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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Well, Shit — It Was Supposed to Be a Short Post

Hey, all.

I’m not here for any real purpose tonight. Just a quick thanks, and a bit of news, and a thought I’ve been kicking around, all of them centered around blogging. Pretty boring, when you get right down to it.

(Hey, look, they can’t all be gems, people. Besides, I’ve got to get my rest tonight — I’m supposed to be at work at a quarter after ten in the morning… I know, I know — ‘Slavedrivers!‘ And I’ve got to get up before that if I want to post this week’s Punchline Fever before going to work. Gotta have the fever, right?

So as you can see, I don’t have all night to hang out chatting with you. Part of the night, sure, but all night? Sorry, can’t do it. Gotta get some shuteye, sooner or later.)

So, on to the bidness at hand. First, the thanks. I received an email today from the World Star Gazette, saying that I had been chosen as a ‘regular’ humor site on their blog. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first — would this turn out to be some site selling dildos, or popping up forty-seven ads with every click, or — worse still — backing some political candidate or other?

Well, as far as I can tell — no. The World News Gazette seems to be a place where folks can submit their favorite, most meaningful posts as though they were news items, adding to the scrum of topics inexorably scrolling along the site’s main ‘update’ columns. Along the left side are a few dozen ‘permanent’ links in a variety of categories — these seem to be on the up-and-up, and there are even a few friends and favorites of my own (Ms. Frizzle, Pickle Juice, and Witt and Wisdom among them).

Given that sort of lofty company, I have to say that I’m honored to be included in the mix, and want to send out a hearty thanks to the folks at World Star Gazette for putting together an interesting and eclectic site. And if any of you are interested in adding your own verbiage to the ‘online newspaper’, I encourage you to go check it out. Contrary to my initial suspicions (what can I say; I’ve been burned before), I think it’s a very interesting concept, and I’ll be watching with interest to see how it progresses. Soon, you’ll find a link to the site on my sidebar. Thanks again, Gazetteers!

Now, on to the news portion of the program. I’ve decided to apply to become a reviewer for The Weblog Review. They’re seeking new blood, and I think judging others’ work after a short perusal is just the sort of thing that’s right up my alley. ‘She rocks!‘ ‘He’s crap‘ ‘Off with ‘is head!‘ — oh yeah, I am so there.

Seriously, I’ve kept an eye on ‘da Review’ since my own judging, and I think I can make a contribution. I think I’ll be able to do a thorough and fair job, remaining objective about all but the most personally offensive sites. (Which means pretty much anything that doesn’t physically show Roseanne Barr naked.)

Coincidentally — or perhaps not — I’ve also applied for a re-review of the site you’re reading right now. (You’re soaking in it!) Not that I’ll get to review my own site if my reviewer application is accepted, of course, but I’m sure the two are related somehow. Certainly, I’m hoping for a ‘fair and balanced’ treatment my second time around. We’ll see in a few weeks. In the meantime, wish me luck as a reviewer. I’m a little strapped for time right this minute, as I mentioned, but I’ve perused the application form, and I’ll be working on that sometime tomorrow. I just hope they don’t fill all their slots by then.

Okay, two down, one to go. I’ve been mulling over the idea of starting a blog contest recently, based on my experiences with a couple of the ongoing tournaments and such. Now, everybody’s got their own ideas about how these things should work, and they’re all a little different. But I haven’t seen one yet that really, really emphasizes the writing, which is what I care most about in a weblog. Bells and whistles, and popularity, and impressing a bunch of judges — those are all nice, but to me, blogging is about finding something that’s close to your heart, and spilling yourself into it until you’ve accomplished something unique. That’s the crux of baring your soul online, I think, and I’ve yet to find a contest that really gets down to that nitty-gritty.

So far, Blog Madness has come closest to what I think a blog contest should look like, but there are still some things I’d change, if I could. The head-to-head format is okay, but it feels a little bit limiting to me to follow that format start to finish. If some of the stronger competition goes up against each other in the early or middle rounds, then they may be kicked aside, while potentially weaker entries move on.

