South Africa: Blog Awards Mashup: Blogging Is Dead, Where Art Thou Stormhoek?, Conflict Of Interest, and Elite Bloggers

South Africans are voting this month for the best South African weblogs in various categories. The final voting for The South African Weblog Awards – 2007 was open to the public from March 6 to March 16, 2007.

The main facilitators of the awards are South African bloggers, Rafiq Phillips and Jonathan Cherry.

This year's awards has generated debate and discussions about its fairness, the composition of judges, the nature and state of the South African blogging community and prominent blogs that were not nominated.

Conflict of Interest

The main point of contention about the judging panel is that some blogs in the final are written by members of the judging panel. The organizers hoped to improve the awards’ accuracy and fairness by introducing three groups to conduct the final voting:

This year the awards will work a little different to how we did things in the past to ensure that the results are as accurate and as fair as a possible.

The final voting this year will be done by three different groups:

1. YOU – the general blog reading public
2. A small panel of ‘celebrity’ judges.
3. A larger panel of South African bloggers selected by no other criteria than their passion for blogging.

Each category will be judged by 2 panel bloggers (who's votes have a 10% weighting each), an assigned ‘celebrity’ judge (30% weighting) and the public vote (counting for 50% of the weighted average). The weighted scores from each will be totaled together to determine the final winners.

Wozafriday thinks that the process is much better this year, but:

The thing is, like legislation, once you start trying to improve something you open up other loopholes. I won’t go into the debate about the new logo, that looks like it’s been well sorted, but here are my reservations about the actual awards process.

I have no idea how or who determined the panelists but it does strike me as inappropriate that most of the panelists are also nominated for awards, as well as some obvious omissions from the panelists, I’d be intrigued to know how the judges got the nod.

Is it possible for a person who has never read a blog to determine which one deserves an award? Wozafriday continues:

I don’t quite understand what the judging criteria will be. How will a panel judge, who may never have read a certain blog, be able to objectively determine whether that blog deserves an award over another blog which the panelist has read the entire year. Are the panelists going to read the archives of all the blogs they have to judge. If they are, they’ll have a hard time doing that with bloggers like Peas and Champs who don’t allow access to their archives, at best the judges will have to assess the blogs on their last week of writing, no pressure on them next week then!
What makes certain panelists experts on the different categories, I stand to be corrected but I have not noticed a single panelist ever comment on any of the political blogs, except perhaps mine and Champs which are more social blogs than political blogs.

Perhaps there should be a seperate award, for example, a Panelists Award and then a Public Award.

Eric Eldstein argues:

Yes, blogs can’t be in the finals of a category a judge is judging, but a large number of the finalists blogs are the Judges blogs. Are there so FEW bloggers in SA? Can’t the blog awards find some impartial judges? Common guys, get real? Get some system of voting which is unbiased or get non SA bloggers to judge – here’s an idea: Get International Bloggers to Judge? It seems like an old boys blog club at the moment…

Jonathan Cherry, one of the organizers, tries to explain the process in a comment he left on Wozafriday:

I have to stress that the blog awards are not a club and are by no means meant for anyone but all bloggers. Nobody is being exluded and because its run by the bloggers themselves – no blog can be excluded (including ones owned by bloggers helping out on the panel).

Elite Bloggers And Nomination Based On Loyalty

domkop takes issue with the nominees:

What I would like to comment on is the nominees. I think it’s a joke and it just showed that whoever nominated did so because of loyalty and not because the blog is really good in that category..hmm… this sounds like our political elections, where majority of black people voted for the ANC purely because of loyalty and have no idea what the party stands for…but anyway… let’s look at some of the nominees.

Why? domkop asks:

Then of course the other category which really got my attention was the “Best Designed Blog”. I have to say that there are some really good blogs here, is a beautiful blog, but the rest? Common. What on earth is splattermail doing there? And Onalimn? Onalimn has the narrowest reading pane I’ve ever seen, and it’s probably still 95% pure template that was copied from somewhere. The other 5% is the logo change. And then SomeNoOne, best designed? Wow… shockerrrr…

Solution? domkop again:

That’s about all I have to say. Sorry that it’s not positive, and uplifting, but when it comes to “Awards” there needs to be a complete level of transparency and logic. Both is lacking here. Maybe I should start my own awards. My own circle of trust dammit!!

youngBlood sees this controversy as an indication of a larger problem within South African blogosphere:

Instead what has developed is an extremely small and – I would argue – very closed community, which continues to butter itself up in the hope that this will lead to fame and fortune. Sure, some will no doubt say that these people are visionaries and trendsetters and without them we would have nothing, but it also runs the danger of creating a Mafioso which… [ed – edited due to space constraints]

Writing about the same subject of the nature and state of South African blogosphere, Nicharalambous wonders:

In the very heated debate on stii's blog regarding the SA Blog awards, the “elite” bloggers were mentioned as an issue in the SA Blogosphere. I am beginning to wonder if this “elite” is dominating in more ways than we may realise.
The SA Blog awards, *Muti and then the world!

Where Art Thou Stormhoek?

Why didn't blogs such as Stormhoek (a South African wine blog), Colin Daniel's blog and Vincent Maher's blog make it to the final? says that Stormhoek and Vincent Maher have not joined the conversation:

that, my Stormhoek friends is why you missed out. That is why it is so damn important to JOIN THE CONVERSATIONS! When nominations time comes, you remember the guys you awed or fought with. The guys who you had convos in the blogosphere with.

