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On Blog Carnivals And Bonfires.

Your time is valuable. You are a very important person. Thus, I promise to treat you accordingly. Every blogger should hold that mantra dear, if only out of self-interest. After all, who wants to continue visiting a blog that turns out to be just one big waste of time? It is a recipe for zero readers.

When I link to another blog, or a news article, or some bit of information, it's going to be worthwhile at some level. You will be informed or entertained, enlightened or inspired, shocked or outraged, relieved or emboldened. You'll get something out of it, one way or another.


Instapundit
, primarily a linker/editor, gets well over 100,000 visitors a day (between 2 and 3 visitors per second), not because he links everything everyone sends him, every single time. It's because you know clicking a link on his site will take you to something worthwhile.

Likewise, it is not arbitrary that 14,000+ people visit Wizbang each day. Traffic is high because there are worthwhile stories. Stories that make you think. Stories that appeal to your prurient interests. Stories you can talk about at the dinner table, or around the water cooler, or on your own blogs. Jay Tea, Kevin, and Paul offer great content on a consistent basis.

There's also a good reason why, out of 14.2 million alleged blogs, only a few hundred get any kind of traffic at all-- and only a dozen or two get "bigtime" traffic.

Now, think about all the people joining the blogosphere, every single day. Technorati estimates that every five months, the number of blogs doubles. Many of those blogs last but a few months, many are updated too infrequently to be worthwhile, and some are set up for spamming or other nefarious purposes. But a lot of them are worthwhile.

Some of the more successful and worthwhile bloggers of this decade may have yet to join the blogosphere. Think about it. It's absolutely true.

But how do smaller bloggers get noticed? One obvious (and sort of fun) way is the "Blog Carnival." There are Carnivals of Capitalists, of Revolutions, of Liberty, of Crazy, and several other more narrow topics, as well as general-interest carnivals, such as the Carnival of the Vanities I hosted earlier this week. In some ways, the proliferation of blog carnivals has gotten out of hand.

Bloggers have abused the Carnival apparatus, cheapening it with "submission whoring." After all, why not just submit something every single week, to every single carnival out there? You may get a few dozen or even a few hundred hits out of it, no matter how worthless or inane the post is!

Kevin, in his infinite wisdom, created the Bonfire of the Vanities as a sort of "anti-carnival." But even the Bonfire has suffered from a certain submission "inflation."

So, this week, I hosted the Granddaddy of them all, the Carnival of the Vanities. And I took the rather non-controversial, entirely sensical step of rating the posts. Hey, I am just showing you, the reader, some respect. You likely have time to click on one or two of the links, so why not avoid the tin and go for the gold?

Predictably, the bloggers who submitted crap and got called out for it were offended. I am offended, meanwhile, that these bloggers would submit such crap-- and then complain when called out for it!

The nerve.

What an insult to the entire blogosphere. Nobody is entitled to have the entire world read his or her thoughts. But that's what has become of the Carnival establishment, a sense of entitlement. The critics of a rating system for carnival posts assert that a rating system ruins the "vibe" of the Carnival. What is this supposed vibe, anyway? To hear these folks talk about it, the "vibe" is nothing but feigned equality and a warped form of free blogger love.

Newsflash: Not all posts are created equal. Meanwhile, most people don't have the time to read about your fledgling rock band's gig last night, or what you should include in your personal dating ad, or your review of a movie everyone already saw more than a year ago.

Nobody cares about that stuff, unless you are an extraordinarily gifted writer.

Another newsflash: Most people, sadly enough, are not extraordinarily gifted writers.

So let's review, shall we?

Against the rating system:

*Dodgeblogium.

*Silent Running.

For the rating system:

*File It Under blog.

*Mister Snitch! blog.

My plea to those hosting blog carnivals:

Screen the entries. Rate them. Categorize them. Roast them. Praise them. Just make the carnivals meaningful to the average reader again.

My plea to those submitting to blog carnivals:

Screen your own entries. Don't submit drivel. At least proof your entries.

