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How Many Is Too Many?
By Jef Peace -- Listed May 16, 2001
How many awards can a site earn before it is considered excessive? This is a hot topic these days and I'd like to discuss it in this article. The answer that comes immediately to mind is, "Why does it matter?" After some reflection, though, I think it's a valid question and it deserves an answer.

To understand why it would matter, we have to examine why a webmaster would want even one award. What are the motivators?

Jef Peace

Then we should look at the flip side of the coin. Why would anyone want to offer an award? Finally, based on this analysis, we have to decide if it's possible to earn too many awards. So just sit back and relax while I explore some of the psychology that drives the world of awards.

It Makes Me Feel Good!

Self-gratification is a very strong motivator. One of the battle-cries of the enlightening 60's was, "If it feels good, do it." If you look beneath the triteness of this quote, you'll find it contains a blunt statement of the human condition. We buy food that we enjoy the flavor of. We watch television shows that we find entertaining. We purchase cars that we find attractive. We wear clothing that we find appealing.

I personally don't know any rational person who will voluntarily do anything that does not feel good. There is either a physical or psychological pat-on-the-back involved in almost everything we do by choice. Even when we take out the garbage, it's usually because the kitchen will smell better or because we are pleasing our spouse, which in turn pleases us.

Self-gratification is also probably the strongest motivator for award seekers. I know that every time I receive an award I glow for a period of time and read the congratulatory email at least twice. Can anyone who has received an award claim a different reaction?

People have different levels of need for self-gratification, and an indicator of their level of need could be their awards display. "But Jef," you say, "you have over a hundred awards and you still apply for more. Does this mean you have a high level of need?"

You bet I do. I surround myself with things that bring me pleasure. From the soft strains of Mozart's 42nd playing on my stereo to the comfy Steelcase chair I'm sitting in to the 127 awards I've received as of the writing of this article. It's easy for me to admit this to you because there is no shame in a natural human condition. Receiving awards makes me feel good.

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya' Hear?

"Build a better website and they will come." Okay, so there's more to it than building a better website. People have to able to find you. Hey! How about applying for a bunch of awards and getting links from a lot of websites? This will also improve my rankings in the search engines ... right?

Yes, it will help considerably. The more sites that link to yours, the higher you'll rank in the search results. This was a by-product for me. One of my judges did some investigating recently and found that my site, PeaceWorkDotCom, has remained at about the same place in the search engines while the Certified Sites website has dramatically risen in the ranks.

I guess that makes it a valid reason to apply for awards, eh? Just remember to show respect for the award givers and you'll hear no complaint from me. It's only fair that you "pay" them for the increased traffic by linking the awards to their sites.

And the Winner Is ...

Prestige may not be a very altruistic motivation, but it is certainly not a dishonorable one. This motivation is usually reserved by those who have already paid their dues and are now seeking a higher level of acceptance. I confess that prestige is a motivation for me. Again, this is a confession that comes easily. There is nothing even remotely inappropriate about seeking prestige for all my hard work and the resulting expertise I've acquired.

Prestige equals credibility. No prestigious award will legally appear on a website which is merely marginal. This is a fact of life. Credibility is important to anyone who wishes to be heard, accepted, and respected. Need I say more?

So, Whaddya' Think?

Outside evaluation of a website is crucial to the concept that our pages exist to offer something to the Internet Community. If you are creating a page to pamper your ego or to store things only of use to yourself, this would not be a motivation for you. But if your intent is to inform, entertain, or otherwise perform a service to the Internet Community, then seeking evaluation of your website will be a strong motivator indeed.

This was my sole motivation when I began applying for awards. I found it impossible to evaluate my own website because all my friends and family would tell me it was perfect. Since I'm a reasonably mature adult with clear vision, it was easy to see they were just patronizing me. It occurred to me to apply for an award one day when I came across a website that offered them. I received a notice that I did not qualify and I was euphoric!

My joy didn't stem from some masochistic thrill of thinking my site was horrible, but from the evaluation that was attached. They were telling me exactly what was wrong with my site, and they offered suggestions for improvement. I haven't looked back since.

The Flip-Side

Speaking of masochism, why would anyone in his right mind want to offer an award? Isn't it an incredible amount of work with almost no reward? Well, yes and no. It is a lot of work (okay, an incredible amount) but the rewards are ... well, okay, almost nonexistent. But it's worth it. Really.

I started my program because one of the people in my employ suggested it at a meeting. We were discussing ways to offer something to our visitors that was entertaining and someone suggested linking to other sites. The idea of awards came up while we were exploring the ways to determine which sites "deserved" a link. The rest, as they say, is history.

Shape Up or Ship Out!

I like to think the main motivation for starting or maintaining an awards program is to help make the web a better place for everyone. We award givers help by offering incentives for keeping websites informative, aesthetic and error-free. A very real by-product of seeking awards is that one tends to improve a website in order to acquire awards not won or higher levels of awards already won.

If enough award givers deny them, maybe the guys with the JAVA errors that bring our browsers to a screeching halt will fix their code or remove it. If we tell them they need more content, perhaps the folks who use their websites as a photo album of their long line of pet iguanas will actually include some interesting stories or pertinent facts. These are just a couple of examples of how we can help to improve the Net.

It's the Coin of the Realm

Another motivation for giving awards is self-gratification (Hey! Didn't we already cover this?). I, for one, get a small thrill when I come across a website that is worthy of one of my top honors. I also feel pretty darn good when I get a "thank you" email from a surprised webmaster. Like I said before, this is a natural human condition. Its power has been grossly understated and its value has been misinterpreted to mean something unclean. How did this ever come about?

My grandmother used to say "If it doesn't make you happy, you're not doing it right." I think this applies to award giving as well.

So What It Boils Down to Is ...

Okay, I've discussed motivations for and results of seeking and giving awards and the question remains, "How many is too many?"

In my opinion award seekers gain knowledge during their quest. They and their websites evolve due to the opinions of the award givers and as a direct result of their continuing efforts to win more and better awards. Award givers evolve too, moving up the ladder from "feel good" awards to substantial and prestigious ones based on solid criteria.

Websites should be judged solely on their merits in direct and objective relation to the criteria of the award giver. This criteria should address factual and measurable things and should not depend on assumptions.

Award givers have no way of knowing a webmaster's motivation for seeking awards. They have no way of measuring how many of the awards a webmaster displays were unsolicited and how many were actively sought. They have no way of measuring the condition of a site at the time any given award was earned. They have no way of measuring if the awards are displayed out of respect for the giver's efforts or for vanity.

Therefore, the award giver would have to make assumptions in order to include the number of awards a site has earned as a point of criteria. The logical conclusion is that the number of awards a site has earned should not be considered in the fair and impartial evaluation of a website.

How many is too many? How much space do you have on your server?

Copyright © 2000
All Rights Reserved
Jef Peace

About the Author
Jef Peace is Senior Moderator for Award Sites! Assembly and a web designer.  He is the former C.E.O. of APEX (Association for Positive Ethical eXchange), a Charter Member of CEM/CEMA (Website Evaluator's Code of Ethics) and was the founder / owner of the retired 5.0+ PeaceWork Certified Sites®.

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