Random Thoughts – More Attempts To Improve

This week at the carnivals

I wrote earlier that I had decided to incorporate a number of changes here because I felt that too many personal finance writers were merely cloning each other. One of the areas where I have really struggled is with carnivals. Once the carnivals go up, all the personal finance sites announce the carnival and nobody reads the posts (unless it happened to be the first site where you have seen the carnival post). At the same time, not posting the carnival isn’t really fair to the person hosting because one of the reason to host the carnival is so that new readers can discover your site. Thus I have been struggling to figure out the best way to post carnivals so that it actually brings va

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24 Responses to Random Thoughts – More Attempts To Improve

  1. Caitlin says:

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. RE: Carnivals, I also try to pick out my favorite posts and highlight them in my carnival link post, but at least the carnival of PF has become so large I often don’t have time to do that in a timely fashion (given current time and personal organization limitations)

    The reason I *do* still link to the carnival even if I haven’t read it myself yet, is that in viewing my traffic stats, I find I have double the traffic from “new” visitors than I do from repeat visitors. So basically folks that are googling or searching via other means, land on my site twice as many times as a regular reader who is most likely reading other PF blogs. So I figure I have an opportunity to turn “new” visitors on to other PF sites or PF carnivals etc. (Also the cross linking raises the visibility of the whole PF community or at least that’s my understanding) Am I just misguided?

    My main problem with carnivals is there is such uneven quality among so much quantity that I feel the value plummets as a carnival becomes popular. There are those who don’t submit to a carnival unless we feel we have a post that is 100% on topic AND “carnival-worthy” and there are those who submit any post to the carnival in order to participate consistently (for the traffic, or whatever) Due to the nature of all-submitters-accepted those that submit regardless of quality get *some* benefit just for submitting.

    RE: the money blog network, I thought most of what you label “moaning” during their launch was attempting to point out the very thing you just did ;) That if 5 of the most trafficked blogs favor linking to each other regardless of quality – all the time – how does that benefit the entire PF blogging community…which appears to be their stated objective? I enjoy those blogs separately, and I genuinely *like* the guys and basically agree with each of your points on the network. I guess I view the “moaning” as an attempt to zero in on exactly what you voice here (albeit maybe not as clearly so)

    You’re writing a lot about things that I constantly think about (and tend to voice in email and not my blog…hm…interesting) — and I look forward to the ensuing dialogue!

  2. davis says:

    Does it even matter where you’re placed? Personally I never read these things since I have a few sites that I like and frequent. They seem like big link exchanges to me and it takes too much time to find any good writing when most of it is not all that great.

  3. anonymous says:

    I think it does make a difference. When your submission is at the top of the carnival it gets a lot more traffic than if it’s at the bottom of the carnival. Seems kind of cheesy for them to being doing that

  4. carnival participant says:

    I’ve found that there is a significant increase due to carnival traffic, when placed at the top, only when instapundit links to the carnival. if he does not — and he does not link to many carnivals anymore — there is some increase other than the usual Monday traffic but it’s barely significant. I don’t see what the big deal is.

  5. Personal Finance Blogger says:

    I am curious if the Money Network guys have actually seen any benefit from their association. They claim they are getting 4,000 hits per day. So five bloggers divided into 4,000 = 800 hits per blog per day. Hum… By glomming together they seem to be trying to rise from C list levels to B list levels. Going from traffic that generates tens of dollars per day in ad revenue to hundreds per day.

    It will be interested to see if they achieve it. The problem I see is that they cross post so much I have actually dropped them from my reader. The annoying reactivating of a post everytime someone leaves a comment also prompted the drop from my reader.

    In their pursuit of blogging riches they seem to have sacraficed quality, originality, and worst of all the loss of autonomy which is what makes blogging so unique and valuable in the first place.

    But what do I know? Just check back in a few months and see it they are claiming 8,000 visits per day…

  6. Personal Finance Blogger says:

    They have formed a clique – it is so high school of them. But it is the student population that gives the clique power. So if you are really against the idea of the Network throwing its weight around the only way to make them understand it is to take the power away. So drop the links, stop mentioning the network, and when they host carnivals don’t submit or advertise it. If they only have the five of themselves to talk about the power is gone. It is their ability to hold themselves above and talk about and use the rest of the “community” that makes the clique possible.

