What is a Blog Carnival?

A Blog Carnival is, at its heart, a themed, periodic collection of permalinks to other blog posts. Most carnivals are more than this (and some are less) but essentially a blog carnival is a sort of anthology, zine, or compilation.  Yet, just as blogs are distinct from other forms of media, this mechanism of aggregating and presenting works from a variety of authors has a few innate identifiers.

STRUCTURE
Every carnival has an Owner, Organizer, or Editor-in-chief.  This is the person that keeps the carnival moving from edition to edition.  Often, this is also the person who originated the carnival.  The responsibilities of the Editor-in-chief include, but are not limited to:

  • maintaining the carnival’s central site, either on its own blog or part of an existing one
  • scheduling editions and coordinating hosts
  • managing submissions and outreach
  • promoting the carnival
  • serving as final arbiter of questions or disputes
  • protecting the integrity of the carnival

Every edition of a carnival has a Host. In some cases, the Host may be the Editor-in-chief but more often than not, the Host changes from edition to edition. The responsibilities of the Host include, but are not limited to:

  • soliciting submissions
  • receiving and evaluating submissions
  • organizing and presenting the edition
  • promoting the carnival

And of course, none of this works without a diverse, dedicated group of Contributors. Blog carnivals are often likened to communities or networks. Not every carnival attains that lofty distinction. The ones that do succeed not necessarily on the basis of their Owners or Hosts but through the passion of their Contributors. When Contributors feel ownership of a carnival, it transcends its origins and becomes a true community.

The responsibilities of a Contributor include, but are not limited to:

  • submitting relevant quality content in a timely manner
  • promoting the carnival

It should be noted that some blog carnivals do not depend on contributors to submit links but either partially or entirely harvest links independently. I stand with those who hold that carnivals depend on and are defined by the submission mechanism.

PURPOSE
Carnivals are defined by their subject matter. In the absence of a defining topic or purpose, a carnival becomes a diffuse linkfest. In the beginning (roughly 5 years ago!) blog carnivals were devoted to sweeping categories like science or North Carolina. As the blogosphere has expanded and specialized, carnivals have followed suit. Blog carnivals are defined:

  • Topically
  • Geographically

LOCATION
Blog carnivals are interesting in that while they may reside in one location, they usually occur elsewhere. What this means is that most carnivals have a home page or site, either on its own dedicated blog or a more encompassing blog owned by its editor-in-chief. Like adorable puppies, blog carnivals need homes. The carnival home should include the carnival’s rules, contact information, hosting schedule, and permalinks to previous editions.

However, most blog carnivals move from site to site as different bloggers host in turn. In fact, these compilations were initially dubbed carnivals because of their peripatetic nature. Carnivals may be:

  • Rotating
  • Static

CHRONOLOGY
Blog carnivals occur periodically. The publication schedule is usually established at the carnival’s origin and maintained as the Editor-in-chief schedules hosts.  Blog carnivals may occur:

  • Weekly
  • Bi-weekly
  • Monthly
  • Annually

Well-run carnivals are critical information hubs in the infinite sea of content that describes the world wide web circa the early 21st century. As content increases exponentially, readers rely more and more on curators to help sort quality from quantity, to centralize what is distributed, and to organize legions of independent micropublishers into an equally independent yet interconnected aggregate. Beholden only to their readers and contributors, blog carnivals exemplify and amplify much of what is worthwhile in today’s online environment.

5 Comments

  1. January 23, 2009 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

    Hey Mike.Thnaks for leadinf the worokshop on carnivals at the ScienceOnline09 Conference. I’m definitely looking to ocrease my participation in Carnivals this year. And it was very nice meeting you.

    Until later.
    Danielle

  2. May 28, 2009 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    Great post enjoyed it, am an avid bird watcher myself… haven’t ever participated in a carnival though!

    SanjeevSaikiaArt

  3. December 28, 2009 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

    could you pls list a few blog carnivals that are popular? im lost. thanks

  4. August 8, 2010 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

    The concept of Blog Carnival is new to me. Looking at the structure, parameters etc it seem to me like a very contrived and over-complicated set up.

  5. August 15, 2010 at 9:54 AM | Permalink

    Eamon, your position is difficult to comprehend. Roaming carnivals stand among the most convenient and well-contrived methods of spreading traffic and inbound links.

7 Trackbacks

  1. [...] « What is a Blog Carnival? Introducing the New Nature Blog Network Blog! [...]

  2. By Week 9: Finding New Readers « Blogging 2 Learn on March 11, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    [...] blog carnival is like a magazine table of contents, listing a lot of different articles by different writers that [...]

  3. By Blog Carnival Launch on June 29, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    [...] sure what Blog Carnivals are all about? Check out this great article “What Is A Blog Carnival?”, it does a really good job of explaining it. Probably the best explanation I’ve ever [...]

  4. [...] blog carnival is like a magazine table of contents, listing a lot of different articles by different writers that [...]

  5. [...] *For those unfamiliar with blog carnivals: What is a blog carnival? [...]

  6. By Slugyard in Blog Carnivals | Slugyard on August 2, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    [...] carnivals in which Slugyard is honored to be taking part.  What is a blog carnival?  Check out this site on the Nature Blog Network for a description.  There is some great information at all of these [...]

  7. By I and the Bird #137 on October 28, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    [...] not only have I participated in and hosted my fair share, I’ve also written guides about participating and hosting and even spoken about them at science conferences and birding festivals. The reason for [...]