Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are the Blogisattvas About Building Community?

Some of you out there may have noticed that I have said nothing at all about the Blogisattva awards. For those of you who don't know about them, these awards were started in 2006 as a way of highlighting quality Buddhist blogging, writing, and unique voices in the Buddhoblogosphere. Tom Armstrong, the driving force behind the original awards, and blogger over at Sacramento Homeless Blog, is, himself a unique writer deserving of more attention.

Anyway, I'm not one to be terribly concerned about awards. They are certainly nice to receive, but the drive behind this blog is to write about spiritual practice, social justice, and community building. So, I was a sidelines sitter on the Blogosattvas until yesterday, when I took a closer look at the guidelines and felt something was off.

Here is the last major paragraph in the guidelines:

Nominations will be taken until November 1st. Upon receiving the nominations, the panel will convene and pick 5 deserving bloggers from each category and will have a run-off vote. This run-off vote will be done by the public, the blogosphere. Our nomination process uses forms built through Excel spreadsheets, which is how the end voting will be put together as well. We believe this is the way to keep things fair and square.

The Run Off vote is what concerns me. Say you have 5 blogs, and two of those blogs are people with several hundred followers, a wildly active Twitter account, and connections to Facebook, MySpace, and whatever other social media outlet you care to name. And the other three blogs are people with few or none of those connections, but whose writing and voice are either just as good or even more worthy of awarding than the former two blogs. What do you think happens with the vote?

Consider it this way. Derek Jeter is the shortstop for the New York Yankees. He's been a great player, and will certainly go to the Hall of Fame when he's finished with his career. But let's face it: the guy could hit .200 and still be elected to the annual MLB All-Star game. Why? Because he plays for the most popular, and most wealthy, baseball team in the world. After a certain point in his career, it really ceased to matter if he was actually THE BEST shortstop in baseball that year. It only mattered that he was Derek Jeter of the NY Yankees.

Now, maybe that analogy is a little ridiculous, but it does point to the potential pitfalls of public votes like the one being proposed for the Blogisattva awards.

So, here's the thing. I'm 34 years old. I've received academic awards. I've even received a few awards in my community for service work. It's an enjoyable, but mostly very fleeting and not even all that tangible experience. However, what I have noticed is how awards can help bring together or divide communities. Even nations and the world. Consider the Nobel Prize, which has really been as much a political commentary tool as it has been about elevating great peace work and bringing together peace-minded people.

So, I guess what I'm interested in how awards like the Blogisattvas might support the broader Buddhist blogging community. How they might foster interest in new voices, unique writing, and authentically expressed practice life. Maybe that's not what all this is about - I guess I don't really know what these awards are really about - but I do know I've seen them written up on enough blogs to understand that people are interested, maybe even excited about them.

But what if all the winners end up being the most followed, most popular blogs? Maybe it won't matter much and like I said, for me, awards aren't a big concern. However, helping to start a non-profit, being an organizational leader for my Zen community, working in immigrant communities - all of this has changed me. I see the ways small things can trigger larger issues in communities, no matter what there makeup, and so when I feel I can say or do something to support said communities, I will. (I've also been learning to shut up and sit (thanks Brad!) when that's called for.)

Anyway, I'd really be interested in what people think about awards and community because it seems like a discussion that isn't happening.


Adam said...

I think it has been happening, I've seen the discussion on twitter, and on a few comments scattered here and there. Though mostly the comments have been about requiring diversity in the panel of judges (which Kyle and Nate have gone out of their way to try and do).

What I'm hoping to get out of the whole award process is the chance to explore some new blogs. I believe Nate and Kyle were putting together a meta-list of Buddhist Blogs to include on the awards page, but there are hundreds so it may take awhile. I'm hoping they decide to publish a list on the blog and keep it up there.

I think that the awards will certainly lead to some bruised egos and petty squabbles, but if we put it into context it really shouldn't. These awards are meant to be fun and foster a greater sense of buddho-blogging community, which I think they will in the long run. I mean, we aren't talking about the Pulitzer here. It's a blog award.

Maybe I'm in a unique position of having no hopes of winning, so my outlook is a little different? (not better, just different) Maybe those with lots of readers are looking at this a little differently, and that maybe some people have built up their ego with each new reader, and are fearing the crushing blow of defeat (to their ego) that could come their way?

Also, I'm putting your book in the mail tomorrow. :)

Algernon said...

Although the invented word is enjoyable ("blogisattva"), I do not know what need such an award serves. A web ring or a home page for blogs associated with Buddhist practice could do that. So why an award?

Brikoleur said...

