Tuesday, May 17, 2005

[Hosting] a Meme - be careful what you wish for!

I have just finished the round up for my first Food/Wine Blogging Community event. I looked forward to hosting something so much and the experience didn't disappoint me at all. The only thing I wasn't prepared for was the length of time it took to do the round up. There were 39 wines and it took me no less than 8 hours to create my post. I am a pretty fast and prolific blogger normally so this caught me totally unawares.

I read every post carefully and left a comment on everyone's blog (except for the ones that required registration of some sort to do so). I spent a little time on the visuals which perhaps wasn't totally necessary (I would say about 1 of those hours was spent on the pictures), but personally I like my blog to look visual at all times so this part was important to me. Also, I think the pictures help break down what could be the monotony of a very long post.

Anyway, this is not by any means a complaint post, it is a warning post. I am in the queue to host some more events in the future and I intend to learn from my experience this time round.

Here are somethings I am thinking of.

Insist on receiving the entries by email - perhaps with a required subject matter so the emails can be easily sorted.

the easiest way by far must be to round up is with no categories, in the order you receive the entries.

If you do divide the round up into categories and just round up one category at a time. (Specify category as part of the Subject line in the email). There are lots of category possibilities depending on your email. Continent of poster/time of post/countries/sweet/savoury/ veggie/meat/all sorts of things.

don't think about starting the even til at least 24 hours after the even closes. some people are understandably late each time.

ignore pressure to have the round up straight away. take your time, don't stress. Everyone else hopefully will start to understand how long it will take you get round to writing up everything.

spread your round up over several days/posts. (ask the owner of the meme if this will be ok, first). Alternate with your regular posts to keep thngs varied and fresh for yourself, posting wise.

don't offer to post for somebody who hasn't got a blog. These days there is no excuse for not having a blog. You will have your work cut out for you without that extra work.

Ask people to include specific information you need for your roundup in their post. IE name of wine, country, year. (It's suprising how many people didn't actually state which country their wine came from in their post).
Ask people to include their name, their bblog name, their location, all in their submission email. Otherwise this info can take some searching.

Please bear a thought for your hoster next time you join in an online event and try and do everything you can to make their job as easy as possible.

OK - that's all my thoughts for now. Please add any more of your own.


Culinary Fool said...

Great post, Sam. Maybe it's time for the more popular memes to have a team working on them. One person could still receive all the emails but then divvy them up (in whatever way they choose) to one or two others. They could decide on a publication date - maybe three or four days later and then could each cross reference to the other parts in each post. It would require a bit of coordination but that might be easier than one person needing to shoulder the entire load.

alan said...

Sam-- great comments. I've been noticing for a while that memes are becoming a victim of their own popularity. As more and more people are encouraged to participate--and this is a good thing--it requires a massive effort from the host to summarize and report. This is only going to get worse. I've enjoyed having single hosts for events, because each brings their own voice. Maybe co-hosts would work as well.

I think you took a wise approach this time by letting people know early on that the Wine Blogging report would take a few days. People (hopefully) had appropriate expectations and were able to extend grace and understanding. I also know that people appreciate the care you took to reply and comment, although I certainly don't expect that as the norm.

Christian said...

For what it's worth, your Rose roundup was lovely, and certainly worth the time... (easy to say when it's not mine!) How much traffic have you gotten from this post? Are these events followed by many people who don't themselves taste?

Sam said...

I dont think these posts generate a huge amount of traffic outside the community.
They do improve the number of people linking to you, however, which in turn might help your google page ranking.Also, I am hoping that when people are searching for rose wines in a search engine that this post might come up near the top which might bring more readers to all of the participants. Only time will tell if that works.

Being the control freak that I am, I am not sure I like the idea of joint hosting.
There is a great amount of pleasure in being able to do it 'your way'. At the end of the day only one person can write a blog post and I think the coordination might actually add more work than it saves.

I am up to do an IMBB later this year and once I have double checked it is ok with alberto I hope to state from te start that the round ups will be done in parts and in my own time, to take the pressure off, and that my specification for submitting a post will have a clear guideline which i hope will be followed by participants correctly.

ie subject matter
link of the post
maybe even copy of the post in the mail
name the entrant likes to be identified as on blog
location of blog
and any other details I will want to add to my round up post.

if people really wanted help - they could even ask the entrant to summarise.

ie in their mail they could write a two line splurge about themself that could be used directly in the round up ie

sam in san francisco chose to make a[a href = "www.xxx.blah.blah.blah"] savoury jelly using aspic[/a] for entry into this IMBB.

