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    $5000 writing contest

    The judges have finished their work, and have awarded two prizes, both for second place:

    No first-place or third-place awards were given. As the contest rules state, prize money not awarded will be contributed to the Wilderness Awareness School, Redmond, Washington.

    The competition was sponsored by NETFUTURE (click here for information about this free online newsletter) and O'Reilly & Associates.

    Between 60 and 70 qualified entries were received. The judges were

    Professor Muellner offered the following comments about the judges' decision to award only two prizes:

    Judging prize essays Is a job with obvious pitfalls: that you have a hidden, unconscious agenda of your own about the subject by which you judge; that you have a standard that goes beyond your own capacity because you cannot help identifying with the result; that you are only capable of hearing and praising what is familiar to you and what you think you could have said and thought, etc. The antidote is awareness of such pitfalls and concentration on a set of explicit criteria by which to judge. We were provided with a set, and it seems a reasonable one:

    --Relevance to announced themes.


    --Originality of thought.

    --Effectiveness of expression.

    In this instance, the problem was not subtle: no essay excelled in all of these criteria, and almost all were seriously lacking in more than one of them. Some authors ignored the theme and offered meditations on their own experience of the Web. Others presented digests of the opinions of others on the subject at hand. Many essays were not just ineffective in expression but lacked style and effective structure. And so on. The two that stood out were acceptable with respect to their persuasiveness and originality, and they were also professionally written and stuck more or less closely to the subject of the contest. I would like to say something profound, such as that the closeness and newness of this technology makes it difficult for us to escape from it and assess it in a provocative and original manner, which may well be part of the problem, but the problem with these essays was often more basic.

        Steve Talbott (stevet@ora.com)
        Telephone:  518-672-5103
    ** Original announcement, rules, and entry form

    Last revision: Oct 25, 1996