Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What awards are we talking about?

If you have read my blog for a while then you'll have seen some posts on the American Wine Blog Awards and know that for one reason or another I think that they could be improved (in particular that there are plenty of other blogs out there that are not American).

However, the reaction in the wine blogging fraternity to the list of finalists has been rather negative (except for those who qualified, of course!) and concentrating a little more on who DIDN'T qualify rather than who DID.

Here are some reactions:

Jill at Domaine547
Tim at Winecast
EnoBytes

I just wanted to put it on the record that despite my misgivings about the US centric nature of the awards, I think they are a good idea and will help to introduce quality new blogs to a wider audience. I've been doing this for some time now and I hadn't heard of a great percentage of these finalists before.

There is already talk of creating a new award, one that would be broader in scope (not just bloggers) and reach (not just Americans around the world). I applaud the idea, but let's not take away from the PR efforts Tom Wark at Fermentation is doing and maybe keep those discussions for later?

If you haven't voted, I do urge you to take a look at the site as there are some very interesting sites in the running and you too might discover a new gem.

All of which reminds me that I MUST update the blog roll with all sorts of new sites and blogs I read regularly. I am still thinking about how I might organise it so any suggestions of sites that should be included (yours?) are still welcome.

17 comments:

ryan said...

We're a nominee and we've been critical, on twitter, and in the OWC...I love what Tom has done, but more transparency is needed. Also a more standardized nomination process, and better voting would help a lot. Aside from that the new award appears to be exciting to and I look foward to where that heads down the road.

Estelle Platini said...

Hello Robert,
Thank you for your blog.
I hope you don't mind if I try articulate some arguments here.

The discussion for an award academy is interesting and cannot be concluded today, indeed.

What Tom is doing addresses a specific direction: it's a vote among Tom's acquaintances for US blogs. I don't think you should expect something utterly different: open and diverse.
A few US blogs that get very high readership are not nominated in any category. Here are some examples:
7200 people/month at Dr Vino’s
5400 people/month for Winecast
4000 people/month at Boxwines

I have started another type of competition. It is easier than the academy in that I am doing it alone, so the results are available today.
This ranking of wine websites attempts to be open, diverse and objective by using publig figures instead of votes.

Where are these numbers from? They are from public sources. I explain that here. Please comment there if a point is not clear.

How are these statistics collected? I consult the figures shown as metrics and copy them into my spreadsheet.

How do websites get added to this list? I need to know that they exist. Websites are eligible if they talk about wine except if they emanate from producing estates or wine sellers. You have to draw a line. (How to participate) I have about 160 sites to check for the next ranking in a month or so. 80 of them are new to this competition.
Robert — your site is on this addition list. Many of these 160 will not appear.

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks Estelle. I don't mind at all - quite the contrary. Blogs are supposed to be about interactive discussion, but the comments are often relegated to a secondary position. I am actively considering switching platforms to try and find a way to incorporate comments more in the main post.

I visited your site recently (maybe how you found me?) and did look into your system. I must say I was sceptical as this blog did not appear and have checked that my blog ought to appear above some of those on the list - but that is just ego talking ;-)

Metrics and popularity rankings are very valuable, but they also reflect the "effect" of popularity rather than the "cause". As you well know, popular sites get more links and comments, making them even more popular and established. But just like fame in any walk of life, there are probably 100 others of equal or greater skill/quality out there that did not chance upon that road to fame.

Objective-ish ratings by 'experts' also plays an important role.

Glad to know about your site and I think I'll maybe look to compare these different ratings in the future.

Are you on the OWC?

Anonymous said...

"What Tom is doing addresses a specific direction: it's a vote among Tom's acquaintances for US blogs. I don't think you should expect something utterly different: open and diverse."

WOW...I didn't know I had that many acquaintances. I guess what I'm wondering though is how the process could be more open and more diverse and still seek out quality among bloggers when the only criteria is a certain number of posts?

Tom Wark...

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks Tom

:)

I thought that was quite a statement too!

