We came. We saw. We tweeted. Last night, Westword hosted the third annual Denver Web Awards, our celebration of Denver's greatest digital minds. In September, we put out a call for you, dear readers, to nominate your favorite online projects, and a team at Westword spent more than a month whittling your suggestions down to our final entries across categories featuring news, arts, food and music. Continue reading to see this year's Denver Web Awards winners.
See also: "Meet the 2012 Denver #WebAwards finalists."
Best Sports Blog: Denver Stiffs Denver Stiffs is not only pretty; it's prolific. An affiliate of sports-blog network SB Nation (which is responsible for the blog's slick look), Denver Stiffs features game previews and recaps that are both in-depth and readable. And the reports aren't regurgitation: Stiffs bloggers attend practices and interview players and coaches. Most impressive is this blog's active stable of commenters. Even on election day, when most folks were thinking about Obama v. Romney, a post about the Nuggets v. Pistons game that night garnered 64 comments in an hour. God bless America.
Best Political Blog: CompleteColorado.com Conservative blog CompleteColorado.com has kept up with independent investigations, and in today's media market, it's a bit of a rare gem. Most recently, reporter Todd Shepherd unearthed White House e-mails about the Department of Energy's loans to bankrupt company Abound Solar, pushing forward a political controversy that made its way into the pages of the Denver Post and other mainstream outlets and became a GOP talking point against President Obama in the final weeks of the race. Even those who don't agree with the slant should appreciate the persistence and the doggedness. Keep on digging!
Best Activist or Advocate Blog: New Era Colorado During an election year in a swing state, few topics are as valuable as voter rights and information. On its website and via social media, New Era Colorado tackles both the facts (where and when to vote) and the fun stuff (where the parties are) on a regular basis while informing potential voters about the issues and linking them to outlets where they can find more extensive resources. The nonprofit's mix of topics both humorous and serious makes for a friendly and informative online voice.
Best Marijuana Dispensary or Activist on Social Media: Leafly Combining mainstream aesthetics with accessible and concise information, Leafly's social media presence transcends the stoner-bro culture that turns off so many skeptics of MMJ and offers an inclusive world that's comfortable for all members of the cannabis community. Whether it's news about an exciting new strain, low-cost deals on ounces, or updates on the battle against marijuana prohibition, Leafly Dispensary's Facebook and Twitter pages are comprehensive sources for all you need to know about the (other) Denver nuggets.
Best Athlete on Social Media: Missy Franklin, Olympic swimmer The Olympics as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl: That was what adorably giddy swimmer Missy Franklin's tweets provided to her fans at home in Colorado. She shared a photo of herself in front of the Tower of London, one of the red-white-and-blue fingernail paint she wore for her races and one of her new Olympic rings tattoo. And she "just died" when Justin Bieber tweeted his congratulations on her gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke. Absolutely. Adorable.
Best Politician on Social Media: John Hickenlooper He might not tweet a lot, but when he does, his tweets can be quite endearing, especially coming from the politician who holds the state's highest office. Governor John Hickenlooper, @hickforco, recently tweeted out a photo of his bloody face -- not actual blood, but rather the makeup he put on for the zombie crawl in Denver. Another memorable tweet from the brewery-owner-turned-politician came after his Democratic National Convention address this year, when he said, "Whew! Speech done. Avoided sweating too much. Now let's get President Obama re-elected. #DNC2012." We award Hickenlooper (who's known for sometimes saying funny or silly things in real life) this honor as a bit of a challenge, too: Tweet more, guv. Continue for more 2012 Denver #WebAwards winners.
Best Denver Twitter Account: Denver Center For the Performing Arts The Denver Center for the Performing Arts oversees a complex of theaters and venues for the arts-seeking public. Much of what it has to offer might be taken for granted if it weren't for the Twitter account keeping theater revelers up to date with news of upcoming shows, coverage of current performances and open invites to panel discussions. Corporate Twitter accounts are often just robots of tweeting, but the DCPA responds quickly to questions and interacts with patrons as if they were talking on the phone. This personality gives new life to an otherwise tech-run device, making it easier for Twitter patrons to know important details about ticket sales, upcoming events, and what to look for in the multiple theaters on whose behalf the account tweets.
Best Boulder Twitter Account: Boulder Parking It might not sound exciting, but it is. The organizers at Boulder's official parking account have taken a simple concept -- routine car Tetris -- and made it even simpler, with regular updates on the city's best and blocked spots as construction and gridlock change. Now, smart social-media users can experience the feeling of pulling into that oddly convenient spot on demand, thanks to the simple (and often strangely funny) tweets of @boulderparking.
