Is the age of the blog carnival at an end?

A few months back, several individuals concerned with plant blogging put a fair amount of effort into reviving and updating the Berry Go Round plant carnival. The next edition of that carnival, by the way, is coming up, so you should submit a post on plants, plant biology, plant evolution, plannt science, or just a nice picture of a plant here. The current Berry Go Round is here. Another active carnival is the Carnival of Evolution. The current CoE is here.

The whole idea of a web carnival is to create a linky nexus connecting blog readers with blog posts in a way that directs traffic in a productive way. The greatest benefit to bloggers is, historically, realized for newish bloggers or bloggers with naturally low traffic levels. A carnival can get you dozens of hits. If you have a couple of hundred readers, that matters, not just because it is a measurable percentage of your readership, but, because (and this is probably more important) people who did not know about your blog, or about a particular post on your blog, now do.

One of the most consistent, long lived and important blog carnivals ever is the I and the Bird blog carnival. I and the Bird was run by the same good folks who run Nature Network and the 10,000 Birds web site (on which I now post an item every four weeks, as you may have heard). I and the Bird was especially important to me because being reminded that the carnival was coming up sometimes reminded me to write a post about birds. In normally write plenty of posts about birds over the summer months, but during the winter the reminder is useful. That is also true of Berry Go Round and some of the other carnivals. It is a matter of positive encouragement.

Well, I was astonished, shocked, amazed, and rather blown away to find out yesterday that I and the Bird, the world’s premier Blog Carnival, is ending. Then, after I thought about it for a while, I realized that this was probably expected and in the end is a good thing. I came to that conclusion mainly because I headed my brain in that direction quite intentionally. You see, Mike, the primary mover and shaker behind I and the Bird, is a very blog-savvy guy. He thinks about these things, about how to communicate important things on the Internet, how to build Internetal and Bloggy communities, and so on. So when he decided to shut down I and the Bird, my second reaction (after hyperventilating for several minutes) was that if Mike is doing this, it must make sense.

Read the Death Knell, as it were, here.

And this makes me think of how to do what carnivals did but without the carnivals, and maybe better. I have a few ideas, and I’d love to hear yours. Does Facebook send people to blog posts, do individuals find their way through myriad blog posts via a stream of myriad tweets, do communities like LinkedIn really network people by the overlaps in their diverse interests?

I can imagine this: Six or seven people get together and agree to work on this for a fixed amount of time (always have an exit strategy!). There is a single topic, and each of us is armed with our social networking devices. We can easily digg, stumble, reddit a blog post, put it on our facebook page, or tweet it.

So that’s what we do. We have a small informal mailing list (using nothing more complicated than bcc). When one of us writes a post on that topic, we bcc our colleagues, and everybody social networks the post. We agree to limit the number of posts to do this with to one a week, so each of the six of us will social network six posts a week.

In addition, we agree to reach out into the broader blogosphere and give the same treatment to a number of selected posts in the same topical area, as a form of linkiose altruism. We don’t get carried away. Whenever one of us bcc’s our own post, we also bcc another post we like. That’s it.

By having a fixed time limit, the process does not get stale. Near the end of doing this, we can consider reconfiguring, or even just continuing on with what we are doing. We forgive each other for failing to keep up when that happens, but by having the fixed time limit, we act like hunter-gatherers, who use the opportunity of multiple moves from camp to camp each year as an opportunity to rethink who our roommates will be, or if we want to be in this group or not.

Or is there a different way to do this? Or should we be doing this at all?

In any event, I’d like to extend my heart-felt thanks to Mike for his tireless work with I and the Bird and all the other people who made it happen.

Oh, and there is one more I and the Bird, and it’s cool that it is based in the Twin Cities. Go have a look! This is your last chance to see this beast before it goes extinct!


  1. #1 Jeremy
    May 5, 2011

    Thanks for the reminder to people about BGR (and CoE). I’ve just taken over some of the management of BGR, and I hope I’m not going to watch it slip into a death spiral. But I do also hear what you’re saying here. For me, the thing about carnivals is that they allow us to draw attention to a subject — agricultural biodiversity — that we feel is neglected quite widely. If we can get botanists, or evolutionary types, or ecologists, or invertebrate lovers, or whatever, to think a bit about agriculture, that’s a good thing.

    Now, how does your suggestion sound? Excellent, but I suspect we’d be hard pressed (and probably not invited) to contribute frequently, or regularly, to a single topic. But hey; it would be worth trying.

  2. #2 Mike
    May 5, 2011

    Thanks so much, Greg. You attribute too much to me here, but I’m grateful for how much you’ve brought to our sprawling collaboration over the years. I can’t wait to share my ideas for the next step with you.

    Your link club idea is solid, so it should come as no surprise to you that bloggers have done this in different ways since the days before social networks blew up. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Count me in if you put a group together!

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    May 5, 2011

    Bloggers cooperating? Ha. I don’t think so.

    Looking forward to an interesting discussion.

  4. #4 sarcozona
    June 2, 2011

    I think that for some communities, the blog carnival is still very helpful and relevant. I think it’s especially nice for communities with members with a wide range of tech-savviness and/or online presences. Many of our awesome Berry Go Round contributors don’t really participate in social networks and don’t seem to have more of an online presence than an email address and a blog.

    That being said, I think we could attract more contributers and more young botanically inclined bloggers if BGR was more active in social networks.