It’s over!

No you can't have $10,000.  Not yours.

I am proud to announce that I am 5th Loser in this 2007 College Blogging Scholarship competition!

Lacking the emotional appeal and/or existing promotional network of the top scorers, I was pretty much up the creek without a plunger. Given the popularity contest format of the competition, I’m actually pretty pleased with how I did. My regular readers (judging by the hits to the RSS feed) have approximately tripled or quadrupled, and I did get a small but useful amount of feedback to help improve things. Oh, and hey, I seem to have readers in Berlin and somewhere in Chile, among other places, so now I can say I’m “world famous™”. Though the proportion of voters who actually did check out all of the blogs was pitifully low, it does still look like it was around 1-2% of the voters, which is actually higher than I would have predicted.

I get the impression that some of us running less well known blogs were a little disappointed about the format of the competition, but there’s really no reason to be. All it means is that rather than being a contest for “highest quality” blog, it was a contest for “most effective” blog. Certainly, being able to get your “vote for me” message out to a larger range of people is a valid measure of effectiveness, so the results seem reasonable to me. And I wasn’t the bottom scorer. Judging by the way my score moved, at least some portion of the people who were examining all of the blogs actually did like what they saw here as I was getting a couple of votes a day on average, so I’m doing something right at least.

The only complaint I really have about the “popularity contest” format is this: I think one of the major benefits to humanity of “blogging” is the fact that unlike mainstream media, a blogger can afford to present unusual, less broadly popular content which otherwise would never be made available. Not having to worry about the internet equivalent of “Nielsen Ratings”, we can afford to put up obscure or strange things that only a fraction of the world might be interested in, which is why if you poke around the internet, you can find something that isn’t the latest celebrity crap or badly-reported political scandal. I actually don’t know how much of a role it played in this particular competition, but this sort of approach in general strikes me as something that would be strongly biased towards “mainstream” content. I think a little more love for all of us off-center folks would be in order.

I also hope they’re offering runner-up prizes again this year. Even if *I* don’t win, at least one of “my people” (nerds, that is – hey, you don’t go for a PhD in Neuroscience without being at least a little bit of a nerd…) would get something again this year if they do.

This does mean, though, that I won’t have $10,000 to buy a microscope with. Woe is me. On the other hand, that means I’ve got no excuse not to try begging in front of scientific conferences. I figure that ought to be worth some entertainment, once I get some time to try it. Perhaps by this time next year, I’ll have a bit more fame and popularity and have a better shot at the prize.

Hey,, if you want to promote my blog next year when I’m (hopefully) in graduate school, I may have a shot at the prize next time around… (UPDATE: It may not be obvious, but this should be read as good-natured jealously, not some kind of complaint or accusation…)

And now that all that’s over, we’ll be returning once again to my usual nerdity. Stay tuned (some more).

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

6 thoughts on “It’s over!”

  1. No need to snark at ScienceBlogs. The reason I had an “existing network” wasn’t because it showed up on my doorstep wrapped in a pretty bow, but because I have been blogging a long time (over 2 years) and have accumulated friends along the way. I resent the suggestion that bloggers supported me for any other reason than that they believed in me and my blog, and felt I deserved recognition for what has amounted to about 800 posts in the year and a half I’ve been at SB.

    It was a popularity contest, and not a fair contest on a lot of levels. But in the end it was out of our hands, and we had to use the resources available to us to make the best of things. At the very least, this contest has exposed a lot of new readers to your writing which can be nothing but good. And if you are interested in coming over to ScienceBlogs in the future, and therefore gain equal lobbying status with me, shoot me an email and i’ll put in a good word for you. I do like what you’re doing over here.

  2. No snark intended – just again honest (and good-natured) jealousy. I’m not sure what gave you the idea that I didn’t think you’d earned your popularity, but whatever it was let me state explicitly that having been a reader of your blog [among others on the rss feed] since well before last year’s competition, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. I was actually expecting you’d win this year after last years’ showing. Sorry if my post came across otherwise.
    (I also really am genuinely happy to see that you at least got something for 2nd place, too – if it wasn’t obvious, being a “nerd” is supposed to be a compliment here – at least when I use the term).

    Other than that, none of the post was really directed specifically at your blog, just at the contest format as a whole. For example, the leader for the first day or two appeared to be a baseball blog. And the winner was an “inspirational personal narrative” style of blog. Neither necessarily bad, but definitely something of a “mainstream” type of content. Kind of frustrating to a nerd like me to see a science blog kept out of first place by “mainstream” content, that’s all.

    I’d actually be pretty tempted at this point if was really interested in my blog, but in truth I’d feel a little uncomfortable if you were going to still be eligible to compete next year and I ended up being the “Ralph Nader” of the vote, and the affiliation meant I’d stealing just enough of the attention and votes to keep you from winning…

    It probably didn’t help the coherency of the post that I stayed up way too late watching to see what the final scores would look like at the very end, either.

  3. I definitely agree with you on this one – the popularity contest format really wasn’t the best way they could’ve decided who deserved the win. It basically drove home the point that the scholarship was never meant for the best writer, or most consistent blogger, or whatever – because how many of those 20,000+ votes REALLY read all the blogs for the best content?

    But at least you got to post a pretty sweet baby face.