My plea to those reading blog carnivals:

I am asking you to demand more from your blog carnivals. I am asking that you take a stand, opposing carnivals that pretend every post is equally good. And when a blog carnival does weed out the duds from the legit entries, visit that carnival. Visit the hell out of it.

You'll be doing the blogosphere a favor, while making the world a better place to live.

"Now you know, and knowing is half the battle."

Will Franklin battles with knowledge at WILLisms.com.


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Comments (25)

When I saw you were rating ... (Below threshold)

When I saw you were rating the posts in this weeks COTV I knew the feces were going to hit the rotating blades, Will.

But it had to be done. Not that all my material is so strong (decidedly not) or so weak (oh, I hope not), but I didn't submit a post this week. Thought about it, but I didn't have one that lit my fire. Hey, if I wrote it and it didn't how are others going to react to it?

Obviously it would be better if people self-censored themselves. Perhaps a four point scale would be better: 'Must Read', 'Worth The Time', 'Only If You're Not Busy' and 'Go Straighten Your Sock Drawer.'

I figure if people aren't g... (Below threshold)

I figure if people aren't going to screen their own submissions, it is up to the host. If the submitters and hosts fail to do so, it's up to the readers (and the bigger bloggers who link the carnivals) to stop visiting them until they do so.

Bravo! Submission whoreing... (Below threshold)

Bravo! Submission whoreing really irks me. One great concept, IMAO's Carnival of Comedy has tons of stuff that isn't funny. At all. It needs the ability to drop entries badly considering how many entries it receives - which in itself is credit to how popular and great IMAO is.

Just my $0.02...

And yes, I know it's subjective but it's pretty bad.

Being one of the hosts for ... (Below threshold)
a4g:

Being one of the hosts for the current Carnival of Comedy, I might inject the fact that both I and my co-host went through the posts and rated them, in order to decide how to categorize them. Several of the posts I placed at the very bottom of my list, he placed near the top of his. Comedy, especially, is very subjective. In the end, we tried to move the 'consensus posts' nearer the top, and let the rest fall mostly in the order in which they were submitted.

Based on the comments on some of the posts which I personally found dreadful, there is evidently a market for forms of comedy which don't appeal at all to my taste.

(But then, my wife thinks I'm an idiot... so there's clearly no accounting for taste)

Yeah, humor is amazingly ha... (Below threshold)

Yeah, humor is amazingly hard to pull off... and to rate.

I hate that about all the c... (Below threshold)

I hate that about all the carnivals. The majority of the submissions seem to come from linkwhores that couldn't buy readership with nude pictures and cash. Especially that Random Numbers blog.

http://randomnumbers.us/

Those guys are just shameless.

Man, I get so burned out by... (Below threshold)

Man, I get so burned out by the mega-participation concept that I even tend to avoid overly long comment threads -- a.k.a., Carnival of the Comments.

You'll never see that at Yippee-Ki-Yay!

Never.

Ever.

Dang it...

Excellent post. I... (Below threshold)

Excellent post.

I must admit, I am a recovering link-whore. Granted, it was based in just not knowing what's what and testing the waters. I think for extroverts (or whatever) there is probably a learning curve. My personal axiom is that I should invest in commenting and whatever happens happens.

At the same time, the big dog blogs need to accept the fact that little under dog blogs like mine don't have to be great writers or use their blogs like the big blogs do.

My interests are personal, random and not always (if ever) the best writing. Even so, I love blogging. I have met some wonderful people through this medium. And just like your local community, the blogosphere is going to be over run with blogs that have every conceivable angle and voice imaginable.

Sure, make the carnivals worthwhile, I agree. At the same time there are going to be more and more newbie's looking to test the waters.

Maybe a newbie carnival with a rating system intended to encourage critical review... ::: ponder :::

Back to the point...

This reminds me of when I joined the Internet in '93. I was the only one I knew with an email address. EVERYONE was irked when AOL took off and all these people started flooding IRC, the Well and Usenet. I think that is where the term "newbie" was coined.