I've been active in a number of virtual communities over the years. Over that time, I've learned one thing.

They're imaginary.

You can be intensely involved in a community, become a valued member (whatever that means), make net.friends and net.enemies, the works. Then, one day, you decide to leave that community, for whatever reason. In a few days or weeks, you will have ceased to exist. The waters will close without leaving a mark.

This is very different from real, physical communities. For example, the work of my ex-colleagues is everywhere; they're talked about, remembered, and sometimes some kind of continuous contact with them remains.

In other words, I don't really think there's much point to this whole question, because I don't think there is, or can be, such a thing as a community of Buddhist bloggers. There are just Buddhist bloggers interacting with each other, sometimes in beneficial ways, at other times in harmful ones.

At best, I think these awards can draw attention to blogs that would otherwise be missed in the noise, and I agree that making the final round of voting a public one does risk turning it into a popularity contest, where the blogs we already know about get even more attention.

Kyle said...

I am too concerned about the run off vote becoming a popularity contest. And in no way, as we said in the guidelines are the rules for choosing a winner set in stone. We don't want the most popular to win because they have a lot of readers, we want someone to win because they spent the time and effort to write something extraordinary.

Nate and I are working on finalizing how the voting will go, and of course any and all ideas are welcome. If anyone out there has some thoughts about this, feel free to let us know. We are all ears!

Thanks Nathan!

hadv said...

Awards like this, it's just ego-stroking. Better to ignore than to be voted.. and then win. Hahaha.. that'd be embarrassing to watch.

Unknown said...

thanks for the kind words after my comments on peter's blog.

now to the matter at hand.
I agree with your reservations about awards, and specifically with your observations about the dubious value of the popularity aspect of the blogisattva award's method of voting.

You might be interested in the following take on ranking, not blogs but teachers etc, as something to think about as another approach to building community or reflecting upon such (or maybe not, maybe it too is controversial). At the least this website acts as a contact resource. Sarlo's Guru Rating service.

I guess my point is that Sarlo makes personal judgments about how useful any source might be to him. We probably all do the same. To blindly follow award winners is to be blind to reality.

Unknown said...

an after thought: isn't each person's link list a sort of voting on what they like. of course great blogs can still remain in obscurity, but liking helps, i guess.

anyway I think you are on to something and i look forward to seeing where you might take it.


Nathan said...

Glad to see many comments. Keep them coming.

I don't have much time - on break at work - but one quick thing to Petteri.

I have a friend who has had some recent issues with Facebook. And although I agree that it is a virtual community, and really functioning differently than the "in the flesh" world, what my friend is experiencing transcends the virtual world. There's a tendency to want to completely seperate what's happening online from our everyday lives, but when you think about child abusers stalking real children, or couples fighting online and then killing each other in real life, or political candidates making comments on Twitter or Facebook and then having real life consequences - it's really a problem to just say things are imaginary and call it a day.

NellaLou said...

"How they might foster interest in new voices, unique writing, and authentically expressed practice life. Maybe that's not what all this is about-I guess I don't really know what these awards are really about.."

Using a public vote to assess excellence is a bit of an oxymoron. Consider American Idol as an example. What gets counted is popularity, likability, personality, choice of material and not ability, talent, effort, quality of performance, depth.

Personal branding becomes the issue. Marketing comes into play as does the issue of connections.

There are numerous potential fractious issues emerging. Even the raising of questions apparently is not welcomed as I have discovered.

Nonetheless I hope people continue to do so. Or not. I am becoming increasingly ambivalent about it. There are just more urgent issues in the world than patting each other and ourselves on the back.

NellaLou said...

Nathan wrote:
"...having real life consequences - it's really a problem to just say things are imaginary and call it a day."

For some people cyberspace is not imaginary. They invest a whole lot of themselves into it particularly if they are isolated. It becomes an important and "real" connection.

It is as "real" as any of the other fictions we participate in on a daily basis. Like the recollection (re-collection) of a colleague as Petteri mentioned. He is no longer there yet the remnants are reconstructed on a regular basis to call forth that person in a fictitious way.

We all piece functional reality together using these kinds of Gestalt principles. (Just like we piece our "self" together)

Even if we know that is the case and consciously choose to continue to participate in these fictions there is also the point that they are interdependent with others and there is some sense of responsibility there.

That's where community comes in. Where there is interaction of any kind there is community. Even a dysfunctional fragmented community is a community. People with a common interest is the basis of community.

As a community issue the Blogisattva awards could go any number of ways. I hope it is, as Adam "fun". However I also hope that community doesn't come to mean stifling that which is not "fun".

