The history of the first few days of the World Wide Web, ever-so-slightly revised, by Joey "The Duke of URL" Anuff in the glorious heyday of Suck, back in the summer of 1996:

The first web page was a résumé. The second named the first "Cool Site of the Year" and presented it with a ghastly HTML-ready award GIF. The third was a hotlist, assiduously indexing the previous two.

The Duke was kidding I think but in the nine years since he wrote this and geez, who would ever have thought that would outlast Suck? the truth of what he was saying has become increasingly clear: the quest for site recognition goes ever on, and on, and on.

Kevin Aylward, a good and decent man with semi-mad programming skillz, has brought forth upon this planet something called the Weblog Awards, which first appeared in 2003, perhaps as an answer to the allegedly snootier Bloggie awards given out at Fairvue Central beginning in 2001.

Now consider, for a moment, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Despite its absorption into the mainstream of world culture, rock and roll began as, and has always seen itself as, faintly disreputable and gleefully ephemeral: the idea that it should be celebrated, not for its infamy, but for its actual fame, and enshrined, not behind bars, but behind glass cases, is more than a little unsettling.

I feel the same way about blog awards. We're supposed to be, or at least we think we're supposed to be, journalists at street level, producing chronicles of the times and the culture without the necessity of going through the gatekeepers with the J-school degrees and the Guild cards and the (occasionally) colossal egos. And yet we willingly subject ourselves to this exercise in self-justification. Why?

Two words: more traffic. There are very few bloggers who can resist the blandishments of a faster-moving hit counter, a spot higher in the TTLB Ecosystem, the presumed acclaim from one's peers. And when Aylward announced the opening of the polls for his first set of awards, I tried to beg off:

I must point out here that there are at least seventeen blogs nominated in the [TTLB] Large Mammal category which are better than mine, and as a person of conscience, I must urge you to vote for one of them. (The others, I haven't read.) And when I finish with something like two votes out of ten thousand, I plan to shrug, fake a smile, and announce: "It's an honor just to be nominated."

Which, incidentally, I did, though I actually got closer to 2 percent than 0.02 percent.

Here in 2005, I find that I've been nominated for another one. I will probably do about as well this year as I did in 2003, though there are only fourteen competitors in the category to which I am assigned. And I am still unwilling to campaign for whatever glory may be involved: my first duty is to myself, to make sure I'm writing stuff I don't hate; my second duty is to my readers, to make sure I'm not driving them away en masse; blog awards and such are way down the list. But I'm no longer fighting the concept, and indeed managed to suppress my reservations long enough to accept a statewide award this year. Whatever I may think of them, blog awards are here, just like the Grammys, and unlike the Grammys, they haven't devolved into a national joke.

Not yet, anyway.

The Vent

  9 December 2005

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 Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill