Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why I won't be voted "DC's Best Blogger" in the DCTweeps Contest

If you remember this movie too, know
you are old as hell.
Let me make this clear, I have never ever been interested in popularity contests. I think they send the wrong message, especially to young girls, it can make them too eager to please. I couldn't tell you who was Homecoming Queen at my highschool but I do remember the most talented person, Brock Enright.  He may have been outside of the norm (dude started his own kidnapping business!) but he was super cool. I knew in the 6th grade he was going to contribute something interesting to the world, and he did not disappoint. The most interesting and effective people I have met have always bucked the system, questioned everything, and when necessary were humongous pains in the butt.  "Thanks", Mummy!

More often than not, as an advocate and “The Advoc8te” I find myself rooting for the underdog, if for no other reason than to prove that anything is possible (and to annoy the hell out of my rivals). And for River East, anything is possible. We are living in the center of the universe of the next big DC transformation, a reaffirmation of sorts. The River East chant is not  "we are just as good", but "we are great ,now let me tell you why!"

Now that brings us to the subject of today’s post. Every now and again (more now than again) , some D.C. newspaper or blog will hold some version of a city-wide "The Best of Yadda-Yadda" contest and East of the River almost always gets shut out of every single category (except “Most colorful politician", we seem to win that one hands down every time). River East is the Susan Lucci of the D.C. online popularity contest. It would be embarrassing if it weren’t so damn sad.

East of the River is made up of Wards 7 and 8, has over 140,000 District residents, and is home to three members of the current City Council. However, if we “learn” anything from these online popularity contests is that there is still very little known or celebrated (online anyway) about River East life. East of the River is not just the “red headed step child”; we are that kid you might have sat next to at lunch four years ago but you don’t really remember their name.

I think part of this disconnect is more attributed to ignorance about life East of the River rather than disinterest. Speaking from my personal experience, once NREs (Non River Easters) find out I am The Advoc8te (assuming they read the blog of course) they usually have many questions about my experience living in Ward 8. They seem generally interested, which makes sense because I find when people learn about the great and diverse things River East/EotR has to offer, visitors are pleasantly surprised and want to know more. I know for a fact that a good portion of the readers of this blog don’t live in Congress Heights or East of the River. I like the fact that my online Peeping Toms are at least learning about our communities, even if just online for now, perhaps at some point they will be encouraged to pay us a visit, heck maybe even move here (which has happily been the case for several readers).

I do think that the overall reason that is appears that East of the River doesn’t support East of the River in these “popularity contests” can be chalked up to one simple fact:

These contests are usually and almost exclusively online.

How can you expect voters to participate in the election process when they don’t have the basic tools to participate? How can you vote in a contest if you don't even know it's going on?

As a blogger, a social media consultant, and as someone who spends about 75% of her waking hours online, I understand the ease and convenience of holding these types of contests using online surveys and Twitter. The technology is here to stay, no doubt about it. However, in communities such as ours where a good portion of the population still doesn’t have access to reliable and/or affordable Internet service and where most homes do not have a computer or access to one, a big part of the population becomes disenfranchised, even in purely entertainment contests such as this one. How do we expect residents who exist within the confines of the digital void to participate outside of it? How do we expect residents from outside of the community to learn about what's inside the community if there is such a digital divide? I like to blog but I can't blog for everyone East of the River. (nor should I --- do you see these typos?!)

Currently, The Washington Post is holding a “D.C.’s Top Tweets 2010” Contest where voters go online and nominate their favorite D.C. area Twitter users and then vote for the most popular nominations in thirteen categories. Polls close 11:59pm,December 31.

Sounds simple enough right? Excited to see who will be crowned D.C.'s “Best of” this time?

*****Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!*****

There will be NO East of the River champions. Not a single one. The likelihood that a River East blogger or business will receive the most votes in any of these categories is slim to none. Heck, the list of nominations doesn’t look good for EotR. The River East wunderkind known as @DG_Rad of And Now, Anacostia fame didn’t even make the cut --- and dare I say he’s the most popular (and photogenic) of us River East bloggers! If there was a EotR Blogger King, it would be him.  (I see myself more as the Black Queen - not for obvious reasons) 

Heck, I’m surprised  @TheAdvoc8te even made the cut, I am pretty sure just three people nominated me (my stalker, my mom, and @ANC7C04). To show how slim the pickings are for East of the River Twitter users, my PR company twitter handle, @reSPINPR was also nominated and I haven't posted a tweet on that thing in months( hmmm…maybe my mom voted twice).

Perhaps the most important thing we learn in these “Best of” contests is not who the “Best Social Media Geek” is or the “Favorite Local Business” but who consistently brings home the title of“Best least-known community within the District of Columbia”.

We take the gold home in THAT category all the time, no contest needed.

A good portion of the River East community isn’t online and probably won’t be for a while. We are struggling to get even the most basic of quality, reliable services here. Good cell phone service in Congress Heights  is kind of like a thin Oprah, you've seen it but it never lasts for long.  (BTW - I find sticking my head out of my bedroom window while holding a wire coat hanger will at least allow me to check my text messages)

The River East digital divide is nothing new. The lack of affordable and accessible broadband access was addressed in the Broadband Townhall meeting at THEARC last month. As a guest panelist for that forum, I extolled the many benefits of the Internet and community blogging. I was also painfully aware that for many in the community it’s not an issue of not wanting to surf the informational highway but having the basic tools to do so.