Best Westword Commenter: Mantonat While many of the comment threads on Latest Word have gone to pot -- literally -- there's always a tasty discussion over on Café Society, and the erudite, informative and always entertaining comments from Mantonat are one of the main reasons why. His frequent comments display an incredible range of knowledge not just about the lively local drinking and dining scene, but drinking and dining around the world, and he shares this knowledge without making other commenters (or the blog's authors) eat crow over their ignorance or outright errors. Instead, he just moves the conversation along, providing endless food for thought.
Best Public Service on Social Media: RTD People sure do love to bitch about public transportation, and the folks behind RTD's Twitter account respond to each and every complaint (and the compliments, too). Their feed is full of exchanges like this: "dear @RideRTD -- what am I supposed to do when the touch screens don't work at county line?? #betternotgetfined #noticket. // @brose410 Sorry for the inconvenience last night, we'll send someone out to get them fixed today." It's nice to be heard.
Best Podcast: These Things Matter Like Trekkies arguing in Klingon, pop-culture nerds inevitably have their own language, and These Things Matter podcast hosts Kevin O'Brien and Taylor Gonda speak it fluently. During their regular, hour-long ode to all things trivial, the hyper O'Brien and insatiably curious Gonda bring local talent on to discuss a selected subject of the day, which can be anything from Kevin Smith to Westerns and jam bands.
Best Journalist on Twitter: John Ingold, Denver Post Live tweeting isn't easy, but the Post's John Ingold does it with accuracy and the right amount of snark. Here's a tweet from his recent coverage of a Paul Ryan rally: "Ryan: 'I've been coming to Colorado since I was a little guy. So has my wife. (awkward pause) Since she was a little girl.'" And another that sums up his feelings about this past election season: "In my mind, I am already putting together the slideshow of Tweetpic campaign photos scored to Sarah McLachlan's 'I Will Remember You.'" Bonus: Ingold's tweets are always perfectly punctuated. Continue for more 2012 Denver #WebAwards winners.
Best PR Flack on Twitter: Jeremy Story, Dovetail Solutions In addition to serving as president of a Denver PR firm, Jeremy Story is the man behind the Denver PR Blog and its active Twitter account. Story regularly posts and tweets news from the local PR scene ("GroundFloor Media Adds SlimGenics as Client"), in addition to PR job ads, interviews with local media folks, and a recurring item called "Great Moments in Journalism" that includes the time a Denver Post reporter tweeted that he got horny at the Olympics.
Best Fake Twitter Account: Fake Bruce Benson From political commentary to utterly dada tweets, @fakebrucebenson comically lampoons the much-criticized University of Colorado president. Whether he's talking about trying to get his grandkids into Flying Lotus, plans to turn CU Boulder's Farrand Hall into a casino, or having Shepard Fairey pick up his recycling, this ersatz version of the former businessman and current university president is always good for a laugh. And really, wouldn't it be nice if Bruce Benson was the kind of guy who would tweet things like "Remember when N'Sync teamed up with Nelly? That was my jam" or use the hashtag #DollaDollaBillYall?
Best Civic Phone App: My Fair Election It's fitting that MyFairElection.com came out of Denver, a city that for months faced regular traffic jams and road closures due to the campaign stops of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. This site, with a slick mobile version, allows users to become "citizen election monitors" with just a few clicks. Users can find their polling locations through an easy search tool and then tell others about their voting experience and rate their experiences. Democracy!
Best Sports Team on Twitter: Colorado Rockies The Rockies have the Instagram thing down. The team's Twitter feed is full of behind-the-scenes looks at Coors Field, including a view from the press box and an even better one from inside the manual scoreboard, a locker-room shot of player Johnny Herrera's spikes, and a two-paneled photo of the dugout before and after a game. (We just have one question: Why is the floor all wet?) On Twitter, the team delivers exactly the kind of inside baseball that true fans want.
Best Social or Political Campaign: Occupy Denver Urban-camping ban be damned, Occupy Denver is still keeping the movement strong with its steadfast online pipeline. From updates on local and national action and legislation to information on meet-ups, rallies and free "Teach-In" sessions, Occupy Denver's on the Twitter, Facebook and website horn. In short, Occupy has learned the value of never shutting up.
Best Sports Phone App: EpicMix Ski Application As soon as snow hits the ground, Colorado's winter-sports enthusiasts are reunited with the application that has become like a digital best friend for those who frequent it. The app acts as a one-stop shop for all of its users' activity on the slopes at seven EpicMix sites, saving and storing their feats and photos for future knowledge. And bragging rights, of course. Continue for more 2012 Denver #WebAwards winners.
