How to Host a Blog Carnival, Step 3: ORGANIZE
If you’ve recruited participants for your carnival effectively, you’ll soon be inundated with submissions. These days, the average carnival can pull anywhere from 10 to 50 or more submissions in a given week; hosts who followed the advice offered in my previous step should expect to see at least 20 and probably more.
As much as one would hope otherwise, the submitted posts are not all going to find their way to your inbox weeks before your scheduled hosting date. Many of them will pour in on your deadline date. Procrastination is not the only factor here, though it certainly plays a role. I’ve found that a number of bloggers are so committed to regular involvement in a carnival that if they haven’t already written an appropriate post before the deadline, they will go out of their way to put one together. So expect at least a few submissions to roll in at the 11th hour.
If you want to be the host with the most, a title you obviously have some interest if you’re still reading, don’t just push all of the submissions to the side for consideration the night before you’re scheduled to post. Look at each one as they come in. More important, respond to each contributor that you’ve received his or her contribution. More than one carnival submission has been diverted from its appointed destination by an excessively vigilant spam filter (so check yours diligently!) Participants feel better knowing their work has been received. Be sure to thank them and, if you can muster the enthusiasm, comment positively on each post.
During this step, it is critical that you evaluate each submission for suitability. One of the more poorly kept secrets of the blogosphere is that there is very little quality control in blog carnivals. For the most part, if you submit a post on topic, you’ll make the cut. This is as it should be. Few among us are truly qualified to judge which writing represents the very best of the web. Furthermore, a great carnival appeals to a wide variety of tastes. So, you are not responsible for judging for quality, but you need to judge all the same.
As I’ve already mentioned, a blog carnival is a fragile thing. As the host, you are responsible for maintaining the carnival’s integrity and focus. This means you must turn away certain kinds of posts. Obviously, this list starts with any posts that are crude, profane, sexist, racist, or otherwise prejudicial or inappropriate (unless that is the theme of the carnival…) Some carnivals also shy away from content that is overtly political in nature, so you should be sensitive to the culture of the carnival you host. After you’ve screened out the offensive, make sure that the content of the post fits the carnival’s identifying theme.
Nearly every carnival is built around a theme, one that defines it and separates it from other blog anthologies. If you are the host, take the time to figure out what that central theme is. Encephalon is about neuroscience. The Tar-Heel Tavern is about topics pertaining to North Carolina. The Carnival of Bad History is about, well, bad history. Without a theme, a carnival is just a bunch of unrelated links. Whatever you do, do not accept posts that violate or ignore the carnival’s theme. Don’t worry about turning someone away on this basis; at the rate carnivals are springing up, it’s getting hard to find even a single blog post that doesn’t fit into one of them. Protect the defining theme diligently and you’ll be sure to present a carnival post that will appeal to its intended audience.
Lastly, recall that the event you’re hosting is a blog carnival. Even if a submission is thematically appropriate, you shouldn’t include it if it’s not actually from a blog. What is a blog? Well, like porn, you usually recognize one when you see it, but salient features include a reverse chronological order narrative and permalinks. Use of dedicated blog software may be nice, but should not be considered a definitive feature. Some of our best bloggers are still (foolishly) hand-coding their sites!
If you do feel the need to reject a submission, by all means let the contributor know why. The host with the most responds to every submission with a yea or an explanatory nay. Civility is the soul of grace, as the next entry will explain.