I say all of this to say, go ahead and support us East of the River Twitter users and bloggers in this latest online “Best of” Contest. You can vote HERE. Nevertheless, speaking for me anyway, I am not expecting a “win” (whatever that is) anytime soon. We are awesome, but not a lot of people know that yet, but they will. I am just happy that more people know that Congress Heights is NOT in Anacostia. LOL.

So on January 3rd when the winners are announced I will not be rushing to the Washington Post website refreshing like a crazy woman to see if I won. However, all is not lost. January 3rd is a special day -- it's my 34th birthday! So although I won't be taking home the latest "D.C.'s Best Blogger" title, I will be taking home some cake.  And if I were to be honest --I would rather have the cake. :)
Until then, keep reading --- and twittering!

Yours Truly,
The Advoc8te
(Voted “Best Halloween Costume” --1986)

P.S. For the cynics out there, this was not a cheap ploy to get the sympathy vote. You really can vote for @ANC7A04 or @Dizzyluv25  for best DC Blogger. If you aren’t following them already, you should!

P.P.S. In lieu of birthday presents, donations to "The-Advoc8te-wants-to-go-on-a-vacation-for-her-birthday-but-as-a-small-business-owner-I-am-going-to-be-responsible-and-save-my-money" fund are being accepted through Paypal. For only 30 cents a day you can send a poor Advoc8te on a much needed trip to a swim up bar or on a European vacation. Oh well, a girl can dream.


Tom Bridge said...


You raise some absolutely critical points here about underrepresentation, and we've got to work as a community to fix that issue. I work with an education client in Anacostia, and it's not just about broadband access, but the quality of the access. They've got Comcast there, and it's to the point where we needed to get a backup internet connection there (raising their cost by 50%) just to make the internet reliable.

How can we work in our underserved community to increase access? I'd love to be part of a solution for this part of DC that is badly treated by its public service utilities.


Tom Bridge
Editor in Chief of We Love DC
Partner at Technolutionary LLC
Ward 5 Resident

The Advoc8te said...

Thanks Tom! I wrote this in the wee hours of the morning so wasn't sure if it would make any sense. Glad that you go it. :)

Don't even get me started on Comcase service over here. When I first moved into my home my plan was to do what I had done in Maryland -- forgo a landland. After realizing that cell service in Congress Heights was like trying to place a call from the dark side of the moom I ordered the Comcast Triple Play (cable, internet, and phone). For 5 months I only got single play (the internet) and it was spotty at best. I must have had Comcast out here 15 times to fix the problem and they couldn't. Do you know how hard it is to voice your displeasure via a chat room conversation? Lots of ALL CAPS and :( faces.

Finally after almost six months of this daily torture I turned off the Comcast service, Comcast gave me a refund and I have been on RCN ever since, not that that hasn't had it's problems but my Triple Play is much more reliable, even if the internet is a little slow at times.

WotR in SE said...

Nikki, you hit the nail right on the head in terms of how small - and non-representative - the local web really is.

I know it's tough (especially for those in media) to comprehend that there's a whole world that doesn't use Twitter, email, blogs or the Internet at all in some cases. They need to venture outside their offices and neighborhoods to find untold stories - and that happens so rarely because, well, it's so hard.

So thanks for writing about and representing your neighborhood. If you and other EotR bloggers weren't doing what you do, nobody would know the city outside their own blocks.

(And I won't hate on the Post for holding this contest, but anyone who thinks it isn't a popularity contest held amongst the 50 or so people who dominate the local Twittersphere is kidding themselves.)

Nicole said...

Thank you so much for posting this today. It really warmed my heart to see that others are looking at this whole thing similarly to me.

I feel like a lot of great things are happening with this tech/dc/social media community in that we've developed unique, hyper-local tech communities all throughout the District. From Petworth to Brookland Avenue to Congress Heights, someone is taking to the web to advocate for their interests in their communities.

However, while neighborhoods and individuals are becoming more tech-y, our community as a whole is not. We're forgetting about a wide variety of people in the most populated Wards. According to OCTO's recent Digital Divide Strategy, in some communities of the district, there's nearly 0% broadband adoption. ZERO PERCENT. Other neighborhoods hover around 40-60% while Wards 1-3 have nearly 100% adoption rates. That's unacceptable especially in our nation's capital.

What the Post is doing is fun and cute, but we really need to focus on how we can help our neighbors instead of winning a different popularity contest every month.

Nicole in DC

Anonymous said...

First off CHOTR is the best blog in the WORLD :-). It gave me a totally new view point of my new community. I totally agree with you regarding access. Thats exactly why I do not subscribe to poll's or any type of top 10's. Keep blogging for the right reasons. I APPRECIATE the late nights you put in and the others this side of the ANACOSTIA. -F. Douglass.