The more we are all aware of what it takes to host, the more helpful we can all be in submitting our entries. We should all follow what is asked of us.
If we are asked to email an entry, for example, we shouldn't leave it in the comments.

just some more ideas to tuminate over!

Sam said...

er i meant ruminate

Owen said...

As the (mostly) perpetual host for the Paper Chef, I am very thankful that it is a SMALL meme.It clearly tends to wax and wane with the ingredients, although after the eggplant one, I'm not sure if it grows with odd combinations or with easy ones!

I am also lucky in that it is set up to split the load. I collect and summarise the entries but the 'judge' reviews them.

On a completely selfish note, I REALLY want LOTS of entries for all the memes because the entries all tend to be high standard - people make an effort for them(just take a look at Belly Timber's entry for the last Paper Chef - 3 dishes that met the criteria, making up a whole meakl and a self-imposed addition of a fifth ingredient!) Why does that matter to me? Because it means that the next edition of Digital Dish will be overflowing with stunning entries!

Like Sam, I visit every entry and try to leave a comment. I leave a blog entry open for this whole process. As I visit each one, I write a brief summary, drop links for the main blog and the actual entry in - adapting for the new bloggers who don't know about permalinks yet. I do NOT do pictures - too much work. Once I have gone through them all, I go back to the blog entry and re-edit it with an eye to improving it and sometimes go back for more little details. I try to think of it as my job to get people to click on each link - like I am writing copy for a catalog or something.

I completely agree with Sam about not rushing. It usually takes me a couple of hours for the 12 to 15 entries Paper Chef tends to get and I also wait 24 or even 48 hours for stragglers.

I would be sad if people stopped doing them because of popularity though - they are really great. I admit though that I no longer have time to visit every single IMBB entry, which makes me both sad and happy at the same time!

Alanna said...

I was especially captivated by the flag graphics -- innovative and quirky and still utter recognizable. Thanks for that extra hour. AK

Culinary Fool said...

...In response to sending Email versus dropping a note in comments...

It was easy to find your email, Sam, but I've participated in other events where I could not find an email address so left a comment instead. Or the person didn't specify so I did both an email and a comment. I think this is one thing that hosts should be better at addressing - How do you want entries submitted? And if it's via email make sure it's either easy to find on your blog or just plain put it in the announcement post.

I know people worry about scraping, but we can all figure out the "alias AT something.com" type of address.

Although, I'm sure that email is MUCH easier (and I'm happy to notify that way) I actually like seeing them in comments since then you can take a sneak peak before the summary is up. :-)

~ B

Sam said...

you are right CF
I have spent a long time looking for email addresses before now and left in the comments instead.

Now, having the experience of hosting, everything is much clearer to me about how to go about it next time. And this thread, I guess I started it to try and help out people who haven't done it before but might be soon, have an idea of what this entails. I really wasn't prepared, it caught me unawares and it see it much more clearly now!

Personally I am not so keen on leaving the entries in the comments as it takes away some of the suprise, impact and anticipation from the round up. I mean if everyone just left a comment - there is no need for a round up, right? But that is just my own personal view.

Derrick Schneider said...

Yeah, these were much easier when there were fewer entries. I had more entries for SHF than I did for my IMBB (admittedly, a difficult theme), and I think I only had in the mid-twenties when I hosted WBW.

But I disagree with your comment to wait at least 24 hours after the event closes. IMBB was much easier because I (a la Owen's comment) wrote up a paragraph about each entry as it came in. SHF was much harder because I waited until afterwards to start. On the other hand, I've always chosen the "the order they come in" route.

I reply to the email each person sends rather than leave a comment on their blog. This is just a stylistic choice. But I hate it when a host doesn't reply to me or leave a comment. I _know_ they're consumed by email, but a quick note to let me know they got it is much appreciated.

The one thing I hope doesn't happen is the "here's a long list of the links with a sentence at most." I like reading the round-ups when they have personality, and I like putting my own personality into the round-up and giving each entry a little padding that might encourage someone to click through. Of course, that can be a bit difficult when you're looking at four gingerbreads or whatever.

And ask me again when I host IMBB next April.

And I _definitely_ try and give the hosts all the info I can, in the post if not in the email.

Sam said...

Ok - you won me over on the starting as soon as they come in idea. I guess this time I was working really long days at the time and couldn't get started til several days after the event. I am definitely going to try that next time!
Some hosts have posted roundups immediately, or on the day, however, and I think its nice to give it a 24hr break for the stragglers to com in before the final round up is published.

so derek - do you think you should reply to every email that comes in?
I thought that visiting the site and making a personal comment was nicer, but as i took a while maybe i should have replied to let everyone know personally the turn around would be immediate.

I am going to start another post with this question in the subject line.

Melissa said...
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