  7. TT says:

    Jeff,

    Sorry for not including your post in the main part of the carnival. I really enjoy your blog and it is one of the few that I always read, because of that I tried extra-hard to justify including your post and yours is the reason I listed off topic posts at all (see, even non MBN bloggers can play favorites).

    I too had noticed the self-serving link cartel going on but hadn’t said anything about it. At risk of also getting thrown out of the club, I’ve posted a comment agreeing with you on FMF’s blog.

    Thanks for saying it.

  8. Flexo says:

    While I understand Jeff’s comments about the top enries in Carnivals going to other MBN members (only when another MBN member is hosting a carnival), as far as I can tell, no one’s being thrown out of the “club.” Most of the time, the Carnival of Personal Finance is hosted by someone not affiliated with the MBN. If any one member of the MBN had astronomical traffic, then I’d see it as an unfair advantage, but since Instapundit doesn’t link to the Carnival, I don’t see how it’s such a big deal at the moment.

    With the number of Carnivals (personal finance, investing, debt reduction, frugality, etc.) in the same niche, it’s driven down the value of any one specific Carnival. The same can be said about personal finance blogs in general. A few years ago, there were no more than six. Now there are two hundred.

    In a sea of bloggers, everyone wants to stay above water. Like Personal Finance Blogger said above, there is a lot of cross posting, which I believe he means posting about same topic with the same viewpoint. This is the case within or outside of MBN. This is why I personally stay away from “giving advice” on my blog unless I feel it’s something fresh or contrary. How many times can you read posts that address the basics of a Roth IRA for example? How many different view points are there? Yet, every blog that touches on investing will present the information, hoping to get a piece of the crowd that searches Google for “what is a Roth IRA?”

    When I was asked if I wanted to help form a network of personal finance bloggers in order to grow the community, bring attention to the niche, and possibly use the collective power of all sites to open more advertising opportunities, why would I say no? It sounds like a good deal… and it is a good deal. Does it mean that we’re the “best?” Nah, probably not. In fact, my blog can always use a LOT of work.

    Another blogger — You’re right, it is a clique. Cliques appear good to those on the inside and bad to those on the outside who feel the creation of the network slights them. It’s the nature of any blogging network. I’ve always said from the beginning that I will try to use the network to the advantage of the entire community, even while that community is expanding exponentially. I regularly link to others in addition to members of the MBN.

    I can understand Jeff, who has been writing about personal finance (and does so excellently) for a long time and blogging for a relatively long time, being upset for not being asked to join the network initially. Jeff’s got a great thing going with savingadvice.com, and I think it might have originally been seen that he didn’t need to join a network like MBN because of his existing network of sites. But regardless of how the initial bunch was chosen, it doesn’t make anyone better or worse.

    Let’s all just write the best we can, and focus on personal finance instead of bloggers’ relationships. I know I’ll continue to support my friends in MBN as well as the friends I’ve made in the pf blogosphere outside the MBN.

  9. Personal Finance Blogger says:

    But has anyone noticed any traffic from MBN? I think they say nice words, but really – who are they kidding? Promote the personal finance community? If they were no one would be bitching about them. Instead they are doing the opposite – trying to keep it just among themselves. If they are finding it difficult to compete with the new commers it might be because their content is stale. They did not invent ROTH IRA’s or talking about them (that would be Senator Roth and the personal finance news media). Why not just start aggregator sites like pfblogs.com and get revenue that way – at least it is more honest about making money off the backs of other bloggers.

  10. Personal Finance Blogger says:

    So true! I get more link traffic from non-MBN blogs than from those five. I have a feeling the five are going to realize that together they are weaker and predict the association will crumble in the next 3 – 6 months.

  11. Flexo says:

    Roth IRA – couple thought about what you say here. First, no one said the MBN created Roth IRAs. My point, unrelated to the MBN, was that with so many personal finance blogs out there, what’s stale is everyone posting their own introduction to Roth IRAs… which I used an example of the basic stuff that people/readers can get anywhere. Nothing to do with the MBN specifically, and the Roth IRA was just an example of something basic.

    I’m not sure how a network and an aggregator have much in common other than the fact a network often uses an aggregator to highlight its members. The aggregator at pfblogs.com doesn’t make money for its content providers, it makes money for an invisible individual. That’s why I prefer the ad-free pfblogs.org, but that’s besides the point.

