Friday, December 21, 2007


Back on 12 December the Canadian Blog Awards managed to have some life breathed into them. On that day I received information that The Galloping Beaver had been nominated for Best Group Blog.

On that same day a short discussion ensued. In 2006 and 2007 we had been nominated for no less than five different blog awards run by five different entities. We led our category (Best Group Blog) in the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards, by a slim margin; placed second in our category in the 2007 Weblog Awards; stood in the top ten of the Lefty Awards (4th); and, did not mention our nomination in the Koufax Awards nor one other awards event.

Had we pursued every nomination we would have exhausted readers with what amounts to shameless self-promotion. In order to get readers to vote, (and that seems to be the only method of determining a blog's standing in any of these awards), we would have had to provide constant reminders to get you to go off to a competition site and click on the button.

We did that for last year's CBAs and this year's Weblog Awards. But that's not why we're here nor, I suspect, why you come back to The Galloping Beaver. We truly appreciate those who showed support for us during those events, but with everyone running an awards thing, we could be doing little else but asking you to vote. You would tire of that and we don't have the inclination to run a continuing "vote for me!" campaign.

With that in mind, on the same day we were first nominated for this year's CBAs, it was decided to contact all the ink stained wretches contributing to The Galloping Beaver to ask if we might go quietly on this one. The overwhelming majority agreed.

The best part about blog awards is that newer blogs gain needed exposure. That's a good thing. We certainly benefited from that. So, the decision was taken, before anything else happened, to remain quiet about any nominations we received. We would allow other blogs to surface and benefit from the exposure of such contests.

The downside of blog awards is how the winners are measured in their respective categories. It's a "readers' choice" system, which is fine, but then it depends entirely on what moves you. It also depends on running something akin to an election campaign since, in order to get you to vote, we have to provide encouragement. Aside from varying readership numbers, it then depends on how persuasive we are and whether we can garner the support of other bloggers to help promote us. That's makes me uncomfortable and I would rather not do it.

I am also uncomfortable with categories which are so nebulous that by their very definition they pit two opposing political ideologies against each other. Those become political pissing contests and provide nothing in terms of assessing the actual quality of a blog. They depend solely on the type and political leanings of a particular following. Research, source material and diversity are not accurately reflected - at all.

The category of "Best Blog" casts too wide a net to keep it friendly. And a truth which both bloggers and readers need to grasp is that the winner in that category isn't. I would say that even if we won such a category because there is always one out there which is better and didn't get properly recognized.

All of this was on my mind before I departed for a week and was out of touch with most of what happened during the last seven days.

Having had little time to catch up, what should have been a relatively straight-forward exercise for both the awards administrators and the participants who wished to pursue the idea, turned into an acrimonious debate of ideologies with one group wanting to open more categories and another attempting to control the process by disallowing them.

At issue was a request to create a the category "Best Feminist Blog". That request was more than reasonable, honest and sincere. The reason the idea was initially rejected (and at the time of writing continues to be) is not acceptable.

If the administrators of the Canadian Blog Awards had set the categories for this year's awards and did not wish to add to that list they had but to state so. Simply respond that suggestions for next year's categories would be accepted, but this year, due to time and the work already expended, categories were closed. That's not what happened. Instead, they allowed themselves to be highjacked by political operators intent on forwarding their own political agenda.

I'm certain that will attract some attention.

If the operators of the CBA were willing to allow new categories in which bloggers could compete then the categories should have been based on the similarity of subject matter - not the political objections of those who would not qualify under that category in any case.

The arguments forwarded by those who objected, (and there have been no other references provided to dispel that as the sole reason for not accepting a "Best Feminist Blogger" category), were fallacious and weak. The conservative blogger who most strenuously objected did it to support her ideological viewpoint. In short, the entire decision NOT to allow a "Best Feminist Blogger" was, in the absence of any other evidence, made out of prejudice on everybody's part. Lumping the subject into sexual/gender issues was hardly a compromise. In fact, it marginalized, not one, but two categories.

That demonstrates a moral difference between political bloggers which I am certain the volunteers who took on the Canadian Blog Awards did not expect. A simple request turned into a political and ideological pig-fight and the nominations haven't even closed yet. While I applaud the effort made by those volunteers, I hope they take away a difficult lesson.

There might be a formula which works, but I have some reservations. In the event that someone requests a category it is a simple matter of determining if there are actually enough subject-specific blogs in that category to provide a healthy competition and thus provide a wider exposure of the topic. Objections to the existence of a category on the basis of ideological leanings should carry no weight whatsoever. All they are trying to do is stifle the subject.

There is also another lesson: Attempting to mix oil and water is a bad idea.

There is, perhaps, some belief that once we all get down in the dirt, we'll drop our coloured ties and just get along in a good old Canadian polite competition. That won't happen.

The ideological differences are too great and because of that, awards of this type might work best if both sides stayed in their own camp. I am quite certain most right-wing bloggers, particularly the rabid ones, don't give a tinker's damn who the left-wingers consider the best among them in a variety of categories. Likewise, if the right-wingers feel like making one particular blog the "best" of their bent in perpetuity, most left-wing bloggers couldn't care less.

Perhaps it's time to expand the Lefty Awards along the same line as the Koufax Awards. The right-wingers can find their own materials and their own stars. It would keep the peace and it would give readers more comfort and choice. And, given that "left-wing" awards would almost certainly include a "Best Feminist Blog" category, right-wing feminist bloggers would actually have a place to show their stuff.

So, we thank those who extended nominations for us in several categories. We all appreciate your confidence and support. We will, however, not be promoting ourselves in the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards. Our readers are our best reward and there are already enough badges on the sidebar. Anyway, we're on Jon Swift's blogroll and it simply doesn't get better than that.

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