Monday, January 04, 2010

Changes in the Carnival of Genealogy for 2010

A new year has arrived and with it will come changes in all of our lives, some for better, some for worse. That's just the nature of life. Changes are inevitable in the life of the Carnival of Genealogy too. The arrival of the new year seems like a good time to introduce some much needed changes to the COG. Most of these changes have come about out of necessity but some are entirely my preference.

When I first started the Carnival of Genealogy, over three years ago, it was "the only game in town" so to speak. What I mean by that is, it was the only themed writing project of it's kind for genealogy bloggers. Now, of course, it is only one of many, many themed writing projects available for those who choose to blog about their family history and genealogy research. With so many options now available to genealogy bloggers including daily, weekly, and monthly blogging prompts, as well as a variety of blog carnivals, the COG is poised to change to something a bit different from the rest.

Change in Format

The format of the COG will change from one all-inclusive group of a varying number of articles to a maximum of 30 articles per edition, 10 of which will be "select articles" that I will comment on and introduce, and one of which will be "the feature article" which I will highlight more extensively. A photo/avatar of the author of the featured article will be posted in a prominent place on the Creative Gene blog until the next edition is published. I'm thinking about awarding a prize to one of the featured authors in conjunction with the 100th edition of the COG later this year. Let me know what you think of that idea. I'll keep ya posted on that part.

The cap of 30 submissions comes out of necessity. I need to be able to plan my time and know in advance the maximum amount of time needed to put the COG together. The most recent edition of the COG, published earlier today, had 65 submissions. I didn't read them all because I just couldn't free up that much time in the period from the deadline to the publishing date (48 of the 65 submissions were received in the 48 hours before the deadline). In my opinion, there is a point at which the COG is just too big... too much for readers/fans to read in a reasonable period of time and too much for me to deal with on short notice. I think that point is 30 articles per edition.

Just for reference, of the 25 editions of the COG published in 2009 (December 15 was a "twofer" which I'm counting as separate editions for this purpose), only 5 editions exceeded 30 submissions. Those 5 most popular topics were: #1 Happy Dance [50], #2 NY Resolutions [40], #3 Uncles [33], #4 Women's History [32], #5 Swim Suit Edition [32]. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm terrible at guessing which topics will be popular and which will be "misses". I expected "Happy Dance" to be popular but not that popular. And I expected "Family Fun" to be popular but with only 11 submissions it was a real miss. The average number of submissions was 24.5 per edition in 2009, well under the new maximum of 30. So it really shouldn't change things all that much.

How will I decide which 30 articles will be included in each edition of the COG? I will not be using a juried selection process for COG submissions. The first 30 submissions received, "on topic", will be included. Period. However, "on topic" will now mean that those articles submitted that essentially say "this doesn't apply to me/my family" or "I don't have much to say on this topic" will no longer be included. I will consider them "off topic" to allow that opportunity to go to someone who has something relevant to share on the topic.

I have put a widget/doodad on the left side bar of this blog to keep track of the number of submissions I have received for each edition. It would be a good idea to get into the habit of checking here to see where things stand. I will update it as often as possible. I wish there was a way for me to cut off submissions on the blogcarnival web site but I can't. I know many (many!) of you are in the habit of waiting until the last minute to write up your COG posts. When it comes to popular topics (whichever those may be) it may mean your article won't get included. I'm sorry for that. All I can say is write early and submit your article early if it's one you really care about.

Change in Emphasis

I want to keep the COG open to everyone, including those new to blogging. But I also want to encourage quality writing. Early on in the COG I highlighted good writing and encouraged readers to visit the blogs of those authors who showed real talent. I want to get back to those roots. Therefore, I'm asking you to put your best foot forward when it comes to submitting articles to the Carnival of Genealogy. Please don't dash off a quick post just to be a part of it. I want the COG to be a quality publication with well thought out, well researched, and well written articles. For the most part, it has been. But there have been a few articles here and there that weren't. Because those articles were still "on topic" I've included them in the past but I won't be doing that anymore. I'm no editor, but I recognize a compeling story when I read one. Likewise I can recognize an article that is well researched, well written, well sourced, or creatively presented. These are the sorts of things I will be mentioning in the 10 "select articles" in each edition.

The "feature article" will be an opportunity for me to highlight that article/author that stands out from the crowd. Let's face it, we bloggers put a lot of time and effort into what we publish on our blogs but we don't get much recognition for it. There are the comments, yes, and getting mentioned in someone's "roundup" is always nice, but there's not much else. Until now. Now those who participate in the Carnival of Genealogy have an opportunity to get recognized, thanked, and promoted for their outstanding efforts. 

Change in Marketing

I welcome and appreciate promotions and links from bloggers participating in and reading the COG but the Geneabloggers Group on Facebook has gotten so big that a promotion there can create a "blog-alanche" of submissions, more than I can deal with. I cringe at the thought of all the rejection notes I'd have had to send out for the edition published earlier today. So, I've asked Thomas not to promote the COG on the GeneaBloggers on Facebook group anymore. I'm looking for quality not quantity of submissions and I think word of mouth blog promotion will better suit this relatively small publication. This is actually not a new way of marketing the Carnival of Genealogy, simply a return to the old way of doing things.

Change in Frequency of Publication

I've had several requests to change the COG to a once-a-month carnival. I have thought about this request long and hard. And then I thought about it longer and harder. I've agonized over it, really. I asked some veteran participants in the COG for their opinions and then I thought about it even more. I came up with a list of topics that would require more lengthy research and writing time and would work well in a month-long time frame. I pretty much decided to go ahead with the change to once-a-month and then I read about the "favorite" topics that participants enjoyed in the past and look forward to in the future (in COG #84-What the COG Means to Me) and I realized that if I continue to include the favorite topics (which I would personally like to do) it would only leave me with 5 "new" topics each year. I admit that thinking up new topics has become more challenging with all the other themed writing projects out there but I can come up with more than 5 good ideas off the top of my head! So, here's what will happen. Some months the COG will have 2 editions and some months it will have one. I'm going to change it up and you'll have to pay attention to the deadlines in each "call for submissions" to know which is which. COG participants are a highly intelligent bunch and I'm sure this will not be too confusing for you all ;-)

Changes in Topics

I will not be listing future topics for the COG on the Creative Gene blog this year. I think it took some of the fun out of it to know in advance what the next topic would be when each edition was published. I'm also going to play around with some more creative and challenging topics this year. I hope you're up for a challenge! I think you'll find them fun and educational.

All in all, I don't think these changes are major ones but they will hopefully make for a higher quality publication and one I can better manage putting together. I hope the COG will continue to be a platform for new bloggers and also become a place where genealogy and family history researchers who excell in writing will get noticed, applauded, and promoted. I welcome your feedback on these changes and I hope you will continue to read, participate in, and promote the Carnival of Genealogy.

And on that note, it's time for a Call for Submissions!

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: Volunteerism! Here's a chance to toot your horn about whatever genealogy projects, organizations, or events you voluntarily give your time and efforts to. What do you get out of volunteering? How did you decide what to volunteer for? How much time each month do you spend volunteering for genealogy projects/organizations/events? Is there an organization or project you'd like to recommend to others? Tell us all about it! The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2010.