In my opinion the blogosphere is going through the same online "sociological" growing pain. I think the big dog blogs should be warned to not forget their roots and don't become the "authority" of what makes a blog and what doesn't.

Well, I'm like a Deadhead w... (Below threshold)
Beth:

Well, I'm like a Deadhead with the Bonfire tour; I always have mock-worthy, half-a$$ed crap. What I don't get is the people who submit posts to the Bonfire that are clearly thought-out and serious posts. That really irritates me, because it's such outrageously transparent link-whoring. Besides, if the rest of us willing to laugh at our suckitude, what's the deal with showing off? (When I host the next Bonfire, I'm going to roast the hell out of the "good" links. Mercilessly.)

I don't know about the COTV, though; maybe what the writer thinks is one of his or her best sucks to others, but still...it might be one of the best they've got. That's kind of subjective, if you ask me--but then I don't think I've ever submitted anything to the COTV. (My twisted mind can't handle that much seriousness.) ;-)

You forgot one other thing,... (Below threshold)

You forgot one other thing, Will:

If you submit to a Carnival, be sure you click on the other entrants. it's only fair. I've found several blogs I read regularly that way.

As a blogger, I'd actually LIKE to be rated the way you did at your carnival. Sure, it's subjective, but if you think enough of a partiucular blog to submit to their carnival, then you should welcome their feedback. If you can't take criticism, you shouldn't blog.

Listen to the criticism and become better at what you're doing. That's the challenge, and that's what makes blogging rewarding.

What's needed is a <a href=... (Below threshold)

What's needed is a Carnival of the Rejects, taking submissions only from carnival hosts, to take the inane drivel and roast the submitters over an open flame until they are tender.

What do you think?

um... aren't the posts at V... (Below threshold)

um... aren't the posts at Vanities supposed to suck? So... what... you rated the ones that sucked the most, the least? or somethin'? (makes a note to go check out the last vanities carnival thingy)

I dunno. I don't submit to carnivals, don't really read them that often either. So i guess my opinion doesn't really count. But if I did read the carnivals, i'd probably want to make up my own mind about what was good and what wasn't, instead of getting a neat little rating before I'd even read the post. Ratings make me have expectations, and I don't appreciate those. It's like watching a movie that's been over hyped. No matter how good it was, it's never going to live up to the over-hyped expectations. Then again, a movie with terrible reviews might not get many people in the theatre- but may end up a classic at the DVD store. (Princess Bride, etc.)

Like I said, I guess it doesn't really matter, since I've also never hosted a carnival. Oh well. ::shrugs::

No, Jewels, the Bonfire<... (Below threshold)

No, Jewels, the Bonfire posts are supposed to suck, according to their writers. Carnival of the Vanities is sort of a Look At Me Shine! carnival.

Ah. Kay.... (Below threshold)

Ah. Kay.

amen... (Below threshold)

amen

Alex N.(sorry- missed your ... (Below threshold)

Alex N.(sorry- missed your comment earlier)- that's true. I like constructive criticism. Usually I ask for it first. But I guess if you're submitting to a carnival that has ratings, you could consider it a perk.

I had something to say, but... (Below threshold)

I had something to say, but you failed to mention the Carnival of the Cats, so get bent, Will.

I may be a bit biased becau... (Below threshold)

I may be a bit biased because I received a good rating, but I agree completely with your premise. It is much easier to tread through so many posts and generally rewards harder work.

I expect to receive some lesser ratings if it continues, and I'll prepare myself beforehand for it. It'll just make my better written and highly rated posts more widely read, hopefully.

As I've said before, I am f... (Below threshold)

As I've said before, I am for a ratings system. I also believe every host has the right to host in his/her own way. I think Will did his readers a service, and I think more bloggers should think about serving their readers the way he obviously does.

One thing I have suggested previously: If you're going to host, and you're going to rate the posts, let everyone know in advance. Will got more flak than he might have because (I think) no one knew they were going to be rated. When they were, they felt embarassed if they got one of the lower scores. If they had known, they might not have submitted this week, or they might have cleaned up their acts.

