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Analog Angle Article

Why this column will not win any awards

Awards and winning them. . . . .don't most of us just love that? We watch awards ceremonies, we give out awards, we get them, we admire and talk about those who get them, we add them to our resumes, and more. So what's the problem?

Here's the problem, in my view: often, the criteria for the award is determined not by objective factors (in fact, it is often very hard to do so) or even usefulness and relevance to the audience (subscribers, casual readers, and others) but by how the nominated item appeared and appealed to the judges. And what judges like and respond to may be very different than the needs of the actual readership.

I have seen this too many times in higher-profile areas such as journalism, for example, when self-congratulation is part of the standard-issue mindset. Articles are often written with the primary purpose of being edgy, trendy, and both hot and cool (I know, it sounds contradictory have both of those attributes at the same time, but you know what I mean) and these articles get the attention and accolades. Too bad they often don't serve the reader well, if at all.

Several years ago, a leading engineering-society magazine won a major, supposedly prestigious award for on-the-ground coverage of rebuilding electrical systems in Iraq under hostile conditions. Maybe it was a good article, maybe not, but it served its purpose of getting judges to say “wow, that was great reporting!” Too bad the relevance to the readership whose dues actually support the publication was fairly low, but no matter, the pursuit of such awards is not about “them” it's about “us.”

OK, I can see some of you asking “so what does this have to do with me?” Good question. Here's my view: our objective here at Planet Analog is not to win awards from the pundits, but to provide you with useful, actionable, valid information of relevance and value. Yes, we can see via various web statistics how many page views an article gets, and that's one figure of merit, but not the only one: certainly, outright popularity numbers are is important, but what is also interesting is the longevity (sometimes known as “shelf life” of a story (some of our highest-rated features are years old) and also what percentage of the audience downloads the printer-friendly version, presumably for later reading and study.

We appreciate any time you spend with us, we want to make it worth your investment, whether it is for a short “Design Note”, a tutorial on basics, an exploration of leading-edge techniques, or almost anything of interest to the practicing engineer who has analog as part (small or large) of his or her assignment and beat. And please let us know if we are not fulfilling this obligation to you.♦

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