Judging the Judges at the Webby Awards
The Webby awards are taking place in a packed, sold-out theater tonight in New York, but I'm not going to watch them.
Instead, I'm sitting in a dark room using Google and Windows' calculator to do a quick check-up on the 500 people selected for membership in the prestigious International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences(TM). These people, drawn from the creme-de-la-creme of digital society, are those who will judge the merit of the Web sites nominated for Webby Awards. A complete list of these hand-picked digirati is available for inspection on the IADAS Web site.
This is what I want to find out: how many of these 500 cyber-luminaries maintain active Web presences? How many have let their sites fall behind into disuse and abandonment? How can a pot call a kettle black?
I'm not saying that you have to run a good Web site to be able to judge the sites of others (after all, most rock critics can barely play guitar or sing a note). But one would expect a modicum of basic Web competence among "those individuals who have catalyzed great achievements on the Internet, demonstrated extraordinary talent in a traditional medium, or who possess in-depth knowledge of new media and comprehensive familiarity with a broad range of sites within a category."
That means, at least to me, that one of the key qualifications of being a Webby Judge is or should be that one has built an active Web presence. If all you're doing is writing flowcharts on a white board, drinking schnapps with Esther Dyson, or spending your life bloviating on the lecture circuit, you're the last one who should be pronouncing judgement on Webmasters.
Note: I define "active Web presence" very liberally. I'm not expecting Webby Judges to have Blogs they update every 15 minutes whenever their ferret burps. All I ask is for each Judge to have some kind of active Web page to indicate who they are, what they do, and how to reach them via email. This can be a personal home page, a bio page on a working site, or a Weblog: anything that demonstrates that a given Webby Judge has been interested enough in the Web to have staked out some kind of claim, however modest, in the last ten years.
But judges, take heed: if you have or had an active Web presence, and you've let it rot, your name goes in the "out of date" bin. This means your qualifications to judge others are highly questionable!
Also -- judges, please pay close attention -- if you're on the Webby Awards panel and I can't find any trace of an active Web presence, either now or in the past, you've got an even more serious problem. I don't care how many articles have been written about you in Esquire or how many books you've written or how fabulous you believe you are because you designed a piece of VRML back in 1996: you really shouldn't be judging other people who DO run Web sites.
OK, folks, now for the results. It took me about eleven hours, but I've sorted through the cyber-traces of all 487 Webby Judges (there should have been 500 but there were a few duplicates and erroneous entries on the IADAS page). Here is my final report:
Webby Judges Possibly Fit to Judge Because they have Active Web Presences:
345 (71 percent)
Webby Judges Whose Judgment Should be Questioned Because Their Pages Are Out of Date:
52 (11 percent)
Webby Judges Unfit To Judge Anyone With a Web Page Because They Have No Credible Web Presences of Their Own:
90 (17 percent)
Analysis: After spending a full day looking at the home pages of the digirati, I can say it's a profoundly mixed group. Frankly, I don't understand why the IADAS included personal trainers, clothing store operators, print journalists, and sports and talent agents in its mix of reviewers, but perhaps it's thought that this gives the group "balance." As my figures reveal, a healthy 71 percent of IADAS' members do have active Web presences, although a far lower percentage (I would estimate 10 percent) have active Weblogs, which suggests that the group as a whole may be falling behind the times. Overall, however, my analysis does not support the notion that the entire IADAS membership consists of poseurs or loons; just ordinary mortals whose Web sites range widely in quality, from dull-as-dust boring to engaging and entertaining.
I may or may not make the full list available here in the future - depending on whether I decide to commit career suicide (you do NOT want to cross some of these digirati people). But I already have a few tantalizing questions about certain Webby Judges, to wit:
- Why has legendary cyber-zealot John Perry Barlow not updated his Web site in almost three months? Does he think the world can wait forever for another dollop of his deathless wisdom?
- What has cyber-moralist Paulina Boorsook been doing with her time since 2001? That's the last time the content on her site was updated!
- How about best-selling author Po Bronson? His Web site hasn't been updated in two months. Should we be concerned?
- Molly Holzschlag, of Molly.com, your content hasn't been refreshed in a year. Wouldn't you judge one of your nominees harshly if you saw this happening?
- Melissa Sconyers, the IADAS lists you as the president of Ativity.com. But if you go there, you just see a "for sale - contact us" sign. Am I the only one who's bothered by this?
- Marcella Karp, Founding Editor of Bust, are you aware that Bustmag.com has been dead for so long that even the Internet Archive doesn't have a good copy of it?
- Computer Chronicles' host Stewart Cheifet is sitting on a mess of broken links to the defunct computerchronicles.org Web site. Should we forgive him or forget about him?
- The content on futurist Paul Saffo's Web site, Saffo.org, hasn't been refreshed since 2002. Does he know something about the future that we don't?
- And Matt Groening - with all that money that Fox is paying you, can't you hire a kid off the street to remove that "Under Constructon" sign from your Web site?