Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is It Negative To Want To Understand How Something Works?

To ask questions?

I guess it is. And if it is, I guess I'll be negative. But then, I never thought criticism = negative.

One part of the BBAW was the Best Awards. Only one part, but the part that got a lot of ink; both on the BBAW website itself, because of the length of time from nominations to the last award, but also on publishers tweets and newsletters and library tweets and newsletters, directing people to find out about the best blogs via BBAW.

Both Colleen at Chasing Ray and Jen at Jen Robinson's Book Page asked serious questions about blogging, popularity, and best following the Award portion of BBAW.

I had my own questions. From the start, I wanted to know how "best" was defined. The brief definitions at the BBAW website didn't show the criteria, which was published after the time nominated blogs had to respond. Now, we can see that for BBAW, a blog can have less than 30% of its posts be about one genre yet be the shortlist and winner for the Best Genre award. That's neither good nor bad; it just is, and its helpful to know when evaluating both your own blog for submissions as well as knowing to what degree to participate in and report on the BBAW's best blogs.

There was also the problem of multiple submissions; I, along with others, read it to mean that the better path was to self-select out and only submit for one. Later, I found out that others decided the smarter route was to submit for all and see where the panelists gave you the highest points. Very smart! But, not something everyone would have thought of doing. Those with more familiarity in the process had a better grasp at the way to best submit. And it means that those of us who self selected out never heard back our scores.

When the last award was announced, the judging panelists were shared. I'm not sure if the actual BBAW committee itself, outside of founder My Friend Amy, was ever shared. But of the blogs thanked for being panelists (or otherwise involved), over one half won awards. Including Amy, who won three awards. And of those connected to BBAW, they won about two thirds of the "bests" out there. This despite over 1000 blogs submitting.

Some comments said "that just shows that those involved are the best!" While others, like me, wondered if it more reflected a club. Not a club that deliberately gamed the system; rather, a club that has their own definitions and ideas of what is "best" that wasn't always clear to the others who were asked to participate and post and blog about "best." So we asked the questions, what does it mean when 2/3 of the awards are won by those involved in BBAW?

And were told it was negative to ask. That it was elitist to ask. That while panelists couldn't be shared before hand because of possible favoritism (were the panelists open to being swayed? Or bloggers not to be trusted?) we had to trust in BBAW, despite not knowing organizers, standards, who knew about standards, etc. And had to just go "yay" and be happy that places like the ALA said, this is a place to go to cheer the best. We had to be nice bloggers, be quiet, don't ask questions. Don't snipe. Don't complain. Don't be a hater.

I wasn't going to post about this, but then Babbling About Books raised the question of critiques of BBAW. Including whether there would have been critiques if a place like SLJ had run these awards. Are you kidding? Hell to the yes. Look at the responses to the Newbery, run by ALA! The critiques of that are legendary. Go, google Newbery and popularity and check out the articles and posts at SLJ and Horn Book.

And if its elitist to know standards? To understand the process to appreciate what is being done? To question? To ask? I'll gladly be elitist.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

43 comments:

Susan Thomsen said...

Thanks for this, Liz. I have not seen the piece at Babbling About Books, but will check it out. I, too, had some questions at first, and they were answered. But when I saw that 2/3 of the ultimate winners were involved as panelists, I was taken aback. I was also taken aback about the same names appearing repeatedly in the short lists.

I was also dismayed with the religious undercurrent from some defenders of the whole process. Why was religion brought into the discussion? That made me think that we weren't talking about the same things at all.

Wendy said...

...not to mention that SLJ did run Battle of the Books, and there was all KINDS of discussion about THAT.

But the idea of someone saying they don't know why people would be honored by an award from the New York Times and yet raise questions about a similar award from BBAW--well. You have to laugh.

Anna said...

I was nominated in the Graphic Novels category (didn't make the final list obviously), and since I hadn't heard of the BBAWs before, I wasn't sure if I should participate or not. I ended up sending in my 5 posts for judging, but after seeing the results and the way the awards were run I really wish I had followed my first instinct and ignored the e-mail I'd gotten from them.

david elzey said...

the word transparency comes to mind. and the lack thereof makes me suspicious.

i look at (and participate in) a blogging award like the Cybils where the panelists and judges are vetted and presented before nominations are taken in (and nominations are public), and while people may find differences in taste i don't recall anyone questioning either the award or the process.

but the bbaw seemed to come out of nowhere and i didn't really see anyone touting them before or after. it very much appeared to be award-for-award-sake in its presentation.

