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Behind the Awards Scene
By Richard Berends -- October 25, 2000
You've seen them and you tried to earn them yourself. You've earned them and you proudly display them on your page. Somebody else sees them and the cycle starts all over again ...

Ever wondered what really happens behind the scene after you hit the "submit" button? I can assure you that a lot happens. I will sketch the scene at Maestro Awards, the people doing the job and what's going through their minds when they evaluate your website. I will try to show you that awarding sites is a huge undertaking, and it should not be taken for granted.

Richard Berends

A Little History

Maestro Awards originated from the old PC-Music Awards, which were introduced nearly 2 years ago. PC-Music is one of my websites. It has won more than a hundred awards, including some of the "big babies." While visiting the award sites to apply for these awards, I always thought that something was "missing" — like proper communication and useful feedback.

When I won my first award, I received a nice message which made me feel proud of my achievement. Later I saw the same message on other sites that had won the same award, and it disturbed me. If they're going to send the same message to every winner, why bother to send any message at all?

I decided to set up my own awards program. While seeking advice from fellow webmasters about criteria and what their dream awards site would look like, I carefully developed my program. Among other things, it included a way to provide proper feedback about the websites that were submitted for review. It was the PC-Music award program.

Based on the success of this program, I started to develop a new one, although I didn't have a name for it yet. During this time I met a unique lady. We became best friends and have remained so ever since. Later that year I started evaluating some websites for her awards program, and this experience laid the foundation for my current evaluation panel.

Along with evaluating websites and a number of other projects, work continued on the new awards program. Then, out of the blue, the name "Maestro Awards" came to me. It was derived from "master" and, of course, PC-Music. It was the perfect name for my new program.

Why are We Doing This?

For many people, young and old, surfing the Internet has become a favorite pastime. I do it, too. Maybe it's some kind of an addiction, but who cares. We're all having fun! A few of us went a step further and created award programs to show appreciation for what we witness — especially if we had a great experience!

Over time awards have become a kind of competition, which develops new talent and encourages webmasters to improve their existing sites. They can also lead to great and lasting friendships where people share their ideas and interests. We help each other improve our web designs and expand our horizons.

The People Behind the Scene

It is part of human nature to want to receive recognition for hard work. The people who run the award programs are the ones who give you this recognition. Some of them are professors, teachers or doctors; others may be doing it as as part of their job, such as web designers and artists; and some are housewives or people who just love to surf the web. In short — they are people like you and me.

Most of the people who run these programs are doing it for free. Often they pay to do this work instead of getting paid, for the programs have to be hosted somewhere. They spend countless hours evaluating websites to find the ones that deserve their awards. The only payment they really want is a few words of gratitude from happy award recipients.

What Happens When You Apply?

With the new auto-fill feature available in the new browsers these days, filling out our application form will take you about 45 seconds. The final evaluation procedure will take us, the award givers, about 45 minutes per applicant per site!

After you click on the "Submit" button, your application gets entered into our database. This process normally takes a day or two, depending on our workload. Nominated sites (i.e. applications from people who are not the site owners) are put on hold until we receive permission from the actual site owners to continue with the process. We check for repeat applications and upgrade requests before compiling the final evaluation batch.

The Pre-Screening Process

All applications are pre-screened for problems, such as incorrect or mistyped URL's and failure to meet our minimum requirements. In some cases we notify the applicant of a problem, but not always. If your site fails the minimum criteria, it will be disqualified. Shockingly, almost 50% of all applicants fail to meet the minimum requirements.

Disqualified sites are removed from the evaluation batch and the "pending" signs are changed to "reviewed." If your site is reviewed in less than 4 days, and you didn't hear from us, then it failed the first round. All sites that pass the pre-screening process are forwarded to our evaluators for the real test — the evaluation.

The Evaluation Procedure

Maestro Awards has one of the most sophisticated and balanced evaluation procedures on the web today. The maximum deviation in any site evaluation will not exceed an 8% margin between the lowest and highest scores. For example, "Judge X" scores a site 88 and "Judge Y" scores it 82. The average is 85 points. The maximum deviation allowed is 8% (-4% or +4% from the average), which means that only scores between 81 and 89 will be taken into consideration.

It is almost impossible for two judges to score a site with a difference that is greater than the allowable 8% margin. Our judges are well trained for the task, and it has never happened. If it does happens, however, a re-evaluation will be conducted to determine how and why it happened.

The site evaluation consists of a thorough review of the applicant's website. We put ourselves in the position of a visitor and note our positive and negative experiences. Penalties (as listed onsite) are also noted. We score the site starting from Category A (Basic Functions) and continuing through to Category E (Value, Ethics and Professionalism). The entire process can take up to 45 minutes, depending on the size, complexity and content of the website.

The Final Scores

The evaluators send in their scores for each category and a short evaluation report. Penalties, if any, are also noted. The scores are compared and checked for excessive deviations, such as the maximum 8% margin, then they are put into the spreadsheet to determine the final score.

To qualify for an award, a site must score 14 points or higher on average for each category and a total of 70 points or more AFTER penalties. Detailed information about the minimum score requirements can be found in our website. The category scores and the total scores determine the winners and the color of their awards.

The Winners

E-mails are sent to all the winners with their accumulated category scores, short evaluation reports and the applicable award images. We then list them as "unofficial" winners in our website. After they reply to our e-mail, we list them as "official" winners and send the final results to our evaluators.

And Finally...

I'm adding my final two cents worth here. Did you know that our entire evaluation process, including the database entries, pre-screening, compilation of the evaluation lists, evaluation procedure and notification to our winners, are all done by hand?

Please, spare a thought for the people who are doing all this work. We can't satisfy everyone — even if you think your website is a masterpiece. The competition is fierce and unfortunately only the best sites will be awarded. This doesn't mean you can't submit your site for evaluation. We are here to review your site and give you the opportunity to earn our Maestro Award and the recognition that goes with it!

Copyright © 2000
All Rights Reserved
Richard Berends

About the Author
Richard A. Berends (30), webmaster and owner of Maestro Awards, lives in Hilversum, The Netherlands, and works for a large IT company in Amsterdam as Webmaster & website developer. His interest in computers started at a young age of 16.  Computers inspired him so much that they became his everyday livelihood. Today the Internet has taken over that role. Richard is the brains behind the Maestro Awards program, which not only gives webmasters the recognition they deserve but helps improve the quality of websites on the Internet and gives newbies a fair chance to earn awards.

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