Whither Carnivals? Or, Carnivals wither?

Yesterday I tweeted a question, as one does, to see what would come of it: what to do next with the #historycarnival?

It brought an immediate offer from Katrina Gulliver to host an edition (for which I’m grateful), so in the short term it worked. (Clearly, I should have thought of it earlier.) It’s also generated an interesting suggestion and one response asking what I meant. That I can’t do in 140 characters, so I’m going to have a go here.

The History Carnival has been having periodic crises for pretty much as long as it has existed. If you’ve read here for any length of time you’ve read me moaning and asking, what’s the point?, at some stage (quite apart from arm-twisting/begging emails behind the scenes), and you’ve often responded brilliantly. But this time I wonder if it goes deeper.

There was a good deal of comment a couple of months ago about how the blogosphere has changed in recent years, including an argument that bloggers don’t link to each other anywhere near as much as they used to. I’m not sure if that’s true, but what’s indisputable is that history blogging has expanded far beyond the small excited groups of bloggers I knew four or five years ago, and inevitably become much more fragmented in the process. Many of those c.2005 history bloggers aren’t even active any more, or only intermittently so (*cough*).

A number of previously active history-related carnivals have withered of late (Asian History and Military History in particular spring to mind). Who is reading the History Carnival? I certainly don’t see many links to it any more – and if it’s not being linked then it’s not going to find new readers, just the gradually diminishing band of old bloggers who were reading it three years ago.

And if it’s not being read then I don’t see the point of bloggers spending time putting editions together, and I’m not going to be motivated to spend time chasing hosts and maintaining it either. Which is why I didn’t try particularly hard to find a host for September, to be honest.

But maybe Twitter can help out here and revitalise the Carnival (and other history carnivals too). Suddenly there’s a single place where growing numbers of historians are communicating with each other: Katrina Gulliver has started to compile a list, and coined a new tag to help us find each other: #twitterstorians.

You can tweet nominations for next weekend’s History Carnival to @katrinagulliver including the tag #historycarnival (as well as the usual channels – announcements coming). You can also use the #historycarnival tag to tweet suggestions in response to my original question – or if you want to be old-school, you can of course comment below.

Where do you think the History Carnival could or should be going in the future? Or is it time to shut up shop?

7 thoughts on “Whither Carnivals? Or, Carnivals wither?”

  1. Thanks for the promotion! Although I must give credit for the term #twitterstorian to @historicaltweets – although I have done my best to promote it as the hashtag for historians on twitter.

    The issue of bloggers not linking to each other is something I commented on recently both at acephalous and this piece on crooked timber http://crookedtimber.org/2009/09/18/going-pro/ – I do see the loss of the trackback feature on blogger.com as a major culprit.

    Blogging certainly has changed since you and I met at the AHA in 2006, when you were on Ralph Luker’s panel of academic bloggers, and I was collecting the ‘Best Group Blog’ award from HNN on behalf of Frog in a Well.

    I am a firm believer in mechanisms like twitter as the way forward for the immediacy they offer – which blogs unfortunately do not. This is not to say blogging is over, but it is evolving.

    I believe I observed a shift too after a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about blogging and being on the job market. Some people had felt that their page on typepad or livejournal was somehow “private” and that for others to read it was some kind of an “invasion” (as some expressed in the responses to this article) http://chronicle.com/article/Bloggers-Need-Not-Apply/45022

    The growing realisation that search committees, colleagues, anyone could (and would) find your blog, and judge you based on what was there, led a lot of people to either avoid the medium altogether, or if they do blog they keep it anonymous and don’t mention their academic work (so they’re not about to host a history carnival).

  2. That’s an interesting argument at the end there, Katrina. I haven’t got time to engage because I’m about to go out for the afternoon, but I should just note that pseudonymous bloggers have quite often hosted the history carnival, and carnivalesque probably even more so (virtually every medievalist…).

  3. Of course, and some anonymous/pseudonymous bloggers have been on the scene for a while (Blogenspiel, for instance). But I do think that the Phantom Professor incident put a scare out there, and Tenured Radical also wrote a thoughtful piece about abandoning anonymity on her blog, which highlighted some of the issues.
    I also wonder whether blogging dropped as facebook took off?

  4. It’s not just the history carnivals. I had to finally call it quits for the Disability Blog Carnival after about 60 installments–they weren’t getting decent submissions (a lot of spam), hosts weren’t as forthcoming, and traffic wasn’t what it used to be. The novelty wore off? Folks are linking to the things that interest them on twitter or facebook or elsewhere? Some of the bigger contributors stopped blogging altogether, which was an obvious dent in the process.

    Glad we got to play during the heyday of the blog carnival, it was fun while it lasted. And I thoroughly enjoyed hosting the two history carnivals I did!

  5. I was thinking that immediacy is one of the problems. If you can tweet a link instantly or digg it, then a monthly carnival is going to be a bit slow. You could set up a site based on Pligg or Reddit and use that as a Carnival 2.0, but there’s still the submission problem. Who’s going to sign up to yet another site to promote their blog? Pligg can read RSS feeds, but all blog posts would be put into one category (like Medieval) which might annoy bloggers who blog on more than one topic.

    Another possibility would be theming. If one theme were picked for a month and history bloggers wrote on or around it then you’d have another community reason to blog rather than just traffic. I’m not sure that would work though because if you’re struggling to get submissions for an open carnival then getting submissions on ‘Trade’ or ‘Death’ for a month would be even harder.

  6. Firstly I’d be happy to host a carnival at some point- after December if that’s possible because life until then is very stressful and I’m sorry to have missed the earlier discussion.

    I think it would be very sad if the carnival form died because when I started blogging it was one of the best ways I think, one of the only ways, to try and introduce yourself to a wider audience- in a sense being a new blogger carnivals were a great way to get involved in a bigger community and if we are losing that, I wonder whether the barriers to access are actually getting greater as well. (Being clear here I mean not the barriers to accessing the ability to blog, but the barriers to accessing the audience for one’s blog- a separate question.)

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