Liz B said...

Not to mention, that if the NYTimes or WSJ did a "best blogs" award and some of those bests went to their own blogs? There would be lots of talk about how it was run.

Colleen said...

For Chasing Ray I was asked to submit posts for four or five categories (not sure how many) and for Guys Lit Wire I think it was three (Sarah handled those). I am interested by what you said about people submitting for multiple categories and then going with their highest scores from panelists - who received their scores in this? I never heard anything about scores. I was never offered information on scores.

Did some people really get their panelist scores?

Thanks for laying the stats out there for people to see, and raising the transparency issue. Interesting stuff, Liz.

Liz B said...

Colleen, there was a lot of often conflicting information out there on blog posts, comments and tweets. I'll paraphrase one of those comments: the blogger said they were up for at least 2 niche categories; and playing the number game, the average score from the judges was higher for one than the other, so they were shortlisted in the one. While I interpreted that as meaning they actually knew those scores, perhaps they did not and just made assumptions. Either way, they knew to leave it up to the judges to determine rather than to self-select out.

Tina said...

As a new blogger,(I started in late April), I found the whole BBAW experience exhausting to contemplate far less participate in. The publicity was confusing (it seemed like you had to be following a blog that was 'into' it, and there seemed to be a lot of 'more of the same' as people posted.

I took part in some daily posts, but had trouble finding what was supposed to be posted. I had trouble finding the award pages, and like you, found the award process rather incestuous.

All that said, I discovered several new blogs that interested me and I got new ideas. But let's face it...if you are a book reviewer, you want to spend your time reading books, not blogs, and many of these so called book blogs seem to more about glitz, contests, "here's what's on my shelf, in my mailbox, on my TBR pile, etc." I want to see "what did you read and what did you think of it?"

Thanks for the opportunity to vent. It's supposed to be fun..let's keep it that way.

Tasha said...

Thanks for continuing this discussion Liz. I think it is really important. Transparency can be incredibly frightening because it draws criticism, but people need to get past it and just do it. Like ripping off a band-aid instead of picking it off slowly... This way the criticism lingers and the questions are not fully answered.

Nymeth said...

Nobody was told what their scores in different categories were, but I can see why some people knowing they could let the judges decide and others thinking they had to withdraw from all categories but one is a problem.

Someone said in a discussion somewhere that when it comes to something like this, the appearance of complete honesty and rigour is just as important as honesty and rigour themselves, and I think that's a very valid point. As someone who was involved, no, I don't think it's bad to ask questions or raise concerns.

I do know that the results of the final voting owe something to name recognition within a particular section of the book blogging world - and this is not a comment on the quality or lack thereof of the blogs who won. It's just an acknowledgement that yes, the method was imperfect.

Like I said above, I was a judge, but I wasn't part of the awards committee and can't speak for them. But I'm willing to bet that these concerns WILL be given some serious thought, and that they'll try to come up with a method that avoids these problems.

Colleen said...

Thanks for the explanation Nymeth - I appreciate it. From reading a few comments from judges I really was out from the beginning due to design - dark backgrounds lost points and both Chasing Ray and Guys Lit Wire are dark.

Honestly I wish I had known that from the beginning and thus not spent the time figuring out posts to submit.

Best of luck on the event next year - I will be sitting it out from now on.

Color Online said...

Liz and all,

Color Online was nominated for 8 categories. I asked about self-selecting. My understanding was that you could not run for more than one more niche, which meant you couldn't be Best Literary and Best History. That's an instance where you had to choose. I thought I understood. In the end, it didn’t matter. While we were nominated for 8, we were short-listed for none. I don't know how we were nominated for Most Altruistic. I don't believe I was asked to submit links for that category. Like Colleen, I felt uncomfortable most about that nomination. Popular vote isn’t the way to recognize efforts in this area. I didn't expect the nominations and I only thought we might have a shot in two. Believe me, not winning is not what disturbed me. Popularity outstripping merit is what bothers me.

I served on a panel. I only had contact with the committee chair. My experience was that there was no contact with other panelists. But that's not where the problems lay. I found the criteria confusing and I felt some of the criteria was given more weight than necessary for ancillary qualities such as evaluating if a blogger belonged to Twitter or Facebook or used vlogs.