Most Viral Video: "Denver," by TJ Miller Staying true to the form that it mocks, T.J. Miller's "Denver" is the essence of high-quality tackiness in art and mixed media. Backed by solid film production and spot-on audio mastering and editing -- not to mention a slew of local comic celebrities and Denver hot spots -- the song, with its catchy hook ("Denver, Denver, I'm from Denver"), resonates to the point of annoyance, but the sense of pride it evokes can't be denied: Among other highlights, you'll see Miller and his b-boy crew cavorting at Casa Bonita, Pete's Kitchen, East High School (his alma mater) and assorted breweries.
Best Music Blog: ThisSongIsSick.com Colorado's non-stop music scene requires up-to-the-minute coverage and insider information to keep its followers in the loop. ThisSongIsSick.com has established itself as an event sponsor and a music blog while also delivering a generous supply of electronic music to the world. With exclusive releases for Colorado musicians, TSIS gains more than three million views per month by providing free downloads of albums, unreleased tracks and fresh new remixes. Now the site is moving into show production, most notably that of the recent Big Gigantic gig at Red Rocks.
Best MC on Social Media: Wheelchair Sports Camp (Wo)manned by Wheelchair Sports Camp MC Kalyn Heffernan, this Twitter feed is part promotion, part information, part hysterical observation. A vocal Occupier and social-justice warrior, Heffernan keeps her people clued in on the political news tip while alternately musing about whether she should drop acid and go see Primus live. Whatever she's on, her followers definitely want more of it.
Best Band on Social Media: Wheelchair Sports Camp With more than 8,600 tweets, Wheelchair Sports Camp's Kalyn Heffernan is as prolific as she is hilarious. As she says on the band's Twitter profile, she's a freedom fighter for the little ones and has no problem poking fun at herself, posting photos of the same dressed as a garden gnome or as Chucky from Child's Play. Sometimes she'll just bust out one-liners like "Shout out to my homegirl who woke up next to a loaf of bread this morning!" or "I was looking in my chair for earplugs and found some saltine crackers instead."
Best Nightclub on Social Media: Beta Nightclub You don't become the No. 1 Club in North America (DJMag.com) by keeping quiet about your events. Beta Nightclub brings the biggest names in electronic music to this city, and it maintains its spot at the top by holding ticket contests, releasing guest-list spots via Facebook and consistently providing professional coverage of all shows. With more than 35,000 followers, the venue's page is updated regularly with fliers for upcoming shows, nightlife shots from the previous weekend's events, and inquiries into acts that dance-hungry Denverites want to see.
Best Shameless Self-Promoter: Mane Rok If there's a tutorial on how not to fuck up online promotion of one's musical persona, Mane Rok's the professor. The MC utilizes Facebook posts as a means to promote upcoming shows while splicing updates with juicy news clips. The result? An intelligent, informative balance that never comes across like rapper spam. Check out his Twitter, too. Continue for more 2012 Denver #WebAwards winners.
Best Music Video: "The Fallout," by The Epilogues In this stark and jarring video, director Dillon Novak perfectly captures the ragged energy of the Epilogues. Everything is here: a damsel in distress, blood, shadowy figures -- even an abandoned house. Shots of the band playing wildly are paralleled with a scary-movie chase scene, culminating in an ending that looks as though it could lead to a sequel. Fingers crossed.
Best DJ or Producer on Social Media: Ben Samples Between traveling to play gigs at some of the country's most notable venues and hanging out around Denver on random nights to see the talent that comes through, Ben Samples doesn't shut up on the Twitter tip. Through social observations, backstage self-portraits, reports of late-night hijinks and other humorous anecdotes and quips, Samples lets you know what he's thinking when he's thinking it. And his response to followers' random questions and commentary keeps the conversation consistent and interesting. As far as we know, he's also the first person on the Internet to use "Lindsay Lohan" as a verb.
Best Booze Blog: Fermentedly Challenged Colorado's craft beer scene has exploded in the past five years -- not just with new breweries, but also with people who write about beer. It wasn't like that in 2007, though, when Dave Butler, a work-from-home IT engineer, started reviewing beers, listing beer festivals and covering the industry. Since that time, Fermentedly Challenged has grown in the size and scope of its coverage, as well as in the world of social media, where brewers have found a receptive audience. Although Butler lives in Greeley, his news and reviews, his musings and his passion criss-cross the entire suds-soaked state.
