Weblog awards 2005: who cares?

OK, so who’s heard of the Weblog Awards, 2005? The first I heard of them, the finalists had been announced, and people were being asked to vote for which of the top 20 were to be the best in their respective categories. I only found out because the Daily Ablution was encouraging its readers to vote for it, and Harry’s Place, despite being among the finalists itself, was encouraging its readers to vote for Normblog. I had at least heard of these websites and, with the exception of Normblog, have commented on things posted there. The other categories were full of blogs of which I’d never even heard.

The best “media/journalist” blog was by some guy called Michael Yon (never heard of him), and the second place went to The Raw Story, which by my reckoning isn’t even a blog. (Melanie Phillips somehow crops up in the UK blogs section, coming sixth, not the journalists’ section.) And the religious blogs category doesn’t contain one Muslim blog. Top tech blog was Engadget; the vote figures dropped precipitously in that section, with Engadget taking 45.67%, Slashdot taking 23.04%, Gizmodo taking 17.43%, Lifehacker taking 3.44%, the next two taking around 3%, and the remainder taking less than 1% each. OSNews is nowhere to be seen.

The problem with these results is the dodgy voting process. Basically, anyone could vote once a day, which meant that Engadget’s 5134 votes, if split over 20 days, could have come from just 257 people. That doesn’t really account for a great readership, does it? Normblog got only 1,261 actual votes, which if split over the number of days in which the poll was open, probably accounts for a piddling number of individuals voting. Worse than this, if one uses public computers in a place like a university, or better still an Apple Store where people can, and do, switch from machine to machine and use them for free, they can cast votes for their favourite blog more than once a day - and block someone else from voting for their own favourite, as that computer will already have been barred from voting in that poll.

And anyway, “best blog” hardly applies to a prize voted for in a self-selecting poll. People will vote for the blog whose positions they best agree with; it’s got nothing to do with, for example, the presentational merits of the site; if it did, Oliver Kamm would not have got a look-in, because the text on his blog is barely visible, never mind legible, and its light-blue on white highlights are not exactly user-friendly either. (There is, however, a best design category, in which the winner is ljc fyi, a site which falls down at the first hurdle by not having a pronounceable name).

So, I’m really not too put out about never having heard about these awards, not (as far as I know) being nominated and certainly not winning (although I would appreciate the publicity of course). Quite a few of the winners were just those who got their followers organised and encouraged them to vote often; as demonstrated, this would have taken a couple of hundred individuals and not the thousands which appear on the graphs. How they could make the votes more reflective of the sites’ actual popularity is a matter of debate; requiring authentication by email would most likely be inadequate, as many people have more than one address. But these polls were a freeper’s delight; the results are so skewed as to make them entirely unrepresentative.

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