I was never told I was restricted to judging based on the 5 required links. The 5 links wouldn't tell me anything about layout, contact information or navigation, which we also judged. Moreover, each link was supposed to focus on a different aspect so how could I judge a blog on 5 links that represent 5 different elements? I used the links only as the blogger’s opinion of what they felt was the best of for each request. I *did* take the time to visit each blog and search archives and I spent time reading each blog to get an overall view. And if a blog had a clear focus, then I eliminated it from consideration because I was judging for a particular category. I was told not to evaluate blogs in my category that clearly were not a match with the genre. I wouldn't have judged a blog for Best Kidlet if clearly it had been a general blog.

It is condescending and disrespectful to argue that non-winners are simply whiners. Many of us didn't think we would place and didn't care if we did. But I feel very strongly about integrity and transparency.

I regret that I didn't go with my gut. From the onset, I had concerns about the credibility of an event where a founder and the majority of her friends placed last year. I had told myself last year’s results happened only because it was new and of course club members (and that is exactly how I see it, a club) would vote in large numbers. I told myself with 1000 blogs and subsequently so many more voting, there would be greater diversity in the showings. When the short-listed were heavily comprised of club members, I became disillusioned. Recognizing the breadth of the book blogging community was shortchanged before the popular vote.

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks for posting about this, Liz. I have to admit that, yes, I might feel differently about a "best of" award it if came from the NYT or the WSJ. But that's because I would expect the NYT to have people evaluate the blogs in question, rather than using a popular vote, and that they would eliminate their own blogs (and those of the evaluators) from the process. So then, as David pointed out, it would be more like the way the Cybils work, and less like a popularity contest. Anyway, I'm enjoying reading everyone's feedback here.

Colleen said...

Susan - I had no idea why that question was in the nomination emails asking about use of social media. Thanks for clearing that up. Very odd that it was part of the judging process though. (Twitter makes someone a better writer/reviewer how exactly???)

Liz B said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Nymeth, thank you for your words. It means a lot. I especially respect that what is being said is being listened to and heard, without being dismissed as "sore losers". I'm not saying that snything here is 'right' and anything is 'wrong', but just that its nice to be heard. Thank you very much for that.

Color Online, thank you for the insights into the process. There is no doubt that the judges had a lot of work to do for this, with all the blogs nominated and trying to figure out criteria, etc. Part of my confusion for all of this is that I've read various posts and comments and I've seen such different statements from judges that its made it all that much more confusing. So thank you.

ReadingTub said...

Liz, when I read your post this morning, I kept thinking about the person/people who cry "fire" in a crowded theater. Not because there is a fire, not because they want to see the chaos, but because they want to draw attention to themselves.

I was surprised at some of the commentary (not criticism - that has value)leveled at folks I consider the most honest brokers I know. Heck, I'm so naive/foolish I didn't even connect your blog writing with your day job. I read you - as others - as women with something for me to think about. Do I agree all the time? No. But you don't yell, rant, or belittle anyone or THEIR opinion.

As to the event itself, there were plenty of inconsistencies ... even in the notifications from the panel chairs. We were nominated for [I don't remember what] where we needed to submit 5 posts and also for philanthropic blog. I couldn't get answers from one chair, and the other said she would send my concerns "up the chain." I specifically asked about how we could "move forward" in two categories, because it was clear to me that I was responsible for self-selecting. I was told that we didn't need to submit anything for philanthropic blog ... we didn't make it to the short list phase.

Frankly, I didn't really pay much attention to the event. Other than Lee - who I am THRILLED for - I have no idea who won what. Posts that crossed my radar from my reader I read, but I didn't seek out or head over to lots of new spots. I have, however, paid close attention to the after-party, as I think these are the more valuable discussions.

Interestingly enough, the person who created this event is also the creator of Blog With Integrity. BWI is VERY important ... but it is absolutely imperative that you walk the talk. Otherwise, you've got nothing. Nymeth's insight is valuable to have ... and I hope that the discussions move away from the zealot positions (religious or otherwise) to more colloquial discussions. As MotherReader said, when you do something like this, you take a risk. The point is that you learn and grow and BUILD community, not scatter everyone in every direction when you yell "fire"!

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Terry - Just to clarify that Amy did not create Blog with Integrity. That's a whole different thing which she just partook of.

As far as the scores, nobody was told their scores and "allowed" to choose after scores were submitted. I know because I asked before judging even took place, if a blogger happened to shortlist in more than one category would they be able to choose afterwards. The answer was no, they'd need to withdraw from that category before. It truly was a number game. And I personally chose to let the numbers decide. And while I consider myself a kidlit blogger (more than half of my posts are kidlit) I do blog more generally as well.