    The MBN certainly doesn’t make money off the backs of other bloggers… I’m not sure where that statement came from.

    And Ha! — the idea of the MBN isn’t to drive traffic directly to any one site. Check out the aggregator above if you’re looking for that. I think that with an increasing public awareness of personal finance blogs, the entire community will benefit, but it will be hard to peg the cause of increased overall traffic specifically on the network. After all, internet traffic increases over time with or without blog networks.

    Who knows what will happen in six months, and Ha!’s guess is good as mine. My prediction is the network will still be around, offering more interesting things and increasing awareness of the niche as time goes by.

  12. pfadvice says:

    See what happens when you live in Japan – go to sleep and miss all the commenting.

    First off, it seems that the same person was posting under different names and answering their own questions ??? – not sure why someone would do that when simply giving your opinion would suffice, but felt it was best to have that person’s comments consistent under a single user name “Personal Finance Blogger ”

    Flexo, I guess my point is that if it isn’t benefiting you guys at all as you claim, then why do you have the agreement in place? If you really feel that way, why not agree that carnivals it doesn’t apply? Systems like that are put in place because they benefit, even if it may be small.

    Like I’ve stated many times over, I have no problem with you guys helping each other out with your own things – I just feel that carnivals are broader and go beyond the five of you and should be an exception to your rule – it would be like all the other bloggers getting together and forming a group and putting the five of you last because of your group favoring each other when you do host which I also think would be highly unfair. But your current arguments are saying that would also be okay.

    When it is a large group like a carnival when there are lots of participants that goes beyond your five members, then I think you guys need to make an exception – that is all I’ve been trying to say.

  13. pfadvice says:

    Sorry for not including your post in the main part of the carnival. I really enjoy your blog and it is one of the few that I always read, because of that I tried extra-hard to justify including your post and yours is the reason I listed off topic posts at all (see, even non MBN bloggers can play favorites).

    Not a problem – see, I don’t see a problem when a host makes a decision like that and had you left me out, I would not have considered it a bad thing. I even agreed that on a closer look, I may have been thinking incorrectly when I made the submission. But the reason I don’t have a problem with it is that decision was using a criteria that was given to all bloggers, not two separate criteria depending on whether I was part of a certain group.

  14. Flexo says:

    Jeff,

    Interesting that those all came from the same person. I actually posted as “carnival participant” above before I realized that I needed to really address the issue.

    I understand your position regarding having the MBN members at the top of the Carnivals. Originally, there may have been an advantage when Instapundit was linking, but I haven’t seen an advantage lately. Then again, I’ve been participating in carnivals a whole lot less lately, even the CoPF.

    My big thing is I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cause bad will within the community. Like I’ve said, I joined the network (and have lent my assistance to all the efforts) because I see it as a way of brining more prestige to the whole community. If something’s not working, we’re going to review and revisit it. We’re all busy people and it’ll take some time to get all of our plans for the network off the ground. In the mean time, JLP does his Site of the Week, Jim does his PFBlogger Spotlights, and we all have our unique things that we (try to) bring to the community.

    If anyone’s got any questions about MBN, the contact address is on the network website or my email address is on mine. If there are legitimate issues brought up in an appropriate manner, someone will be happy to open discussion. :-)

  15. silent until now says:

    I’ve been reading this quietly until now, but I want to make a remark here. Although I feel I should write under my true name, I have grave concerns doing so because of what FMF did. A lot of my traffic comes from the sites in MBN group and I think it was really quite childish that someone expressing an opinion would to be immediately removed from a blogroll. It is because of moves like this that many of us feel we can’t express our true feelings.

    “My big thing is I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cause bad will within the community. Like I’ve said, I joined the network (and have lent my assistance to all the efforts) because I see it as a way of bringing more prestige to the whole community. If something’s not working, we’re going to review and revisit it. We’re all busy people and it’ll take some time to get all of our plans for the network off the ground. In the mean time, JLP does his Site of the Week, Jim does his PFBlogger Spotlights, and we all have our unique things that we (try to) bring to the community.”

    Part of the problem is there is no OPEN dialog about this. You want everyone to email you and keep it in the dark. This is what makes the community angry the most. IF the MBN has a true aim of helping all PF blogs, then they should welcome an open discussion without retribution. While I have always had respect for you and your blogs in the past, I’m beginning to change my view.