I understand the point though, which to some extent I share, that although these may not be your 'acquaintances' but they are YOUR 'readership'.

I don't have access to your logs, and I'm sure that the vast majority of those who read your site are from the US, or US readers abroad (hard to determine, I know).

Not only that, but the most 'mature' market for blogs is the US, and therefore those most likely to not just read, but comment, are also overwhelmingly US residents.

This is important because, of course, judges are only evaluating nominated sites, and nominations come from your active readership.

Therefore, even without any possible US bias in the judging, your apparently straightforward and open process is somewhat compromised from the beginning.

Estelle and I have issues with that as we have said and therefore we may need to look beyond this process for a properly inclusive way of finding the best wine blogs (from around the world).

I'm not saying that Estelle's solution is the right one (as per my previous comments) but hers is at least an attempt at a different methodology.

I look forward to working together with you, Tim at Winecast, Ryan at Catavino, Estelle and others to find a way to bring this to an even broader audience in future.

:)

Anonymous said...

Robert:

My logs show that 68% of Fermentation readers are in the U.S. The rest arrive from other countries.

One thing that should be pointed out is that any blogs that met the criteria (certain number of posts and written in English) could have been nominated. In addition, a press release was issued when the nomination process began. Every blog that was nominated that met the criteria was then passed on to the judges for evaluation. So, if some were not nominated in the first place, and therefore not later evaluated by the judging panel, I suppose it's probably because my readership is not large and broad enough. I have roughly 30,000 unique readers per month, and this does not count those who read via an RSS reader. One thing I might do next year is try to increase my readership to 100,000 unique readers per month to try to assure we are getting a broader number of blogs nominated.

Estelle's solution is interesting to say the least. It's not really a recognition of quality as much as it is a recognition of readership. If it were a recognition of quality I rather doubt Fermentation would be listed as high up as it is in the rankings.

What's interesting is whether people actually think that the finalists in the AWBA represent a high quality of blogging. Whether they represent the kind of blogs that if someone new to blogs looked at them would be impressed. Knowing all of them fairly well and having read them all regularly or at least on occasion I think the answer to that question is, yes. But I could be wrong about that since when it comes to blogging quality is subjective.

Tom...

Robert McIntosh said...

True Tom, but as you say, the nominations were open to those who actively participated.

As I said, if 68% are US based (smaller than I expected and great news for spreading quality content around the world) but an average US reader is, say, twice as likely to 'participate' (and I don;t think I exaggerate), the VAST majority of nominations would be influenced by this US bias.

I also agree, as I said to Estelle, that her methodology reflects 'fame' rather than quality. You need judges, as per the AWBA, to get an element of writing quality (however subjective).

As a constructive suggestion, maybe next year you could get a panel of (international) 'judges' to add to the nominations pool to ensure that non-US blogs are considered. If they then do not qualify, so be it, but at least they would be in with a chance at the start of the process.

ANyway, thanks for the efforts and good luck with the awards!

Fredric Koeppel said...

We have to be careful of Estelle's numbers and statistics. We all subscribe to counter programs that keep up with the traffic on our websites and blogs (i have one of each) on an hourly, daily, weekly and so on basis. Estelle's spreadsheet says that monthly traffic on www.BiggerThanYourHead.net is 239. My counter program tells me that it's between 20,000 and 21,000 every month. I can't believe that I'm getting more traffic that Dr. Vino. Estelle's scheme using "public figures" is totally inaccurate as far as I'm concerned.

Robert McIntosh said...

Yes, true, but I guess we work with what information we can get and she has tried to find a range of sources.

In fact, I have suggested elsewhere that one thing we could do, if we are serious about cooperation and building the confidence in blogging, is share information on actual traffic across our blogs (mine's the one near the bottom of the list). We'd have common data we could work from at least.

Is there a ranking you do trust? technorati maybe, or alawine? And more to the point, does anyone other than the bloggers themselve care?

ryan said...

