The Avant Garde Bloggies Awards have concluded finally. I am aware I tried your patience a lot. (I have a self-deprecating, wry smile on my face now.) I apologize only for that: delay and inability to update as much as possible.
The results will be published on Monday. You will also be able to see the percentages of votes case in favour of each candidate on the Avant Garde Bloggies Blog when the blog will be made public again on Monday.
There, the main objective of this post is done. Now is the time to express more about on motivations that led to Avant Garde and the thoughts behind it.
I started Avant Garde only because there was no measurable, prestigious, fair way of awarding blog posts. Every award seemed to be out of appreciation by a friend, rather than excellence. Awards are big motivation, as I know firsthand. And I decided if I am to reciprocate or hand out awards, I have to do it fairly, ingeniously, in a way every one gets to have their say. Readers of blog have their say. And yet, only excellence is awarded.
Avant Garde Bloggies Awards had three stages and each one had a thought behind them. It is a pity that I never took out time to explain these to my readers, or if I did, it didn’t really reach all my readers. Maybe I should blame my publicist, Nikhil, for it. (I know you refuse to believe, but Avant Garde had a professional-blogger publicist.) But better late than never. Plagued by few unseen challenges, I think it’s time I explain my thoughts. I owe the readers and participants an explanation.
Stage 1: Nominations were made by readers who liked a particular post and also author could nominate themselves. I realised most people (Ok, I amend that to ‘several’) were hesitant to nominate themselves. But reasoning behind the ‘self-nomination’ was that this award was for a post and not a blog. Who better than the author of the blog knows about his/her best work? Who else, indeed?
Plus, in case of a popular blog, which was nominated by more than 2 readers, it was the nomination by the author of the blog that was considered as final.
Also, this time around, there were restrictions that same blog cannot be nominated in more than three categories. Multiple nominations by same author in a category were not allowed. Yet most people did not pay heed to rules (but there were some who did, thank you to them), as a result the nomination list could not be compiled simultaneously. Most volunteers on the Scrutinizing Committee later had tough time finishing the task due to this reason. Unlike the last time where a list was ready to be scrutinized by them, now they had to first compile the list, and then sort by title, category and author.
[This is why it took about a month to put up a list of final nominations after pruning the 700+ entries we received. I shudder to think what would have had these folks not divided task amongst themselves: Dhiren, Vee, Vimal, Smita, Gaurav and Jaslene. Like me, Avant Garde was not their primary or even secondary vocation in life after our gruelling full-time jobs. I remember one night I sat in dismay and defeat about how to go ahead with final sorting and formatting. Indyeah offered to help. Though she fell sick around the same time, she managed to show me light. Once I dug in work, I finished it in two nights straight. Wish she had intervened sooner, I could have had done with some light and vigor she infused. Avant Garde weighed heavily on my shoulders those days, resulting in more of Freudian inefficiency. ]
Stage 2: Judgment. Choice of judges was made on just two things; that the judges were bloggers and experts in the categories they were judging. Expert in the sense they knew the art of the categories they were judging and they had practiced it themselves. For example, Meetu is professional movie reviewer at her blog WOGMA. Anshul is cartoonist and photographer, his work for both can be seen here and here. Nikhil himself had a funny blog to credit and has also published a book. Nita, whose blog, I consider to be an authority on anything related to India and public service-related posts.
In some cases, I had my personal friends, like Rashmi whose tastes in literature I have come to trust over the years. She is also qualified to do that with her degree in literature and the fact that she writes to earn her own living. Withering Willow is another friend who makes her living writing ‘how-to’s and has a great eye for design. She is also a trained graphic designer and I have had pleasure to appreciate her design skills and creativity while working with her.
So, back to Avant Garde process, there are two judges in each category. Judges have a free hand to decide the criteria they use to score a category. For example, one of the judges’ criteria to rate posts in movie review category was:
Story-Screenplay-Characters/Acting/Direction/Other Technicalities/Language used/Contextual Reference/Insight/Humor/Style/Spoilers
Other judge’s criteria for scoring public interest category was: Importance of Issue raised/Aspects Covered/Extra insights/Originality/Clarity and writing style/Impact
Judges were requested to rate all posts on a scale of 10. Also, they had a right not to rate or reject a post if it is too shoddy or was plagiarised, but the reasons needed to be recorded.
Now scores from two judges were added to decide the 6 best posts. If you look at it carefully, there are two outcomes of such a system:
- It ensures only best, 6 best in this case, posts go to next stage of the award. This was important since by experience I know how sometimes polls are NOT actual reflection of excellence; they only reflect popularity of the blog/blogger.
- No one person has control over who wins or loses. Let me explain this one. We have judges of two different sensibilities on a category. For example, my sense of humour will be different than Nikhil’s whacky style. So, when we both judge same category, our criteria for judgement are different. So, the posts that emerge as winners are ones that have been scored reasonably well by BOTH of us. The 6 best posts are that were highly rated individually by Nikhil or me will not make the final cut if the other judge did not like it.
Stage 3: Polls. This is where you came in, readers. After having rated posts for their excellence, this stage does leave room to gauze popularity of a blog/blogger/post. There arises another challenge. I realised, several folks were shy to ask for vote for themselves. If you scrutinise the percentages carefully when I publish them on Monday, you will realise there are bloggers who have received no votes at all. Why? Either they never realised that they made it there (maybe they didn’t care at all) and they never informed their readers that they were nominated.
On the other hand, there were participants who ‘canvassed’ a lot. A friend also revealed how she stumbled upon a mail that was sent to her colleagues by an Avant Garde participant asking all of them to vote on the given link. The person had sent a mass mailer to all colleagues, family and friends coaxing them to vote! Now in this case, if the person wins, it is not excellence but the networking that won. Not that I have anything against it or I can stop it.
But my awards become a fail, if all participants do not inform their readers of their nominations. Because then all nominees are not getting a fair chance at polls. Some absolutely brilliant bloggers were also shy about letting their readers about it. I understand their inhibitions, but though I too may not be canvass for myself, I will at the least inform my readers.
Some categories had bare minimum voting initially, and it hurt. Unless good number of votes came in, there would be no weight in the verdict. That would have amounted to the failure of the mammoth effort undertaken. I pushed bloggers I knew to inform their reader about their nominations. In most cases, a single tweet or a Facebook update or a blogpost worked wonders.
Overall I received about 250 responses in a week. Except five categories (Best Music review, Best Sidebar, Best Header, Best Personal, Best Off-beat) all categories had 100 plus votes. Not bad, considering I am not big one on publicity, except one almost daily tweet by me. I am rather happy about the participation.
My last word before I sign off: All the posts that made it to polls were excellent as per se judges, irrespective of they win or not in polls. Polls , though are measure of popularity or networking, they are not ultimate devices to gauze excellence. Another thing, if you note, I have little control over who wins or loses, even in those few categories that I judged. It has so many deciding entities at various stages. Please do not curse me when you see the results. (Which is why I made this whole effort of writing this long post. :P)
Lastly, thank you everyone: volunteers, badge designers (including Chirag, Sakshi and Dinsan), judges and above all participants for making this happen! Avant Garde exists because of its participants. Thanks to each one of you who wrote a post of Avant Garde in its inception days (and later) and spread the word in every way possible. May God bless you all!