My first on-line experience came with Compuserve (at a hefty $3.50 an hour) as was the case with many back in 1993. Which seems like just yesterday, but in Internet terms was a few generations ago. Sometime in 1994 Compuserve offered Home Page space to it’s clients and, if I recall correctly, some form of automated template system to write the HTML. Naturally everyone was still using Windows 3.1 during those days and I recall downloading a copy of Paint Shop Pro, buying a scanner ($1,200 – boy was I green) and going on to make my first contribution to the on-line community.
A few months later I made the transition to a more reasonbly priced provider and housed my page in one of those, ~itsme subdirectories. Of course I applied for all the available awards at that time and believe me there was not so many back then. Tried to nail that Top 5% award forever and a day, but came up empty handed each time. The reason I didn’t win a damn thing was a simple one really – in plain english – my work sucked.
Terrible graphics, no real content and not a reason to earn a spot in anyone’s bookmarks. However, as they say sometimes when you lose, you win. The pay off was that my persistence, which did not cause me to win any award until 1997, did enhance my skills as a Web developer. So I said: “OK, pal, if you can’t win one maybe you can give ’em to other people”. So in October 1995, Surfers Choice was born. At that time there were maybe a few hundred awards sites and I guess all those that could not get that Top 5% designation, beat a path to Surfers Choice. I ran it all by my lonesome and started getting a 100 or more requests a day.
I was busy to say the least and I never made a dime, but it was fun. I even recall Mark Connell of The Webbies – then and now, one of the best awards on the Net – e-mailing me and telling me Surfers Choice was the best awards site that he had seen. Well, I’ll tell ya, did that pump up the jamm! What a nice thing to say and how motivating. Well, since then many Websites have passed this way. More than 60,000 as of December 1998. That’s a mind-boggling figure and if you haven’t done it, it’s just impossible to appreciate that kind of effort. Of course you meet many people along the way and you learn volumes about what it takes to create a Website of real value and interest. Certainly the overall quality of Website design and development has come a long, long way. Nevertheless, all things are relative as Web pages are easier to produce and there’s so much free code and stuff out there, most that make more than an average effort can come up with something decent. However, the test of quality has not changed all that much. A classic movie – like Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), The Wizard of Oz (1939), It’s Wonderful Life (1947), The Godfather (1971), The English Patient (1996) and the list goes on – continue to capture the heart and imagination. Perhaps comparing a Website to a classic cinematic production isn’t the most appropriate analogy. However, a Website does have certain elements that bring it to life and create an experience for the user. That to me is the quintessential element of a great Website – it provides an experience so beneficial to the visitor that return visits are sure to come. Winning an award should be a gratifying experience for both the recipient and the awarder. It cannot be trivial or token, or else it has no true meaning. The awardee must have the experience to separate the wheat from the chaff and the applicant must understand his/her art and aspire to meet the highest standards. To us at Surfers Choice the owner of the Website is just as, if not more, important as the site itself. Like any level headed person we seek to associate ourselves with gracious, humble and joyful people; if we see the prominence of hardened attitudes, greed and avarice we are likely to quietly make an exit. At Surfers Choice we have earned the reputation of being one of the most desirable awards to receive on the Net. This is not self indulgence, but the accumulated feedback of many gracious and humble people who have bestowed some wonderful and very much appreciated accolades upon us. We believe that an award site should strive to help it’s recipients earn more visibility by marketing, promoting, announcing and sharing the site of the awardee with as large an audience as possible. Through our Internet directory, Surfers Choice Best of the Web, we provide a visible medium that provides a permanent home for these quality sites and the people that produce them. This site, our official award site, provides another stage for our awarded sites. We also provide a series of free and fee services all designed to bring these creative places and there owners the recognition they deserve. We strive to augment the presence of our winning sites and will continue to improve our services in any way we can.
Wally Gross, Founder Surfers Choice Awards