My Take on PacktPub's Open Source Awards

This year I chose to sponsor PacktPub's Open Source Awards by publishing and sharing the news of the various steps in the voting and nomination process. In return for the CMS Critic logo being posted on the awards page, I would publish their news releases as the process progressed.

Unfortunately, I have grown to regret offering to act as a sponsor. One of the things that I've noticed this year more so than others is how poorly organized these awards are. They seem to serve more as a marketing tool for PacktPub to drive traffic to their site than to add value to the community. Sure, there are monetary values attached and it's great that these prizes are awarded to worthy projects but there are also serious flaws in how these awards are run.

Take for example the “Best CMS for Ease of Use”  category.

One would expect a CMS that is actually easy to use and has a history of being easy to use to win this, right? Guess who won this year? Drupal.

Drupal is a great project, but if there is one thing it is not known for, it is ease of use. Drupal has to be the absolute last CMS that I would ever name in this category. It's not shooting to be the easiest, but rather the most versatile and that is one of it's strengths, but to give it this award is just plain ridiculous.

I am not attacking Drupal. I am a huge fan, but even the members of the Drupal community have to be honest and admit that this is a bit far fetched. I chose to use it as an example because it's a very good one.

There are tons of open source projects out there that do not have huge communities of people that can vote for them and this is one of the ways these awards fail. They rely on voting from the community.

I'm all for giving the public a chance to vote but let's be realistic here. If you pit the huge community of Drupal, Joomla or WordPress users against another smaller project, who do you think will win in sheer volume of votes? Does this mean it's indeed a good indication of which CMS is best? Not at all.

This isn't just about CMS though. This is about the awards as a whole. Most of the winners are well known projects that have been well established for quite some time: JQuery, Blender, Gimp. All wonderful projects with huge communities. There are a few that won that are lesser known and I'm very glad they got the recognition they deserve such as ImpressPages, for example, but they are the exception to the rule.

I don't want to sound like I'm putting down the winners of these prizes. I think it's great that they are getting cash for their projects and there are plenty of great projects listed. I simply do not think the awards themselves add any real value other than to contribute money and provide Packt with some extra traffic for the 3 or so months they run.

As I mentioned, CMS Critic acted as a sponsor this year and, as expected, Packt kept in touch with me to let me know of the various stages and how they were progressing so I could publish stories keeping the community informed. Then came the time where the winners were announced and I received not a single email to inform me of any winners, no press releases, nothing. In fact, I completely forgot about the awards until I saw a post somewhere else mentioning the winners. Yes, it's partly my responsibility to keep on top of these things but one would also expect that they would be in contact to ensure the proper amount of promotion is given to the winners, and I didn't hear a word.

Perhaps I'm expecting too much, I don't know. What I do know is that I won't be sponsoring next year.

I'm not here to just rant (although I do it well). I'm here to offer suggestions on how I would fix it as well, and here they are:

  1. Implement proper judging by a group of known open source advocates and experts in their respective industries.
  2. Maintain voting for a “People's Choice” set of awards for purely recognition purposes with no monetary prize assigned.
  3. Bring in some other sponsors to up the prizes amounts and allow for more competition.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have a better idea? I'd love to hear from you below.