Blogging itself brings up many of the issues discussed. Who do we blog for? In every case it is for ourselves. Whether one writes because they enjoy writing or writes for crowd reaction it comes down to our own purposes. We each have our own agendas

So in one way awards for that seem kind of odd to me.

But in another way recognition forms or reinforces common interest bonds and community standards and can either grow or limit a community depending upon how inclusive that recognition becomes.

The questions become:

Is there room in the tent for all or not? And what constitutes the admission price?

Kyle said...

As before any comments or suggestions are welcome. The main idea for these awards isn't to give awards out to the big online magazine blogs, but to showcase blogs that folks might not know about, or be aware of. There are tons of Buddhist blogs out there, just waiting to be discovered!

@Algernon - Why not? :-)

Again, we might just showcase the top 5, or we might do something totally different. Please bare with Nate and I as we work our way through this process.

Leaf Dharma said...

Popularity contests! I feel like I'm in High School again. Pointless.

Kyle said...

Just as an aside, we have asked for volunteers to join the administrators to help hammer out some of these questions. A couple of folks who have been quite critical of the awards have declined to become administrators. However, overwhelmingly, the reception has been good so far, and Nate and I are doing the best we can with the spare time we have. We already have almost 100 nominee's, and it is still months before Nov 1.

If any of your readers here would like to volunteer as an administrator, please contact us through the blog email at blogisattva.nominations at The only downside to being on the Panel or an Admin is they wouldn't be eligible for the awards. (If someone doesn't like me or has a problem with me personally, we should be able to put those differences aside if they would really like to help out.)

Again, this is not meant to be a popularity contest, it is meant, as Tom and others have stated : Blogisattva awards, where we will recognize excellence in the Buddhist blog-o-sphere.

If we end up just publishing the nominee's then so be it. If we only publish the top five, then so be it. But we need feedback and volunteers. I feel that folks who write very exceptional, extraordinary and compelling things should be recognized for their efforts.

A couple of folks have put a lot of time and thought into posting about concerns they have had about the awards, and we would welcome them to give the same time and thought into helping out, as they did with their posts.

One more thought, if we have the panel of judges decide not only the top five are but also the winners, would that not also open up a lot of concern about who the panelists are? Is there a middle ground? I know people will have complaints and concerns no matter what happens, and we know this, its human nature.

Nate and I have heard a lot of talk, but not a ton of folks have stepped up to offer direct help yet.

PS And you are right, Tom deserves a lot more credit.

Brikoleur said...

@NellaLou: I started to write a reply to you, but then I realized my argument wasn't making any sense.

I still feel that cyber-communities compared to face-to-face ones are second-order illusions if you will, something that people invest a lot of energy in but that lack dimensions of... "caring," shall we say... that are present in face-to-face ones. It's very easy to get fired up about them and invest a lot of yourself in them, but since ultimately all you're contributing is words on the screen plus emotional affects, the "sense-of-community" created is way, way more superficial than if, say, the community also involves cleaning a toilet, walking someone's dog, or cooking someone lunch.

I have broken through this level with a few individuals over the years, but those are very exceptional occurrences.

However, I can't coherently explain why. That means that either I'm mistaken or I need to think about it more. Either way, thanks.

Nathan said...

I'm reposting this comment because it also applies to this discussion.

June 30, 2010 2:55 PM
OpenID said...

haha, no worries -- that's life. people here are looking for 'high-level buddhist' stuff (which you regularly and fabulously supply); not necessarily this one attempt to make dhamma accessible to feminists.

also, i just finished writing a long comment on the blogisattva post but it got erased when i hit publish! whoops!

i think it's a fun thought-experiment, though -- how we might structure an award-granting contest with an eye toward undermining privilege. three ideas:

1) upper-bound threshold of subscribers. more than 1,000 -- you're ineligible.

2) instead of announcing the 5 winners, contact them and ask for their 5 favorite lesser-read buddhist blogs, and publish those results. that way the social pull of the big fish gets put to good use.

3) put a cap on the number of white and male winners allowed. the easiest way to achieve "excellence" in buddhist blogging is to be a white, cisgendered, non-disabled, english-speaking man. it would be interesting to think about honoring the people who need to work harder to achieve "excellence."



NellaLou said...

Petteri said:

"I still feel that cyber-communities compared to face-to-face ones are second-order illusions if you will"

That may be the deal. It's like the difference between a book and a movie. With the former we have to use a lot more of our own imagination (and projection) than in the latter case. It's all constructs with different degrees of involvement and reinforcement. I tend to think of it as a continuum that is in constant negotiation.

katie brings up some interesting points. Quotas always bring up resentment in the privileged group. Seems to be a primitive need to enforce some territorial imperative. But I had a laugh just thinking about it.

