Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Awards, Awards, and More Awards

I confess that I am no great fan of most of the award chain-letters that circulate. I am honestly honored that genealogy writers of high caliber see fit to pass awards on to me. Let there be no mistake; I admire most all the bloggers that see fit to honor me.

Here are my objections to some awards:

  • Awards that must be passed on to be received. Are these awards or social networking experiments? I can’t help but feel there are scientists on the other side of the mirror with clipboards saying things like, “Now let’s change the fan-out from 3 to 7 and measure the change in deployment speed.” From now on, I will pass awards on only at my discretion.
  • In particular, awards with high fan-outs are meaningless. When passed on to another seven people, it doesn’t take very many generations before 7 raised to the power of n completely covers the entire community. From now on, I will reduce to 1 the fan-out of any awards I choose to pass on.
  • Some awards apply peer pressure towards online exposure of personal information. While our children may grow up with no expectations of personal privacy, I still cherish my privacy as a time-honored American value that protects me from a variety of bothersome, intrusive, and even illegal or dangerous situations. (No, that’s not why I keep my name and appearance secret. That’s just for the fun of the mystery.)

Links are the currency of the Internet. When one links to another site, value flows along with the traffic. For websites with ad revenues, that currency converts into hard, U.S. dollars. Consequently, it is not surprising that some awards have ulterior motives involving links. Here are the various schemes that are used:

  • Some awards or badges require sourcing the image from the originating site. BEWARE! This scheme allows the originating site to monitor page views on your site! As an example, consider the Genealogy.org member badge: gentrack.asp  In the case of Genealogy.org, the measurements among members are intentional, not covert. Go to www.genealogy.org to see a traffic report, ranking member websites using the data collected through display of the badge. Always ignore this type of award.
  • Some awards require a link back to the sponsoring site. This increases the sponsor’s search ranking in Google and other search engines, even if no one actually follows the link. For legitimate award sponsors, I don’t begrudge them this benefit. My policy is to place awards in articles rather than displaying them in the sidebars of my website. That’s a personal decision, motivated a teeny-tiny bit by humility and huge-large parts of clean web design and avoiding the appearance of commercialism.
  • Some awards require a link to the website that awarded you the award. This requirement is often coupled with large fan-out requirement. This creates a pyramid scheme paying out in links instead of money. Get in early and your site will have a full set of fan-out links back to it. As with any pyramid scheme, it is the latecomers who suffer. Get in after everyone in the community has already received the award, and there is no one to accept the award from you.

To re-iterate, it is a legitimate honor to receive recognition from my fellow bloggers, regardless of the motives of the award creators. To that end, next time I have several awards to acknowledge. Stay tuned…

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