And to Colleen - nothing about scoring said anything specifically about dark backgrounds, but rather is blog easy on the eyes. Lots of blogs w/ dark backgrounds are easy on the eyes.

No, I don't think questioning things is a negative. But I think it's how those discussions take place that could be conceived as negative. Feedback is vital. But when people just throw up their hands in the air and say "never again!" then what good will come of that? Growing pains are expected. I think the premise of BBAW is a good idea and the feedback received will make it stronger. I do think it's natural to be a bit sensitive when you put your project out there for the world. But if we couldn't handle it, then why are we blogging in the first place?

Oh shoot . . . and I wasn't going to be drawn into any more of these conversations. :)

Colleen said...

Hey Natasha:

Just so you know, my comment about dark backgrounds came from reading a couple of posts from judges (I really wish I could link to them but...man it was days ago and I just don't remember who said it). Yes, it was the "easy on the eyes" bit mentioned but these judges both said that they preferred light background to dark - so all dark backgrounds automatically received fewer points from them.

This is, of course, a totally personal preference and I understand that. But maybe it's an example of something to be clarified for the future. (In other words - what does "easy on the eyes" mean from one person to the next?)

Anonymous said...

Not negative, of course, those who speak out serve a valuable function. Important to note that transparency must/should exist prior to such a process as well as after it; otherwise, even the most unbiased judges and participants can easily forget or be swayed away from previously set goals. Worse, the participants aren't operating with the same understanding.

What seems a shame to me is that most bloggers are busy with their jobs/other responsibilities and took valuable time to participate in this process, and are now left with a bitter taste in their mouths. It is a pity.

Susan

Color Online said...

Colleen,

Specifically to easy on the eyes which is OT, web design experts do frown on dark backgrounds/light font combination. Easy on eyes by industry standards refers to elements that increase eye-fatigue: black background/white text combo, neon colors, abundance of images, large text blocks, scrolling or flashing images, too small or overly large font size and patterned backgrounds.

Many people ignore the dark background/light font. The only time this combination works is for entries that have small blocks of text, like a poetry or photography blog. If however, you're posting essays, reviews, fiction, any large blocks of text, the color combination does cause fatigue. The glaring contrast of neon colors has the same negative effect.

Blogs with the black background look good. And visitors will frequent them, but the amount of time per visit on these sites is lower when compared to other color combo.

While the combo will not stop visitors from reading blogs,I personally am among the readers who has trouble reading these blogs. For me, I visit a select few and I read them in shorter intervals. I visit Guy Lit Wire because the content and writing is exception so I tolerate the strain, but I can't read there as long as elsewhere. There are plenty of other black backgrounds blogs I skip over. Without knowing know the blogger or content, I don't have the same motivation to deal with the combo.

Liz B said...

RE "easy on eyes," it does also come down to how is BBAW defining it, so that bloggers know ahead of time and can take that knowledge and use it.

Susan has interesting things to add to the conversation about this. Personally, I don't like the white text/dark background, but often its because of the exact contrast or font being used. I also know that I find it easier to read shorter paragraphs on line, so break up blog writing in paragraphs that I wouldn't elsewhere. (Which may have backfired on me for BBAW; one of the comments out there was that summaries, or what I call "the plot", that was more than one paragraph counted against a blogger because it was too long.)

Another consideration in web design is low vision users; then, contrast is what is important; and so some may change what they are viewing to a dark background/light font. It's also about glare, and more glare coming off a white background. One of the complaints about the Kindle I've heard from those with low vision is that Kindle does not allow the user to reverse contrast (ie change to white on black) (or to change the font itself).

See: http://www.webaim.org/articles/visual/lowvision.php

http://webstandards.psu.edu/accessibility/tutorial/audience/lowvision

My personal preference (as you can see from this blog!) is dark text on white background; part of the reason I like my blog reader (bloglines) is I can read all blogs that way. And, of course, those who do have eye strain/ low vision can adjust the font size/ background/ color/ etc to suit their own vision needs.

Colleen said...

You know this is funny. Sarah designed GLW as she liked it, my designer selected the colors for Chasing Ray - I just wanted something different (no idea what that was). Background color has never ever bothered me so I'm kind of bemused by this (and my comments here have nothing to do with BBAW). What puts me off on a blog is too much - too many columns, too many bars, too many lists of links, etc. Color is literally a nonissue. None of the posters at GLW have ever said a word either. I guess I should ask them what they think. It's probably easy enough to change to white as it's at blogger.