    I’d also like to thank Jeffery for having the courage to come out and say it. I wish I had the same courage, but also want to grow my blog as quickly as possible and don’t want to risk being blacklisted just becasue I don’t agree with MBN

  16. Flexo says:

    I can’t speak for anyone other than myself on the blogroll thing, sorry. If an individual in the network removed you from his links, then your beef is with him, not the network. If he removed you from his links because you removed him from your links… links for some people are tit-for-tat. The MBN has no say over who links to whom outside the network.

    As far as open discussion, I don’t know, I think it just makes sense to try to resolve issues privately before public condemnation. I’m here, I’m answering questions and addressing concerns, even though it goes against good judgment. I probably won’t check back here every few hours like I have been.

    I think this “blacklisting” thing is a little out of hand. You know, the web was created in a way that encourages linking, not bartering for links (“I’ll link to you if you link to me…”). Now my site doesn’t garner the most visits in the network, but I’m happy with my traffic. When I started CC, there was no FMF, no MBN, no Carnivals, and Instapundit never linked to me. If you write good content, it’ll put your blog ahead of most, and you’ll get noticed. There’s too much emphasis on who links to whom.

    If you’ve (the general “you”) got a blog and selected the niche of personal finance just to try to make money and get hits, you’re probably on the wrong path. The best way to get noticed, I think, is to write great *personal* content (not that my content is great) and comment on other people’s blogs.

  17. Madame x says:

    Just want to say that I agree that a Carnival might not be the best place to show preferential treatment to teh MBN network members– different carnival organizers make different choices but all seem to mix it up– either alphabetical, or in order of submission, or grouped by topic. And it’s unfortunate that you were removed from a blogroll for expressing your opinion.

  18. pfadvice says:

    Regarding the blog roll link: Although I was a bit surprised by the move (I actually thought we had a fairly good relationship and I have talked many times with FMF through email before this), I can’t say that I’m any better as after thinking it over a few hours I decided to remove his link from my blog roll too.

    There is no blog roll conspiracy among all the members. All the others still have me listed in their blog rolls and I assume they will continue to. Just wanted to clear up that point.

  19. Cap says:

    whew. I just read this whole thing. all of which is quite interesting.

    I’m not really sure what’s appropriate and whats not for a carnival host (dont really have an opinion on it) but I think as long as he’s following the guideline of the carnival (stated by the person who started the carnival), then in my opinion it’s all good.

    the carnival of personal finance was started by Flexo, and I dont see any rules on the amount of submission, their placement, etc. So maybe if there’s a problem he can update the hosting/posting guidelines.

    The thing here is, I want to say Carnival of PF is Flexo’s carnival.. but that might not be a right since its a community effort that made it so large – but I mean he is the one that started it, set the guidelines, etc. Now of course the development of it is a community effort, so the community should have some say into its guideline too.. but as for how much, I’m not really sure.

    anyway, not trying to put Flexo on the spot here, just making some observation.

  20. pfadvice says:

    Hmmmm, it appears that All Things Financial has decided to blacklist me too as all my links have been removed. Maybe I spoke a little soon on there not being a blog roll conspiracy…

  21. Flexo says:

    Cap,

    I’ve always seen the Carnival as a community-owned thing. I basically just keep a place for the schedule and guidelines and a central organization location for submissions. When I formed the guidelines, I tried to make it community-friendly by encouraging acceptance of all submissions within reason and encouraging the host of the week to add his or her own flavor. This means the host can order the submissions by date received, by topic, by quality, or by any arbitrary method they want. I think it was the right thing to do, as evidenced by the other carnivals that sort of followed in the footsteps of CoPF to some extent.

    Every once in a while, participants have emailed me with suggestions for a guideline (always empowering the community, not restricting) which I’ve added, so I’m happy to make more “official” changes.

  22. jim says:

    Jeff,
    We didn’t create a network to exclude, we simply selected an initially small group of people who we thought would be interested in something like this. Whenever you start something, you don’t want too many voices because everything can confusing.

    You (and those other commentors) seem very serious about blogging, a few grades more serious than me, and I apologize for not being at your level of intensity about these things. You’ve asked in the past if we’d like to exchange links with Saving Advice and PFAdvice. At Saving Advice, where you had more clout, you relegated blog links to a separate buried page and then expected the blogger to give you a sitewide blogroll link. I removed the link to Saving Advice from my site, mostly because I don’t use it, but I’ve kept PFAdvice because I feel you respect me enough here to put me on a blogroll (even if you did shorten the name so it only takes up one line) and not put me on an obscure page.

