And it’s worth taking special note of this:
One of the more poorly kept secrets of the blogosphere is that there is very little quality control in blog carnivals. For the most part, if you submit a post on topic, you’ll make the cut. This is as it should be. Few among us are really qualified to judge which writing represents the very best of the web. Furthermore, a great carnival appeals to a wide variety of tastes. So, you are not responsible for judging for quality, but you need to judge all the same.
I’ve read a few things lately that make me fear a little that enthusiasm for (academic) blog carnivals might start to outrun what they’re actually capable of delivering. Can they really become a significant form of academic peer review? (Not that I’m really criticising that if:book post; it carefully stresses that it’s not talking about the formal peer review of the academic journal.)
We might need to be careful not to raise expectations impossibly high, or to risk creating misconceptions about what is really possible with the carnival format – that it’s somehow authoritative, “the” place to find “the best” (the implication being that what is left out has been judged to be inferior, when it might equally be a matter of chance, a lost email, the peccadilloes of a particular host, whatever). This possibility makes me oddly uncomfortable. (And apart from anything else, I don’t want to frighten off new hosts…)
To be sure, some selectivity is applied by the host of an academic carnival (they’re not free-for-alls); and, as in the case of the latest History Carnival, some choices can prove controversial and that can lead to useful discussion and debate. That demonstrates that there’s potential for that kind of peer review function, to some degree. But there are limits to what they can achieve, I think.
Still, I’d be interested to hear from you if you have ever responded to something that was included in an edition of History Carnival or Carnivalesque (perhaps especially if it was something that you wouldn’t have read otherwise). Maybe you’ve had doubts about an included post and commented on it – at the carnival itself, in the post’s comments or on your own blog; or maybe something gave you a positive stimulus to write something in response (not simply a criticism). On the other hand, maybe you have experienced some disquiet about an inclusion but never actually said anything about it. (Why not?) What do you think?