Let's face it, nobody likes a surprise inspection.

One other thought re ratings: Perhaps a two-(or even 3) tiered ratings system might be employed. Will tried to factor in a number of variables that perhaps should not be lumped together. For instance, a post might be 5/8, with the "5" standing for unique insight/work/original material, and "8" being entertainment value. So 5/8 means a post that's not terribly original but was a fun read anyway. An 8/5 might be a post with a lot of original material that's not terribly well-written or not topical.

Of course, if we're moving in that direction, we could just let the Carnival be as it may and graduate to a juried weekly Carnival, with the best ten posts of the week. And perhaps those posts could NOT come from the top 100 most-trafficked blogs.

We also run a Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers around here. Ratings wouldn't work there the way they can work with a bigger Carnival. It's hard to explain exactly why, but it's just not the same thing. It's more like family. You don't rate your family, no matter how much you might be tempted to. (Of course, Jersey blogger The Idiom, who got a "9", might disagree.)

One problem with rating, th... (Below threshold)
Beth:

One problem with rating, though...no, actually two.

1) There's no way most people will be able to objectively "rate" a well-written post that is diametrically opposed to the rater's own ideology. Joe Schmo might write well about why they think x is the greatest thing on earth, for example, but if the rater loathes x and thinks it should be outlawed, they're going to find the writer's logic flawed and rate lower. That's just asking for stupid blog fighting.

2) You can be SURE that some people won't even submit posts if they think someone who doesn't even normally read them is going to rate the post all by him/herself.

3) Sorry, I've got three issues. If one of my best blog-buds submits a link, I'll tell you right now I wouldn't give them anything less than a good rating, and if someone I think is an asshat submits a link, I'd be a lot harder to please. Call it unfair, but tough. That's life, and to pretend otherwise would most likely be dishonest.


Why even do it anyway? If ratings are important, let the readers VOTE on the posts (like the Watchers' Council). That way they'll actually get read. I guess I'm saying is it worth the bad blood? It IS "just a blog," after all. Choose your battles, and all that. And FWIW, most people won't agree with all the ratings anyway. I didn't.

Just my Bonfire-worthy opinion. ;-)

There are so many other blo... (Below threshold)
-S-:

There are so many other bloggers who are not motivated by RATINGS so much as motivated by writing, creativity, interacting with friends and interested strangers, etc.

It's random. SOME people (the obvious) really are motivated by high ratings, high numbers, big stats, all that and they also tend to be pretty unkind to any site that poses competition. Not all of them, but some and there's a certain animosity there that others notice. Meaning, I believe the whole "my ratings are huuuuggge" harping is a method of intimidating others (who, again, may not and often aren't motivated by ratings so the harping takes on a bullying aspect).

I'm just saying, not everyone is all enthused about massive ratings, big numbers, high-toned stats. There are other interesting blogs and sites that chug along and remain constant and survive by keeping on for other motivations.

Remember the Grasshopper and the Tortoise?

So basically it seems like ... (Below threshold)

So basically it seems like the consensus is that Carnivals need more screening.

I run a sorta carnival, of ... (Below threshold)

I run a sorta carnival, of British and Irish blogs. I do rate, but by being neutral about some stuff, praising others and for the really good, extracting from it.
People get to nkow how the system works pretty quickly.

Oh yeah, the advertising for the Britblog Roundup. Every Sunday afternoon at my place.

As was recorded, File It Un... (Below threshold)

As was recorded, File It Under is fine with ranking blog submissions. We just suggest that you not use red ink because it hurts the school kid egos.

Oh yeah, and give out lots of smiley face stickers. Everyone likes stickers!

I think This is a really go... (Below threshold)

I think This is a really good step. to be honest I am surprised that more carnival hosts don't rate or at least screen.

I am starting a carnival for art and artists and I am currently only getting a few submissions but I like to think that as I am starting out I can set the tone the way I like and I would like the posts to be relevant, appropriate and of a high standard. this may mean it takes longer to get off the ground.. But I think it will be worth it in the long run




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