    Ultimately, I started my blog to have fun and it’s grown into something I’m proud of. I don’t want to start getting mixed up any sort of drama that someone wants to generate and I apologize if I’ve slighted you in some way.

    Doesn’t anyone else think we’re taking this a little too seriously?

  23. I’ve resisted the temptation until now, but I feel I need to actually speak out on this, especially in light of Jeffrey’s comment about having spoken too soon about there not being a blogroll conspiracy.

    First off, all links on my site are in place, arranged alphabetically, as they always have been, and always will be. I link to sites that I read, and I periodically purge links when a site hasn’t been updated in awhile.

    Second, with all this talk about selfishness, I would like to point that we all (MBN members, I mean) do weekly roundup posts, and pretty much all of us include a variety of sites when we do so. Speaking just for myself, I link to anything that really ‘rang my chimes’ at any of the sites that I regularly read. Don’t believe me? Go look. Yes, I link to people in the MBN in my roundup. But I also link to others whenever I run across something that I deem sufficiently link worthy. If you don’t get a link, does this mean that I don’t like you or your site? Nope. I have a limited amount of time, and there are far too many sites with too much content out there to keep up with.

    So before we go any further with all this talk about selfishness and trying to keep traffic ‘just amongst ourselves’ I’d like to ask a question… Who else out there posts regular, unsolicited link love like this? If this isn’t acting in the best interest of the community, then I don’t know what is. When others actually step up to the plate and start sharing the love, then they’ll be in a position to talk about what’s best for the community.

    In closing, I’d just like to echo Jim’s sentiments. Everyone just needs to lighten up. There is no conspiracy, witch hunt, or blacklist. Or at least none that I’m aware of. Who knows, maybe I’m next and I don’t even know it.

    That’s all I have to say. Cheers, nickel

  24. Caitlin says:

    This discussion is pretty interesting. The original point seems to be that some bloggers don’t like when MBN members link to MBN posts first when hosting a carnival. Jeffrey stated his opinion that he hoped they would reconsider this practice and felt comfortably doing so in public due to the MBN’s stated goals of bettering the entire PF blogging community.

    I think we can all *understand* the what and why of Jeffrey’s comments whether or not you agree or disagree with his point. And I think we ALL agree that even if some people don’t like it … that MBN can do whatever they want. No one ever implied otherwise, including Jeffrey.

    So where this really goes pear-shaped IMO is when Jeffrey tried to get his request some visibility in order to start a dialogue. FMF made it abrubtly clear that he was not interested in dialogue or what anyone else thinks about his choices and by immediately removing the sidebar link to pfadvice sent the message “I will punish anyone who doesn’t like what I do” — I am not sure that was his ultimate intention, and it’s certainly his perogative to link to whomever he wishes….but it gets complicated because he appears to be the driving member of the MBN and it’s not always clear if he (or any member) is acting as an individual or acting as a representative of MBN.

    I am very happy to see other members of the network at least join in the dialogue here, which by it’s very nature neutralizes the perception that discussion is not allowed. But by the very nature of MBN and how the web works each member now has more “power” even as an individual and on their own sites. And we all know (because Spidey taught us) that with power comes great responsibility ;P

    Obviously different individuals wield this power in different ways in their efforts to benefit the community. But you all have to admit that the line between individuals and the network is blurry.

    Aside from agreeing or disagreeing with every single point made in these comments I think that there are a lot of bloggers out there who may trust the motives of *individuals* that are members of the network and still not 100% trust the motives of the network as it’s own entity. I would hope that network members would have a curiousity about this lack of trust and make an effort to understand and dispell it, instead of using their own individual efforts as evidence that any network mistrust is “wrong” — it’s just two different things IMO.

    The only reason I am hanging my ass out here naked is because I like and respect all of you guys and 1) I truly believe open dialogue will only improve any situation and 2) I honestly think most of us agree on the important stuff regardless of our differences of opinion (evidence is that this discussion seems quickly played out and then i had to go ruin it) and 3) I must bore the crap out of ALL of you because none of you link to my posts so I have little to lose ;) [please make sure your sense of humor was in the ON position for number 3]

    best to all of you… c

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