How (Blogging) Awards Work

Every few days, I get sent a link to someone who’s running a blogging awards contest. Sometimes it’s for all blogs, and other times it’s focused on a specific community. Interestingly, the category titles remain pretty much the same whether it’s for a particular community or web-wide, with breakouts by geography or ethnicity or identity group.
The thing to understand about these awards, whether it’s the Bloggies or the Weblog Awards or the PR bloggers’ awards or the HR bloggers’ awards, is that they serve a few roles. First, of course, is to recognize achievements within a community. But just as important is to define a community as existing. By categorizing community members, acknowledging the influencers/achievers, and classifying a second tier of runners-up, an award competition can help form a more formally-defined community, albeit at the expense of creating an explicit hierarchy.
The last reason that blogging awards are so popular isn’t usually mentioned, but a powerful incentive for hosting and running an awards competition is to help make the host a center of power in the community. By creating the forum, inciting the inevitable drama, setting the rules, and (likely) helping to entrench one’s friends and supporters as powers within the new community hierarchy, those who create awards are likely to reap significant benefits from doing so.
None of this is unique to weblogs, of course. People have been granting awards for as long as they’ve been getting inspiration from others. But what’s been interesting for me to watch over the last 6+ years in the blogosphere is how each separate community (and sub-community) now spends some of its time dividing itself up and handing out ribbons.
It’s interesting, given that quizzes and memes are among the most popular content in the blogosphere, that creating awards contests isn’t something that’s generally done by all bloggers. I’d expect at some point in the future there will be more simple apps for creating your own personal award show, given all the incentives that exist for doing so. I’d also expect that if such things already exist, someone will let me know.