It's kinda funny that, when talk turns to awards, there is a debate as to whether the blogosphere should pander to them or not. So, as someone unlikely to win an award, although I've been nominated for one in the past (for metaphorically slashing my wrists in public), I thought that I should contribute my thoughts.
There are those who take it all far too seriously, I accept. In blogging, as in life, there are those who are seeking attention, those in need of some external validation. If it wasn't blogging, it would be something else that would provide a platform. And if they're good, they win awards. If that makes them happy, and better people to be with, I can't see that there is any harm. If they aren't good, they don't win awards and little changes.
On the other hand, there are bloggers who genuinely entertain, inform or influence. They may not see themselves as big, or clever, or talented, and awards offer an opportunity to recognise their achievements. By doing so, the rest of us encourage them to continue through those patches when blogging seems too much like hard work, or when inspiration just won't strike. It isn't just about readership figures, although the wider your readership, the greater the likelihood that you will get nominated.
There is no pattern in terms of what is in fashion in a particular year, although humour is often a factor. Looking at the three winners of the Lib Dem Blog of the Year award (and isn't a BOTY a wonderful name for an award?), they have just one thing in common, the sheer quality of the writing. Which is exactly how it should be.
Stephen Tall was a worthy winner in 2006. He was a bit of a trailblazer, and most of us who were blogging in those early days recognised a craftsman when we saw one. His use of polls, experiments in podcasting (retained that manly physique have you, Mr Tall?) made his choice as winner pretty easy to bear. Besides, one of his postings had more influence on me than even I realised at the time...
In 2007, James Graham cut loose. Aggressive (for a Lib Dem), with a sharp tongue, issues of how the Party and the country should work, mixed with a fascination with action comics, made for a heady mix. I couldn't say I agreed with him all of the time, but you certainly knew what he thought, and I was always forced to think. He made it to the big time, with regular pieces in 'Comment is Free' and became a respected commentator on issues related to the Party. These days, I work with James (in the loosest sense, I'm on the Management Board at 'Unlock Democracy') and he is just as good as ever. I still don't always agree with him though...
In 2008, you voted for Alix Mortimer. My god, she was funny. We all knew that she was going to win a stack of awards and, whilst we might have liked to see someone else get a look in, it was a meteoric rise to fame. And yes, I did sort of wish that I could write like her. It turned out that I couldn't...
Three winners, one suave and sophisticated, one blunt and angry, one funny with a highly tuned sense of outrage. Doubtless we'll see something different this year and, for a rare change, I'll be attempting to submit a full list of nominations (I keep meaning to, and yet never quite get around to it). I might even post them, with my justifications.
But I've strayed from my original point (hmmm, that might explain a few things...). Awards present us with an opportunity to reward innovation, talent and all of those other things that keep us reading. I know that Ros was really rather touched to be awarded a BOTY for best use of blogging and social networking by a Liberal Democrat (it wasn't a bad campaign, was it?...), and it took pride of place on our mantelpiece until it, like much of the London property, went into storage (it'll be in the new office when the builders finish).
So I urge you to reward the very best of Lib Dem blogging this year by nominating not just the obvious (and I think we have a pretty good idea who they are...) but those who are less so, who inform, enlighten and entertain. We are immensely fortunate to have a space in which so many divergent voices thrive, and if, as Irfan Ahmed rightly points out, blogging is part of the future of political campaigning, encouraging newcomers and oldtimers alike can only help us reach that bit further.
Finally, there is one person who probably won't get an award this year but without whom none of this would be possible. Ryan Cullen is a bit of an unsung hero to my mind, having created and nurtured Lib Dem Blogs, and played a key role in Liberal Democrat Voice. Perhaps there should be a small token of our collective appreciation?