Last Update: 20 Apr 00
NIGHT OWL MK. II
AWARD PURPOSE AND CRITERIA
If you would like to apply to win my award, you must first read the award criteria on this page. Then, go to the Award Application page and fill out the entry form.
This award is specifically targeted towards recognition of web sites which offer valuable reading and/or research information in the areas of skepticism, reason, freethought, science and philosophy. If your site is one which does not offer such content or is one which primarily caters to the credulous and rejects all things intellectual, you should consider applying for other awards that are better suited to your site.
This award is not designed to produce cheap hits for my own site. It is designed solely to promote the winning sites and their content. This award is not reciprocal in nature. If your site receives my award, I will not expect to receive yours in return. Likewise, if my site wins your award, that will not automatically make your site a candidate for mine. All candidate sites will be judged solely on how well they meet the criteria for this award.
I initiated this awards program to promote those sites which improve the signal-to-noise ratio on the web. The winners should be among the first places to which those who are hungry for knowledge and sick of the nonsense should go.
These criteria will provide you with the ability to judge whether or not your site is a good candidate for my award. They are necessarily lengthy and should be closely read and understood since this award is targeted towards sites with specific content. These criteria are not carbon copies of those listed on most other awards sites. There will be a great many superb web sites which will not be appropriate candidates for this award due to its targeted nature.
Content, by far, is the most important of the criteria for my award. In fact, a high level of good content will easily win an award even if your site is lacking in other areas. Satisfying other criteria will count towards raising the level of your award.
I'm looking for sites which offer useful and thought-provoking essays, articles, information, scholarly papers, discussions and/or debates in the areas of skepticism, reason, freethought, science and philosophy. Content should be original work and can not be simply a listing of your favorite links. Subject treatment can be anywhere from serious to humorous, but should not be trivial or credulous and should appeal to the intellect. Please check out some of the previous winners of this award to get a feel for what I want to see in a site that will be a likely candidate. The Award Password is "skeptic".
You do not have to support any particular side of any issue to qualify for my award, but your facts, opinions and arguments should be sound, well-researched and competently presented. It is a plus if your site encourages interactivity and dialogue with visitors. Sites which offer commentary that will apply to (or be understood by) few people outside of the MTV crowd should consider applying for other awards.
If your site is one to which your visitors will return often as a source of valuable information, then it's well on the way to winning my award. If your site promotes age-old or New Age nonsense in the face of modern understanding and scholarship, then it's well on the way to a rejection letter.
NAVIGATION, LOOK AND FEEL
All information on your site should be easily and quickly accessible and organized in a logical manner. A site map or index is a plus. So is a site search engine. Home pages and main section index pages should always be available from any other page. A "What's New" page or listing should be available to let repeat visitors quickly find new or updated material.
Your site should present its information in a way that is easy to read. Unusual fonts should be avoided unless a specific purpose is intended. Typography should be consistent on related pages. Busy background graphics should be avoided since they often obscure the page's text and take excessive amounts of time to load without contributing to the content of the page. Related pages should utilize a common layout and theme.
Page length is not a major concern. However, lengthy pages should not contain multiple sections of unrelated material. Each section would be better presented on its own page. Side-scrolling should be avoided at screen resolutions of 800x600 or higher. It is understood that not all browsers display all fonts, graphics and tables in the same way and that certain combinations may produce unintended minor side-scrolling for some visitors. However, it should not be necessary to side-scroll back and forth to read each individual line of your text.
By their nature, sites which are candidates for my award should also be sites which are updated frequently. Visitors are more likely to return to a site where there is new content posted on a regular basis. Your site should contain "What's New" or "Last Update" information.
SPELLING AND LANGUAGE SKILLS
These correspond to the education, intellect, and credibility of the individual and the reliability of any information he presents. It is understood that typos happen. However, pages which contain such things as "abismel" instead of "abysmal" or "evulshen" instead of "evolution" can not be explained away as typos. To win my award, your site should demonstrate a good command of the English language. If yours is a non-English site, there must be an English translation available. Sorry, but English is the only language in which I'm fluent. However, I will give translated pages more slack in recognition of the effort being made. Sites where nonsense like "kewl", "d00d", "werdz", ALL CAPS or SiLLy mIXeD cASe are common features should not apply for my award. Intelligent people don't write that way.
