Tuesday, December 14, 2004

On Competitions

My previous post on the Koufax nominations left me with this "worms in the stomach" feeling, a mixed feeling of embarrasment and shame and some guilt thrown in, too. Because I really do hate competitions of all types. I have either always won the competitions in my life or come dead last in them, and this may have something to do with my hatred. That, plus the fact that intellectually I know competitions of this sort to be very uninformative.

I don't like to win, because if I win, others lose, and it's my fault. But I don't like to lose, either, because then I'm a worthless goddess, good for nothing. These are the emotional (and immature) reactions. My intellectual responses are more complex, and vary by type of competition. The types that depend on a jury that compares the performances of the competitors on several dimensions are problematic, and the more so the more varied the dimensions of this performance are.

Blogs are very different from each other, and any attempt to rank them by competitions is bound to fall short of perfection. In some ways the Koufax nominations are like trying to have one big competition for all written word, from Shakespeare to the most recent issue of your local newspaper. This doesn't make sense, but that's what we do, and having several categories doesn't help very much.

Some blogs are like large chatrooms, with many bloggers mainly passing out short links to news events that the participants then discuss. Other blogs are written by professional journalists. Yet others are written by specialists who have spent years studying one topic in detail. Most blogs are by amateurs who also have jobs and families and other responsibilities. It's not fair to compare such diverse forms of blogging, even if group blogs and expert blogs are made into separate categories.

Even the way "politics" is defined varies among the many lefty blogs. Some of us define politics more widely than others, and these wider definitions are not universally accepted. The narrowest definition of a political blog seems to require that it blogs about the Bush administration and the war on Iraq. If these two are not included, then the blog is not truly "political". This leaves out some very interesting political blogs. Also, many blogs that I read contain more than just pure politics, and such blogs, too, are underrepresented among the Koufax nominees.

All this means that I don't have much trust in the ability of any award, including the Koufax award, to rank blogs in a meaningful way. Why then, you might ask, did I beg people to nominate me? The answer is in the visibility one gains by doing well in these kinds of competitions. If I believe in what I'm doing with this blog (and I do believe in it, most days), then I want to have more readers, and the publicity of a nomination will help with that.

But it gives me worms in the stomach.