  4. I’d like to jump in and offer my two cents in defense of my blog, as well. Before the beginning of this contest, my blog was far from “well known.” I started blogging three years ago, but took the blog down last year because I didn’t have enough time to devote to it and because I wanted to remain anonymous (so much for that!). I began blogging again when I was diagnosed with cancer this past spring as a way to keep my family and friends informed about my diagnosis and treatment.

    What I have discovered in the process, however, is that there are a LOT of people out there who have been touched by cancer in some way. My blog appeals to those people because I write about cancer from a patient’s point of view. The feedback I receive from people is that they feel like they are gaining an understanding of what it’s really like to go through something like this.

    My blog is not about science or college admissions or baseball or my marital relationship, but it is about a law student who just happens to be in the fight of…and for…her life. I don’t know if most people would consider that “mainstream” content, but I can tell you that I and my husband and children certainly don’t.

    I’ve read a lot of criticism in the past few weeks about the poor quality and boring content of my blog. I may not be Mark Twain or Edith Wharton or Shirley Hazzard, but I think that I can write fairly well. It seems that there are as many people out there who are interested in the writing of a law student battling cancer as there are in that of a neuroscientist studying hair cell regeneration…we just have different audiences. I certainly didn’t run out and contract cancer in order to get the sympathy vote for this contest (and I’d trade every penny of the $10,000 and then some to make it all go away), and I think that I deserve help with my student loans just as much as anyone else.

    As for the internet vote…I think we can all agree that it’s a surprising way to award such a large amount of money. In fact, in my very first post after we were all nominated I made the analogy that it was kind of like American Idol for bloggers. However, the good thing is that it is great way to recognize student bloggers.

    And for the record, who says I’m not a nerd? I just happen to be a book nerd instead of a math or science nerd.

  5. how many of those 20,000+ votes REALLY read all the blogs for the best content?

    At some point, I’m actually planning to go through my logs and get a real estimate, but in the first few days it appeared to be about 1-2%…

    I will say, though, that at least for the first few days I saw an awful lot of MIT IP addresses looking at my blog, referred from the Blogging Scholarship page. I figure if they went to the trouble of looking at my obscure little blog, they were probably looking at most of them at least. So – hooray for MIT! And while I’m at it congratulations on reaching 3rd place!

    As far as the “creepy crying doll” picture, I’ve actually considered making a scripted “no you can’t have (X), not yours” generator so I can whip up new ones easily as needed. (It’s Creative Commons material, so anybody else can use it, too.)

    If I were in charge of setting the contest rules for next years’ competition, I’d split the prize between a “people’s choice”/”most effective/popular blog” (like this year’s competition) AND a more formally judged “best blog” contest – the latter involving the judges actually submitting judging forms with comments in the process, so those of us who didn’t win would at least get some idea of what the judges liked and didn’t like. (Of course, the same blog could legitimately take both categories, and that’d be okay too.)

    I think my only genuine disappointment about this competition is the lack of feedback. Of the several hundred hits I got, only one person who wasn’t a member of my immediate family actually took a few seconds to post some feedback. At least that feedback was helpful, though.

  6. I’d like to jump in and offer my two cents in defense of my blog

    You’re welcome to, though I should point out that you don’t have to, at least not here. I also noticed a few people claiming there was something wrong with your writing, but I don’t get what they’re complaining about – it looked fine to me. I really doubt you’d have blown everyone out of the metaphorical water if you hadn’t been writing effectively.

    Really, I think the only quarrel you might have here is whether or not your blog’s content is “mainstream”, and I think that’s even just a matter of us perhaps using different meanings of the word:

    “[…]there are a LOT of people out there who have been touched by cancer in some way. My blog appeals to those people[…]It seems that there are as many people out there who are interested in the writing of a law student battling cancer as there are in that of a neuroscientist studying hair cell regeneration[…]”

    Actually, I’d be willing to bet there are a lot MORE who are interested in the former rather than the latter – that was my point. All kinds of people like to hear inspiring stories of people overcoming adversity, particularly something as widely recognized as cancer. As the voting demonstrates, it’s the kind of “human interest story” that appeals to a large majority…and that is the fundamental characteristic of “mainstream”. Certainly stories of personal struggles against adversity are much more broadly popular than, say information about expired JellO or debunking glow-in-the-dark Mountain Dew.

    I suspect a lot of the people with the tactless complaints are just having trouble dealing with the frustration of finding themselves in a futile contest trying to pit their specialized niche content against such a strong mainstream appeal. Given that “niche content” is one of the major appeals of blogs for a lot of people, I suspect some people were irrationally bothered by the introduction of virtually unbeatable mainstream appeal into the competition.

    I say nuts to ’em. They’ll get over it. You shouldn’t let them get to you.

    Incidentally, I’ve noticed that you’ve been posting on some of the other blogs (and mine too, now), which I think is wonderful. Too few people really seem to “get” the participatory aspect of blogging.

    Oh, and a request – I noticed in one of your posts earlier this month that you’d mentioned that you’d stopped blogging for a while for fear that it might hurt your career. As someone who started blogging in part because I think it might help my career, I’d be very interested if you expanded on that in a post sometime. Were you worried that you might say something that someone might recognize? Or is there just a general distrust of bloggers in the legal community? Or what?

    Congratulations on your win, by the way, and thank you visiting my blog – please be encouraged to do so again!

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