Grand Rounds: Evolving from Link-♥♥ to ♬♫-Links?

9 01 2012

Grand Rounds is “the weekly summary of the best healthcare writing online”. I’ve hosted this medical blog carnival twice and considered it a great honor to do so.

I have submitted a lot of posts to the Grand Rounds. Often I even wrote a special blog post to fit the theme if there was one. Almost all my submissions have been accepted. I really enjoyed the compilations. There was a lot of outstanding creativity and originality in how the links to the blogs were “aggregated” and highlighted.

Usually I only read those posts that seemed the most interesting to me (the summary thus works as a filter). But through the Grand Rounds I read posts that I would never have read and I learned about bloggers I never heard of.

Why am I talking in the past tense? The Grand Round is still there, isn’t it?!

Yes, it is still there (luckily), but the organizers are thinking of a “rejuvenation of  this old dinosaur”. As the previous host, Margaret Polaneczky explained

“… Grand Rounds has dropped a bit off all of our radars. Many, if not most of us have abandoned the old RSS feed to hang out on Twitter, where our online community has grown from a few dozen bloggers to feeds and followers in the hundreds and even thousands.”

One of the measures is that the Grand Rounds editions should be more concise and only include the “best posts”.

I too go for quality, and think one should carefully select contributors (and hosts), but is the 7-year-old dinosaur to be saved by chopping him in pieces? Should we only refer to 10 posts at the max and put the message in a tweet-format like Margaret did in an experiment?
I was glad that Margaret gave a good old fashioned long introduction in the Dinosaur’s style, for that was what I read, NOT the tweets. Sorry tweets are NOT a nice compilation. They are difficult to read.
It also isn’t a solution to tweet the individual links, because a lot of those individual tweets will be missed by most of the potential readers. It is not coherent either. The strength of the Grand Rounds is in the compilation, in the way the host makes the posts digestible. I would say: let the host present the posts in an attractive way and let the reader do the selection and digestion.

Also important: how many of us will write blog posts specially for the Grand Rounds if there is a chance of 2 in 3 that it will be rejected?

It is true that the Grand Rounds is less popular than a few years ago and it is harder to get hosts. But that may partly have to do with advertising. My first Grand Rounds got far more hits than the second one, mainly because we sent a notice to great blogs that linked to us, like Instapundit (853 hits alone) and there was an interview with the host announcing the Grand Rounds at MEDSCAPE. In this way the main intended audience (non-blogging lay people) were also reached. The second time my post was just found by a handful of people checking the edition plus this blog own readers.
(I have to admit that this last Grand Rounds Edition might have been better if it had been more concise, but at least one person (Pranab of Scepticemia) spend  2 hours in reading almost all the posts of the round-up. So it wasn’t for nothing)

If some busy clinicians can be persuaded to host The Grand Rounds using a shorter format, that is fine. And it is good to be more concise and leave out what isn’t of high quality. But why make it a rule to include just 10 or 12? Even more important, don’t change blog posts for tweets. For I don’t think, as Margaret passed on, that the concept of the individual blog has been sometimes “overshadowed by Twitter and Facebook, whose continual unending stream demands our constant attention, lest we miss something important that someone said or re-said…” Even I have given up to constantly follow all streams, and I suppose the same is true for most clinicians, nurses etc. Lets not replace posts by tweets but lets use Twitter and Facebook to promote the Grand Rounds and augment its radius.

The main reason for writing this post is that I disliked the description by Bryan Vartebedian (host of the next round) rather off-putting, perhaps even arrogant:

Grand Rounds is evolving as a more focused, curated publication.  Rather than a 4,000 word chain-o-links, Nick Genes, Val Jones and others felt that a focused collection of recommendations would be more manageable for both readers and hosts.  This is Grand Rounds for quality rather than link love.

Bryan loves the word link-love. Two posts back he wrote:

It isn’t contacts, followers, friends, subscriptions, readers, link love, mentions, or people’s attention.  It’s time.  With time I can have all of these things.  

“Link love” and “chain-o-links” undervalue what blog carnivals are about. Perhaps some bloggers just want to be linked to, but most want to be read, and that is the entire idea behind the blog carnival. I can’t imagine that the blog hosts aim to include as many links as possible. At the most it is love for particular posts not “link love” perse.

Changing the format to tweets (♬♫) will only increase the link/text ratio. Links will become more prominent.

I would rather go for the ♥♥-links*, because I  to blog and I  to read good stuff.

——–

* Note that ♥♥-links is not the same as link-♥

——–

Here is a short Twitter Discussion about the new approach. I fully agree with Ves Dimov viewpoint, especially the last tweet.

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5 responses

9 01 2012
Robin (@staticnrg)

I must admit, @Laika, I have not kept up with nor participated in GR for quite a while. I was probably one of the last to be interviewed for a MEDSCAPE article when I hosted GRs. It is not an easy task to host or to write an article one hopes is kept for GRs. However, part of the reason I quit participating was the number of “put my post in GRs so my blog will be seen” articles which were submitted. It was so daunting a task to include them all that many of us who hosted (some much more than I) asked those submitting to include a synopsis of each post and all pertinent information. This kept the host from having to read so much.

I know there used to be a huge number of submissions. I’m not sure if there are now. I haven’t read it in a very long time. If there still are, I do believe some need weeded. The problem with that is those who edit are always biased. Yes, biased. What I think important is not what someone else thinks important. The way GRs worked, though, is that both you and I were able to host. It worked because those of many biases became hosts. A plethora of hosts from all walks of life (we are all part of the medical process, like it or not) does seem to work to average it all out.