Best Food Blog: GraceFullPlate.com The blogosphere is full of food writers, some of whom, like Grace Boyle -- a Boulder-based blogger whose expressive food-induced documentations cover everything from culinary excursions and restaurant reviews to recipes and top-ten lists -- make you want to mouse-click through just about every charm-filled post. Empty of excess calories, Boyle's blog is approachable and easy to digest, and she's good with the camera, too, shooting a smorgasbord of photos that tell the story of her experiences. She calls food her "first love," and her blog gracefully chronicles that passion.
Best Restaurant Website: TAG TAG's website is everything a restaurant show page should be. Splashed with a gallery of stunning photos that highlight chef-owner Troy Guard's equally exquisite Asian cuisine, it includes contact information that's not buried in the hinterlands, a consistently updated menu with current pricing, and a blog that focuses on different features, including wine and Guard's rooftop garden. Best of all, it's a breeze to navigate and includes a comprehensive month-by-month guide of the restaurant's events.
Best Eater on Twitter : Sarah Gore Foodnik-around-town Sarah Gore has that tweet thing down to a super-savvy science, keystroking 140 characters multiple times a day. With 20,406 tweets to her name, she's a restaurant cheerleader, a chef's dream customer, a consumer advocate of manners and etiquette, an in-the-know, and a go-to source for insider gossip. Even better, she almost always posts a food-porn photo (or two) to go with her words. And while tweeting isn't her day job, she always manages to find the time to re-tweet the restaurant world's most salient stories, and she's not shy about dispensing kudos to her growing legion of followers. Continue for more 2012 Denver #WebAwards winners.
Best Food Truck on Twitter: Comida Renowned for its flavor-bombed street tacos, Tina Comida, the neon-pink food truck that motors around Boulder (and now Denver), has 2,267 faithful followers, and the consortium of loyalists can't get enough of her irreverent tweets. To wit: "29 folks from the local chapter of the Corvette Club just rolled up for brunch. That's a whole lot of VROOOOM!" Mixed in with the whoopee are location tweets, the occasional thought for the day from the family dog, and plenty of appreciative shout-outs to Tina's taco fiends.
Best Bartender on Social Media: Kevin Burke There's no question that Colt & Gray bartender Kevin Burke knows an insane amount about spirits, beer, wine and cocktails. But the guy isn't afraid to tell you that he's drinking Crooked Stave out of a red Solo cup or that he left his pants, coffee and water at home. While he'll occasionally toss out a few of his recipes on the Twitter-verse, he'll also unload humorous observations like "Most people would be surprised to know that yes indeed, wine corks smell like cork."
Best Food App: Forkly Launched in August of last year, Denver-based Forkly's app concept is essentially sharing your tastes and discovering new ones. It's streamlined to quickly find restaurants close by and see other users' photos and their ratings. While you can quickly find a dish, you can also mark dishes to save for future visits -- sort of like a bookmark for your food, notes co-creator Brady Becker. Thanks to a recent update, the app's built-in camera function works well in low light and makes it easier to share on your Facebook timeline.
Best Sex Blog: Shanna Katz Anyone with a sex life and an Internet connection can write a titillating erotic blog, but what makes Shanna Katz stand out from the rest is that she's actually an expert. A certified sexologist and sexuality educator, Katz answers questions, reviews erotic toys and books, and talks about her new book, Oral Sex That'll Blow Her Mind: An Illustrated Guide to Giving Her Amazing Orgasms, on her candid, funny and delightfully informative blog. Whether she's reviewing Kegel exercises or responding to questions like "Does semen whiten your teeth?" (A: It doesn't), Katz's site is always sex-positive, helpful and a fascinating read.
Best Arts Blog: 12 Questions It's remarkable how much you can learn about a person from just twelve questions. On their blogazine, Laughing Mouse press founders Becky Hensley and Spencer Keralis ask creative types of all mediums the same standardized twelve questions, which range from simple ("What books are you currently reading or recommending?") to abstract ("How do you define sin?"). The interviews are surprisingly candid, revealing interesting tidbits about subjects such as local artists Andrew Novick and DJ Narky Stares as well as national cult icons like Vaginal Davis and Alice Bag. It's a simple, basic format that somehow never gets old, with consistently well-curated guests.
Best Fashion Blog: Fashion Folio Glorianna Schinagl, aka Fashion Folio, is everywhere, all the time; whether it's a sample sale, clothing swap, runway show or boutique opening, the fashion blogger is constantly on the prowl, photographing apparel acquisitions and writing up the latest trends. She's an equal-opportunity shopper, praising local designers and mall-store innovations alike, and pieces together unique looks for her own wardrobe, which she catalogues in detail on her blog.
