The thought this year, among certain members of the ENnies, was that the categories of Best Podcast and Best Electronic Product should no longer need to send in a CD, but rather could more conveniently send a link to their product. The hope was that this would make the awards more accessible, not only podcasters, fan sites, and shoestring-budget pdf-only companies. It was also hoped that this would stimulate international submissions by bypassing the postage/customs headache that mailing from overseas could be.
You see, the ENnies requires each publisher to send 5 copies of their work (one to each judge), and then a 6th as a backup to the ENnies. If this book isn't used due to a missing judge copy or somesuch, then it is auctioned off, to support the various expenses the ENnies incur--operating costs, awards, that sort of thing. All well and good, yes?
The proposal was this--open Best Podcast and Best Electronic Product (and Best Fansite, of course) to link submissions, meaning unlike the prior rules, they could just fill out the submission form and link to their product. Since the other categories remained in the domain of deadtree products, this would open up two or three categories that would likely benefit most from this change without harming the financial model of the ENnies. In my opinion, it was a way to grow the awards in terms of fan/podcaster, pdf-only publisher, small press/indie, and international participation.
But it clearly is not to be. The ENnies feel that if you submit via link, you should pay an unprecedented submission fee to support the awards. In other words, they are asking you to pay them to consider your product's quality for the award. This donation, as proposed would go mainly to the ENnies, with a percentage going to each judge. Several individuals also wanted this as another "barrier" to the awards process, one of them going so far as to worry "we'll get tons of ill-considered crap that isn't worth the time to download". Hardly the right attitude for a judge, I'd say.
I will tell you right now, I will not accept one red cent of that money. I'm not saying this because I want a pat on the back, I just want you to know where I stand, as I always promised I'd be direct with you. I disapprove of this measure entirely, and find it to be a move in the wrong direction for the openness and accessibility of the awards. Instead of making a move that in no way hurt the ENnies but instead possibly improved awards participation, ease, and lowering cost for the entrants, they chose to go with a measure that provided a new income source for the awards, but that would do nothing to grow the awards in any sense. Bear in mind, this is despite the ENnies allowing several last-minute "usual suspect" and much-vaunted companies to submit via link at the very end of the submission period last year (for no charge, of course)! I'm not sure where this will lead, or what impact it will have. But at least you'll know where I stood.
I am, in a word, disillusioned with the ENnies. I am disillusioned with this, I am disillusioned with the attitude shown towards podcasters and fan products, and I am disillusioned with the purposeful lack of transparency in the awards. I am disappointed in the inconsistency shown on treatment of publishers and in dealing with technical issues.
I was especially angered and extremely disappointed when it was suggested that we retroactively change the submission cutoff dates for Book of Experimental Might 2 so that it would go undiscovered that it was accidentally ineligible for the awards period in question. I feel that judges should not be paid, but should be satisfied with the honor of being chosen to evaluate so much hard work (and all the books they receive on top of that). We have been entrusted to give every product a fair evaluation--there should be no bias or disgust at a product's chosen medium.
I don't feel any of this is in the spirit of making the awards transparent and more open. The air of prediliction towards certain favorites and an insular, incestuous culture for the awards themselves is a cancer which, if left untreated, will damage the awards' relevancy and standing.
With that in mind, and because I will not be a further party to matters I do not feel are right, I have suggested the ENnies contact alternate judge Jeramy Ware. I will work to ensure he receives all materials he needs to do the best job he can. In short, the ENnies need to adapt further to recognize both the growing shape and form of the gaming community. As I find it impossible to affect that change in this current situation, I can no longer support the ENnies. I am sorry for the inconvenience, and I am sorry I could not be a better voice and representative for those who elected me. Thank you.