There’s always a bit of a whoo ha immediately after the Irish Blog Awards ceremony. There are always reasons to be upset with the results: the geographic spread of winners, the “big names” cleaning up, the absence of transparency in the process, the number of seats! It’s funny how seriously we all take it. This year, dissent and displeasure have been expressed, along with many, many plaudits for those involved in the organisation and delivery of the awards.
My offer to help this year was taken up. I suspect there was pretty large list of folk involved triaging the hundreds of blogs that were nominated for the various categories. During the period of judging we were asked to keep schtum about our involvement – sensibly removing the problem of lobbying.
You can skip the next bit if you want, but don’t miss the last few paragraphs where I recommend two terrific blogs I came across in the judging process!
I don’t think the criteria we judged against were ever made public, but I’m guessing that you won’t be at all surprised and Damien won’t be offended if I summarised that we were asked to look at the writing, the consistency (in terms of the nominated category) and what was happening below the line in the comments. Judges supplied a numerical score and a textual comment to justify it.
Twenty blogs and many hours later, and I had a handful of new subscriptions in my RSS reader, read through a couple of lemons, learnt more about football than I’d really wanted to (was a good blog though), rated the eventual Best Blog winner, and generally been impressed by the volume of well written and regular posts that were sparking off conversations in the comments across Ireland.
Was it the most scientific way of rating and ranking blogs? Probably not. But it wasn’t unfair. And good blogs scored above poorer blogs. So in terms of separating the sheep from the goats it worked well enough. And any more data collection might have put judges off finishing their allotted list.
The long lists were published, narrowing each category down to twenty or so blogs. It was good to see some familiar blogs that I’d ranked highly in the first round appearing on the long lists.
From other people's posts, it seems like the blogs long listed in each category were examined by at least four or five people. Ending up with Newcomers and Business, you can obviously only blame me for my ~20% contribution to the shortlisted blogs! Supplying marks against four different categories, it was pretty intense to work through each blog.
I generally started by reading through the archive for November. (So if I’m allowed to judge again next year, and you want to quickly impress me, start writing the good stuff long before the nominations open at the end of December!) Then a bit of a hoke through another month, and some recent entries to get a feel for the health of the blog. Looking at the level of comments on the posts, reading through the comments under some of the posts to see what kind of community there was and whether the post’s author(s) joined in the conversation. Some blogs were one or two posts a day, others one a week.
Nearly all the Newcomers on the long list were in my pile … except a few, mostly ones that may have been withdrawn from the category. The contentious Trust Tommy wasn't there either so I can’t look back at my spreadsheet and see how I marked it! The majority of the Business blogs were on my list, again with a few missing.
It’s hard to objectively rate blogs. Blogging is an art form, not a science.
I suspect very few people are doing it to win prizes. You can tell by some of the blog designs out there – mine in particular! I scored badly at least one blog that I really liked … understandable given the judging categories. And that didn’t make it a bad blog: it’s now on my RSS feed, still churning out fun posts. But in the beauty contest, it didn’t have enough dimples to make it shine above the others in the category.
As I read through the two long lists, two blogs really caught my eye. And I had to hold back on talking about them. But with the second round of judges’ marks totted up and the short listed blogs sifted to find a winner (I’ve no idea how, so don’t ask!) and the awards handed out, it’s now safe to single them out for praise.
The outsidein blog on the Irish Times is full of really high quality writing, illustrated by vibrant (and source acknowledged) pictures, and features Bryan Mukandi joining in the debate so naturally in the comments below his thoughtful posts. Wow. Probably the best single-author newspaper blog I’ve ever come across.
One business blog that really caught my eye was Nice Day Designs, a running commentary on the world of customising second hand clothes, making them into unique, beautiful garments, buying buttons, selling at markets, and delighting customers. Sure there were other entries in the category with even snazzier blog designs, and some with a much larger band of commenters, but Nice Day Designs grabbed me. It was an engaging and personal story about a business, letting me in behind the
seams scenes of a trade I know nothing about, but ended up being fascinated by. It really seemed to capture the spirit of blogging. And it made me smile. Maybe I should send an old tired jacket down to see if it could be revitalised with some fun patches and colourful buttons!
I don’t really want to enter into the overall debate that has raged and is hopefully now burnt out. But as I’ve been typing, one reflection/suggestion comes to mind.
Accountability is probably more important than transparency.
Formalising a group of people (that are respected, diverse and publicised) who Damien can bounce ideas off and act as his non-executive “directors” would quell some of the narkyness and perhaps help protect Damien from the criticism and abuse that’s got hurled his way. No reason why Damien can’t choose them himself. Most likely he is already using such a group of friends. But it might be valuable for the participants to know that there is accountability in place; people who will check that the spreadsheets tally and the rationale for winners is valid. It might help for next year, particularly as numbers continue to grow ... but it's only a suggestion.