I would have to pay to change Chasing Ray though - I'm afraid we are stuck with that color for awhile still! ha!

Color Online said...

Liz,

You're right, it does matter how BBAW define 'easy on the eyes.' I was thinking outside of BBAW.

Colleen, colors may be a nonissue for you but it is a concern for many online readers and in the corporate environment it was a big enough issue that many companies switched from business systems that used black backgrounds with neon green letters to light backgrounds with black letters or other light background pages. The change was not a cosmetic one.

Like Liz points out about glare and low vision, color combinations are not simply a matter of preference but user-friendliness. For companies, it's a matter of productivity. Our blogs are public so to some extent we do need to consider who our audience is and how our content is presented. Great content means less if you can't access it, read it or find it.

You might want to ask your readers. The color issue has been discussed often and recently. And your readers might not have said anything in part because you never asked. Maybe your audience doesn't care about the black background. Low vision may be less an issue with your core audience.

Years ago, when I published an e-zine we did survey our core audience about resolution sizes, colors, fonts and color combinations. Our core audience was adults over 35 and font sizes, background colors and resolution size did matter.

At A Year of Reading, Mary Lee and Franki regularly write about 'thinking about 21st century literacies.'Their posts about about the how our children are learning via technology, how children process information and how information is delivered online mirrors a great deal about all online users. Our blogs do not exist in a vacuum.

Back to BBAW, 'easy on the eyes' is a relevant concern that needs to be clearly defined and weighted reasonably against all other concerns. It was 2-3 points, versus content and writing qualities that were up to 10 points.

Liz B said...

Colleen just posted about the background color issue on her blog. Which, Colleen, is why I respect you -- you listened. Are considering it. Now, you may not change it; and you will be listening to a variety of voices, and you can never make everyone happy. But you're open to the criticism/ critique.

Susan, part of my problem now -- and I'm the "read the back of the box rules" girl -- is it has been frustrating to figure out the various things for BBAW. For example, one category (not kidlit) had a shortliser and then a winner who commented herself that her blog was less than 25% of the genre. That's not what I would think of for "best" and its not how I originally read "best." Now I know, in terms of how/if I participate next year and how/if I point others to the BBAW best.

Natasha said "I know because I asked before judging even took place, if a blogger happened to shortlist in more than one category would they be able to choose afterwards. The answer was no, they'd need to withdraw from that category before." And now I'm curious; was there a general q&a that I missed? I was on vacation for part of this, so did miss stuff. Was there an open place for people to be able to ask for that type of clarification? The link to that would be helpful, as right now, as I'm trying to decipher the rules, I'm relying more on blog posts by judges and comments at blogs, which frankly often appear to be contradictory in how things were evaluated. For example, comments -- either counted or only did so for a tie.

david elzey said...

a dark, and especially black, background color in graphic design has a negative history (so to speak) because of "eye fatigue" but some of that may be cultural experience. if you were raised with with text on dark backgrounds, the first time you started reading against white it would hurt your eyes as well. and as designers have long favored light or white backgrounds, our expectation is that "dark" is easy to read.

large areas of darkness also scares people emotionally, and they'll project these emotions (and sometimes prejudices) into design as well.

i am, sadly, not surprised by those who judge a blog's content by the color of its skin.

david elzey said...

(oops, end of that first pp should be "dark" is NOT easy to read...

susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
susan said...

Liz,

Yes, I saw Colleen's question. She rocks like that. :-)

David,

Lighten up. lol I'll speak for me and my experience with other online readers. I'm not judging the blog's content.I am saying a black background with a large amount of text is hard to read.

Yes, I did admit I will pass by a blog I don't know if it has a black background. I also skip dizzying patterned backgrounds, scrolling, blinking, flashing crap. I visit blogs to read. If I can't read it, I skip it.

Prejudice? Ok. And you might be right, if I were accustomed to always reading white on black, it might be a nonissue. But I read a lot of books. They all are printed on some shade of white and I find this easy on my old eyes. By the way white, stark white can

Liz, you make a good point. I asked a lot of questions via email. At the time, I was caught up in getting answers. I didn't think why wasn't this information posted in one place beforehand. I think we'll likely see changes that address these issues next year.

