I mentioned recently that the UK Web Focus blog had been shortlisted for the Best Educational Tech Support blog in this year’s Edublog Awards. As I commented in the post there have been criticisms of the idea of awards for blogging and Paul Walk has recently joined in the discussion.

I disagree and am pleased to have been nominated by Martin Weller andAJ Cann. And I’d like to give my reasons.

In some quarters there is a view that because of the differences between blogs it would be unfair to have an annual awards ceremony.  But equally you could argue that you can’t judge the merits of different works of fiction – and yet this is done, with the Booker awards being the best known. And as to the flaws in making worthwhile comparisons of merit, you might also argue that the Premiership isn’t about the merits of 11 footballers over a season, but the purchasing powers of American, Russian, Thai or Saudi billionaires. This may be true, but it’s also irrelevant.

I don’t feel we should be living in an ideologically-pure IT environment, independent of the complexities, challenges and flaws of the real world. Martin Weller put such differing perspectives in an historical context in his post on Cato and Cicero – and, as I said in a post based on Martin’s observation, I am on the side of realism and pragmatism. I suspect that Stephen Downes’ comment that “… the internet is already awash with really vile and intrusive commercial activity”  (which I mentioned in that post will be regarded by the purists as applicable to blog awards) is a view that will be shared by some.  Indeed I’m aware of a certain antipathy towards those involved in commercial and marketing activities from many involved in IT development.  But as I say in my talks about Web 2.0, “Web 2.0 is a marketing term” before going on to add that “there’s nothing wrong with that“. Although I should add that despite acknowledging that I live in (and benefit from) a capitalist society I haven’t benefitted financially from the 483 blog posts published in just over 2 years – and there’s no personal financial reward for the winner of the Eddies.

Being shortlisted for awards such as the Edublogs will, however, be helpful in promoting the work I am involved in.  In brief this, and the main topics covered in this blog are standards, accessibility and Web 2.0. But rather than having a one-dimensional view of these areas I also try to ensure that readers are aware of associated complexities. For example:

Web accessibility: I have pointed out the limitations of WAI’s approaches to Web accessibility and described approaches which show how WCAG can be used in context.

Standards: I have discussed the limitations of a one-dimensional view of open standards and have tried to explore reasons why open standards have failed to live up to their expectations.

Web 2.0: I have described the potential benefits of Web 2.0, but have also described failures (such as Pownce and Squirl)  in a number of Web 2.0 services.

The approaches I have taken in exploring these issues has reflected the approach I take when I give presentations – I give a personal view which I hope engages with the audience. And this is an approach I feel others should take when they set up a blog. As I have said on a number of occasions recently, for workshops aimed at staff from museums, libraries and archives, you should encourage the passions, interests and professionalism of your staff, and avoid having a blog which is clearly the product of a committee, with any hint of controversy being suppressed by the editorial processes. Avoid the temptations of the corporate blog, for users will tend to be sceptical, as a recent blog post argued.

But how can you give clear evidence to justify the ROI for a blog?” was a question I was asked when I ran a blogging workshop recently. Now I don’t believe that responses such as “Blogs are all about the individual” would be appropriate. So I spoke about the purposes of a blog (e.g. engaging with new audience) and corresponding metrics which could be used . But in addition to figures which may indicate successful user engagement (although, of course, I do blog about the limitations of such metrics) awards ceremonies can also demonstrate the support of one’s peers – and can help in more effective promotion of one’s views.

So if you support such views and agree that this blog “manages to push at the comfort boundaries of IT services, but does so with intelligence and insight into the practical issues“ and would like to see such views being endorsed  at an international awards ceremony I’d encourage you to vote for the blog.  But if you disagree with such views, you can always vote for one of the other shortlisted nominations (I also read the eFoundations blog which I feel would be a worthy winner – although I should add that I know Andy Powell & Pete Johnston). And if you fancy being contrary, you can always vote for Paul Walk’s blog in the Best Library/Librarian blog category. Indeed as we’ve been nominated in different categories there’s nothing to stop you from voting from both our blogs. And if we both won, we’d be in the position of myself graciously accepting the award and Paul turning it down. Now that would make a wonderful publicity stunt! And as  to whether we have engineered this, on the advice of our agents, my response is “No comment” 🙂