Nominees for this year's Bloggies, the blogosphere's version of the Pulitzers, were released to much linkage this week. But unless your blog was nominated, there's little reason to care.
Since the Bloggies are awarded according to a reader-polled voting system, the blog that sends the most traffic to cast ballots for that particular site wins the prize (2,009 pennies, or $20.09). In brute terms, it's a popularity contest. And of the worst kind.
Nominated sites tend to campaign incessantly, putting a link-back badge on their site or adding daily reminders to readers to vote. The five candidates for best Canadian blog this year - Everybody Likes Sandwiches, Torontoist, Cheaty Monkey, Attack of the Redneck Mommy, Whiskey in My Sippy Cup - have announced their Bloggie nods and in some cases begun the vote-for-me! onslaught.
A by-product of the system is crass electioneering. Bloggers emerge from the wilderness to get nominated only if they mobilize enough voters. I've never heard of the majority of blogs mentioned this year. A commenter on Torontoist echoed my cluelessness: "Does anybody else, while looking through the Bloggie nominees, feel really out of the loop? I mean, where do all these blogs come from?"
The fact that the nine-year-old Bloggies are awarded by the voting public is a source of pride for the organizer, Nikolai Nolan. Giving a voice to Internet users is, after all, consistent with the entire interactive, Web 2.0 phenomenon. The people always have the final say.
But since the whole Internet is already based on populism (the site with the most page views wins, regardless of content), are the Bloggies necessary?
My opinion: not unless the awards change.
The win-by-votes selection process was appropriate in 2001, when far fewer blogs were in contention. Now, the gap between "best blog" and "most popular blog" is too wide to ignore.
The Bloggies should move to a panel-based voting system, where a blogosphere round table can deliberate over which site is truly best.
If that sounds unfair, look no further than a recent example of reader voting gone bonkers. The similarly structured Weblog Awards, which came out earlier this month, named the ultraconservative ezralevant.com best Canadian blog. On top of being pictureless, humourless, text-heavy and barely readable, it's a mere vanity site run by the human pimple Ezra Levant.
But he who has the most devotees wins the game.
Of course, this is not to say Bloggies picks like Toronto's essential Photojunkie and the three-time nominated Torontoist don't deserve recognition. They do. But these sites are on the short list not because of their proven excellence but because they command enough loyal readers. And that is a Web travesty.
Bring on the judges!