On March 22, 2011, voting began for “The Best Of Blogs” Awards, an annual event organized by German media corporation Deutsche Welle. The award is getting more popular every year. This happens mostly because the role of blogs and online communities grows, as does their influence on social life. Online voting will last untill April 11, 2011, and is based on a short-list of pre-selected blogs and social projects chosen by the international jury.
In the nomination “Best Russian Blog” the winner will be selected by Russian Internet users only. Two winners will be anounced in each of the six international nominations: one by the online community (User Prize) and one by the international Jury (Jury Prize). The jury panel will get together on April 11 in Bonn and announce the winners on April 12.
This year, Russia is represented in the jury panel by Alexandr Plyushev [ru], popular journalist and blogger. In 2006, I represented Russia and one can see how the level of the blogs participating in the competition has increased since then. But the most important is that their social value and influence have grown not only online, but also offline.
In the category “Best Blog”, Yegor Zhgun [ru] has reached the finals. This blog will compete for the main prize with ten other finalists representing the remaining ten languages of The BOBs. Yegor Zhgun is a talented artist who feels the social atmosphere well and responds to it with his bright and critical cartoons, pictures, comics. This year, Yegor became popular as the author of a humorous character named Zoich [ru], which was offered as a mascot of the Winter Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi.
Global Voices covered the story of Zoich in the post Russia: Sochi Mascots, Politics, and Some Twitter. Zoich became the absolute leader of online voting for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games mascot. Unfortunately, he did not win the official vote.
In other international nominations, Russia is represented by the following online resources:
“Rospil.info” has been launched in 2010. The community collects information on suspicious state purchases, which can be corrupt. The information sent by the users is then monitored and evaluated by the site's experts and, if needed, a complaint is sent to the authorities. Several suspicious auctions accounting for 335 mln rubles ($11.8 mln) have been cancelled because of the site's activity.
The main breakthrough of the site, however, is elsewhere. It was the first case in RuNet demonstrating that there were many people ready to donate to socially useful projects. In a very short time, Alexey Navalny fundraised around 6 mln rubles ($210,000) to pay for the site and legal experts.
In general, Internet users were also ready to donate – mostly to social projects aiming to help children, sick and old people, etc. Also many funds have been collected during the summer campaign to help victims of the wildfires: to purchase food, water, household supplies, and help firefighters and volunteers involved in fire fighting – they were provided with the supplies for extinguishing, protection, water, food and medicines.
One can assume that the collection of funds online will soon become a common practice for various online initiatives and projects. On the other hand, large numbers of ordinary people will get an opportunity to be engaged in social activities and support projects and organizations they like.
In particular, the next project nominated for «The BOBs» is also busy with fundraising “Best Social Activism Campaign” category lists “The Little Blue Bucket Society,” a group of activists that struggled against bureaucrats’ flashers [blue lights installed on government cars that give special privileges on the roads – GV] and violations of the law by officials on the roads during the whole year. Now the “Blue Buckets” are raising funds for the installation of a billboard against “flashers” on Kutuzov Avenue, a “government road” [the one that connects the center of Moscow with government officials’ residences on Rublevskoye highway – GV] in Moscow, where the cars with flashers go more often. President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also drive along this street and therefore the road is often blocked, that, of course, displeases the majority of ordinary drivers. About 13 ,000 rubles ($460) are collected so far while the rent of the place for a billboard is 100 thousand ($3, 500).
If we are talking about social campaigns of RuNet in 2010, then we should mention that the “Blue Buckets” initiative was one of the most noticeable but not the only one. One can remember a campaign against police outrage, which resulted in reformes initiated by the President Medvedev. One can also recall a social campaign started by the car accident of Anna Shavenkova in Irkutsk and accidents on Leninsky Prospekt with Vice-President of Lukoil company Barkov. Among recent campaigns is one for the reform of child healthcare system in Novosibirsk region, which has been launched after the tragic death of Darya Makarova's child. Or a campaign against the new law on the calculation of child benefits which has been initiated by the members of LJ community of pregnant women [ru]. Within a very short time, they managed to force the authorities to amend the law and change the system of benefits’ calculation. 2010 was extremely rich in social campaigns and this is a good sign of maturation of Russian civil society.
Blog of “Novaya Gazeta“ newspaper has been nominated for “Reporters without Borders Award.” In 2010, this blog was regularly updated with exclusive articles and the most interesting topics of the next issues. So, the nomination of this blog is well-deserved.
In the category “Social Topic Award Human Rights,” Russia is represented by the community “Music of Social and Civil Action.” The nomination of this community doesn't seem to be accidental. It is quite difficult to chose a blog that is the best resource on protection of human rights among hundreds and thousands of similar sites. The blog which connects social protest with music is certainly interesting by its nonlinear approach to the topic of activism and politics.
The most difficult choice RuNet users will have to make is in the category “Best Russian Blog.” Aside from the blogs mentioned above, here are the nominants:
- Yegor Zhgun's Journal – zhgun.livejournal.com [ru]
- Alexey Navalny's blog – navalny.livejournal.com [ru]
- “Rospil” community – rospil.info [ru]
- “StreetJournal.org” community – streetjournal.org/myterra/site [ru]
- “The Little Blue Buckets” community – community.livejournal.com/ru_vederko [ru]
- “Dal Slovo” [Gave a Word – GV] community – dalslovo.ru [ru]
- “Dear Editorial Board” microblog [a humorous news project made by the largest Russia's media portal Lenta.ru – GV] – @lentaruofficial [ru]
- “Perzident Roissi” Twitter [a fake account of Russian President with political jokes and satirical comments – GV] – @kermlinrussia [ru]
- Community “So-so-so… Protect rights and control the authorities together” [Read project's profile at GV] – taktaktak.ru [ru]
- Facebook-community of the TV-channel “Rain” [the first online TV channel in Russia – GV] – facebook.com/tvrain [ru]
- Photoproject “Birthmarks on the Map” rodinki.newsib.ru [ru]
I would give special attention to the project “Gave a Word” [ru]. It is interesting that – for the first time in Russia – a project realized a socially useful idea to monitor and control promises of the authorities. Another very promising project is “StreetJournal.org” where citizens can report on problems in their city and work together to solve them [see a detailed report about StreetJournal creator in the Perm region here – GV].
In general, if we look at the list of Russian pretenders for «The BOBs» award, we can note an important feature: most of the projects reflect the topics that troubled online community in 2010 – beginning of 2011. These are the problems of corruption, lawlessness on the roads and cars with flashers. So, we can see the growth of civil projects and online activity of Russian Internet users. I think this process will lead to the strengthening of Russian society and will teach people to control the authorities and to seek for solutions of their problems – both at the local and national levels.
I invite everyone to vote on «The BOBs» Awards and to support Russian nominees. To vote for the favorite resource you must register on the website using your Twitter or Facebook account. Choose the best!