Magpie said...

After a 10 hr day at work I'm going to struggle with leaving any sort of intelligent commentary. While respecting Kyle and Nate's conscientious review of the rules and wish to keep things fair- Nathan I agree with you.

While I certainly do not write an exclusively dharma-centric blog, nor do I have near the followers to ever put me in the running for something like this, I worry about the "popularity contest" issues.

Do we want to make the "Buddhist blog-o-sphere" like high school? The one with the most friends wins?

There are many talented writers, mostly Buddhist, but not all, that I follow and bring knowledge and joy to my day. Many of them have very few readers, and like I, write because they have something to say, not because their ego is wrapped in an award or the number of followers.

Kyle- I wish the two of you well on your quest to make the voting fair, having followed your blog for a while now, I am certain you will figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

I've not commented before on this Buddhist-Blog Award and I've not engaged in any discussions about it until now, but opinions have been asked for and I'll express mine. It won't be popular. But I'll finish off with a positive suggestion too.

Anyway, first, my opinion on this Buddhist-Blog Award? What total nonsense! An ego-driven popularity contest if ever there was one!

Will there be badges for winners to proudly display in their sidebars? Will runner-ups get badges too? Will others be consoled with the comment that "there's always next year"?

I mean, really, is this the best the Buddhist Internet 'community' can do? A popularity contest? A talent show? A cyber-prize?

Now, I must admit that I'm in the process of disengaging from the Internet. I've deleted my own blog, write now only for a group blog, do not have a facebook page, a tweeter account or anything like that, and am active in comments on only a handful of blogs and one (non-Buddhist) forum.

And the more I slip away from the imaginary computer world, and the more I direct my efforts to the real one, the more I realise just how much time I have wasted over the past ten years in world that, simply put, doesn't exist. Yes, I've made some friends via the Buddhist Internet, but only a handful have come off the screen and into real life. Everything else has been more or less a wasted effort.

So that's my perspective and you'll hardly be surprised to learn that I feel this cyber-prize to be less than worthwhile when I feel much the same about most of my interaction on the Internet over the past decade.

Yes, people might find new blogs to read, might make new contacts, might learn something. But all of that can be done without awards and competitions and the inevitable arguments and bad feelings and pride and upset and (carefully kept secret) disappointment that will result.

So how about doing something totally positive instead?

You'll remember I said that the only forum I am still engaged in is a non-Buddhist one? It's a forum for people (like myself of course) with Thai families, and I've been engaged on it since just after it started about ten years ago and have met many of the people on the forum over the years...

Anyway, one of the things about this forum is that they have a charity section (something the old ESangha never had, something that I don't think any of the Buddhist forums have) in which people come up with ideas to raise money for Thai-related charities... and over the lifetime of the forum it has raised thousands of pounds for good causes and really brought people together doing so.

If a small specialist forum like that can do so much good in the world, then surely the Buddhist Internet 'community' can pull together likewise to do something similarly productive.

Rather than spend all this effort on running a competition with winners and losers and praise and blame, why not organise something that really does build and strenghthen community and makes a positive impact on the world?

Anyway, I'm turning this computer off now and I intend to do so more and more and more in the future. There are people around me to talk to, there are clouds in the sky above me to watch, there is tea to drink and walks to go on - and a life to live.

All the prizes we need are found right there.

With palms together,


Nathan said...


Your comment about the Thai family internet group shows the potential benefits and realness of the online world, when people move beyond themselves.

Thanks for sharing that example with us. Maybe it will inspire something greater.


Kyle said...

I'll make a post later about some of these things. As for Katies idea, I totally agree with the first one, and agree to some extent with the second one. It should about showcasing bloggers who aren't that well known for the excellent posts they do. But what would be the best way to say if a blogger is well known or not? Do we have a standard that would be useful in determining that?

Looking through the list of nominee's I see tons of blogs, the vast majority are those that aren't straight white men.

Again, anyone with these ideas willing to help out, and volunteer to be an administrator, or at least an official consultant is welcome to. You all can help shape these awards to make them community building rather than an exercise in ego. Problem is, not one person with all these comments or concerns have stepped forward to offer assistance.

Marguerite Manteau-Rao said...

Seems to me this whole discussion here is evidence of an online community being fostered already by the Blogisattvas Awards process :)

I applaud all the thinking going on here, including from organizers of the awards. If the awards serve to widen the cybersangha, great! If not, there is no harm, is there?

