Georganna Hancock, author of the blog A Writer's Edge, has an interesting post on blog awards.

Originally, blog awards were awards given by networks, organizations or institutions to recognize quality blogging in some area or other. Some of these are based on a kind of public vote - usually via email - while others employ fixed criteria and judges. More recently, blog awards have been handed out by groups or individuals as a sort of peer recognition tool. Most recently, however, as Georganna points out, the awards have become a kind of chain-mail process, "a silly, blatant form of viral marketing" with backward and forward linking meant to increase (real or apparent) website traffic.

Of the awarding process she writes: "I recall the moment I quit following those links and realized people were just passing on someone else's recommendations without personally evaluating the writers or the blogs."

"It was nice to be included at the beginning of the pyramid (it's always good to be near the top!)" Georganna writes. "But like any pyramid scheme, it turns into a valueless scam very quickly."

Awards are ...

One day, several years ago, a colleague and I were trying to think up new way to get some promotion. We were doing groundwork in preparation for developing a substantial family literacy program. We were building partnerships. We were reading and writing. We were organizing small scale workshops and festivals. We were fund-raising. And, we were trying to get ourselves and/or family literacy in the news at least once every month.

It was January, the month was moving on, and we needed a new way to get into the papers.

Well, we said. Why not give out an award? We decided to give out a Friend of Family Literacy award to an individual, business or organization from outside the literacy field who was helping us with our work. In fact, we gave out three awards that January - presented by our province's Lieutenant-Governor on National Family Literacy Day - and we scored a nice little write up.

Now, I want to stress that this wasn't a scam. Those folks who got the award really were very helpful and generous toward family literacy work. They expressed real pleasure at being recognized by Her Honour and the media. For her part, the Lt. Governor was pleased by our initiative, and we were pleased to have a nice way to say "thank you" to some long time supporters. The award itself was a framed 1996-issued commemorative stamp on the theme of family literacy (shown above).

We went on to give out Friend of Family Literacy awards for the next four or five years. I don't remember exactly when or why we stopped, but I do remember that we got much busier with program delivery (our ultimate goal) and so had less energy for promotion. I also remember conversations about who else could qualify - we didn't want to water down the award by giving it away just to give it away.

That would have been a lousy thing to do. It would have been akin to the sort of thing Georganna writes about.

Awards are tricky things... to give or receive.

Maybe the secret is to remember that awards need to point to the work we do, and never become the work itself.

1 comment:

Georganna Hancock said...

Good points, Wendell. This becomes ironic, however, because just notified me that I've won a creative writing award. It's one that I'm not embarrassed to display because it demonstrates the power and utility of a large working vocabulary. I've got a big one, and I'm not afraid to use it!