PLAGIARISM AND FAIR USE
If your information makes extensive use of quoted material from other sources, it is expected that all such material will be properly credited. "Fair use" is defined as not taking personal credit for individual facts, statistics, etc. that are drawn from publicly-available sources. I do not require citations for all such data, but I would expect that the source could be credited upon demand. Non-original graphics should be linked back to their source without stealing bandwidth (unless the originating source requires a direct link).
Any site discovered to contain any illegal content (such as pirated or hacked software, child pornography, etc.) or links to such content will be automatically disqualified from winning my award. I will not automatically disqualify sites which contain material which some people could reasonably consider to be morally objectionable. Legitimate intellectual essays, articles, and discussions on subjects such as pornography, hate, racism, etc. will be considered and are encouraged in the interests of publishing the truth. It is understood that frank, explicit or coarse language may be present in such material and in published dialogues resulting from visitor feedback to such material. However, unnecessary, excessive or arbitrary usage of such language by the web site owner will be frowned upon. Controversial material which does not directly relate to matters under discussion will also be frowned upon.
GRAPHICS AND LOAD TIME
Graphics should complement the overall layout and design of your site. Since my award concentrates primarily on a site's content, even the most gorgeous graphics will not make up for weak content. Load time is not a major consideration. I'm willing to wait for a page to load if the content on that page is good, but I don't have all day to wait.
Stealing bandwidth is also not a major consideration. It is understood that many sites require you to link directly to their graphics, logos, ads, etc. since they are changed often. However, local graphics tend to load more quickly. All non-original graphics should be linked to their originating source.
Frames are acceptable if they enhance the overall design and layout of the site. A "No Frames" option is a plus. If used, frames must be coded properly and must not trap a visitor who wishes to leave your site and browse over to another site.
Your site should display properly using recent versions of both Netscape and Internet Explorer (this is especially directed to "hometown.aol.com" domain sites) and should not do strange things at resolutions of 800x600 or higher (such as spilling text over onto a repeated background graphic at higher resolutions).
If your site is a personal web site, there should be a page of personal information about yourself. Visitors to sites containing personal commentary or invitations for discussion like to know who they are dealing with. It is a plus if your real name is available. There is little need to hide behind an alias on the type of site that would be a candidate for my award. Your e-mail address or a link to a "Contact Me/Us" page should be available on every page if you want feedback from your visitors.
BROKEN LINKS AND BAD CODE
A minimum of broken links is a sign of a well-maintained site. It is understood that linked sites may disappear or change URLs and that minor oversights happen. There should not be any broken links to local graphics or to any other page on your site. There is little excuse for HTML or Java errors which display warning dialogs, corrupt the display of your page or crash a visitor's browser. Perfection is not demanded, but attention to detail, proofreading and testing are reasonable expectations for quality sites.
A registered domain name is not required to win my award, but it is a plus that shows an extra level of commitment by the site owner. This will also help you avoid popup ads and other distractions forced upon you by many free site providers.
AWARD LEVELS AND SELECTION CRITERIA
The following award levels are offered. I will judge which award is deemed to be most appropriate for your site. Winning any level of my award is my way of giving your site a big "Thumbs Up". I will not employ a points worksheet while evaluating an applicant site. I will visit it as would any other Netizen. If my first impression is not one that would compel me to bookmark your site for return visits, it will not receive an award. If I am compelled to continue my visit, I will more closely inspect the site with an eye for award-worthiness and what level (if any) should be awarded in accordance with the criteria given here. The Award Password is "skeptic".
Any applicant is free to apply for a higher award after making significant improvements to the site. I will leave it up to the award winners to observe the common courtesy of displaying the award graphic on their sites and linking it back to mine. It is understood that many sights are inundated with awards and have legitimate reasons for not displaying them. My award is designed to recognize quality sites and is not intended to generate cheap hits for my own site. I will also leave it up to your individual integrity as concerns not displaying an award that you did not win.
All winning sites will receive a personalized award graphic by e-mail. If you have not received notification within 5 days that your submission has been accepted, your site is most likely not a winner.
Are you ready to apply for my award?
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