Blog Carnivals are great blog community and traffic builders and all they cost is your time. What are they, how do you start one up and more importantly how do you keep it going? Here is my How To guide.
What is a Blog Carnival?
A blog carnival is loosely defined as a weekly roving digest of a specific blogosphere. Roving in that it shows up at a different blog each week. This is a guide to starting and running a blog carnival.
The blog I run, CityHippy.net founded, along with Nick Aster of Triple Pundit) of the Carnival of the Green which aims to provide a roving digest of the Green Blogosphere.
A host blog volunteers to put a specific week’s Carnival together and host it on their blog and anyone can submit a post (url, title and summary only though) for inclusion. The host gets to decide what to include and what not to include. Our carnival tends towards being inclusive and I think we have only ever left out two posts since Oct 05.
How to start a Blog Carnival or Have blog will carnival
Why bother? Why go to the hassle of starting a Blog Carnival? Well for me it was because a) it knitted together a group of people talking about similar things and b) because it is nice to see in a single glance what other people are talking about that is likely to be of interest to you.
Before you even start a Blog Carnival you need to understand it will require some effort. The reward comes in many forms but facilitating such a widespread conversation gives me a great warm feeling every time a new Carnival of the Green gets posted.
If you are up for it and think there is a blogosphere, or a topic that covers many blogospheres, that needs a Blog Carnival then these are the steps I think you need to take.
1) Find a friend
The best way to start a Blog Carnival is to partner up with someone else (or maybe a couple of people or even more if you like) in the same blogosphere to share the workload, promote the carnival and decide on carnival policy (see below).
Identify who the Blog Carnival is for and give it a name. Does one already exist? Check out the exhaustive list at Blog Carnival (you can also use them for submissions and archive linking if you like). You might want to register a domain and set up a dedicated site for the Blog Carnival itself to sit on but I didn’t and you do not need to do that. I run the Carnival of the Green from the launch post.
2) Get people signed up before it launches
You do not want to have to host the first few yourself. Speak to other bloggers who are likely to be interested and get them signed up in advance. Create a buzz about it so that when the first one launches everyone starts talking about it.
When Carnival of the Green started other green blogs quickly signed up to host. Now, here in June 06, we are booked up through Feb 07. Awesome!
3) Rules and regs
It is very important to have some sense of what and who the carnival is for and what content it will carry.
In the case of the Carnival of the Green we carry almost anything as long as it is to do with sustainability issues/products/tips/reviews etc. We are not about general green politics. And there is a difference. But we only worked that out after the Carnival of the Green started.
Basically the rule is that if a submission is from a green blog then it gets in. But even then if it is a relevant post from a non-green blog then why not include it?
Ultimately it is up to each host to decide for themselves and that is indeed the point of Blog Carnivals in my view. A roving digest of a blogosphere. Organised and structured yes but what goes into the carnival itself is not controlled and is left upto the host.
I have had a few hosts forward me submissions in the past asking whether it should be included or not. My answer always tends towards inclusion even if the host disagrees with the post, the post is offensive and even combative i.e. in our case is anti-fairtrade etc. Unless the post is way off topic, illegal or poorly written I personally would not want to see it excluded.
There is no black and white though and at the end of the day the Carnival belongs to the Blogosphere it serves so if a host does not want to include something then so be it.
You need to ensure that all email submissions for the weeks carnival goes to the right host. What I do is use a gmail account and just flip the forwarding address to the hosts email address.
Incidentally I also automatically sign up all hosts to a weekly reminder email I mail out to ensure that when they are not hosting themselves that they support other hosts by submitting posts for inclusion. They do it anyway but sometimes we all get busy so a reminder might be useful.
Hosts are generally hosting for the first time so they need to know what to do. This is the email I send out to hosts the Saturday before their hosting week begins i.e. the week they start getting submissions culminating in their hosting the carnival at the end of their hosting week.
Hi there [host email]
So…[blog name] is hosting the carnival on [host date] and you should now receive emails from the firstname.lastname@example.org account automatically at this email address – [hosts email address] – is that the right address? Let me know.
Feel free to test by emailing that address and let me know if there is problem. Watch out for any submissions that might look like spam as they are forwarded email, don’t forget, and may be treated like spam by your inbox.
You can ignore all emails sent to that account that are not carnival submissions – I will address them all.
Please be aware that the carnival will be a large post on your site, depending on the number of submissions, with certain basic formatting ie links to various mechanical anchors (carnival info, last week and next week). If you wish to withdraw from hosting then speak now.
Inclusion of submissions
Unless a post is badly written, offensive or off topic we tend towards inclusion. We want to create a weekly digest and foster debate. If you disagree with something then that is no reason to exclude it. Again if this does not fit with your site then let me know now.
To link the carnivals all together and maintain some degree of consistency all carnival posts should ideally have the following:
1) Links back to the launch posts on City Hippy & Triple Pundit so people can get more info about hosting and posting.
2) Links to the previous and next carnivals:
[Date and Address of the previous carnival before you host]
[Date and Address of the next carnival after you host]
3) The title of the carnival post should be: [Carnival name] #[Carnival number].
Any questions…ask away.
Once you start your Blog Carnival hopefully lots of fellow blogosphere bloggers will want to submit posts for inclusion. They need to know what to do and what should (and should not) be submitted. So make sure your launch post has clear instructions for posters as well as hosters. This is what I say:
To submit a post for consideration to the Carnival of the Green (do not submit content – just a link to your post), please email email@example.com (Subject: Carnival of the Green submission) with the following info:
This carnival is a summary, a digest, of the green blogosphere. When we say green we mean sustainability issues etc as opposed to plain old general Green Politics. Each host has the right to include whatever they wish, whatever they feel is worthy of being in the carnival.
6) The Launch
So now you have set it all up and got everything ready and it is time for the launch post where you kick things off and bring it all together. The launch post I posted offers all the info needed by hosters and posters.
Make sure you don’t forget that people will visit the launch post who are not involved with the Blog Carnival itself and so will want to know what it is and where the posts are.
7) The Archive
Hosts spend ages pulling Carnivals together and posts from all over the world are pulled into superb digests of blogospheres. You need to make sure there is a link archive to each hosted carnival somewhere that acts as a Carnival archive. I maintain the link archive on the launch post but I also add all the Carnival posts themselves in del.icio.us at del.icio.us/cityhippy/carnivalofthegreen
8) The Timetable
For the Carnival of the Green the timetable I follow is:
Carnival hosts switched on Saturdays (sometimes Sunday due to other committments) and host pointers (see above) email sent out along with submission testby founders. This is the point at which the next host starts getting the email submissions whilst the previous host who has been receiving the email submissions all week can now put the carnival together.
Carnival published by Host on Mondays – this is their last duty at the end of their hosting week.
Carnival added to archives on Mondays by founders
Carnival posters email reminder sent out on Wednesdays by founders
So that is pretty much my collected thoughts and wisdom on setting up and hosting a Blog Carnival. Any questions, thoughts or comments?