The August 2, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl was wildly successful. I'm trying to think about why that happened, and how I can keep the "successful" part while channeling the "wild" into something easier to manage. Audience input is encouraged.
These are the new things I did this month. I believe they contributed to the exceptional level of activity. Also possibly relevant is that we recently came off the LJ Spotlight in crowdfunding.
* A progress meter so people could see how much had be raised in donations, and thus, how far it was to the various goals.
* New perk: an extra series fishbowl if donations reach $200.
* New perk: an epic poem to be revealed one verse at a time in exchange for linkbacks.
* Impromptu perk: a free epic poem if donations reach $300.
Factors in Fishbowl Performance
These are some things I have identified, previously or recently, that affect the workflow of a fishbowl.
* The more people comment and talk, the more messages there will be that seem to need a prompt reply. This is a basic factor in fishbowls. Higher participation is a good thing. I just have to keep an eye on the level and type of my interaction during the fishbowl.
* The more people buy during the fishbowl, the more time it takes me to upload poems. I do not like making people wait, plus posting poems does encourage other people to donate and gives bystanders something to enjoy. This is not something I can delegate and not something I want to discourage.
* Adding the ticker took a little extra time. Feedback suggests that people really like the ticker, and that it contributed to the spectacular income, so I'd prefer to keep it. I may delegate updating it.
* Adding the linkback-perk-poem took up a substantial amount of extra time. People liked that too; I got about three or four times as many linkbacks as usual. I will probably do it again, though maybe not every month. I may delegate it; I've had an offer for this. We don't know yet whether this really drives traffic to my blog. Previous input suggests that people often sample the fishbowl for the first time ... after having seen references to it several times.
Specifically, the ticker and the linkback accounted for the slow start early in the fishbowl. I had a trickle of prompts early, then a firehose that continued for most of the day and I never did catch up.
* Epics pwn me, sometimes for hours of time. Seriously, I worked on "Stained" off and on for a substantial chunk of the afternoon. Something similar happens with poems that require background research to set up the writing. So too, plot nugget prompts that give me a whole storyline are easy to follow but usually hit long or epic size, which takes time. Series poems, among my most popular offerings, frequently fall into one or more of these categories. There is little to be done about this, as I have only manual steering on my muse and the results are usually excellent poems that sell.
These are things that might help with time management during future fishbowls, so that I could spend more time writing and/or have less of an overload.
* Delegate the ticker management to someone else. Also possible would be dropping the ticker if it's not as popular as it seems.
* Delegate the posting of verses in the linkback-perk-poem to someone else. (I've had one volunteer already, and had actually thought about this earlier.) This is another one that could be dropped if it doesn't produce results that justify its time expenditure.
* Close the fishbowl to further prompts if I have enough to fill the rest of the day. I thought about doing this during the fishbowl, and decided not to, because it seemed like cheating to me. I thought I could catch up; I always have before. But there is, somewhere, a finite limit to what I can accomplish in a day and this time we crossed it. This one is all on me; I need to learn more about workflow handling, and that includes cutting off the prompts if necessary. If I'd done this when I thought of it, I would've been in a lot better shape because it would've prevented the last handful that really pushed things over the edge. Live and learn.
* Ask people to read prompts before posting. This one is dicey. You'll notice that some of the things which eat time are types of prompts that lead to high-quality, high-popularity poems. I'm reluctant to mess with that because I don't want to lose those entirely. But having them not stack really high would be helpful. So, if you're willing and able to skim the other prompts before posting your own, this is a way you can help. Is the fishbowl slow, with little or nothing in the way of series requests, historicals, plot nuggets, etc.? Full steam ahead. But if you can already see several of those, then lighter prompts might be more helpful. Another thing you can check is my activity level. Have I already written something for all or most of the prompters? Full steam ahead. Are there several or more people I haven't covered yet? Throttle back slightly. If you're not sure ... leave me the prompts you're thinking of. I don't want to undercut my audience input because some fishbowls go really slow, which is not something to aim for.
* jenny_evergreen suggested moving the series poems to the extra fishbowl. my_partner_doug pointed out that this would probably increase the tendency for prompts to turn into series poems during the main fishbowl, as people (including me) try not to think of a purple rhinoceros. However, I kind of like the idea of bundling the series poems together in a fishbowl (which could carry over the same theme) because it would give more leeway than working with a single fishbowl. This point is listed here for discussion purposes.
I'm trying to distinguish which things are easier to change and which are harder, and which things are having a strong positive impact that justifies their continuation. This is where you, the audience, get to tell me how important things are to you and what you think is working. Answering the poll and providing other input will be very helpful to me.
Poem lengths: Short = 0-10 lines, Medium-short = 11-25 lines, Medium-long = 26-40 lines, Long = 41-60 lines, Epic = 61+ lines.
How much do you like the ticker indicating donation level?
How much do you like getting poem verses in exchange for linkbacks?
Did a linkback post on someone's blog cause ...?
How much do you like the $150 and $200 perks earning you free series poetry?
How much do you like the impromptu $300 perk for a free epic?
How much do you like serial poetry in general?
How much do you like historical or topical poetry that may require background research?
How much do you like concise, one-off poems that don't require outside exploration?
What lengths of poetry do you like?
What is your favorite length of poem for me to write?
If you have other feedback on what you like or don't like about the Poetry Fishbowl project, or ideas for improving it, please let me know. Thank you all for your input.