Of course, all that matters really is practice. The rest is extra.

Unknown said...

I love your blog and your viewpoint. That being said isn't this post just an invitation for people to whine and moan? I noticed that the whiners and moaner didn't volunteer to help.
I don't always agree with Barbara O'Brien but she jumped right on board and I haven't seen any whiny complaning out of her, for example.

@Marcus Have a good time! I liked your personal blog when you weren't whining about how terrible the internet was to you. Really how was your comment conducive to well, anything? oh wait, Nathan picked the good out of and good on him for it. I'm glad you are walkign away from that which you have aversion to. Too bad you couldn't respond in a more positive manner instead of giving us all the virtual f-bomb before you go.

Adam said...

Here are some words from Tom, who started the blog awards.

"Blogisattva: a portmanteau combining the English word for 'blog' with the Sanscrit word for 'being'... Thus, Blogisattva means BLOG BEING"

"While our very expert blogger jurors have labored mightily and cogitated deeply and voted faithfully to determine "winners" in the midst of plenty, there is no claim that we have found absolute bests nor that there is such a thing as "absolute bests." But it is worthy -- and fun, just fun -- to seek excellence, honor it and encourage it. It is also beneficial, and the prime directive of these awards, to get out The Good News. No, not that Jesus died for your sins, but that there are excellent Buddhism blogs out there that people like you may read for pleasure and information."

"In the meantime, we bow to the winners, all the nominees, the excellence of Buddhism blogging and the work that buddhobloggers do to bring us information and joy."

"The prime purpose of the awards is to introduce Buddhists -- and others with a nascent interest in Buddhism -- to some of the great many excellent, varied Buddhism blogs that are out there, as close as a click away."

So, on that note, two things. One, if those that are behind the scenes of the awards use this criteria in their deliberations and intentions, this should be a FUN exercise.

Second, I'm wondering if Tom ever recieved this much shit for setting up something that was pretty cool in the world of buddhist bloggers? And if not, I'm now wondering if the attention and hate is stemming from people's distrust or dislike of those that resurected the awards.

It seems rather petty to get so damned upset about something that is and has always been a means to honor excellence, foster commnuity, and all meant in "fun, just fun". If you don't feel that the blogisattvas are a good way to promote blogs and blogging, then what is? Maybe the FB page I had set up that no one used(before I deleted my FB account)? Maybe the Tricycle Community group that Nate set up that is under-used? Maybe when Nate does a blog swap that less than a dozen people sign up for?

As for what Marcus had to say regarding setting something up in the greater realm of charity, I wonder if the people that wish to see something like that in action are willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen? We can sit and complain about how there isn't anything like that, and how great it would be, but we all know that Ning is a free service, and blogs (even group ones) are very easy to set up(and free!) if there is a real want/need for it.

So that leaves the question: Do you REALLY want to see something like that exist? Nate and Kyle wanted to bring back the blogisattvas as a great way to foster community, and they've put in a lot of work promoting it, working on the site, and still haven't seen as much participation as they have criticism. Constructive criticism (or even better - helpful suggestions!) I'm sure are welcome. But simply bitching about the whole process isn't getting anyone anywhere.

No one is making anyone participate in this. I'd like to see someone offer up a successful alternative, and put in the work to make it happen themselves, rather than sit on the sidelines and simply throw stones.

Getting off my soapbox now. and your book is in the mail Nathan. I hope you enjoy. :)


Nathan said...

Hey BB,

"That being said isn't this post just an invitation for people to whine and moan? I noticed that the whiners and moaner didn't volunteer to help."

Well, it may be that no matter how I put what I wrote, it would have invited comments that are all about whining. It's a fair question on your part, though, so I'll say a little about what sparked this post.

First off, I noticed a lot of posts about the awards, and also smatterings of the complaint variety appearing on those posts.

Secondly, I felt that the issue of the diverse Buddhist blogging community, and how awards like the Blogisattvas might help or hinder that community, wasn't being addressed head on.

Third,sometimes you need to offer a forum for the angst to come out, so that the real concerns can appear underneath. Since I don't have strong feelings about the awards one way or another - I felt that maybe offering a post about awards and community could give a place for people to deposit their "nasty coins" and maybe move past them.

Sometimes, it never goes beyond bitching. But I think this post hasn't just been all about bitching.


Nathan said...

The comments keep coming in, which shows me two things:

One - a lot of people care about the Buddoblogosphere enough to consider it a community of sorts.

Two - whenever people are in community together, even in the looseness of the online world - there's a hell of a lot of tussle that occurs over what makes it a community, what might benefit said community, and what might harm said community.