Same goes for Vincent Maher. Almost EVERYONE reads his words of wisdom. He runs a great blog. The guy is a damn legend! Yet, he is not on there… Why?! Same reason I suppose. In all fairness, Vincent has read and commented on my blog a while ago. Unfortunately, one blog isn’t going to cut it. You need to be involved in the community.

Wired Gecko notes that one can have an awesome blog with the best writing, but it is necessary to be a “comment troll”:

The criticism that people who are “comment trolls” and who are one of the cool kids tend to be voted for more often. This is a fair criticism, I think. The question, I suppose, is whether the local blogosphere is a meritocracy or a democracy? To me the blogosphere is a community and that means people vote for people they know. That is one of the basic ideas behind something like Cluetrain and the blogging movement. And people get to know you as a blogger if you participate in the community, link to other bloggers, comment and network. The more you do that the more people know you and the fact that you exist and are more inclined to vote for you when the opportunity arises.

And a word of advice
to blogs such as Stormhoek:

So, how do we fix this? Well, we need to use the tools of the trade, so to speak, to increase the visibility of these blogs (our blogs). If you want people to visit your blog and come to know you then you need to participate in the community. You need to comment, leave trackbacks and link to blogs. Simple.

But why would one forgets the hand that pours the wine?:

At first, I felt very much ashamed of myself. How the hell could we forget the hand that pours the wine at our very much liked geeky gettogethers?! Shame on the SA blog community. Shame on me.

Mike Stopforth asks, “Wherefore-art-thou-stormhoek?”

So what do you think SA? Is Stormhoek being arrogant or did we really forget about one of our best? Technorati says they’re in the Top 10,000 blogs in the world…

The answer is simple. Some blogs are nice to read and some are essential to read:

I’m stumped. I didn’t think to submit Stormhoek and I can’t tell you why. Maybe, for me personally, it’s because the Stormhoek blog is one of those that is a ‘nice to read’ and not and ‘essential to read’ and therefore has slowly dropped off my RSS radar. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a very successful, very relevant blog.

Did American judges see something in Stormhoek that South Africans did not see?

The overall standard of the entries is highlighted by the inability of Stormhoek to get a nomination in any category. Stormhoek was recently chosen by judges at the American Blog Awards as the 2nd Best Wine Blog in the world. But you have to note that all of those judges were Americans. And they were only judging wine blogs.

Jo'Blog sees Stormhoek
as a great blog about Stormhoek, which happens to be wine, but not a great wine blog:

I’m thinking that the answer is pretty simple. Stormhoek is not, in my opinion, a great wine blog (others do disagree) – it is however a great blog about Stormhoek (which happens to be a wine). If anything, it should have been a best business blog contender.

The bottom line is this, local bloggers obviously see you as a great wine, and a great brand in general, they just don’t see you as a great blog. Yet.

Stormhoek would like to do better next year and is asking readers for help:

However, we also didn’t make it in any of the other 15 categories, some of which we have tried industriously to be good at.
We didn’t make it in ‘best blog’ (too much to expect), ‘humour’ (have to improve, Hugh), or ‘writing by an SA exile’ (bad luck Cath).

We’d really like to do better next year.
A blog is only as good as its readers think it is.
We’d like you to help us move up the rankings next year.
Please tell us what you think we can do. What you’d like to see in the Stormhoek blog.
We’ve asked for help with pack design before.
Here’s a chance for a blog enthusiast without serious drawing skills to help us improve.

Vincent Maher
does not care that he was not nominated. Here is the list of issues he has with the process:

The judges:

1. The ethical issues and credibility issues about judging competitions was solved centuries ago: the judges are not allowed to enter the competition, neither are employees of the sponsors and family members. Nothing new there, so why not just do it the right way?

The nominees:

4. There is already a lot of chatter about the same people showing up on the everyone’s blogrolls and vague sense that what was once respectful backpatting has become large scale group masturbation amongst the local blogger power bloc. What this does is it lends some credibility to those thoughts, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT ACTUALLY TRUE.

Kenyan Blogger Syndrome (KBS):

7. This smacks of KBS (Kenyan Blogger Syndrome)

Kenyan Blogger Syndrome (KBS)? He is probably referring to the controversy around the Digital Citizen Indaba.

Blog Awards Mashup: Blogging is Dead

Blogging is dead, declares Rafiq in “The Nas/2007 SA Blog Awards Saga Mashup”:

If blogging should die before I wake
I’ll put an extended trackback & ping every which way
Muti to every post, straining the server
Muti every post, eating your bandwidth
If blogging should die before I wake
I’ll put an extended trackback & ping every which way
Muti to every website, murder your server
Muti every post, murder the badnwidth
Blogging just died this mornin’
And it’s dead, it’s dead

Everybody’s posts read the same, commercialize the game
Reminiscin’ when it wasn’t all business
If it got where it started
So we all gather here for the dearly departed
Blogger since a web-toddler
Mike Stopforth became a man then a mobster
If the guys let me get my last post on the blog
R.I.P., we donate our ad revenue to CLUG
Went from only html to XML
From ‘what is RSS?’ to feedburner
From default themes to custom-built skins
From 5 mintue design to winning an Apple TV
I’m lookin’ over my shoulder
It’s about eighty Linkedin Connections that showed up
And they came to show love
Fully-booked 27Dinner and the wikis closed shut

The South African Blog Awards started in 2005. The awards ceremony will take place in Johannesburg on Friday, March 30, 2007.

*Muti is a South African Digg-type site.


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