proposal: The Carnival of Brass

The Islamsphere needs a Carnival. Of course, we already have a yearly award ceremony to celebrate the best blogs. However, a carnival focuses more on the level of individual posts, and hence by its nature does more to promote individual voices.

Last year, Umme Yasmin inaugurated the State of the Ummah carnival, which was then taken up by Thabet this year. However, the SotUmmah lacked sufficient participation to maintain momentum.

The basic mechanics of a carnival are straightforward. Every so often (say, two weeks) bloggers are invited to submit links to the host blogger. The submission window would be finite - say, the last Friday through Sunday of every two week period. The host then subjectively chooses the best 10 or 15 posts of the submissions and links to all of them in a post, and all members of the community are asked to link to that post. The designated host is a rotating position between 3-5 bloggers who have made the commitment to do the work. Given the partly subjective nature of a carnival, host rotation also allows for some diversity in taste.

We can also learn from the problems that the SotUmmah faced, in that both times there was very little advance notice, promotion, or discussion of the idea between the major muslim bloggers. Hence, the carnival never attained enough mindshare to really garner the submissions it needed to be self-sustaining.

Some argue that a carnival is an exercise in self-promotion. Well, that's true. But that's the point - a carnival gives any blogger, no matter their daily traffic or Technorati rank, a chance at bringing an idea to the forefront of the collective consciousness. With enough submissions, the competition to be selected will ensure a certain rigor and heft to the final choices.

The seminal idea is that mere traffic is not a measure of the success of a given blog community. Rather, the true currency is ideas. With a recurring carnival of high quality posts every two weeks, the Islamsphere will present a distilled, refined product to the larger blogsphere beyond. It is better to build an audience based on the quality of your arguments than merely a mob of passers-by. We seek not traffic but influence.

We need a carnival. I hereby pledge to make the time commitment to host, and I ask for at least three others to join me. A serious commitment is required - the kind where you might stay up late at night and annoy your wife if need be. But with the right people, we can get this off the ground for real this time, and we can succeed.

I believe that the Islamsphere is a diamond in the rough of the blogsphere. My experiences hosting the Brass Crescent Awards have truly humbled me. I think that all of us collectively speak with a voice far greater than the sum of our individual voices. It's time to harness that power.

aside. I have several ideas on how to improve upon the basic carnival model, by using link-tagging systems such as del.icio.us rather than email for link submissions. Once I have recruited enough hosts, we can get into these logistical details.


sepoy said...

Mela or Bazaar in the title would rock - possibly.

Aziz Poonawalla said...

there's already a Blog Mela carnival, though. Plus we don't want to overly desi-bias the thing. :)

And Bazaar seems so.. commercial. I dunno..

I actually keep invoking Brass as a theme because of the symbolism.

Primarily, it's an homage to the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. That story speaks of ancient civilizations now decayed, which I think is a good description of the lost legacy of Islamic civilization that in this post-colonial world serves as a reminder not just of what heights Islam can reach, but also what depths we can fall. There's both a humility and an arogance operating at once.

That sentiment is really well described IMHO by the logo for the Awards that Shahed developed - an Astrolabe. The very icon of islamic science's peak and also at the same time totally obsolete.

Brass can also be interpreted as loud; that's what we in general strive to be - loud, get noticed, assertive that we are muslim and not ashamed of our faith.

sepoy said...

except for the whole 'lost legacy of islamimc civilization' romanticism, i agree. i vote for carnival of brass, then.

Aziz Poonawalla said...

well, perhaps "lost" is indeed hyperbole. I meant, more, that it's a forgotten legacy.

Well, I dunno if that's what I mean either. I suspect though that you know what I meant :)

Miriam said...

I think this is a good idea and would like to see more Islamic peacebuilding and dialogical blogs and forums. The more presence we obtain, it lends to dawah and a clearer understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, extremists have taken over the media market. There are a growing group of Muslim conflict and peacebuilding specialists, who only ask for their voice heard.

Miriam said...

Carnival of Daf (haha, the drumming of peace). well i got my daf home this week, all the way from the Iraq-Iranian border. alhamdullah