This week in Dana Greenlee's column~ 'The envelope please. And the Zurbie goes to…'

“We knew they were in trouble when we called to remove some beached whales and when got rid of the peach,” quipped satirist-comedian John Keister of “Almost Live” and “The John Report with Bob” fame.
Keister was on hand to throw zingers at Seattle dot-coms as host of the Second Annual Seattle Internet Awards – or “The Zurbies.” Presided over with Keister’s wicked wit, the fast-paced, irreverent ceremony was held at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo Sept. 18.
The event, sponsored by, a networking association for the Seattle Internet/high-tech community, honored the cream of the Seattle-area Web site crop. The event organizers are SN co-founders Dan Sundgren and Kristine Asin.
In keeping with this year’s dress theme, “From Gowns to Grunge,” Seattle’s active movers and shakers in cyber-culture gathered to see who was awarded such dubious honors as including “Worst Dot Bomb Death” and “Site You Would Have Helped Out If You Had $100 Million.”
By way of setting the tone of the ceremony, Keister warmed up the crowd by excitedly declaring that he prepared for the event “by visiting last year’s Zurbie winners – and half still exist!”
Last year’s 2000 Zurbies awarded “Best Service Site” and the “Best Local ISP” Zurbie went to Both companies have since dissolved.
Last years “Best E-Commerce Site” went to, which has since been acquired and absorbed by
Crowd-pleasing favorites and a few controversial picks highlighted the evening as winners were called onstage to accept the coveted Zurbie statuettes, named for and shaped like the Seattle Network co-founders cat by the same name.
Several thousand votes were cast over the past month in this popularity contest, and the winners are:
· Best of the Best:
· Best E-commerce Web Site: Amazon.-com;
· Best B-2-B Web Site:;
· Best Bricks & Clicks Co.:;
· Best Technology Achievement:;
· Local Media Web Site:;
· Web company you would have helped out if you had $100 million:;
· Best Little-Known Web Site: Washington State Department of Transportation, Puget Sound Area Traffic Cameras,;
· Most Influential Local Internet Person: Bill Gates;
· Worst Dot Bomb Death:
Keister left no dot-com safe from his satirical wit as he lampooned the winners and losers. Following are some Keister moments from the awards ceremony:
· Teasing “Best Bricks & Clicks” winner, Keister ribbed them about their environmentally-friendly architecture at their flagship store in Seattle: “Have you seen those tall trees used for atmosphere in the store’s interior?
“Each has a sign that says they were not cut down for REI, but rescued from a culling operation. Meanwhile, eight million redwoods were killed to build their store!”
· When no one from, the winner of “Best E-commerce Web Site,” came forward to accept the cat-shaped trophy, Keister explained they were all out “explaining to their distributors that they really will get paid!”
· Even the sting of losing was not enough to keep Keister from ribbing Oregon-based Powell’s Books, who lost to as “Best E-commerce Site.”
Referring to Oregon’s gasoline station laws, he said, “These guys are not even allowed to pump their own gas, but they can sell us books.”
· “Best Technology Achievement” nominee uses an invisible stream of light to send and receive data through the air between business networks.
Keister jokingly advised “anyone living near Terabeam should seriously consider putting aluminum on their windows.”
· In the quirky winner category, the Washington State Department of Transportation Puget Sound Area Traffic Cameras were awarded “Best Little-Known Web Site” over crowd-pleasing “Adventure”
“You know, the funny thing was that the Webcams malfunctioned and froze over a backup on the SR 520 floating bridge and nobody noticed anything was wrong for two weeks!” Keister quipped.
· In stating the obvious, Keister pointed out that last year’s “Best Local ISP” winner was doomed from the beginning: “Anything with ‘free’ in the name, well, their business plan was fundamentally flawed.”
In just a decade the World Wide Web has grown from a Swiss physicist’s research project into a marketplace behemoth contributing billions of dollars and millions of jobs to the nation’s economy into its current shakedown state of mergers, demise and renewal.
Before the ceremony, Zurbie organizer and Seattle Network co-founder Dan Sundgren gave his perspective about the shaky Internet industry,
Q: What’s your take on the state of the tech industry after a long year of crumbling dot-coms?
A: It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. A lot of the success that has come out of dot-coms is merger-acquisitions, and I think we’re going to see a lot more of that as they prove that they can hold a little bit of water to make money for somebody.
Q: Give us a little perspective from your side of the equation. How do you think workers in the tech industry in Seattle are dealing with things right now?
A: It’s no mystery that things have settled out quite a bit.
I’m an eternal optimist about the industry in general. What we’re seeing is people doing one of two things: They’re going back to the traditional industries they were in before – or they are finding out what companies are going to be in it for the long haul with an Internet presence or what Internet divisions of brick and mortar companies are likely to succeed.
Q: We’ve seen some triumphs and tragedies in the Seattle Internet industry. How is business shaking out?
A: Bricks and clicks are the real world now. We all know that every company is an Internet company to some degree now because they’re all learning the importance of it as a communication and e-commerce tool.
It’s exciting to know that these big Northwest traditional bricks and mortar companies are saying, “Okay, the dust has settled and we can go get some technology for pennies on the dollar. We can get some executives that have really been beat over the head with a 2×4 over the last few years trying to figure out how to make it work and actually have some successes and we can come out strong with an Internet piece of the pie.”
Q: Three billion Web pages. Some are more surf-worthy than others, so you founded the Zurbie Awards. What in the heck is a Zurbie, anyway?
A: Almost two years ago, we thought about having a comparable event to the Webby Awards in San Francisco. We wanted a fun event with a good tag line.
My cat Zurbie happened to be walking through my living room as I was punching away at my laptop and I thought “that’s it!” Of course, Zurbie is named after the greatest downhill ski racer ever.
The Seattle Network Web site is:
A full audio interview about the Zurbies and the Seattle Network with co-founder Dan Sundgren can be heard at:
Dana Greenlee writes about technology every Friday in the Index.