors will thank you for it by sticking around until your page finishes loading… unless your writing scares them away sooner.

And now the joy of pointing out people’s stupidity.  Item one: people often confuse their original image with what ends up appearing on their blog.  I like my candelabra image over on the top right, but it’s pretty easy to make an awful background out of it.  For instance, tiling the image can give us this:

Slide1Easy to read, right?  That’s why I have these big box-like things on my blog to shield the text.  However, that doesn’t eliminate all of the problems in the example above.  Let’s look at something a little wiser:

Continue reading

Bugs Insult My Intelligence

English: High detail closeup of a cockroach.

I’m sure you know what this is already.  I try to avoid them.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who likes cockroaches?

If you follow my blog, you may remember that I nabbed a free 2-week trial of WordPress’ custom design upgrade on Black Friday.

I promise to comment in my usual cheerful, positive fashion.

I created a new design for this blog with a lot of help in the WordPress forums and a little coloring advice on the sidebar from kokkieh.  The WordPress employee was great and the volunteer helper usually was too.  (The volunteer gave me one incomplete piece of information early on that had huge ramifications down the line, but it’s something I could have and probably should have double-checked on my own.)

So who likes bugs?

La cucaracha!  La cucaracha!

As you can see, the new design is up.  And since I finished Christmas shopping below budget, I can funnel the remaining cash into paying to keep this design.

I will say, though, that I got incredibly lucky on this.  WordPress launched a few upgrades shortly after the trial period started and this caused a parade of bloggers to have problems with their display and their ability to upload and attach media.  I suppose someone at WordPress forgot the first rule of real estate: one should exterminate most, if not all, of the bugs before one hosts an open house.

And in the spirit of exterminating bugs, I’d like to invite my readers to comment on anything they especially like or dislike about the new design.  My eyesight is good, so I hope I didn’t create any readability issues for those of you with vision problems.  If I did, please let me know.

English: An oriental cockroach (female Blatta ...

Some bugs are big.  Some are little.  Most get on people’s nerves.   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being Special Almost Insults My Intelligence

Like most bloggers, I have fallen into a horrible habit.

You see, this blog has looked pretty much the same since I started it in May.  And once again I’ve started thinking to myself that I ought to change things up a little.   However, I always come back to a few hard truths when my mind starts wandering:

1- The blog theme (layout) I use gives me an uncommon header because almost no one uses this theme.  I’d have to pay for an upgrade to get that with another theme.  This makes me special.

2- My blog theme lets me have a background image that is visible for more than a centimeter on each side of the text box.  Because I can have a more unique blog this way, I am special.

3- My background image camouflages the header menu that would otherwise look like clutter.  That makes the military special.

And so I realize that I should, at most, change the background photo’s color scheme and possibly the text box color.  This never ends well.

Here’s the edited background photo I came up with today:

red1point1

In theory, it looks good.  In practice, it’s hard to find a text color that would be visible against my header and this background.  So I changed the remaining color scheme and came out with something truly special.  If you’d like to see some strangely attractive hideousness, check out the result at my test blog: http://www.blacklightcandelabra.wordpress.com  (Warning: I’ll keep it up for a while but I can’t promise that it won’t change in a couple of weeks.)

Inconsistent Statistics Insult My Intelligence

English: Histogram of sepal widths for Iris ve...

These statistics make a frown face. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently visited a blog that had over 750 followers and fewer than 350 page views.

I assume the blogger must think we’re all really stupid.  This person most likely included an exaggerated follower count in the Follow Blog widget’s text section.  It’s not that hard to do.

But let’s look at some other possibilities.

1- This person has lots of friends and family (or perhaps Facebook friends) who promised to read his stuff and never did.  If this is the case, the blogger needs to find some real friends.

2- If the blogger has been around long enough to amass so many hundreds of empty followers (you know… salespeople and others who click “follow” from the WordPress Reader without looking at the blog) and has only garnered 300-something page views, the blogger may need to rethink how he presents his blog.

3- The blogger may need to repeat kindergarten.  A five-year-old can figure out that 750 is more than 350.

4- The blogger may need to think bigger.  If you’re going to fake the number of followers you have, why not go higher?  It’s not like he had any credibility left to lose.

5- The blogger may have entered a fake 350 hit count several years ago when he started the blog and then he forgot it was still there.  If this is the case, how sad that someone thought 350 would be impressive.

6- The blogger may need to advertise on my blog.  Given his expert grasp of statistics, I’m sure I can develop a pricing plan that maximizes my profit and his pleasure.

Freshly Pressed Insults My Intelligence

(365+1)/365 - One Last Bright Idea

(Photo credit: djwtwo)

Here it is!  I have finally written the post that will explain how to improve your chances of being Freshly Pressed. Having recently noticed a blog being Freshly Pressed twice in four days, I was rather curious about how something so mathematically improbable could happen.  (In case you’re wondering, it was the Quartz blog.  One post covered the definition of cancer and the other dealt with Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post.)

I also noticed that the Quartz blog uses WordPress VIP, which means WordPress probably gets a lot of money from Quartz for various services.  I wondered to myself if VIP customers are permitted to buy a spot on Freshly Pressed.  I still wonder that.

This inspired me to perform a non-scientific study of the most recent 100 posts to be Freshly Pressed; this comes out to about 17 days’ worth.  I wanted to learn if a disproportionate number of selectees are paying for one WordPress upgrade or another.  I should warn you that there are limitations to this study: I could only count blogs that use VIP services, custom domain, custom design, or premium themes.  The other services and products WordPress sells are not immediately discernible from viewing a blog.  (I also failed to record one entry along the way, so I counted it in the “spends no money” category.  Because of how I collected data, this was almost certainly an accurate guess.)

