Since 2005, I’ve written a year-end column called The Switchies in which I’ve highlighted some of the most significant, innovative, or best products of the year. The recognition is real. However, the criteria and even categories, in which there are never other nominees but sometimes runners-up, are completely arbitrary. Call it my “best of the year” if you will.
On occasion, representatives from companies that have had products mentioned in the column have sent me a note thanking me, understanding that the column is simply a bit of a tongue-in-cheek shout-out and not a formal award. I even created a hokey contrived expansion to fit the acronym Switchie — the Saluting Wares Improving Technology’s Contribution to Humanity awards. And this time, I even joked that the awards were hastily distributed behind the Engadget trailer at CES, evoking an image of a fence operation, and that the rise in gold prices had forced a cutback in statuettes. And, of course, as it says at the end of every Switched On column, views expressed in the column are my own (and by extension not those of Engadget’s editors).
But for 2008, the Switches hit prime time for some reason. One PR representative asked me (and Engadget apparently) whether there was a logo that her client could use for winning a Switchie. I explained the deal to her. And then another company put out a press release promoting that it had won a Switchie, awarded by “the experts at Engadget.com” and quoting “the judges” yet making no mention of me or the Switched On column. Engadget, in fact, does have its own awards, which are Reader’s Choice awards.
I notified the company that the Switchie is not a formal award and is certainly not awarded by Engadget’s editors but is simply a reflection of my opinion. However, the press release is still out there. As far as I’m concerned, it’s fine to promote that you’ve “won” a Switchie (or just noting that you were mentioned in the column would be even better), but it’s misleading to characterize it as an Engadget award. I suppose I’ll have to take stronger measures next year to avoid any confusion.