Best Artist on Social Media: Elisa Gabbert It seems natural that poets would be pros on Twitter. And poet and author of The French Exit Elisa Gabbert definitely knows how to use her 140 characters. Gabbert delivers short, funny wisdom on everything from why diaphragms work ("You get so caught up in how weird the word looks, you forget to have sex") to a good reason to have kids ("For the first five years or so, they kind of HAVE to be your friends"). In addition to her everyday observations, Gabbert also lights up the Twitter-verse with regular nationwide live tweets of films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, and with @VagTalk, which garnered her the Best Artist on Twitter honor at Westword's 2011 Web Awards. Continue for more 2012 Denver #WebAwards winners.
Best Instagram Account: TheBigKlosowski Allen Klosowski is a professional photographer and social-media specialist for the Denver Post. His daily photos from the Post building, as well as his documented walks through downtown Denver, provide a professional view through an amateur medium. Instagram has changed the way people interact by utilizing photos rather than words, so for someone to really use it means that it's not all duck-face portraits and narcissistic posts about the current meal in front of the user. Klosowski dominates this realm with images that show the real face of Denver instead of the perplexed face taking the pictures.
Best Web Photo: "Bear Falls Out of a Tree at CU," by Andy Duann This is the kind of photo that begs to be made into a meme: a tranquilized bear falling, spread-eagled, out of a tree and onto a padded mat while no fewer than five cop-like folks (including one in a cowboy hat) stand around spotting him like they're participating in some bizarre bonding experience at a high-ropes course. Simply put, photos like this are why the Internet exists.
Best TV or Radio Personality on Social Media: Cassidy Bednark Known all over the world, Cassidy Bednark's wheels of steel can be heard all over the state on a regular basis. His work with the Denver Nuggets as DJ Bedz skyrocketed him to local celebrity status, followed by residencies at various LoDo bars and the new Press Play in Boulder. On the Internet, where real personalities are presented, Bednark uses his reach to spread the word about upcoming events, local happenings both entertaining and occasionally political. Steering clear of negative conversation, Bednark uses his voice and status to inform, educate and humor the masses.
Best Film Blog: Mile High Cinema While Brad McHargue started writing about film on his now-defunct I Love Horror blog and was a contributor to HorrorSquad with Mile High Cinema, which he founded, his blog reveals knowledge that extends beyond what might be his favorite genre. In addition to covering film events in Denver and surrounding areas, he and a quartet of other writers present well-crafted reviews of current films.
Best LGBTQ Blog: Mile High Gay Guy Mile High Gay Guy has been holding it down as the premier resource for LGBTQ information and events since 2007. Once run solely by creator Drew Wilson, the Colorado-centric site has recently expanded, with a cadre of contributors who provide relevant political, social and entertaining content daily, with an inclusive mission and a stellar viewpoint.
Best Comedian on Social Media: Sam Tallent Sometimes it can feel as though comedians use social media to try out material on an ever-present audience -- but Sam Tallent doesn't. Instead, the eternally positive funny dude and co-founder of the Fine Gentleman's Club uses Twitter to share comedic observations about his freelance-comic life. On second thought, maybe Tallent is using Twitter as a joke dartboard, and we just can't tell because he's that good.
Best Hashtag: #copolitics This hashtag is beautiful in its simplicity. Want to know what's going on in Colorado politics? Search Twitter for #copolitics and be treated to a continually updated feast of information, courtesy of journalists, insiders, commentators and politicians themselves.
Best Local Meme: CU-Boulder bear Just look at that bear: floating in space, its whole life before its eyes. That bear has no idea what's going on, and neither, at first, did the people who saw it all across the Internet. The image could fit into any context, and thanks to the Internet, it did. Shot by CU-Boulder student Andy Duann as a tranquilized bear was falling out of a tree, the photo was transformed into scenes both funny and pitiful, grammatically correct and punctuation-challenged, thanks to user-submitted captions and the power of the Internet.
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Best Tumblr: Denver Is Strange From photos of late-nineteenth-century Colorado opium dens to strange vintage signs and Weekly World News articles that focus on the Queen City of the Plains, Denver Is Strange collects all sorts of photos and tidbits of obscure history that make this such a wonderfully weird city. It's the Tumblr to visit for vintage photos, old tourist postcards, and pieces of nearly forgotten memorabilia like a cheesy 1970s song about Denver. Without Denver Is Strange, these pieces of local history might be lost to time; instead, they're conveniently collected in one place for viewers to scroll through and celebrate.