While I read a lot about standards that doesn't mean I follow them all, but I do make an effort to be aware and to make an informed decision about what I do on my blog. I'm not writing to hear myself talk. I blog to interact so for me, blogging and not hearing from readers, not having exchanges on my blog, defeats a primary purpose. I blog in part because I want to know what readers think. Well, if they aren't visiting, reading or hanging out, so much for engagement.

I like coming here in part because of Liz's response time. I like that I can read here, learn something, comment and Liz responds. Yes ,another one of my expectations: engagement. You won't find me at blogs where bloggers routinely fail to respond to their readers. I'm needy like that. lol

Liz B said...

to bring it back to BBAW, the question becomes not what individuals like (or how they read, ie, I'm via bloglines) but what is the criteria for a BBAW best blog? If you have two blogs that scored "the same" (I now, impossible!) and were tied for the no. 5 shortlist slot, per BBAW the design pushes one blog onto that list instead of the other. Is that the best? Or is best to consider other factors that have to do with content, not appearance?

There are no easy answers; but like others have said, known, publicized answers helps. Especially when this part of BBAW - the best - has been publicized & promoted amongst those outside of one corner of the blogosphere. If you're saying "best" and american libraries jumps on that, yes, we need to know whether and how much "best" includes design.

Susan, my response time varies, lol! I don't do blog stuff at work and so it depends on how much time I have at the end of the day whether/ how much I can respond. Today is a rainy sunday where I can jump between bloggish things and presentations I'm finalizing.

susan said...

Liz,

Yes, I know you can't comment instantly but you are consistent. :-) I'm enjoying the quiet of an early Sunday morning, too.

I love how you bring the conversation back to key points. One of my chief concerns with "best" is exactly your point about others like libraries seeing these designations and endorsing them.

Where I used to work, web design was a big deal. While I'm not techie, my exposure to those who were concerned with it has influenced how I look at design. I likely was one of the most critical panelist in this area. And I did wonder if scores were close, would something like design/navigation points make a difference.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Well, I'll be completely honest here and say that yes, I'm completely biased by design. If two blogs are equal in content, the blog that is better designed and set up in such a way that makes reading it enjoyable then yes, I'll prefer that one. If a blog is a mess of a design, then I'm less likely to return. There are some blogs that are so hard to read with such annoying sidebars that I prefer to read them in GR.

Liz B said...

Natasha, I read all my stuff in bloglines. It's easier, it's quicker, and I avoid the non-content that overall I find distracting and immaterial. Often when I do click thru to the blog there is a minishock to the system as I see all this other stuff. Which is reflected, I think, on the rather minimalist appearance of my blog.

The bigger question is the difference between one person's preference versus a blog award standard; and how well known & constantly applied that standard is.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Liz, I do understand what you mean about personal preference and blog award standard. It's a very valid question. Although each panelist judged scored and judged differently it's my hope that having a panel rather than a single individual, it at least averaged those scores together thus minimizing one judges scores as being more influential than anothers across the board.

I read everything in GR as well but I do like to leave comments and that does involve clicking over. I'm also surprised by what I see. But I must admit that design does play a role of whether or note a blog will make it into my reader in the first place. If a blog has a black background with four to five different neon glowing colored fonts in a single post (because believe me a lot of people can't even stick with ONE annoying color) with blinking stuff in the sidebar then I don't care how good their content is. I won't stick around long enough to even find out.

Colleen said...

From comments over at my latest post, clearly one person's "too dark" is anothers "just right", which just proves the difficulty with subjective judging standards. That's why I think there has to be discussion among judges to come to a group decision.

But whatever. When it's your event you can do whatever the heck you want and if someone does not like it then really, their only recourse is not to participate.

I'm more bothered by being lumped into a group called "haters" over all this just because I have a problem with the event. It's like there's only one accepted opinion and if you don't share it then there's something wrong with you.

Sigh. Any day now I expect support of BBAW to be proof of patriotism or something.

ReadingTub said...

Natasha - Thanks for the clafification. As I said in my email to you, I heard about Blog with Integrity via Amy ... she is an inclusive thinker, not to mention quick with websites, so I concluded (though assumed seems to fit) that she was part of the powerhouse that created it.

BBAW is a neat idea and it has the potential to be a very worthwhile event. Because it is SO inclusive, it would be nice to get away from A for award and focus more on A for appreciation - the passion, the dedication, the opinions of one and all.

