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Thursday, December 04, 2008

You Like Awards?

Stephen Downes has once again come out with complaints about how the Edublog Awards are being handled this year. It makes me wonder, do "You Like Awards?"
OK, so the edublog awards nominations are out. I honestly don't know what they were thinking this time around - there's something like twenty or so nominees in some categories (and I'm not sure what to make of the result that this website is not among the twenty or so considered for best individual weblog - it's not sour grapes, I'm just bemused). Also, there has been confusion about the rules; people have been posting their nominations on their weblogs, as requested, but apparently you must also fill out a form - this was new to me today and new to a number of people out there (I've been sending them URLs they've missed). And I can't find the weblogs posting the sites that actually appear on the nomination rolls. I do have some nominations, so if you can find them (or anything) in the list of nominees, be sure to vote.
Meanwhile, Doug Johnson has written a post on ranking, awards and other nonsense and then a follow-up today on poking the wasps' nest. Meanwhile, and finally, the best place to find new edublogs is not the Edublog Awards, espite the population increase - it's right here, as it has always been.
Stephen does an amazing job going through a ton of content and surfacing potentially interesting content for the rest of his. That's why he was/is listed in my Top Ten eLearning Blogs. You might want to look at his list as an alternative to what I described in eLearning Blogs - Quick Way to Find Good Ones. Mine are more focused on corporate and Stephen's a bit more on academic environments, but his is much larger and likely includes most of mine. I'm sure both our lists change quite a bit over time (Managing your RSS Feeds).

All that said, let's take a look at the interesting issues being raised. Like Stephen, I was a little surprised at some of the nominations. However, with open nominations by Edubloggers, we are likely to see quite varied nominations. In a way, I'm very glad to see that. If the nominations had come back with exactly the list I would have nominated (note to self - nominate next year) - that would have been disappointing. Also, given that there may be 100,000 plus edublogs, narrowing it down to a few is always going to be hard.

Doug Johnson raises some very interesting questions in his posts and through the comments. Let's look at some of his points.
I would certainly label the Eddies as a form of extrinsic reward for bloggers. Depending how they are used, rankings are the same. And as Alfie Kohn’s classic book Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’S, Praise, and Other Bribes (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) ...

Rewards can punish those who do not receive them.

Likely this is true. Anyone not receiving a nomination (and potentially not winning the award) who perceive that they are deserving will look at the process negatively.

This potential negative has to be outweighed against the positive aspects of having opportunity to recognize efforts, surface interesting blogs, provide insights to casual readers, etc.

Rewards can rupture relationships - If I link to or comment on your blog, might I be pushing your rank above mine, make you more popular, more award-worthy? Am I cutting my own throat if I help you make your blog better?

Actually, I think this is likely the opposite of what happens and is a common misconception. Bloggers who link more (and write interesting things) are more likely to get links as well. It engages in the conversation. As someone working on a couple of relatively high Page Rank sites, theoretically when I provide a link to someone it carries more weight (with Google). Should I restrict who I link to then? Should I require lots of links to me before I link back? No, that be a lose-lose situation in the long-run. If I don't link, then fewer other bloggers will link back to me. Period. End of story. There are a few well known blogs that never link out, but for the vast majority of us, linking to each other is the only way to go.

In this case, rankings are not directly related to nomination. I would say that total readership will likely be a determinant in who wins.

So, I must say this argument is bunk and helps perpetuate a common myth about linking.

Rewards ignore the reasons for a desired behavior - Is blogging about improving education, having fun, and debating the issues .... or winning fame and recognition?

Anyone who starts blogging to make money, achieve fame, gain recognition will quickly stop blogging when the see the dismal readership that everyone has at first. The only counter examples are bloggers who transition from email newsletters to blogs and point their email list to their blog to immediately gain readership. The rest of us slog through very low numbers for a very long time. People who stick with blogging do so because of the intrinsic value of blogging ...