That was the point of this post - to get people thinking about all this.

And to those of you who are members of "in the flesh" sanghas, doesn't some of this debate sound really familiar? It does to me.

Adam said...

God damnit. I seriously spent 30 minutes on a effing response, and it then the page went blank. God damnit.

Basically, if you look at what Tom had to say on the Blogisattva page, you'll see that he did it all in fun, and as a means to foster community and get the word out. Nate, Kyle and the admins all seem to be on board with this idea, but none of the critics seem to.

If people want a better alternative to fostering the greater Buddhist Blogging community, make it happen.

But don't try making a FB page. I tried that, and didn't get much involvement.

Also, don't try setting up a community on Ning. Emily tried it. Nate has one on Tricycle. Not too successful though Nate's is still in it's infancy.

Oh, and don't try hosting and organizing a blog swap like Nate has done. You won't get much participation, and people will definitely flake out.

So if it isn't creating an online Ning community, getting people to talk to eachother that normally may not, or hosting a blog dedicated to awarding excellence and fostering community, what is it? What is the GOLDEN alternative that everyone will just fart out rainbows over?

Please, let me know when you are able to successfully foster community on a larger scale than simply throwing up a blog roll. Because there are those of us that would like to see it happen. There are those of us that want to see the sense of community that Marcus was talking about. We are working on it. But "real life" means we have families and jobs and bills and cancer and earthquakes and birthday cakes. We can't spend every moment building something that everyone seems to want but no one is willing to help out with.

And Marcus, if you want to see something like that, make it. Ning is free. Blogger/wordpress are free. Put in the effort. Make it happen. Rather than criticize something someone else cares about, why not foster that which you care about? Also I learned alot from your personal blog, and was rather upset/sad when you deleted it as i was in the process of going through your old posts when that happend.

Nathan, your book is in the mail as of yesterday. I hope you enjoy.


Kyle said...

I have a few comments and questions;

Like Marguerite said, the comments here show people care. While a couple aren't really constructive, it is good we are having this conversation. It shows that the community does care. So all comments good and bad are welcome, but especially those that offer up ideas like Katie and others.

I'm sorry to those couple of folks who harbor a personal grudge against me. I'm am sorry, but these awards are much bigger than me or you, it is about the community and the 100's of bloggers that make it up.

So, how can we get those who have these reservations on board in helping make these awards something that truly inspires the community? I don't think many people believe this is a bad thing out of hand, but that if worked on by the community, it can be a wonderful community building opportunity.

Secondly, just to be clear, the big online magazines and websites are not eligible; with the exception that if an individual blogger made a post on one of these, they can qualify as themselves, for one of he two "post" awards.

Third, we, meaning Nate, myself and several others have asked over a dozen non convert non white non American folks to join the panel, but with no luck. Of course a lot of people aren't able to commit there time to something like this, but how can we reach out to all the diverse bloggers to be a part of these awards? Several have already been nominated, however, I really do see somewhat what of a split in the community which, in my opinion, we can use as an opportunity to overcome this split, rather than widen it. Speaking of which, Nate and I had to turn down six white Americans who offered up there time to judge because we wanted to make the panel more diverse. I felt sick that I had to turn away people because of who they were, so is there a middle ground we can achieve?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if these awards became a metaphorical house that this community helped build together, with ideas and input from everyone?

Thanks everyone for the comments and ideas, keep them coming...and please, remember, you can volunteer your time too!

Adam said...

Tom has something great to add:

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA on a side note, my catptcha was: "urinsax"


Brikoleur said...

Maybe non-American non-white non-male non-converts just aren't all that interested in the whole exercise?

I haven't seen too many comments, pro or contra, from people who don't tick at least three of the above four boxes.

If this is the case, is there any compelling reason why they should be?

NellaLou said...

No need to worry about any more of this on-line Buddhist bullying. One of the Blogisattva judges has the answer. Go off-line and meet face to face.

Online Buddhists is basically a rehash of an old article from Tricycle.

So problem solved.

Kyle said...

@Petteri - That is a good question. We already have 96 nominations, with still over 4 months to go. From a quick look, of those 96 nominations (from the ones I know offhand, there maybe more) I count about 3 or 4 that fall into the category of all three of those non white non convert non American. There are plenty non Americans and several non whites, but almost hardly any non converts nominated. And it looks to be almost 50/50 male to female split.

But there are several English language blogs that do fit into this category, and I emailed them all..well all the ones I could locate. It would be nice to have those folks participate and be represented, but I can't tell you why their seems to be a lack of interest there.