And let me also remind everyone that WordPress is a business and therefore they would be justified in giving some extra preference to the people who keep their company afloat.  Those of us who spend no money are a financial liability to them.  Nevertheless, they advertise Freshly Pressed as something everyone can aspire to and they ought to be held to their word.

THE RESULTS:

Out of 100 blogs, 47 pay to use a custom domain.  Some of these may also pay for other upgrades; I didn’t check.  (Technically, there were 99 blogs because Quartz appeared twice.  However, I counted Quartz twice because they had two posts.)

Another 2 purchased the custom design upgrade.  (Overall, there may have been more than 2.)

Another 1 uses a premium theme.  (Overall, there may have been more than 1.)

Any VIP blogs in the lot were not noted because their custom domain already counted towards “pays money.”

According to these numbers…

WordPress is currently receiving (or has received) money from at least half of the last 100 Freshly Pressed inductees.  Although my study came out with an even 50-50 split, I would remind you that there are still VideoPress, Ad-Free, Guided Transfer, Redirect, and Extra Storage services that I could not account for.  Therefore, the percentage of Freshly Pressed inductees who are paying customers may be significantly above half.

It’s impossible to say with 100% certainty that there’s disproportional representation of paying customers on Freshly Pressed because we do not know what percent of bloggers purchase upgrades.  Based on anecdotal evidence, the 47% figure for custom domains seems awfully high, though.

So if you want to be Freshly Pressed, an effective first step might be to buy a custom domain.

And finally…

The tendency towards paying customers might partly explain why so many of us are often less than impressed with the results of browsing the Freshly Pressed selections.  (“Less than impressed” does not mean “we don’t like them.”  One can be impressed with something that does not suit one’s tastes.)

Ignoring Your Love Insults My Intelligence

Natasha of Natasha’s Memory Garden has nominated me for the WordPress Family Award.  That means it’s another exciting day of shameless self-promotion here at Bumblepuppies!

To celebrate, I’ve designed my own award logo:

Slide1

Somehow, the traditional touchy-feely version didn’t quite do it for me.

And now it’s time for seven more things you don’t know about me.

1- I enjoyed teaching (which is how I could afford to get through grad school) but the one type of job I don’t apply for is teaching positions in my major.  I’m demonstrably competent and qualified to teach related subjects but I’ve had no luck on that front.

2- Even though I occasionally make jokes that imply otherwise, I have no fear of math.

3- I do not have a library card, probably because I don’t read the kind of stuff public libraries tend to offer.

4- Off the top of my head, I cannot name five movies that have been released over the past five years.  So… I’m not exactly a film buff.

5- Off the top of my head, I can name dozens of varieties of central- and eastern European pork products.

6- I also think turkey is tasty.  This is why I’ve never needed a cardiologist.  (Not that I could afford one anyway…)

7- I would love to try chocolate covered grasshoppers.  If you know of a shop in the U.S. that ships them, send me a link.  Seriously.

The 15 blogs I’m nominating will appear after a few more paragraphs.  Blogs that were nominated last time were not considered for this because everyone should have the opportunity to advertise my blog.

If you need help advertising me and weren’t nominated for this award, you can always tweet about me or like me on Facebook.  Facebook and Twitter may insult my intelligence but your expressions of love and admiration do not.  (On the other hand, the only things I send out on the blog’s token accounts are the automated notifications of new posts.  I don’t think I’ve logged into either since creating those accounts and connecting them to this blog.)

(A note to the nominees: you may use my award logo if you wish, even if you’re not dysfunctional.  Since it displays the “Bumblepuppies” name prominently, I would be more than happy to see it go viral.)

Balladeer’s Blog

http://glitternight.com/2013/08/06/liberals-conservatives-intelligence/

Dad’s Political Cartoon Scrapbook 1939 to 1940

http://dadspoliticalcartoonscrapbook.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/keeping-him-happy/

dental eggs

http://dentaleggs.com/2013/07/18/root-canals-for-ultimate-profits/

fisticuffsandshenanigans

http://fisticuffsandshenanigans.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/because-woodland-creatures-have-inhabited-my-car/

Games, Eh?

http://gameoncanada.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/lara-croft-product-of-sexism/

Homeward Bound

http://carlosddvieira.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/we-mustnt-cry-more-than-the-bereaved/

Is Everyone an Idiot but Me?

http://iseveryoneanidiotbutme.com/2013/08/04/idiot-of-the-week-an-open-letter-to-the-old-navy-director-of-email-marketing/

Kitchen Slattern

http://kitchenslattern.com/2011/09/30/saturday-night-is-bean-night/

muscleheaded

http://muscleheaded.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/anais-nin-says-3/

NOWHERE TO RUN

http://drlisamallen.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/what-would-mima-do/

ONLY IN NIGERIA

http://onlyinnigeria.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/lagos-roads-where-is-dis/

overlandscape

http://overlandscape.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/geiranger-trollstigen-and-briksdal-glacier/

See! Travel Mag

http://seetravelmag.com/2013/08/06/raging-bitch-and-heady-topper/

Seven Years Late

http://sevenyearslate.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/proposal-congressional-shock-collar/

Tabula Candida

http://tabulacandida.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/humanities/