Saturday, November 14, 2009

What the COG Means to Me, The Hostess

Since I have the unique perspective of being the creator and primary hostess of the Carnival of Genealogy and it's most prolific writer (I've never missed writing for a COG edition), I'm going to take the liberty of writing two articles this time around. This first one will be reflections on being the hostess and the next one will be on being a contributing author.

So what does the COG mean to me, the hostess? Work! Lots of work! LOL!

Although I've put a lot of time and effort into the COG over the years, I can honestly say it has been a labor of love. I've really enjoyed seeing the Carnival of Genealogy grow from one person's attempt to canvas the internet for several articles on a given topic to an entire community of people contributing well researched, well written, educational, touching, humorous, instructional, and entertaining articles on specific genealogy-related themes. My, my, how it has grown!

My biggest challenge early on and again recently has been choosing topics. It's harder than you think! I've tried to vary the topics so they don't all feel like variations on a theme. But I know enough about genealogy researchers and the blogging community to know that not everyone brings the same research experience, writing talent, or depth of family history knowledge to the table. Trying to find topics that have a broad general appeal but are at the same time fresh ideas is a struggle. And with the recent rise in themed writing projects of all sorts, it's made topic selection even more difficult.

Have I ever been totally stumped for topic ideas? Oh heavens, YES! You'd be surprised how often I've sat drumming my fingers at the 11th hour trying to decide what to write for the call for submissions. I can honestly say that some of the more popular topics were those "last minute" theme ideas. Sometimes the pressure of a deadline can be a good thing ;-)

I got to be a pretty good judge of how popular a topic would be by watching the submissions come in. If I'd picked a good topic the articles would start almost immediately. If people were enthusiastic they didn't procrastinate with their writing. If the topic was a bomb, the submissions would trickle in with the bulk of them coming just before the deadline. That changed after the whole daily/weekly blogging theme thing became popular. After that the genea-blogging community had so many ideas of what to write about tossed at them the COG more or less got lost in the shuffle. Often people were submitting articles right before the deadline not because the topic was a bomb but because they were just too busy to get to it sooner. I can't use the pattern of submissions as a barometer of a topic anymore.

Writing Talent
One of the things I've enjoyed most over the years is watching participant's writing talent develop. The more "better writers" that have participated in the COG the more they have inspired us all to be "better writers" by example. Some have developed more than others and that's OK. Everyone doesn't strive to better their writing (but they should ;-). But I strive to encourage better writing. It's something I believe in as much as I believe in honing research techniques, learning about genealogy resources, or recording family history in various forms.

There have been times when I've felt like the guy in the midway hawking his game... "step right up ladies and gentlemen and win yourselves a Cupie doll" only I was hawking the COG, asking people to contribute articles and promote the COG on their blogs. This was and continues to be very hard for me. I'm not a self promoter by nature. Even though the COG is made up of the contributions of others it still feels like my baby to me. It's hard for me to say, "Come by and read the COG". I'm much more comfortable in the roll of cheerleader, promoting those authors who participate in the COG, within the COG.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped promote the COG on Facebook and Twitter but especially those who promote the Carnival of Genealogy on their blogs. I always appreciate your links! I'm going to go outside my comfort zone and ask you to please continue to spread the word about the COG when you can. The more publicity the COG gets the more notoriety the writers will achieve. And that benefits everyone :-) The tweets and FB updates are nice but they don't help with search engine rankings or listings. If you want to do the most good for the COG, please continue to write about it and link to it from your blogs. Thanks!

We have a wonderful group of authors who contribute to the COG, but more than that we have a great community of genealogy researchers and writers who are supportive, encouraging, helpful, creative, and very talented. I never cease to be impressed with the character of the people in our online genealogy community and I applaud those who rise to the challenge of writing for the COG. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!

Over the years there have been only a few changes in the COG. I started having guest hosts on a regular basis, I stopped writing intros, and I published future topics ahead of time. Some changes worked better than others ;-) I've had other ideas for the COG too but I've hesitated to mess with a formula that was working. The time is coming for more changes though. Change is sometimes scary (and I'm feeling that) and sometimes exciting (I'm feeling that too) and always inevitable. With the New Year knocking on the door it seems like a good time to be introducing those changes that will happen with the arrival of 2010. But I'm not going to do that here and now. You'll have to stay tuned to learn more.

My Thanks
I'm going to end by saying thanks to everyone who has contributed articles to the Carnival of Genealogy over the past 83 editions. If not for you all, the COG wouldn't be. I wish I'd kept track of everyone who has participated so that I could thank each of you personally for your contributions, but it simply didn't occur to me to do so. Please know that I appreciate all your hard work and your willingness to share the personal stories of your life and your ancestors. Your stories are the threads that have been woven into the wonderful tapestry that is the COG. You have made it great!

Thank you to everyone who reads the Carnival of Genealogy. And an extra special thanks to those who take the time to leave a comment for me and for those who write the articles. WE ALL REALLY APPRECIATE YOU! Please keep the comments coming. You've no idea how rewarding it is to hear a few words of praise, thanks, or a question, from a reader. Believe me, it's appreciated!

I would also like to say thanks again to all of the guest hosts of the COG. You have been there for me when I was burned out, when I needed a vacation, when there was illness and even deaths in my family. You have taken a load off when it was needed most and I am very grateful. I couldn't have kept it up this long without you!

And last but not least, thank you to those of you who I have turned to for advice. You know who you are. Your input has been invaluable to me. Everyone that I asked for help came through for me. You were sounding boards, advice givers, supporters, suggestion makers, cheerleaders, and best of all, friends. I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to help a friend. I am truly blessed to have you in my life. Thank you.

And now I have to end this. It's starting to sound like I'm saying goodbye or something and I'm not! I just wanted to take the opportunity to share some of my thoughts and gratitude. Long live the COG! It's been a helluva ride!

And thanks fM for all the terrific posters! There have been so many times when I thought I'd stumped you for sure but you always came through with a great visual. Kudos!