Blogisattva Pros and Cons

Blogisattva Pros and Cons June 19, 2010

This week Nate from Precious Metal and Kyle of the Reformed Buddhist announced the revival of the Blogisattva Awards. Tom Armstrong, of many blogs over the years, first conceived of the awards and has given his blessing and assistance in this new incarnation of the awards. *Full disclosure: I received 2 Blogisattvas in 2008 and one in 2006. I was also a judge in ’08 and if I remember correctly, we (judges) simply did not cast votes/points for our own blogs to remove any possibility of ego-bias. See a full chart of past winners and nominees here.

The announcement has brought out a range of responses from fellow bloggers; mostly concerns about the effects of an award in the selfless world of Buddho-bloggers. Perhaps the most telling was Scott’s from the buddha is my dj, with the headline “i’m number one?” and caption, “What if the Blogisattvas turn us all into this?”*

NellaLou at Smiling Buddha Cabaret wrote:

I am rather ambivalent about these kinds of things as I somewhat snarked back in 2008 in the post The Buddhist Contest. The lip is still slightly curled at the resurgence but am setting that aside for the most part and considering who to nominate… 

These kinds of popularity contests don’t often have much by way of criteria other than being “friends” with someone or a lot of blog stats for whatever reason. The content, care and time taken to do the work is pretty irrelevant. (Yes I am feeling a bit cynical today) This is exactly why I want to at least give my nomination process that kind of consideration.

She goes on to raise some good questions that surely will be considered by Nate and Kyle and others involved in the process.

Nate, for his part, posted this on Thursday:

As the founder of the Blogisattvas [Tom] himself said, they are intended to shed light on bloggers who’s ability to write insightful articles impact the buddho-blogosphere.

  • Shedding light on Buddhist Blogs: There are probably thousands of blogs out there that can fit into the ‘Buddhist’ category in one way or another. Most of us who have been doing this for a while have our favorite 10 or 20 but the reality of time-constraints means that we rarely find and explore new ones.
  • Awarding excellence: We can all quibble about who really deserves the awards (Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, “Hurt Locker” for Best Movie, need I say more?). But even that quibbling, or ‘discussion’ to drop the pejorative tone (sorry), gets us thinking about what excellence means and how best to recognize and promote it.
  • Building Community: the above two lead to this. As we find new blogs thanks to the hard work of Blogisattva admins we’ll naturally say hello and get to know one another in some form or another.
  • Fun: Think of mudita, rejoicing in the success of others. If you’re familiar with this practice at all, you’ll see how great the awards are. 
  • Casting a broader light on the Buddho-blogosphere: Even people who don’t watch a lot of movies often get together for Oscar’s night, where they learn about what’s great in the movie world. Likewise I’m sure many people who spend little time reading Buddhist blogs will check out the awards’ unveiling and make their way to winning blogs – and nominees.
CONs: (potential)
  • Ego: We all have one and we all have our ‘hooks’ that get it engaged in ugly ways. This is definitely something to ‘sit with’ if you feel strong desires or aversions here.  While the Buddha never, to my knowledge, criticized fame per se, he did list it as one of the eight worldly conditions which, in our striving for them, drive our ignorance and suffering.
  • Crony-ism: It could devolve into a ‘popularity contest’ as NellaLou describes, where a group of friends essentially get together and award themselves and friends. I would love to have seen a judge in/from Asia, one in/from Europe, a person of color, etc – and of course a Theravadin, Zen, Tibetan, Pure Lander, etc… I’ve seen, however, that the organizers and others, myself included, have worked to get a diverse selection of judges (and it’s been hard), so I’m confident that this will not be a problem. 
  • Anything else? 
Given all of this, I’m very happy to see the awards resurrected. And I’m confident that with the PROs in mind, the CONs won’t be a significant problem. If you know of other potential CONs, I, and I’m sure the admins, would love to hear about them – speak now or forever… For my part, I am grateful to Tom, Nate, and Kyle (and others involved) for their efforts and look forward to this year’s Blogisattvas.
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