MY DAY IN the Alexander Hotel recharged me more than any other work day I have spent in Dublin this century. That's because I soaked up the good karma exuded by Irish Blog Award contestants, their friends and the organisers who produced a community event that could easily eclipse any other industry awards programme in new media. This was a night that empowered the little guy, acknowledged the importance of free speech, the energy of the Irish online community and the passion that drives people to blog.
For the record, Jett Loe captured a running commentary for listeners. Let's hope the upcoming podcasts help foreign listeners like myself pronounce words like Michele Neylon, Technolotics, Breathnach, O Muineachain and Donncha. Luke McManus from RTE made video clips for an upcoming show on how media has evolved since 1986. The gender balance favoured men (TCAL desperately needs women--and girlfriends) but women won a higher percentage of the awards.
Twenty Major cleaned up on the night, with his handler taking home awards for best blog, best blog post, and most humourous post. His goodie bag bulged with two iPods (one black, one pink) and a swish SonyEricsson W900i videophone for us to finally hear him podcast. At the ceremony, Twenty retired all words starting with the letter C.
Annette Clancy picked up two awards, one for best fictional piece and another for best personal blog. Kevin Breathnach won "best comment" while Sinead Gleeson took home "best arts and culture blog" honours. Along with Donncha O Caiomh's outstanding images (best photoblog), the assembled work by these bloggers makes compelling viewing when bundled together as third level reading material in Media Writing and Mass Communications courses that I teach.
These are well-deserved honours and the lack of snarky comments indicated that the 170 people in the audience respected the judging process. I've judged these kinds of things before and it isn't easy unless you have a framework. I think Damien should publish the framework so people can speculate why their favs didn't win.
Planning for next year has started already. I hope the venue can be expanded while keeping its dimension of intimacy. Rick O'Shea kept things moving well and Elena Kehoe worked magic in the background that ensured a smooth-running affair. By March 2007, we will have hundreds of Irish teenagers and college students who will have blogs that deserve recognition in their own category. A general election calls for the Irish blogging community to recognise excellence in political blogs. And within a year's time, both podcasts and video blogs will deserve a serious look as award-winning ways to exercise free speech in Ireland.
Before then, I want to move up on the agenda a series of training days involving award winners describing to avid listeners how they do things. Before St Patrick's Day, we will anounce a wiki and virtual learning environment that will roll out materials that describe best practise in blogging, as explained by award winners who have shown us true excellence in Irish blogging.
I think all the awards winners should acknowledge those who have gone before. I remember vividly the conversations about RSS that engaged Alis Marsden and Dave Winer. Alis has dropped off my radar, along with Helena Kim, whose edgy blogging could have gotten her dooced if she continued it. I watched Robyn O'Rourke turn off her feed after getting thumped by Christian fundamentalists and I know 20M probably feels the same heat. David Stewart blogged from his hospital bed on the night. rekindling memories I have of Candygirl's dying days as she blogged the setbacks in her cancer treatment. I have never returned to the passion I felt when blogging about the death of my dad and my dog. And I have taken steps to ensure I don't blog from a prison cell (hat tip to the Joy for letting me keep my blogging phone when behind bars). There are so many stories that connect Irish bloggers and make for glorious reading. In my professional life, I take the aggregated thoughts written and shared by tonight's awards winners along with Gavin Sheridan, Antoin O Lachtnain, John Smyth, Brian Greene, James Corbett, Dervala Hanley, Jessie and Steve, Red Mum and dozens of others into classrooms where their writing, imagery and voices connects with kids aged from 15 to 55. Seeing some of their faces tonight makes me proud to say I have personally connected a living river of news and views. It's a totally energising experience for me, one I want to replicate for college students whose syllabi I write.