(By way of disclaimer, let me emphatically say that I’m not suggesting this is the case with the current competition. I honestly only paid much attention to my own bracket while in the game myself, and thoroughly enjoyed most of the posts in my group, and those I went up against in the rounds I was in.

I haven’t had a lot of time lately to keep a close eye on it, but I’ll be very interested to see what’s left when the tourney gets down to eight or sixteen posts. I have no doubt that they’ll all be very strong, and very entertaining. My only point is that the format seems to leave itself open for possible problems, and I think there may be ways of avoiding that issue.)

Another concern that I’ve had about all of the contests and competitions I’ve seen is that it’s very difficult to normalize for the popularity of sites, and the rabid nature of certain sites’ followers. Certainly, it’s possible to ‘game’ just about any system, but in straight-out ‘rate from the following list’ types of competitions, like the Bloggies or the Wizbang Awards, it seems awfully easy for bloggers to make impassioned pleas for votes on their sites, and use their less-than-impartial readership to their great advantage.

(Again, please don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for the competitions I just mentioned, participated in both, and really enjoyed checking up on results, finding new blogs, and making new friends as a result. I don’t personally feel that my place in either of them was adversely affected by anyone ‘vote-spamming’ their readers, scrupulously or otherwise. Certainly, I made mention of every contest I’ve entered on my site, and encouraged anyone reading my blog to come and join in the fun, however they choose to do so.

I’m simply pointing out, again, the potential for the support for better-known sites to ‘drown out’ any positive response to deserving, but less popular, weblogs. It’s tough for a fairly new, or esoteric, blog to get noticed, even if it’s penned by an expert wordsmith with considerable expertise, vast experience, or exciting new ideas. Unless the blogger also has a nice rack, of course, and is willing to show it off. Those sorts of blogs always get attention.

Just another reason to begin cultivating my man-boobs, folks. But that’s a story for another time. Let’s get back to the contest thingamajig and leave my ‘thingamajugs’ alone for now.)

Anyway, I don’t have all the pieces worked out quite yet for what I’d like to do. I just know that I’d like to give bloggers from every walk of life and subject matter a chance to compete on as level a playing field as possible. That suggests to me that there should be, at least for part of the competiation, a grouping of entries, where the top few ‘survive’, and the others go home. Sets of winners from multiple groups could then be pooled for subsequent rounds, until finally there’s one group (or a very few) left, and the head-to-head battles begin.

(Or maybe they don’t — maybe the final battle is played the same way, and folks in the ‘win’, ‘place’, and ‘show’ slots are all recognized. Maybe that argues for the top three to advance from every group of… I don’t know, eight? Ten, tops, I would think.)

The other thing I’d like to do, insofar as it’s possible, is to anonymize the field, to ensure that voters (I’m envisioning the audience at large voting in this enterprise) are paying attention to what’s being said, not who’s doing the saying. What if all of the contestants were randomly placed into the groups, and noone was told which was where? And then the posts weren’t attributed to their authors until the judging was done? Sure, the big guys could still send hordes of people to vote — and, if you don’t watch them carefully, ‘cheat’ by giving hints about which posts are theirs — but there’s no guarantee that the people flocking over to run up the numbers would see the group their hero is in, much less know for sure which post to vote for.

This is where the idea gets a little dicey, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the concept as a whole, and specific suggestions as to how to make it work. I like what The Weblog Review has done recently, in asking viewers to log in to vote, but I’m not sure it works well for an open competition like the one I have in mind. While it does discourage ‘overvoting’ for an entry, it also might drive away people who don’t want the hassle of another username and password to remember and enter each time.

I do like the random grouping idea, though, and the idea that more than one person per group would advance. To further level the playing field, I’ve been toying with the idea of borrowing from Blogger Idol by setting a ‘topic’ for each round of the competition. That way, all the (hopefully) ‘anonymous’ bloggers have the same thing to write about — the way to win is to stand out from the crowd by being passionate, entertaining, convincing, or different. I worry that reading too many similar posts might get a bit tough for the voters, though — maybe there’s a better solution here, or maybe the ‘singular topic’ idea is overkill. I don’t know.