It seems to me, in the long run, the reader must be the judge of validity. If the readers have dropped off, maybe the contents are not longer valid to those readers? I don’t know. I’m throwing out ideas. Has the idea become stale? Perhaps it is time for a change? Who says GRs has to be the only game in town?

Who are folks reading now? How about a Facebook page to link to? One to be shared? (Or is that there, too, and I didn’t know? Ha! )

Change can be good. It can mean things are happening and it can keep us on our toes.

I ♥♥ your posts. :)

9 01 2012
laikaspoetnik

Hi Robin, nice to see you here again. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

If the main reason for quitting to host(?) the GR was the number of “put my post in GRs so my blog will be seen”articles, than the stricter newer guidelines may persuade you to return ;).

I never found the number of links to incorporate a problem and I read all posts. As a host you should, I think. The summaries did help me to summarize the posts in English (which I still find difficult as a non-native speaker). But, yeah, I did find it difficult to reject a submission when I found the topic less interesting or of lower difficulty. I can imagine that a little more pruning makes the Grand Rounds more attractive to read (and to host).

I don’t have the impression that there are more submissions nowadays, but many of the most prominent bloggers, like you and Ves Dimov have stopped contributing or contribute less. Other blogs as Margaret rightly noticed already produce aggregate feeds. Does that make the Grand Rounds less attractive? Perhaps, as does the shortage of time.

I heartily agree that the power is in the variation, the personal touch of the host, and that bias really doesn’t matter as long as different hosts have different biases.

Yes the readers are most important. But who are the readers? Is the GR audience still the same as seven years ago? And/or has their preference for topics changed? Or has the Grand Rounds changed? I wouldn’t know.

Yes GR has a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/grandrounds. Using Facebook, and Twitter to spread the word is essential, but I was concerned that tweets/short selected summaries would largely replace the old Grand Rounds.Then GR would loose its added value imo.

9 01 2012
Nick

Laika, Medscape declined to continuing sponsoring GR a few years back, and Instapundit’s support is hardly reliable (or desirable, for many). Publicity for GR will return, I’m confident, when quality rises.

We’ve surveyed the folks on our email list and found readers preferred a shorter edition with a heavier hand in editing. Fewer self-promotional submissions, and more high quality writing selected from around the web, including journalists. An edition that’s easier to host, and discuss.

One thing that may be confusing to people: the host’s link descriptions on the GR host edition need not be less than 140 characters. That was the last host’s prerogative. And folks don’t have to always submit someone else’s links — that was this week’s host wrinkle on the process.

Hosts still have a lot of leeway in this process to conduct GR as they like — maybe one of these initiatives will prove really successful, in the meantime they’re interesting variations on the theme. The only real change we’re asking of hosts is that they’ve got to exercise more editorial judgment and keep GR links concise and easy to share. Truthfully, I’m worried these changes aren’t bold or progressive enough… and I’m surprised that someone could interpret Bryan’s post as off-putting or even arrogant, especially when he’s asking readers to submit someone else’s content (which is more in that blog carnival spirit of discovering new writers than self-promotion).

9 01 2012
laikaspoetnik

Thanks Nick for your prompt response.

It is reassuring that the GR will not be forced in the format of a tweet and that the future hosts will still have a lot of freedom to host the GR as they like. I agree that more editorial judgment and conciser summaries may make the GR more attractive.

However, I don’t understand what you mean by self-promotional submissions. Submitting one of your own posts is always self-promotional. What is wrong with that? As long as the post is good. It should never be a goal in itself, of coarse.

I was looking for other words than off-putting and arrogant, more a translation of “tegen het zere been” (against a sore leg, touched a raw nerve?), which puts more emphasis on the interpretation than on the writer’s intentions. Furthermore, it had nothing to do with the current rules for submission.

What I didn’t *like* is that former hosts are depicted as link-lovers, who go for quantity not quality: “This is Grand Rounds for quality rather than link love.”
We all have put a lot of time in preparing the GR as good as we could. Larger editions may be less effective, perhaps shorter versions are better, but long posts have nothing to do with link love.

I like the Grand Rounds and hope that the measures are sufficient to put the GR back on track. Thanks for creating and “guarding” it.

14 01 2012
Pranab

I am fairly new to the business of blogging have been in Medicine shorter than you all have been blogging, so I guess I have not seen or heard as much as you all, but I must say I am confused right now. Very confused. So what is going on with GR? Is it going to move into Twittersphere? Or is it just undergoing some changes in laws?

If people are not submitting their own links, it is highly unlikely they will submit someone else’s. So, that way, I believe the submissions for GR shall go down even more.

And I know everyone is going to say if one churns out quality content the post will eventually be picked up by GR but the truth is for newbie bloggers (like me) or ones that do not have a community of followers around them, shall hardly figure on GR anymore.

So what if the posts were submitted for link love? As the GR host you are not compelled to include each and every post that gets submitted, right? The more posts that get submitted, the better chance one has of getting good posts from a diverse sphere of bloggers.

As of now, it runs the risk of becoming a “Top 10″ kind of thing where all the best writing (which we all read just as it is) is churned out as GR. And if that happens, well, I am afraid that might be the last nail in the coffin for GR.

I do not intend to sound upstart-ish or anything, but I must say I like to read, and the very ephemeral nature of the tweets (which are very hard to retrieve, say 1/2 years down the line) stands contradictory to the same. I wish GR stayed the same, but it is not in my hands. And yes, I agree Dr. V sounded a little off-putting to me as well. But then again, English is not my native tongue as well, so, it maybe something I misconstrued…

Sorry for the long winded comment but I have been meaning to write about it for quite some time now, and I think reading your post just brought it all gushing out. :-)

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