Estelle's numbers are a joke. I've not seen to this point a third party solution that accurately reflects numbers. Take webalizer and I have almost 150,000 uniques, take much stricter tools and I go down to 10,000, Estelle has me at 3430!! Odd, since I combine many different stats, to come up with my base...and it's well above that.

As to her reason's for not having the three blogs she listed in the competition, just ask Tim. He didn't post for almost 2 months leading up to the awards. Glad to have him back on track now, but blogging is a very sensitive medium. Don't post and you'll lose readers fast.

Tom is doing something good for the industry, is it perfect no! Does he claim it is, no. Can it help raise the wine bloggers profile in the wine world yes!

We do need more blogs included. We do need to find a way to include blogs that might miss out on nominations. But these things are hard to do. With time maybe we can find a better way. But for now we have a start.

I would love to see a process of self submission. One nomination per blog, by the blogger, to a category they think works for them. Then a diverse and maybe even voted on panel of bloggers/wine writers could choose a group based on guidelines: Frequency of posts, quality of wriitng, appropriatenes for the category, metrics, etc

This way we know that we have many things that we are being judged on. Maybe too, we could offer this initial voting to the bloggers who choose to participate. Then they could see why they were not choosen, and thus could work to improve...wow, this got long...

ok, I'm stopping...Cheers,

Robert McIntosh said...

ryan, for you that's brief!

great thoughts though and I do basically agree with your point of view

self submission alone does not solve this (especially for 'outliers' in countries unfamiliar with the awards) but a proper nomination form with key criteria and specific questions to help assess suitability might help to increase quality

Robert McIntosh said...

More relevant thoughts on a related discussion here at the OWC

winecast said...

I guess I'm a bit confused here since I didn't stop posting on the run-up to the AWBA but did have a large gap last summer between podcasts...

At any rate, I think I didn't make it into the finals of AWBA because what I did produce was not good enough. I don't blame Tom, his judges, readers or anyone else but myself. It's that simple, really.

The reason I brought up the issues I had with the AWBA is because I believe there is room for another way to recognize great blogs and podcasts. Getting an award from peers is different than getting one from readers and/or listeners.

I'm hoping the ongoing discussion in the OWC forums leads to something more International and inclusive of different disciplines than just blogs and podcasts.

Thanks for the conversation here, Robert.

Estelle Platini said...

Robert,
Thank you for the kind welcome.

You said:
>there are probably 100 others of equal or greater skill/quality out there that did not chance upon that road to fame

I am trying to address this by processing a list of all the wine sites I know (160 as of today). My metrics are indeed skewed towards fame but less so that many blogrolls.

Fredric,
Traffic figures are indeed completely inaccurate. The idea I am checking is that their bias is evenly distributed across the board: every site has a traffic figure that would be too low in the same proportion. (I hope this "explanation" can be understood.) I wonder if I will scrap this metric at some point though. I further try to explain and ponder the 3 types of metrics here.

Tom,
You are having nominees this year that are different to those of last year. You show that you value diversity. Anyway I have zero authority to challenge your contest and it is not my point. My point is rather to stress that yours is an exercise very different to mine -- by construction.

In summary I understand that some of us are agreeing on the basics: American Wine Blog Awards has a focus on US blogs and uses some subjective judgment by peers. As a complement the Cellarer ranking automatically includes all sites and is limited by publically available data (which mostly is not directly influenced by peers).
We also agree that both contests can be improved :-)

Estelle Platini said...

I would to address two other questions by Robert.
I am not on OWC. It looks like a very good forum but time is extremely short. Sorry for not participating more.
Indeed the Cellarer ranks are influenced by popularity. This aspect is part of my aim to present the most useful sites to the user, any user. (This again is structurally different to authority as judged by insiders.)

ryan said...

sorry tim that's what I meant, you market your site as a Wine Podcast and like you said their was a large gap...you were on the list last year though!

winecast said...

@ryan: Perhaps I should market myself as a wine blog now but having "cast" in the name makes this difficult from a branding perspective...

One thing to do, I guess... make more podcasts!

Thanks