I think anonymity is key, though — single topic or not, I think participation in the contest should be with a single post per round per contestant, and with a post that is not on the contestant’s blog, at least until that round is over. I can see where this might disincentify (man, that doesn’t look like a real word) some people by not bringing them any more hits to their site during the judging, but I think that the interest generated once the results — with links from each person to both their entry and their blog — are released would more than make up for it, assuming the competition gains any sort of popularlity.

Frankly, if this isn’t one of those ideas that only I think would be cool — and if you’ve been reading me very long, you know that I have a lot of those — then there’s nothing in the logistics that appears to be a dealbreaker. I’d like to give the mechanics of a judging round some more thought; for instance —

Is it necessary for voters to see every post in a group, and possibly rank them first through last as their ‘judging’?

Would it be better to pull in completely random votes, a la Blog Hot or Not, and simply end a round when enough total votes among the members of a group have been accumulated?

Should voters select, or be ‘assigned’, a group to judge; does it make sense to limit voting to the members of one group per day per voter?

But I don’t think any of these are insurmountable. And I’d love to hear what you think, both about the logistics and the whole ball of wax. Does anyone really want another competition? Is anyone interested in joining a contest that’s anonymous for most of the duration? How could people ‘beat the system’? Is the writing really what’s important to you in blogging, anyway?

Sheesh. As usual, I got pretty carried away there, didn’t I? Well, now it’s well into the wee hours of the morning, so I’m gonna hit the sack and sleep on these questions for a while. Maybe it’ll all come to me in a dream. Or maybe I’ll just wake up in six hours or so, sleepy and cranky, and the whole freaking idea will just annoy the piss out of me. Damn my late-night creative juices!

Permalink  |  6 Comments

6 Responses to “Well, Shit — It Was Supposed to Be a Short Post”

  1. Andy says:

    I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with these competitions. I would, though, suggest that you go for it. I don’t know of any genius work-around to achieve fair voting, but I really like the idea of anonymous submissions. There will of course be bickering, name-calling, and the like, but I think those things will always exist and should not disuade you from your idea. Just do it, man. I think these competitions are a great way to get to know different bloggers.

    Of course, it’s always a really great way to drive up hits to the hosts site…

  2. HR LADY says:

    I love your idea of anonymity. Not only would it inhibit those voting for a name rather than a bloggerary work, but also it could force die-hard-politicalblogwhiners to read something of substance -or at least something with multiple gratuitous references to pseudo-errogenous vagaries.

  3. Jeff A says:

    Charlie, I love the idea of anonimity, this could be done very easily with a moveable type setup, or other for that matter. The idea here being that you could setup these anonymouse users on the blog so the posts are all centralized. Give them all unique names that have nothing to do with their real blog names. A stats program could easily spot a trend that may indicate cheating. You can watch their blog for some forms of cheating but you can’t monitor their email which is where the statistics will come in, you could track someones ip address to make sure they read more than one post before voting and that the same ip isn’t coming and voting all the time for the same author without reading any other posts.

    It sounds complicated but it really isn’t I have most of it worked out in my head at the moment. Oh there are so many ideas floating around in this head of mine now, I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  4. Angel says:

    I really did your site…I shall add it to my favorites.

    Ciao~Kool Mama Kat

  5. Jon says:

    Seems like you’ve addressed all the major issues plaguing these contests.

    As long as “the people” are doing the voting, and the writers are unknown, it sounds decent.

    But I think that if readers of a blog are familiar at all with the author, they’ll probably be able to discern the writing style.

  6. I’m a little late with the commentary, but I absolutely LOVE the idea of doing this anonymously. If people *really* want to know what others think of their Blog without relying on the solid numbers of their loyal readers to get them through, submitting their work anonymously won’t be an issue. And the glory for *winning* will be all that much sweeter.

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