Can the FIP Judge the Philatelic Websites?

In the FLASH Nr. 94 -2005 I have read a very interesting article, entitled:


This article appeared under the signature of Mr. Francis Kiddle, Chairman, FIP Literature Commission. The same text appeared in November 2005 also on the website of the Bureau member of the same commission, Mr. Toke Norby, see:

For those of you who aren't informed about the crucial role of this commission for the FIP Websites competition, about its positive and too often negative contributions (the opinions that came from the participants being also reproduced) I recommend you to visit the following pages on the PWO website:
The sad end of FIP competitions:

Taking into consideration that by this article it seems that for the first time FIP takes position on websites competitions, after the unfortunate events of the year 2003, I decided to give to this article the whole consideration that it deserves.
Note: the cited parts of Mr. Kiddle’s article (put here without any modification and in accordance to the “fair use” doctrine) appear in italic.  

Despite its title (...websites), a big part of the article refers to the utility and the judgment of the philatelic CDs, a part that I’ll skip because it is not relevant for our discussion.

One of the key roles of the FIP Literature Commission is to encourage new literature, in all forms. However, another key role is to establish rules on the judging of philatelic literature. Recently, at the FEPA Exhibition Brno 2004, I was requested to make a ruling on what electronic media could be judged - the exhibition had advertised in its Bulletins for entries of electronic media, and had a number of CDs and websites as entries.

Just to mention that unfortunately I, like probably the most of philatelic webmasters worldwide, haven’t known that this exhibition advertised for entries of websites. I can just wonder who should inform us about it.

For CDs, they are in a format that can be judged, although I would recommend that the literature judges undertake preliminary evaluation well before the actual exhibition, as many CDs are specific to certain computer systems.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Kiddle underlines that the CDs can be judged because of their (favorable) format. Don’t be confused by his terminology, because probably Mr. Kiddle doesn’t mean here a specific format but rather the fact that the CDs cannot be changed after they were burned, as opposed to websites because they can be changed at any moment (see below why it is important to us).

Additionally, they sometimes take a long time to investigate fully as many have complex structures that are difficult to understand. With regards to websites, I made the ruling that they could not be judged at an international exhibition.

Please notice that here (based on his previous, rather negative experience – see below) Mr. Kiddle has issued a long range ruling!

Why did I make such a decision? When a specific FIP website competition was originally envisaged and launched by FIP Director Charlie Peterson, websites were in their infancy and often were only a few pages in size.

As long as the term “infancy” isn’t defined, one can understand everything. In 1999, the year of the first FIP websites competitions, some philatelic websites (mine included) were already 3-4 years old. If we admit that the philatelic sites were in their infancy (which we can say even today, if we look from a long term perspective) then the judging of the philatelic sites was at that time at an even earlier stage, I mean here in its really first year. This was obvious not only when considering the calendar but also when taking into account the really the low quality of the so-called “critiques” that were received by the participants from the FIP jury.

Because at that time many philatelic websites were already considerably bigger than just a few pages (for example, my “art on stamps” site had already 100 pages or so) this assertion isn’t correct.

The FIP Annual Website competition was organised and Charlie ran the first one, and I ran the three subsequent competitions.

Mr. Kiddle run the competitions of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 indeed and he decided to abandon, after having launched it, the competition of the year 2003 (note: link changed in 2010, after FIP eliminated any mention of websites competitions from its site).
The reason to stop it was the dissatisfaction expressed by the participants (some of them reproduced on this site) as related to the collapse of the previous years competition (“critiques” of the jury that suddenly disappeared and were therefore never delivered as promised, uncertainty about how the decisions were taken without them, etc.).

At the end of those four years, we had to abandon the competition because it just took too much time to undertake the evaluation.

Obviously, the necessary evaluation time depends on what was decided that should be evaluated and on how the evaluation process should be organized. Because the whole was organized without a preliminary consultation with the webmasters, without a real collaboration with them and without the usage of modern communication means that the Internet offered, the whole should collapse, was finally actually happened. The whole truth is that the real problem was that of the organization and collaboration, and not purely the evaluation time, a factor that is just a result of the decisions that were taken in the very beginning.

Websites are now very complicated, may be literarily 1000s of pages long, with many links, book marks, indexes, libraries etc included.

Some websites can appear complicated, this either to persons who aren’t used to use them or because they aren’t correctly designed (bad navigation, illogical structure, etc.). Actually, the judges aren’t obliged to evaluate all pages (what they actually rarely did it in the past either, which was visible to the naked eye from their “critiques”) but more on this later.

Although it is feasible to judge a site, at the end, the judge can only say that at a very specific point of time, the website is worth such and such a medal. Just one minute later, the website could change totally, and then may be evaluated at a higher or lower level. It is this lack of long term stability that makes a competitive judgement on the level of achievement meaningless.

It is clear that any philatelic exhibit can only be judged at a certain point of time, and that after the evaluation the exhibit will continue to evolve, together with the whole collection. Usually an exhibit represents only a (often very small) part of an advanced collection. Should it is decided that the limitation in size of an exhibit is absolutely necessary for the websites too, then this idea can be easily taken into consideration.

In this case a website can be regarded as the equivalent of a collection, and only a smaller part of it (let’s say 10 – 20 pages, chosen by the webmaster, a part that s/he won’t change during the process of evaluation) can be evaluated by the jury. Just to note that the general structure of the participating website should be evaluated too.

There are also other quite obvious solutions, some of which were already used in the past (like websites presented on CDs or DVDs, the saving of certain pages by the jury, etc.) but I doubt that this is necessary, because I don’t see the size of websites and their natural variability in time as a serious obstacle for the general evaluation.

My ruling, which had to be made instantly over the telephone, does need further discussion, and this will take place at the next meeting of delegates and Bureau at Malaga, Spain just prior to the 2006 FIP Congress. If any delegate wishes to put their views into writing, please contact either myself or Norman Banfield, Secretary to the Philatelic Literature Commission:

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of Mr. Kiddle’s ruling just because, as he said, it was taken "instantly over the telephone". His actually correct and realistic decision was the result of the proven inability of the FIP Philatelic Literature Commission (FIPLC) as a whole to properly carry out this task. Surely it was a rather unusual task for them, a quite difficult for the beginners that most of them were (in respect to philatelic websites only, of course) but not an impossible one.

We see that no FIP websites competitions were organized anymore during the last three years, and nevertheless the philatelic web mastering considerably developed since, without any support from the FIP, just driven by the inner desires, thoughts and impulses of the philatelic webmasters. This doesn’t mean that a well organized competition could not be useful anymore (I always was and I’m still convinced of the contrary) but for this the FIP should start by analyzing its past errors and by searching for solutions, and not by shifting the attention from its own problems by attributing some devilishly complex attributes to the very objects that the FIP Literature Commission wasn't capable to judge so far.

It may be easier and more comfortable for the FIPLC to ask the FIP delegates what they think but it won’t be too useful for attaining the objectives that should be already reached, but not through four years of experiencing (without changing something of essential) and another three of doing nothing. The best mean for FIP to really advance is by establishing as soon as possible an efficient contact to the experienced philatelic webmasters, because I’m convinced that many of them are still willing to collaborate. It shouldn't be difficult for FIP to find them, because thanks to its previous competitions, FIP should still know how to reach many of them.

Created: 01/15/06. Revised: 02/20/2010.
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by Victor Manta, Switzerland
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