Saturday, February 6, 2010

an appeal to make the shorty awards, well, shorter

As my friends, family and followers on twitter are relieved to know, Shorty Award voting ended yesterday. I'm tickled that @BettyDraper finished in what appears to be 2nd place in the Innovation category, though rankings won't be announced until an awards ceremony on March 3.

So now that I've dusted myself off from the campaign trail, and had a chance to gain a little perspective, I'm thinking that if the Shorty Awards really mean to "Honor the Best Producers of Short Real-Time Content on Twitter" they ought to rethink the open voting.

Last year, Shorty winners were determined only by popular vote which meant that awards went to those with the most time and energy to devote to aggregating votes. At least one finalist, @SavvyAuntie, dropped out of the running for this reason. (Technically, she didn't drop out, but stopped asking for votes, which in a runoff determined by popular vote, is the same thing.) "It's not a fair awards ranking program. It's a popularity contest."

Anyone with a twitter account can be nominated (or nominate themselves) for a Shorty Award. The rules encourage nominees to "campaign and encourage their friends to vote for them." This is a great way to ensure that Shorty Awards is a top trending topic on twitter, but a lousy thing to do to the twitter community which is besieged for weeks with solicitations for votes from anyone with a hope of actually winning.

To their credit, Shorty Awards organizers are attempting to make the awards less about vote-getting this year and more about content creation by instituting another round in the process, a review by the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences. The name may be amusing, but the membership is impressive, including MC Hammer, David Pogue (NYTimes), Kurt Andersen (NPR), Frank Moss, (MIT media lab), Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr) and Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist.) According to the Shorty website, the Academy "will carefully review the finalists' tweets and fill out an anonymous survey with their choices for winners." What role their vote will play in determination of winners isn't clear, but their role is promised to be "vital."

Perhaps next year, the Academy could play an even more vital role, helping to nominate finalists. Should the Shorty evolve to be like other award shows that rely only on recognized experts in a field to identify excellence of others in it? (Imagine if the real Oscars were determined by how many votes actors could wheedle out of viewing audiences?) This being social media, I think the Shorty Awards needs to retain a social component in determination of winners. But couldn't the voting period be contracted? A month is a century in twitter time, interminable to contenders who must keep stumping for votes, excruciatingly long for the twitter community forced to endure so many appeals. Wouldn't an open voting period of a week or less be a relief to everyone?

Of course, despite my beef with an imperfect process, I'll be breathless as other finalists in Times Square on March 3, awaiting word of the winners, grateful there’s any recognition at all for an art still dismissed by so many as "frittering."

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