How To Host a Blog Carnival
[Photo by ell brown.]
Update March 2012
The blog carnival website has been unreliable for several months, which is why you will see strike-through on the paragraphs below that deal with that site. Please read the current information on these pages:
Do you want your blog to grow? One of the best ways to draw new readers to your blog is to get involved in an active blog carnival. Mike wrote an excellent article (What is a Maths Carnival?) explaining how carnivals work and how to submit an entry.
Now, if you’re ready to raise the ante a bit, let’s bring the carnival itself to your blog.
These instructions are specifically about the Math Teachers at Play (MTaP) blog carnival for classroom teachers, homeschoolers, and independent math learners. After all, that’s the carnival I know best. Still, most of the principles should apply to any blog carnival you might want to host.
Choose a Carnival That Fits Your Blog
You can find blog carnivals in my Blog Parties for Teachers sidebar widget or by browsing the Blog Carnival website. Check out the carnival’s home page (for example, Math Teachers at Play) for a description and list of key words.
When you find a carnival that sounds interesting, read the current edition, and then click the past posts tab and browse a few of the back issues. Some carnivals are more spammy than others, so make sure that you’ve found a carnival that you want to be associated with.
Step 1: Get Signed Up
Check the future hosts list at the blog carnival page. Look for scheduled dates labeled unknown, which means no blogger has signed up for that edition of the carnival. Choose a date which fits with your schedule, and then send a message to the person who maintains the carnival
by clicking the name in the gray information box to let him or her know when you’d like to host the carnival.
Or, for Math Teachers at Play, you can leave a comment here. When you let me know your choice, I will log into the blog carnival site and enter your information into their database, then send you a copy via email so that you can check for typos.
If there are no future dates listed, but you know the carnival is still active, then that probably means the carnival organizer has been too busy to schedule new editions. Please, feel free to contact him or her and volunteer anyway!
Step 2: Receive Submissions
The carnival website server will automatically email you any submissions that come after the deadline of the carnival before yours. [See update below.] The MTaP deadline is on Wednesday night for a Friday morning carnival, giving the host all of Thursday to write. (I didn’t want to have to stay up till midnight finishing a carnival post!) That means it is possible you may get a post or two even before the prior edition of the carnival comes out.
To get more entries, you may want to post a “Call for Submissions” request on your blog a couple of weeks before your carnival is due to be published.
I usually send a quick “Thank you” email to anyone who submits a post, as confirmation that I received it.
July December 2011: Last month, the blog carnival server quit forwarding blog entries to carnival hosts. How frustrating! They are still creating the InstaCarnival (explained below), but not sending email notifications. Until this issue is resolved, I suggest you include information on how to email you directly in your "Call for Submissions" post. I will create a tinyURL mailto link for each month's host, so that you don't have to put your email address on the web.]
Step 3: Sort Out the Spam
[Photo by barmala.]
We always get flooded with spam submissions. [See update below.] Posts for MTaP are supposed to relate in some way to preschool through high school mathematics, including recreational math. I have allowed some posts that were not directly about math but were about teaching in general — but the real estate and investment advice and nursing/health care articles, those I throw away immediately.
The most difficult entries are the 100 Great [fill in the blank] for Teachers. Are they spam or are they real? We get as many as a dozen of those submitted for each carnival, many from the same blogger running two or three different blogs, and the more posts of that type I see, the less I trust them.
Do not respond to a spam submission in any way!!! You may find yourself bombarded with spam emails if you let them get your address.
Even if a submission is not spammy, you do NOT have to include it in your carnival post if you don’t want to. The carnival is a guest on your blog, but you are still in charge. Don’t feel obligated to post anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If you are not happy with the post a non-spam blogger submits, you might try suggesting an alternate post. For instance, perhaps you’ve received a rash of submissions on the same topic, or perhaps the post seems too much like an advertisement, or you might not even be able to put into words why you are uneasy about the entry. But if you can find another post (from the same blog) which you prefer, I think most bloggers would be glad to let you switch. They may even be flattered that you cared enough to search out the alternative.
If you would like a second opinion about an entry, then feel free to email me for advice. I never expect you to follow it if you don’t want to, but I’ll be happy to give my thoughts.
[Update, April 2011: I have been reporting every spam submission to the blog carnival website, and it seems to be helping. The flood of spam has greatly decreased, and for the last few months the good posts outnumbered the junk. What a relief! I hope the trend continues.]
Step 4: Write Your Post
[Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.]
The blog carnival website generates an InstaCarnival with all the submissions in html format. It is very repetitive: “[Blogger-name] presents [article-title] posted at [blog-name], saying [whatever-was-typed-in-the-comment-box].” I would never want to use it as is, except in an emergency, but it can be a starting point. You may download it yourself, if you want to register at the Blog Carnival website, or let me know if you want me to copy it and send it to you.
Or, you can simply save the entries in an email folder until you are ready to work, and then type everything up yourself.
If you do use the Instacarnival, you should probably delete the section of Java script that creates the little link box. One carnival host said the script messed up his blog.
I try to start writing long before my deadline. I collect pictures (good advice on finding pictures here) and quotations whenever I find something I like. I fill those in a little at a time, so the job doesn’t seem overwhelming.
We usually get 5-10 good submissions. A carnival of ten entries is not bad, but five seems too skimpy to me, so I often supplement with articles pulled from my blog reader. I subscribe to WAY more blogs than I can actually read, which means that I can almost always find plenty of interesting posts to add as filler.
Step 5: Add Something Extra
[Photo by kevindooley.]
[See also my follow-up post: What Is a Blog Carnival Theme?]
The Carnival of Mathematics traditionally begins with trivia about the carnival number. Many hosts have introduced their Math Teachers at Play carnivals with riddles about the carnival number. Sue VanHattum suggested we make that a regular feature, but I’m not very good at riddles — so instead, I added puzzles to my introduction for carnivals #20 and #24.
January of 2012 was MTaP carnival #46, so you can count forward to find the number for your scheduled month if you want to start thinking about a riddle, puzzle, or other tidbit to use in your carnival post.
Somewhere within your post, be sure to add a link to the current editions of our partner carnivals: the Carnival of Mathematics and Mathematics and Multimedia. They in turn should link back to your post — or rather, the next edition of each carnival should do so. In this way, we help each other.
Step 6: Time To Publish
Putting together a blog carnival is a lot of work, but I hope you will enjoy “meeting” new bloggers through their submissions. I love that part of being a host!
When your carnival is finally published, you may want to email all the participating bloggers and encourage them to post a link on their own blogs. I’ve never done that, since I’m often running out the door on some errand or another, but it’s definitely a good idea. Whether you send out a request for links or not, you will almost certainly get several math bloggers linking to your carnival. Everyone has been very supportive that way.
I think that’s everything you need to know about how to host a blog carnival. But if you have any other questions, please ask.
And thank you for volunteering to host the carnival!
[Photo by Bob Jagendorf.]