Another interesting point is it is difficult in some cases to pin people down to race, sex, country...etc online. How does one go about categorizing them all? Should every nominee be categorized? Many would say that the nominees should be judged solely on effort and quality of writing, while others say we should weight things like race, sex and country of origin into the formula for the purposes of diversity.

I don't know if there is a good answer to it all. My hope is that the entire English language Buddhist blogging community would participate, but I'm not sure how that will all play out.

Brikoleur said...

@Kyle: I wonder if said non-American, non-white etc. blogs were nominated by white, American, male converts?

If I had to take a wild guess, I'd say it's the competitive aspect of this that might be sticking in their craw. American culture is hyper-competitive. "Competition is good" is in your cultural DNA, so deeply that the thought very rarely even gets verbalized, let alone questioned. Perhaps the non-American non-converts feel that competition just doesn't sit well with their practice, and therefore aren't interested in participating?

What would have happened had you quietly approached these non-American, non-convert, non-white bloggers with a completely open brief—i.e., telling them that you're looking for a way to publicly recognize excellence in Buddhist blogging, would like their help, and would especially like their help in figuring out how, exactly, this should be done?

As it is, there's a lot of stuff already built in: "award," "competition," "voting," and the baggage of the previous years' awards. That makes for a lot of assumptions, and I can easily see how someone wouldn't want to participate because of that.

In sum, from where I'm at, these awards have a pretty distinctly American cultural flavor to them. I suspect that that may be what's keeping non-American non-converts from jumping onboard.

Brikoleur said...

My previous comment kicked off a train of thought (or do we call them "streams of cittas" in these parts?) about alternative ways the goals of the Blogisattva awards could be met. So, what the hell.

How about approaching this as curation instead of an award? Like:

Start off with the distinguished panel of judges that you've already assembled. Each month, each judge picks one particular blog s/he thinks is worthy of attention, and then writes up an essay explaining why—highlighting posts worth reading, conversations worth having, and so on.

Each blogger so honored will then be invited to highlight a blog of his/her choice the same way. Ideally, the original panel will gradually fade into the background as the bloggers themselves gradually take over the process; however, they might still retain an editorial role, and might commit to be a backstop, to continue the process at a certain pace for a certain amount of time, in case the featured bloggers don't want to participate.

The upshot would be a site with a steady stream of meta-blogging by people recognized as being worth reading, but the pool will be open and constantly changing, and each post will reflect the views and preferences of the individual in question. No prizes, no awards, no merit, beyond what it is.

Just a thought...

hadv said...

A friend corrected my view on this awards thing. She said, it's just about blogging not about Buddhism, you're making a mountain out of a molehill. And when I asked for clarification, she said: "What would the Dalai Lama say if he was given an award of any kind? He would say thank you, and then go about his other business." So, on that note, I stand corrected. I confused the award to include the practice, when it's only about blogging and bloggers who happen to be Buddhists.

Kyle said...

@Petteri - Can't argue with you there, Americans are, for the most part raised to be very competitive. Hell, most of us boys are reared to be aggressive using sports as the catalyst. We are taught second place is as bad as last place and doing your best is only good enough if you win. Try having that burden of pressure on ya growing up as a kid!

I love your idea, I think that would be a good way to spotlight many different writers. But, not to be a slacker or anything, I don’t think anyone has that kind of time to commit so frequently. It’s one thing to gear up for one yearly event, it’s a totally different to do it monthly. Unless of course you are offering to help out? :-)

Brikoleur said...

@Kyle, I realize it's a bit late in the day for suggestions like this, so it wasn't really intended as something anyone could act upon right now. However, a few people on this thread *did* ask if anyone could think of alternative approaches, so...

To answer your question anyway: I'm too new to this whole Buddhist show in general and Buddhist blogging in particular that I'm not really in a position to help with something like this. As to the Blogisattva awards as they're playing out now, thanks, but no thanks; competitive situations mess badly with my head, and I'm trying to avoid them whenever possible, in any shape or form. It's kinda telling that I haven't managed to stop myself from commenting anyway, isn't it?

(I don't think the format I sketched would necessarily be a huge amount of work, though. Writing up a lesser-known blog you happen to know and like is nowhere near as big a deal as carefully going through hundreds of nominated blogs and then picking your favorites. I have in fact participated in something a bit like this regarding photography.)

Ryan said...

I tried to read all the comments...I really did. However, it just runs all together.

The concerns stand. They are what they are.

