On April 30, I received this email:
I'm sorry, but this email didn't pass the smell test. Here are the reasons why:
Hope you're well. This might be an unanticipated email, but hopefully you'll bear with me just a second!
I'm writing to you from myheritage.com, the global genealogy and family history website. We've recently been on the lookout for some of the highest-quality genealogy websites out there, because there's so much excellent amateur work being done these days which deserves some recognition and exposure.
And, as you can guess from the title, you were one of the winners. We picked out your site because had high quality content, was offering something a bit different, and was also nicely designed.
I know receiving a prize online these days can raise alarm bells, but we're not going to ask for any bank account details! We were hoping to simply list you among the winners on our website, and to offer you a html badge to display on your website. There's no pressure with this, so if you don't want to have a badge on your site then you don't have to do that. But if you'd like to have it, let us know and I can send it over right away - it's very easy to embed in the website.
Do let us know if you'd like to go ahead with this. We're hoping to send out the badges very soon, so it'd be great to hear if you'd like to get involved.
-- Robert does not introduce himself. Who is Robert at MH? No idea, still don't know.
-- The email had not been proofread.
-- The criteria MH was looking for was extremely vague:
1) highest-quality genealogy websites
2) excellent amateur work
3) high quality content
4) offering something a bit different
5) nicely designed
-- I was not told who sat in judgment of my site. Who selected the winners? The email doesn't say.
And the overriding question:
-- Do I win if I don't respond? "Do let us know if you'd like to go ahead with this. We're hoping to send out the badges very soon, so it'd be great to hear if you'd like to get involved."
I did not respond, declining the opportunity to display their badge on my winning blog; as this "win" appeared to be little more than a ploy to drive traffic to MH’s own site. I did not respond, and still I made the list.
I can hear you. You think I'm being too harsh. Treating the email as if it was one of those equally carefully crafted Nigerian requests. Certainly they didn't mean that if you failed to respond you wouldn't make the list?
Well, yes, that's exactly what happened.
Donna Pointkouski of What's Past Is Prologue got the same email. Donna was out of town at a conference and didn't respond. Guess what? Her blog did not make the list.
Now if you're wondering what all that ROTFLMAO was about on faceBook and Twitter, check out the badge below. I emailed it to many of my geneablogging friends who were strangely absent from the list.
What's Past Is Prologue are aware that Donna is always looking for the humor in life, and MH, bless 'em*, gave it to her.
Donna responded to the email after the list had been published, and MH, bless 'em*, sent her a badge. Then to add insult to injury, MH, bless 'em*, asked Donna to write a short piece about her site to be added to the list she didn't make. And I, who never responded and made the list, was never asked to explain myself.
Then sometime between April 30, and the posting of the winners the selection criteria changed:
How did we put this together? We wanted to identify and give recognition to websites which offered high-quality content, were innovative in topic or design, and which were frequently updated with new content. We also put some emphasis on finding hidden gems in the community, and bringing sites to attention which currently have relatively small audiences. As such, there are a number of lesser-known sites included, and a few more prominent sites unmentioned for the same reason. (Posted on the MH site.)
MH, when you decided to embark on a public relations campaign that involved naming "Top Genealogy Sites" you had an obligation to our community to treat us with respect.
A "Top Genealogy" list is a powerful entity in our world. It can bolster a geneablogger’s confidence, or crush it in a heartbeat; encourage excellence through example; or discourage it; increase a geneablogger's reputation, or damage it.
Anyone with a website and a keyboard can create a "TOP" list. Few can be considered intelligent, evenhanded, and trustworthy enough to sit in judgment of our work.
So MH, you have reflected. Good! I'm still not sure you got it; only time will tell. Your post hints that you didn't:
“We still think the selections we listed are all great sites.” Of course they are! They are the terrific geneabloggers who bang it out everyday on their blogs and websites. I love this community and I am very protective of it.
And now for the slings and arrows.
* The late Dixie Carter once explained that she didn't live in Hollywood because the gossips were cruel and vicious. She said she lived in Tennessee where when you talk about someone you add "bless 'em," it's so much more civilized.