I promised myself I wouldn’t comment on the Guardian’s Weblog Award this year, as my opinions last year caused a good few fights and didn’t really seem to do that much good in the end. Some people entered and didn’t have a problem with it, others did have a problem with it and didn’t enter. This year they’d made more of an effort I thought, and although I still didn’t really agree with it, I thought it churlish to comment. But really, they’ve been so ungracious about the whole thing!
Firstly the (in person) absolutely charming Simon Waldman wrote of the – fairly reasonable difference of opinion that we had last year:
“Within hours, the blogging community was talking about it – good and bad, but mostly bad. There was outrage that anyone, let alone a newspaper, should sit in judgment on blogs. There were conspiracies that it was just a devious plan to get traffic on Guardian Unlimited (as if we needed it). We thought we were simply launching a competition: at times, it felt more like we were dropping a hand grenade into a hornet’s nest.”
But rather than accepting that the people who protested might have had a good point (particularly given that they actually wrote to UKBloggers saying that they’d taken many of the previous year’s comments into account) instead he decided to declare any dissent to be the product of a hardcore bunch of grumblers (the line is:”The original hardcore blogging community is still there, and still vociferous”) while suggesting that while that’s happening, alongside “every month, thousands of others are trying their hand at this unique publishing form”. The latter group – of course – being prime candidates for a little pat on the head from the nation’s favourite (and indeed, my favourite) left-wing newspaper.
It’s a shame, then, that the evidence from the ground is less rosy – and that even some of the people who liked the Guardian competition last year are coming to feel at least slightly less comfortable with it a year later (cf. Naked Blog). But that’s not the end of it. First we had the rather self-congratulatory, but not particularly annoying assumption that all webloggers at this weekend’s Christmas party would be all of a fluster about the competition which Meg then entertainingly lampooned, followed by another snipey post on the Guardian’s weblog about the whole thing.
Now look – the whole thing’s pretty trivial, but let’s make one thing clear. It is not an obvious fact that weblog competitions like this are good things, and it’s certainly not an obvious fact that belittling the opinions of people who disagree with you – when you’re supposed to be a national paper and rather above that kind of thing – is that brilliant an idea either. So I’ve felt compelled to write this rather stuffy e-mail to the Guardian about it (after a rather muffled grump directed at Mr Waldman earlier didn’t do much good) – just to kind of make it clear that the whole point of the exercise is to encourage people to express their opinions, not throw the Guardian’s 800lb Gorilla at anyone who doesn’t hold the same views!
Jane! Really! The thing about the competition that people get cross about is that it feels like colonisation rather than reward! We’re actually going to meet our friends and our peers and stuff and we arranged it and we’re mostly pretty much looking forward to it. A good proportion of us resent the implication that we’re all going to spend the time giggling like twelve-year-olds and puzzling about who’ll win the prize in a competition that we don’t really think gets the point of the whole things in the first place.
I mean, you’re talking as if the people who have weblogs are all desperate fame-starved teenagers publishing magazine-like columns to try and get acclaim and publicity. Even the people who have entered – and I mean no offense to them because if you don’t have a problem with it, then you may as well go after the cash – probably aren’t seriously thinking about gossiping at length, getting hysterical and fainting at the merest thought of the thing. There are many professional people who are using them to connect with their industries or their peers, families who are talking to their relatives abroad – it’s not like the press, bits of it are like hanging out with friends or peers!
For many of us the Guardian competition is a well-intentioned but clumsy stab at trying to do something that promotes weblogs, but actually isn’t really that relevant /or/ exciting.And if you’re really trying to support and promote them, then making sarcastic comments about the kind of things they post about probably isn’t the best way!