How to Host a Blog Carnival, Step 3b: CLASSIFY
This modest series on hosting a blog carnival may be among the most extensive on the subject, but it’s hardly the only resource available. Another comprehensive account from January 2006 is a four-part series called Sour Duck’s Carnival Host Notes, in which Sour Duck does an excellent job in exploring various aspects of the hosting experience. If you’re interested in additional advice on how best to manage your turn as host, you’ll find plenty to work with here.
One of Sour Duck’s guidelines bothered me when I first read it and bothers me still, not because of her but because her argument is one I’ve heard echoed in various forms for years. Sour Duck draws a hard line regarding what constitutes a blog. Her criteria are as follows:
- a series of time/date stamped posts appearing in reverse chronological date order;
- allows for comments by readers;
- permalinks are assigned to each separate entry;
- the author(s) describe it as a blog, not a “site” or “publication;”
- it exists on a blog platform, e.g., a blogspot or Typepad address. (Caveat: not always. Sometimes a blogger may use their own domain name.)
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know why this feature set irks me. For the first three years of its existence, 10,000 Birds, by Sour Duck’s definition, was not even a blog at all. Imagine that!
For various reasons, only some of them ill-advised, I started blogging on a Microsoft FrontPage platform. I always maintained the reverse chronological narrative associated with bloggery, but it took me over a year and no small inconvenience to start adding some of the additional features enumerated above. It wasn’t until October 2006 that I switched over to WordPress, an enlightened act that, six months later, still leaves lots of content stranded on the old platform. But to assert that this wasn’t a blog until I migrated to a blog platform is just not reasonable. It may have taken me a year to hack permalinks and nearly two to figure out how to build an RSS feed, but I’ve been a blogger since the beginning.
Let me reiterate that my strong disagreement has nothing to do with any particular blogger. Do not conceive that this is the first spark in a flame war. The persistent desire to define blogs by comment functionality or software platform, by no means limited to one or even just a handful of bloggers, seems unnecessarily draconian. If actually enforced, such strictures would depopulate the booming blog carnival business. And for what?
Comments are certainly fun, no doubt, but comment spam has overrun and strangled as many blogs as kudzu has claimed Southern acreage. As a consequence, many extremely popular blogs have turned off their comment functionality. Are they still blogs? Blog platforms are also pretty cool; after experiencing the awesome power of WordPress, I’ll can’t see ever switching back to hand-coding 10,000 Birds again. But these platforms often require a higher level of coding knowledge than WSIWYG editors like FrontPage to optimize. The idea that everyone has to align with the Typepad or Blogger or WordPress camps also comes across as rather cliquish.
The only criterion that I use to determine whether a site is a blog is Sour Duck’s first one. Basically, is it a web log? This is where the word “blog” came from in the first place, right? Think Star Trek: “Captain’s Log, Star Date 1010101: Why don’t the Klingons understand me?” or perhaps a Judy Blume novel: “Dear diary, why don’t the cool kids understand me?” A blogger is ultimately a diarist, one who keeps a timely journal on a subject that interests him, usually himself.
My message is to stop judging your many colleagues who don’t fit into your preconceived notions of what a blog is supposed to do. Does a site present discrete chunks of content in reverse chronological order? If so, then it must be a blog. Sure, the site might be more inclusive with comments or better optimized with blog software, but that’s not your problem. Permalinks help participation in a blog carnival pay off, since without them, visitors might have a hard time finding the specific submission, but even these aren’t necessary. Look past the platform and the bells and whistles; in this space, content is king.