My whole angst about this thing is watching those who have asked hard questions or expressed discomfort (which now includes me) be labeled as "haters." Isn't the whole point of the week we're now celebrating that people are entitled to freely express their opinions?

Amy said...

Hey Liz,

I just happened to see your post in Natasha's shared items. I don't think questioning things is negative or wrong. I'm sorry so many of you had a negative gut reaction to BBAW before it even began, though!! :)

I had never done anything like BBAW before when I did it and so I recognize it's far from perfect. I did take a few things that happened to heart because of the way things were expressed and also because I think I'm a fairly approachable person and would welcome private discourse. Not because I want to hide anything, but it does feel like a bit less of an attack or desire to stir up trouble or shoot something down.

We have already discussed in great detail ways to make it more representative of the smaller communities...doing it the way we did I had hoped to avoid the popularity issue in shortlisting but I guess it will be better to err on that side than the other.

As far as the A moving from awards to appreciation...so MUCH of BBAW has nothing to do with awards but I explained why I'm willing to keep working to get the awards right in Katie's post. I think it's up to each individual blogger how much stock they put in the awards....if it's not for you...GREAT, but that doesn't mean it's not for everyone.

I've said on my blog and also the post I wrote for katie that I welcome the feedback particularly from people that feel BBAW has potential or who care about its future. I feel like from many commenters here I am learning your true feelings for the first time...on someone else's blog post as opposed to me directly through email.

If we are to make BBAW better and if you care to help us make it better it would be fantastic for you to email your comments, offer your help, etc. instead of hope that the people organizing randomly stumble across your blog posts.

I do not think I have said questioning BBAW or asking me questions is wrong, and I've openly admitted we had many mis-steps. What about this makes me unapproachable? Because I've also admitted to being sensitive? Because in a personal post I talked about how my faith ties into my life?

I am just really really trying to understand here.

Liz B said...

Amy,

I think we'll have to disagree whether its best to have public or private conversations. Had questions not been raised publicly, some of us would have been sitting back thinking "its only me".

It's not a question of negativity. It's a question of wanting to know how something that is public is run.

Yet for asking these public questions, here are just some of the comments I've read (and this is just one blog post, not counting tweets and other comments): "nay-sayers", "egos and narcissism", "negative nellies" and, of course, my favorites -- "haters" and charges of elitism. I am trying to understand why asking questions generates such a dismissive response in various commentators.

Until the most recent charges, publicly, of elitsm, I was drafting my private email. I felt that these public charges had to be answered publicly. On your blog, you also said that you were most interested in hearing feedback from those who want to volunteer. I'm overcommitted to things as it is; so since my feedback isn't part of that, I didn't go that route.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

The reason for my post is not about those questioning BBAW. I totally understand why people would have questions. I am all for asking these questions in public.

My problem was that I noticed some would go on these blogs that applauded the BBAWs and enjoyed being a part and these commenters would go on and on how stupid they thought the BBAW's were and couldn't believe that other blogs would take part in such a "meme" event. I found that to be a bit rude and condescending to those who really were honored to be a part of the BBAW awards.

One such blog I visit did a post on why they weren't taking part in BBAW and the tone of their post gave off this sense of being superior than everyone else of, "I am too good to take part of the BBAW awards". They talked around the issue in such a way that I still don't understand why they backed out.

I never meant my post to insult those who wanted to know how the blogs were chosen and the rules. I even has some questions myself.

I just felt a bit annoyed by some of these opinions, they they were putting their noses up in the air about the event and made those who were involved, such as I was, as if we being ridiculous to be so excited about being a part of a great blog community event.

Liz B said...

Katie, thank you very much for your comment. It helps to know the context of your post and that it wasn't about the questions being asked but other issues.

I know a lot of work goes into these types of things; it's neither easy nor simple. I've bowed out of doing anything with the Cybils for two years now, despite enjoying them very much, because I have to say "no" even when I want to say "yes" because I have yet to learn to either clone myself or get by on less than seven hours sleep.

There are many areas and corners and niches in the book blogosphere; and I think celebrating what we have in common (a love of stories and books) is great, as well as learning about things outside of our own usual crowd of bloggers. And that the week of various things connected with BBAW allows people to elect to do what they want to do -- whether its one thing or the whole week of events.

Lori L said...

