When we started the user voting for the BOBs back in 2004 all you needed to take part was an email address. It didn't even have to be a real one – just have a @ and a . and your vote was counted.
That didn't last long.
Next we had to start verifying addresses. What a pain: Vote (click), check email (click), follow link (click), vote in next category (click), check email (click), follow email (click). Etc. etc. for each category at a time when a lot of people weren't even using browsers with tabs. Talk about a time-consuming pain.
But that didn't last long either as people devised ways to try and game the system by generating new email addresses and automatically clicking links. Obviously, we always cleaned the final voting results, but it was a hell of a lot of work.
But then voting started.
And again the ingenuity people employ to cheat their way to a prizeless, online award knows no lows.
We know that some Facebook and Twitter accounts containing only posts connected to the BOBs have been used to cast ballots in this year's competition. And we know some – not all – of those accounts were used to try an influence voting. But here comes the part that really upsets us: there's realistically nothing we can do about it.
The BOBs are popular in some regions of the world where people use social networks other than Facebook and Twitter. There are also people who – for whatever reason – choose not to have a social network account but want to take part in the BOBs. These people needed to create an account to participate even though they had no interest in ever using the account again. There is no technical way to discern people who want to vote but don't normally use Twitter or Facebook from people creating new, real accounts to vote over and over.
To respect the privacy of the vast, vast majority of people who voted on this year's competition (and to be in line with German privacy laws), the BOBS voting logs are anonymized as they are created. We check that voters are logged in with a real Facebook or Twitter account and that each account only votes once per category per 24 hours. We can't – and don't want to – scan each and every users’ Walls, streams and posts in 11 languages to evaluate their online lives before letting them vote for a blog award – getting in your face like that just ain't our style.
Taking it from a purely technical point of view, the rules of participation that we set out have not been broken. We are certain no votes were cast without a valid login and that no login voted more than once per category per 24 hours. Those were the only rules we had because those are the only rules that can be technically verified.
We hope you will come back to this page tomorrow to read about this year's Jury Award winners. As always, the User Prizes and Jury Awards are completely independent of each other. What we can say with absolute certainty is that our jury members are not influenced by anything but their own well-founded views of what makes for great blogs, social media campaigns and other uses of technology.
We've been getting a few questions asking how voting work and about the BOBs' judging process.
It’s not meant to be a secret!
From how the suggested blogs come in to how the jury decides on the big winners, have a look through the Judging Procedure to see how everything works.
Since we started the BOBs back in 2004, the contest has always included two sets of honors: the User Prize and the Jury Award. This year is no different.
The Jury Award
We'd like to emphasize that the jury's decisions are the result of collective discussions. Individual jury members do not have the power to choose winners – or keep a project from winning. Every Jury Award winner needs to receive a majority of votes from the 12 jury members. The BOBs' jury members come from around the world, so the quality of Jury Award winners will have to impress an international panel of experts.
Keeping the User Prize honest
The User Prize, which is awarded in every category, is a little different than in years past but not all that different than other online awards. While you used to vote after providing a valid e-mail address and typing in text from a graphic, the number of attempts at manipulating the results led us to use other means of keeping the vote as fair as online voting can be. We now require you to sign in with a social network before voting. This is standard operating procedure all around the Internet as well as at other major online awards. SXSW's People's Choice Award, Mashable Open Web Awards, Philippine Web Awards and South African Blog Awards do it, too. Once you've registered, you can vote once per category per 24 hours.
As a major, international award, we decided consciously against limiting voting in the BOBs by IP address, which in our view would prevent far too many people using shared Internet connections in Web cafés, universities and businesses from taking part in the competition. We also realize that while Facebook and Twitter are internationally established online presences, they are not the be-all and end-all of the Internet around the globe. We plan to make logging in via other social networks available in future editions of the BOBs.
Voting still open
But next year hasn't come around yet, and there's still time to cast your ballot for the blogs, social media campaigns and projects you like. Even if they don't end up winning a User Prize, there's still a chance they could impress the jury enough for Jury Award honors.
Good luck to all the finalists.
Now it's time for you to vote for your favorites and share what you think of this year's candidates for Best Blog in 17 categories.
To keep things honest, you'll need to sign in with either Facebook or Twitter before you're able to vote. All the information you should need to get started is right above you at the top of the page. You can vote once per category per 24 hours.
What's next you ask?
Online voting will be open until April 11. The blogs and projects with the most votes will be named the winners of the BOBs User Prizes on April 12. That's also when our jury panel, after getting together at Deutsche Welle HQ, will announce the BOBs Jury Award winners.
You can see the whole schedule here, but for now, what you really need to know is: Get voting and get talking about the sites that left you impressed!