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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Awards Ceremony Presents Us with a Time for Reflection

Several weeks ago I received an email from a group called the Dotties. It turned out that for ten years now this group has met and given out awards to the best websites in the Sacramento Northern California area. Recently with the rise of blogs, they have added blogs to their awards ceremonies. So on Thursday, I threw on a suit and gave out an award (those things by the way, weigh a ton and would serve as a good weapon against a mugging if you are an Olympic shotputter).

Mark S. Allen from Good Sacramento was the master of ceremonies. He did a very good job with a small and at times indifferent crowd. When he introduced me, he cited the blog as "bringing law enforcement together with the community." An amusing line that indicated to me that he has read the People's Vanguard.

The category I gave an award for--or at least was supposed to as the winner in my category did not show up to the event--was "Blogs and Online Categories." If there was one criticism, it would be that some of the groups were overly broad. For example, "Health Care, Biotech, Agriculture and Engineering." So we were sitting at a table with Mandarin Orange Growers who were competing against the ultimate winner, Sutter Health.

In the "Blogs" categories, MX Sponsor a site devoted to motocross sports. Highly technical in its design, and yet this would be the category that this blog might potentially compete against in the future. In fact, as they described the judging criteria--and its good criteria--they are looking at technical innovation, they are also looking as usability, and content.

The Dotties Awards Ceremony also presents us with an opportunity for reflection and to look toward the future.

This past week, the People's Vanguard of Davis passed the 50,000 hit mark since October 10, 2006 when I finally realized enough people were on the site to install a hit counter. One of the lessons I have learned is that you do not need a flashy site to get readers, in fact, this site is just a "blogger" site that I enter my writings directly into a template. It is as non-technical as it comes.

And yet as they discussed on Thursday, it meets the key threshold of a successful marketing endeavor--this blog found a niche that was badly needed by a segment of the community. I cannot go to a public event without people telling me that they read the blog--even in Sacramento. People were disparately looking for an alternative source of information and I have staked this blog's reputation on content rather than bells and whistles.

I hope as time goes on, the Dotties can begin to recognize blogs in their own right and judge them based on the information that they provide rather than the technical aspects. Blogging has become a valued addition to the fourth estate. It is a means by which to level the playing field. No longer is information confined to those with the money and resources to own a printing press. Knowledge and reporting has become unlocked. And in some cases for the good, and like all technologies, there is the potential for bad as well. The power of blogging is a constant reminder that we all must be vigilant and yet responsible.

That is not to say that this will also be just a "blogger" blog. As much as that format serves my short-term needs, I have already seen the limitations of the format. The future shall be interesting to say the least. This blog started as an outlet for my frustrations following the June 2006 primary in which it became clear that there was no accurate and reliable means to get information out to the public.

However, although this blog's growth and direction--in terms of popularity and perhaps importance--was always part of my "vision," I am not sure I ever really anticipated that it would end up being as successful as it has so far.

So the Dotties' awards gives me a good opportunity to look back at the past and thank the people who have been readers from beginning and thank those of you who will be logging on for the very first time in the coming days. It also gives me a chance to look into the future and there will be some changes coming down the pike. I will not be changing the content of this site or the information I provide. But there will be changes nonetheless and hopefully these changes allow us to continue to grow and prosper into the future.

Thank you and good day.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting