Webby Awards announce nominees for best sites of the year

A conversation with Webby Awards President Maya Draisin.

The Webby Award season is in full swing. The Webbys are an annual recognition for the year’s best Websites in 30 categories, including Activism, Community, Film, News, Personal Web Sites, Politics, and Radio.

The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences® announced the nominees for the 7th Annual Webby Awards this month.

Webby Awards President Maya Draisin took a moment from her busy schedule as executive director of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences to tell us the who, what, when, where and why of this year’s Webbys.

Q: The seventh annual Webby Awards are coming up very soon. Tell us when they are, where they are and how the event is going to unfold this year.

Draisin: The Webby Awards are scheduled for June 7th in San Francisco at a fabulous old cabaret dinner theater.

It’s an intimate event which focuses mainly on the nominees and academy members. Joan Baez will be making a special appearance as the host.

Q:You recently announced the nominees. Do you have a favorite category?

Draisin: I try not to choose favorites, but there is usually one that catches my eye.

This year I’m really interested in “community.” It is one of those categories that tend to change frequently, but this year the thing that struck me was, instead of bringing people online to talk together, there are several sites this year that are bringing people online to meet offline.

There is MeetUp.com, which has been in the press lately. There is Nervous Industries (www.nervousness.org), which does a “message in the bottle” where they put stuff out over snail mail and then track it over the Internet.
Geocaching.com actually uses global positioning software to do a scavenger hunt in the real world.

Q: What changes have happened over the past year? Are sites different in any way?

Draisin: The Webby Awards are a nice blend of old familiar favorites like Google, eBay, Amazon and EPSN which, year after year, continue to do amazing stuff and maintain their standard of excellence.

Then every year there are these newbies that no one has ever heard of that come out of nowhere – and I love that balance.

In general, sites tend to get more sophisticated no matter whether they’re made by an individual or large organization.

The thing that really excites me this year is they tend to be getting more democratic.

By that I mean they are providing tools to people to interact, to organize, to communicate, to get involved – especially in these crazy times.

Q: Let’s talk about the judging process the Webbys go through to select all these nominees. What are the typical criteria your judges use to review a list of nominated sites?

Draisin: Judges evaluate on six criteria of good Web development: great content, attractive visual design, well thought out structure navigation, how much interactivity they use, how well they use the medium, how well the site works and generally how the user experience is with the site.

We have a three-tiered judging process. People can enter their site and those are reviewed by professional reviewers, who pull out a short list that is passed on to nominating judges.

The nominating judges deliberate online and can add ideas of their own so we are certain of getting the best.

Finally, once the nominees are announced, we have the Academy vote on certain categories. All balloting is audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It takes about nine months in its entirety. It’s really thoughtful and clearly evaluated.

Q: Let’s talk about the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. You’re the executive director of the organization. How is the organization working in conjunction with the Webby Awards?

Draisin: There’s 480 members of the Academy. They range from luminaries in a particular category like musician Beck and David Bowie and the business people like Larry Ellison (Chairman, Oracle) and Rob Glaser (CEO, Real Networks) to Internet developers and journalists all over the world – including yourself.

(Editor’s note: WebTalkGuys Radio hosts and University Place residents Rob and Dana Greenlee are members of the Academy.)

One of the unique things about the Academy is we don’t think that the only people that should be evaluating good Web development are people solely in the industry.

The expertise that the Academy members have in each of these categories from traditional media really is important in evaluating the new medium.

Q: You also have the People’s Voice Awards which gets the average web surfer involved.

Draisin: We believe that on the Internet in particular it’s every bit as important to understand what the people believe is best as well as what the experts at the academy believe is best.

When we announced the nominees, we also want the People’s Voice voting. It runs now through May 23rd.

Anyone can go online and cast their vote for their favorites in all 30 categories – from one of our nominees or write in one of their own.

In the last few years, there have been several successes in write-in candidates winning the People’s Voice Awards.

Q: Are you seeing more sites from Europe and Asia being a part of the awards ceremony? Is the international flavor growing and developing?

Draisin: Yes! Over the last two years we’ve really seen a World Wide Web.
This year we have record-breaking international numbers.

We had 24 international nominees, so the epicenter has definitely moved.

Q: Let’s talk about your new business awards for this year.

Draisin: For the first time this year we’ve launched the first annual Webby business awards.

The winners will be announced in the fall. Entries are being accepted now through May 30th in 14 industry categories and six business objective categories.

We are really looking not only at the web site but the results against strategic objectives.

We are really excited about this because there’s so much talk about the Internet crash.

At the same time, the Internet is here to stay. The people who are left, we think, are doing things right.

Understanding what they’re doing and putting it out there is going to be really useful to the industry.

The full audio interview with Maya Draisin as well as the audio broadcast of the 2002 Webby Awards event is available for on demand listening at Webtalkguys.com.

Dana Greenlee is co-host, producer and engineer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.

It’s an honor just to be nominated…
2003 WEBBY AWARDS WHO’S WHO
While the list of nominees includes Web stalwarts like eBay, ESPN.com, HBO.com, MSNBC.com, and popular newcomer NetFlix, it also boasts a record 24 international nominees, including Homeless www.abc.net.au/homeless (Australia); Japanese Streets www.japanesestreets.com (Japan); Lucire www.lucire.com (New Zealand); City of Bologna www.comune.bologna.it (Italy); Blinkenlights www.blinkenlights.de (Germany); and David Still www.davidstill.org (The Netherlands).

Sites receiving two nominations, each in different categories, include: CBC Radio 3 www.cbcradio3.ca (Broadband and Radio); Disney’s Toontown Online www.toontown.com (Games and Youth); NASA www.nasa.gov (Education and Government & Law); the New York Times www.nytimes.com (Education and Travel); The Onion www.theonion.com (Humor and Print & Zines); oddtodd.com www.oddtodd.com (Humor and Living); Sodaplay www.sodaplay.com (Education and Youth); and Metacritic www.metacritic.com (Film and Music).

For the third year, the Academy will present The Best Practices Award, which recognizes a single web site that serves as a model of excellence. This year’s nominees are: Commanding Heights Online www.pbs.org/commandingheights; Edutopia www.glef.org; Movable Type www.movabletype.org, Theban Mapping Project www.thebanmappingproject.com; and Wired News www.wired.com.

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