Web Ireland Awards Get Real?
2300 Hrs 07 June 2000
The Web Ireland Internet Awards bills itself as being the Irish internet industry's awards. The reality is that it is just another awards event, an excuse for 500 invited guests to get together and celebrate their membership of the internet business. The industry itself is not invited.
There are lots of categories for companies to enter their sites in the hope of recognition. Of course it will cost £60 or $70 for companies to be included. These entries will be judged by a motley crew of judges. The good thing is that some of each entry fee will be donated to a charitable cause.
To cater for the industry, there is a "readers´ choice" section. This section is where reader can apparently nominate sites or people for inclusion. It has four categories: Website Of The Year, Industry Person Of The Year, Business Person Of The Year and IT Journalist Of The Year. The original choices were made by the staff of Web Ireland. The choices were bland and cliched. For two weeks these choices were up on the site. The suggestion form for other candidates did not work - you had to fill in all fields or the form would be rejected.
Just when people began to wonder if the e-lection "readers´ choice" section was either rigged or just incompetently handled, the site was updated. Sites were added to the readers´ choice website and my name was added to the IT Journalist of the year category. However some who made the quota have not been included yet.
The site has not been fundamentally updated apart from various twiddleverts and the picture of Homer J. Simpson being removed - probably for copyright reasons. The categories in the "readers´ choice" section were not actually selected by readers and are totally unrepresentative of the industry in general. A few sites have actually surpassed the inclusion requirements, some by a factor of two or more, but were only included nearly two weeks later. Some still have to be added. This laggardly behaviour was leading people to question whether this is a fair and impartial contest.
Of course it could all be down to plain inexperience and poor implementation. Web Ireland just does not get the internet. The articles there are not typically by people who work on the net. That edge of realism, that air of accuracy, that glint of relevance - they are all missing. A working motto for the magazine at the moment could be "Yesterday's news tomorrow!". The beauty of the internet is that it allows a time-frame that approaches real-time. The whole weekly update for a voting system thing is old economy thinking by people who just don't get what the web/internet is all about. What the Hell use is it having a database backed website, (the internet awards site is backed with a database - apparently Access), if the site fails utterly to make use of it? A simple Perl script could run such a voting system and there is a lot of Open Source voting scripts out there.
The inclusion of convenient non-threatening and non-community choices ab initio is highly dubious. It is as one source put it, like setting an election but only having Fianna Fail and Fine Gael candidates on the polling paper. Other candidates would be added as the voting progressed. It is clearly an unfair and highly unrepresentative method of collecting votes.
Since these sites and choices set by the staff of Web Ireland have what effectively is a two week lead on all other candidates, it is difficult to consider this "competition" or "election" to be fair. If perhaps the nominations were closed at a particular date and voting would commence at that date, it would be a fairer situation.
Perhaps I should be insulted that I was not included in the "IT Journalist of the Year" category or that HackWatch was not included in the "site of the year" category - HackWatch actually made it to the top four last year. Surprisingly a non-Irish site won that category. I don't regard Yahoo as an Irish site. But then seeing boundaries dissolve makes global players of us all. Except Web Ireland. It has degenerated into a irregular magazine that serves the clique of people in Dublin who think that they are important to the state of the internet in Ireland - the kind of people who think that Gerry is really a guru because he has written a book.
But then Web Ireland is not that significant in the grand scheme of things. At one time it was - it was the only Irish internet magazine worth reading. Things changed for the worst when it lost its editor. However other magazines have moved on to its territory and many of the people who would have bought it are reading their news on the web. Why read press release rewrites when you can get them directly from the company website? Reading a piece about bandwidth and connectivity from someone who couldn't tell an RJ11 from a BNC is not the same as reading it on a real Irish Tech News site. It is being obliterated by the superior journalism of magazines like Business 2.0 and locally by BizPlus. Web Ireland doesn't have a real website and has not had one now for nearly two years. It has a visually stylistic site that forgets what being a magazine is all about - information.
It is more important to note that many of the better IT journalists in Ireland are not included in that list. Dave D'Arcy, Fiachra O'Marchaigh, Mick Cunningham, Mathew Magee and some of that mob from Irish Computer are missing. Surprisingly John Sterne is included in what otherwise is a bland conglomeration.
Hell I am beginning to wonder if the Irish internet industry shouldn't have its own awards scheme.