I know I'm late commenting on this but I just wanted to say that reading about some of the criteria for judging who would be a finalist in BBAW made me feel a bit sick. Not that I expected to be a finalist, but the criteria needs to be clear BEFORE the process begins. The fact that I probably lost points during judging because I don't want to share any twitter or facebook information with everyone, or post a vlog is silly, but then I'm sure I also lost points because I don't opening participate in any of the weekly events.
The whole "easy on the eyes" question surprised me because I've never had a problem with dark backgrounds with a light text. (And I recently changed my blog after learning about this.) I also feel very strongly that integrity and transparency needs to become a part of BBAW. If there are specific criteria used for judging a blog, they need to let us know what the criteria is ahead of time. Then those of us who know we won't meet the criteria will also know we needn't bother sending on links to posts. It might also behoove BBAW to consider what makes blogs attractive to a wide variety of people, for example I tend to like blogs that keep it simple so the page loads quickly.

Amy said...

Hi Lori,

I do apologize you were made to feel sick over the criteria...it really did incorporate what is considered to be blogging best practices (being able to easily subscribe, etc.) and we tried to take a holistic approach.

So yes these are the ideas we had as to what makes a good blog (any awards program has their own ideas for these things-- you might note that we did announce the broad categories that would be considered in advance)...and I do apologize that everything was on such a tight timeframe. I simply can't seem to say sorry to enough people for that! Even with specific criteria, each panelist was left with a lot of personal interpretation to do which is unavoidable, even with something like the Cybils.

And yes, I totally agree on the page loading thing!

Liz B said...

Lori & Amy,

I think, actually, it can be a bit hard to come up with objective criteria to judge a blog. Oh, some things we can agree on such as grammar, spelling, original content, properly citation of source materials. But beyond that, I don't think there is commonly understood standards across the board.

For example; I don't like when a blogger includes the publisher copy. It's boring to read on blog after blog. I think if you're going to review a book, it should contain your own synopsis; and a blog shouldn't rely on copy that was designed to sell the book, not designed as a review. And, if you're going to do it, I think it should be properly credited. Just because Amazon uses the publisher copy doesn't mean Amazon wrote it, for example. But, some blogs do this.

For BBAW, I read somewhere that one "lost points" for using pub copy. But then I saw finalists who used this copy, so I was confused.

I write up my own plot descriptions; I read somewhere (people commenting on bbaw posts, etc) that having a plot description more than a paragraph counted against you because it wasn't succint enough. While often my plot descriptions are a short paragraph, it can depend on the book.

What does this mean? That it is darn hard to put together criteria. That different people interpret criteria differently. That there isn't some "objective standards" that we can all agree on. What is true for one group of bloggers may not be so true for another -- for example, how important the use of twitter or vlogs is. How many paragraphs for something. How much of a blog has to be about a niche to determine if its a niche blog.

Next time around, the earlier that criteria is shared, the better. People may or may not agree; there will be posts asking questions or disagreeing (or cheering and agreeing). But then its up to the blogger whether a, they want to adjust their blog to fit this criteria or b, its not and they don't so its not for them or c, I'm sure there are other options I'm just not thinking of because its Friday night and I have work tomorrow. In all honesty, if BBAW wanted to say criteria is a picture of a pony has to be in every blog post? That is there right. And some of us can then say, "pony? everyone knows each post needs a photo of a cat." And some of us can decide we're not into blogs with ponys or cats.

OK, I think that shows my brain is fried so that is it for tonight.

Paula said...

Color Online wrote: From the onset, I had concerns about the credibility of an event where a founder and the majority of her friends placed last year.

I'd never heard of the awards before. However, after reading the early info on it, I gladly spread the word via The Brown Bookshelf's Twitter account. But I soon lost track and never got to voting.

Now, reading this post and comments, I have to wonder are the BBAW meant to be a marketing vehicle for the founder and "members?"

As we know, marketing in the lit community is competitive and many people group together to promote themselves. Authors are doing it more and more. ReaderGirlz as one example and The Brown Bookshelf's indirect goal is to promote the books of its founders -albeit very indirectly.

However we have discussed launching future projects that would include promoting our own books. But we're mindful of the image of something being rigged, so even those sort of initiatives we'd have others judging. We'd never judge our own work, even if our work were included in the running. BTW, we never include ourselves in the 28 Days Later spotlights even though we've all been nominated before.

My long-winded point is - if the BBAW's are truly meant as a vehicle to market those who started it, that isn't an issue for me. What is, as Liz pointed out, is the lack of transparency and not being clear about their eligibility. Also, I find it a bit suspect that 2/3 ended up winning.

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