The story started when I was recently asked to promote some awards around Agile. I wasn’t interested about this, especially as it seems that nominees can submit their own names. Some days later, I found an update on a professional social network where one of the nominees was sharing this “honor” and many people congratulate him. His biography notice on the award web site said that he was “known and highly revered as the hardest working man in the Agile”. I know that Agile Manifesto values “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”, but I didn’t know it was supposed to be done this way.
This editorial is not just to make fun at a specific person or award that I don’t know, but to discuss the values of awards. The truth is that most of these awards are just plain marketing tools. They make the people or companies that receive them proud and they spoke about it, which is what the people that produce them want. If you are a blog that nominates the 20 best Java conferences or a magazine that make a list of the 50 best open source frameworks, you are pretty sure to get in return a lot of publicity exposure around the web or in the press. It is a little bit like the companies that communicate about their presence in the famous magic quadrant, not knowing that for most of them, the Bermuda triangle of oblivion is their next destination. Not all awards are bad and I am not in the best position to judge people that create them for marketing purpose. My point is that people that receive the “award” should understand more the true reason of the award before bragging about it. I know it is more valuable to have “Best conference” badge than a “Best web site and social media activity for a conference”. I have been included in some “100 bests blogs” lists and frankly, I didn’t see why I deserve it as just surfing the web I could witness many more people writing with more dedication. They might just not appear in Alexa rankings. Most of the time, the criteria for selecting the nominees and attributing the awards are unknown or strange. I have seen that having an e-mail instead of a contact form on a web site will add one point in conference ranking that strangely has no section to evaluate the quality of the presenters. Do you think a conference it is better because it hosts Mike Cohn and Jeff Sutherland as keynotes or because there is an e-mail and sponsors on its web site?
The next time you hear about an award or a nomination, try to dig a little bit further to assess its real value, even if you can be happy for the person that receives it. In the meantime, I think of the all unknown software developers, testers or project managers that work hard to carry on software development project, trying to shield themselves from the politics battles that are fought above their heads and keeping a balanced life to spend time outside work with the people they like. The Methods & Tools award is for you.