I, for one, love reading every single one of your blogs. I enjoy the links embedded into the words, and I find more interesting blogs within them. If this is a way for me to find someone else from whom I can improve my practice, I am on board 100% and will help in any way I can.

I practice with a few Vietnamese monks who aren't too well versed in the English language. There is a lot of support and answers for me in this online community. Not that my practice depends on it, but it is a wonderful collection of experience and opinion.

If everyone is against the ego stroking, so be it. The placements are all impermanent anyway, and I have only my own ego to tame. Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Hi Buddhasbrewing (and Nathan of course!),

You said: "Too bad you couldn't respond in a more positive manner instead of giving us all the virtual f-bomb before you go."

I'm sorry you feel that's how I acted. I must have expressed myself very badly because giving anyone the "f-bomb" (I'm not quite sure what that is) was certainly not my intention, and I did try to temper my opinion regarding the Awards with some positive ideas too.

Nathan, on his blog, asked for people's opinions regarding the Buddhist-Blog Awards and, as a regular commenter on Nathan's blog, I thought I'd leave my comments. I believe I did that both honestly and politely and made an effort to explain my position, and I really don't think I insulted anyone.

I didn't respond positively to the idea because I don't feel the awards are a good idea. Perhaps you are right, perhaps if I'm not positive about it I should have remained silent, but I honestly thought that when Nathan asked for opinions, he wanted a range of opinions rather than just one.

It seems to me that this is exactly the waste of time I was talking about when it comes to Internet discussions. Opinions were asked for on a great blog I read daily. I gave my opinion, and am then criticised by a third party for doing so!

But, yes, I'm more than willing to accept I might have been wrong. I'm not very good at expressing myself and may well have done so in such a way that people thought I was being insulting. For that I apologise.

No more comments from me.

With palms together in respect to all here,


Anonymous said...

Hi Adam,

Much the same as my response to Budhasbrewing I'm afraid.

You say: "Rather than criticize something someone else cares about, why not foster that which you care about?"

Well, I offered my criticism simply because it was asked for. And I don't believe that means I neglect other things that I do care more about.

In the original post Nathan concluded by saying "I'd really be interested in what people think about awards and community because it seems like a discussion that isn't happening."

Yet now, after offering a single comment giving my opinion, I'm told by multiple third parties that I would have done better to say nothing. Well, yes, I have to admit, I suspect you are right.

As for fostering the things I do care about, the way you pose the question suggests that you think I don't! This is not the place to discuss the work I do for charity and Sangha-building, but voicing my objections to a Buddhist Blog Award does not mean I neglect them.

Still, again, here I am wasting time I could be using so much more fruitfully. I apologise to you Adam for any upset I have caused and, like I say, no more comments from me. This is both exhausting and pointless, my apologies for dragging us both into it.

Nathan, I'm resolved to scale right down in all my Internet activities, but I'll still be reading Dangerous Harvests! I know we often differ in our views but I very much appreciate your writing and hearing your perspective on things. Thank you Nathan.

All the very best and with palms together,

Marcus _/\_

Kyle said...

Here, I put up a post to address some of these things.

Nathan said...

Hi Everyone,

I'd like to say that it was a little disappointing that Marcus' comments were singled out, even though others also had pretty "critical" things to say. I'm glad that Marcus and the others who aren't into the awards said what they did - it's makes for a conversation.

Building community of any kind involves skillfully working with disagreeing views. Not always easy, but it's what needs to be done.

I welcome more comments on this post, but would ask that everyone do their best to remember that there is a living, breathing person behind each comment. In other words, pause before you click. Thanks.

Adam said...

Marcus, you are entitled to give your opinion, and I certainly didn't want to attack you. I'm just finding it hard to believe that people would have a problem with recognizing excellence in blogging in the buddhist-blogging community, and providing a place where buddhist bloggers can form some sort of community bond and get to know eachother a little better. I suppose it's just a matter of perspective, and I'm having a really difficult time wearing another's shoes on this one.

As for "As for fostering the things I do care about, the way you pose the question suggests that you think I don't!"

I certainly didn't mean that, sorry if it was interpreted that way. It just seemed that you would rather they spent time on something that you deemed would be "better".

I think what they are doing with these awards IS a positive thing. Sure, they could be spending their time doing even better, more noble things than this. But I don't think that takes away from what they are doing. There will always be a bigger fire to put out somewhere. There will always be a cause that is more urgent or imporant than the next depending on whom you ask. But as the spirit and action of the blogisattvas is overwhelmingly positive, I for one am happy that they have been resurected. I've already found half a dozen excellend blogs that I wouldn't have otherwise, and in turn, has helped my understanding of the dharma in a small way.