So, yes, maybe by providing recognition we "ignore" the intrinsic value, but I'm not sure that this is all that significant an issue and by even having the conversation that Doug is fostering he somewhat is perpetuating another myth ... that blogging relates to recognition, reward as opposed to personal learning.

Rewards can discourage risk-taking - Might I be less likely to take a controversial or unpopular stance if it might mean losing readers? Might I avoid trying a different style of writing or type of post if it would cause people to drop a subscription?

Actually, it's true that as a writer of a blog, you sometimes censor yourself based on your readership. Or sometimes you get slapped because of what you've said. Periodically, I will post something and people will let me know that they don't agree, don't think I should post it, etc.

You then have to make a decision of whether it makes sense for you to blog about that the next time.

But, this has nothing to do with awards! And, again, the awards are so far removed from the day-to-day writing of any blogger that I would say this is total bunk. As a blogger, you have to decide what you will do with personal stuff, attacks, etc. You make those decisions independent of awards.

Rewards can actually discourage desired behaviors. - There must be something distasteful about blogging if it is only about rankings and awards

I'm pretty sure that Doug and I basically agree on the heart of the issue, I just wish the language he used around it was a bit different.

Again, no one is blogging to win that award. And while a few people might start blogging to make money or get readers (and soon after stop), I can't believe anyone would start blogging thinking, "I'd really like to work hard so I can win an Eddy."

Instead, I have to believe that Doug is more complaining that the awards may perpetuate these myths. So, if that's his point, then likely we agree, but maybe the title should be changed from "You Like Awards" to "Blogging Myths Perpetuated by Awards."

So awards and ranks probably won't bring about the end of the world as we know it. But let's not grant them any more importance than they deserve, either.

I'm really curious if other people think that something like the Eddie's are on the balance a negative. I don't even see it as close. Of course, I'm biased. But there's way too much time spent by individual bloggers for awards to be seen as truly being that important.

Doug - when you write a post - do you actually think - I wonder if this will help me get an Eddy?

Does anyone think that way?

Do You Like Awards?


Nancy White said...

Tony, first of all, I enjoy the edubloggers award program because it was born out of a group of people who wanted to do it - had passion and made it happen. That is one of the spirits of bloggerdom to me - DO IT!

Second, we can't take ourselves TOO seriously. Right now as I look out my window, there is a beautiful winter sunrise. That's what it is all about in this moment. When I am writing a blog post, that is the moment. But it is just part of the whole.

I love it when people appreciate others. Does that create exclusions? It will, no doubt. Should that stop us from appreciating each other? I don't think so. We just need to get smarter at being aware of the impacts of our actions, both in their parts and the whole.

That said, I reiterate to folks to vote for someone else other than me as "Lifetime Award" because there are people on that list whose contribution to our collective learning about education, technology and a whole bunch of other things is... well... an amazing contribution to the world --- and nobody forced them to do it. They preceded so many of us, and inspired us. Each of them are, in their own way, appreciating us every day by contributing to our learning.

I'm happy to stand up and recognize them - those on the list and not.

Oh, dear. Get me off my soapbox! Should not comment before coffee!

Tony Karrer said...

Nancy - I'm so glad you left this comment.

I'm not sure I'm really quite ready to believe that we are "getting smarter at being aware of impacts" ... For me it's a lot of trial and error.

And great point that even without the list - we are continuously recognizing people. I'm sure there are lots of folks in my blog roll that didn't get an Eddy nomination, but anyone in that blog roll is someone who's posts I find value in.

Whoops, now I'm with you on that soapbox.

Sarah Stewart said...

I don't know what all the fuss is about - it's just a bit of fun, isn't it? (says she who has been nominated for the first time and just loving it.)

What I find interesting, is that to all my mates who do not blog, this nomination will mean nothing to them. They think my blog & everything I do with it is a waste of time, and of no 'academic' value. So whilst ultimately I blog for my own benefit, at the same time it has been nice to have some recognition that some people some where get some value from what I write.

But I agree, Tony, I get an even greater buzz to see that I am on someone's blog roll or they say they are subscribed to my blog.