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How to Run a Poetry Exchange

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Wed May 22, 2013 1:57 am
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Aley says...

I'm going to put down all the 'if's 'and's and 'but's I came up with for how to make a Poetry Exchange so other people can do it too. If you can get through the process, and understand everything, you're in for a real treat at the end. The first one was a lot of fun!

Poetry Exchange

Attracting Exchangers

One of the most frequently asked questions I had making the Poetry Exchange was what is it? and when is it? To answer these questions you need to take into consideration what you want to accomplish.

What is it?

The Poetry Exchange is a tool which uses Pirate Pads to get deeper reviews by exchanging poems between YWS users. This system could be applied to a lot of different things.

When is it?

First, who is it you are looking to attract?
  • If you want everyone on YWS, make the time frame long.
    During any given week people can be overrun with school work, actual work, personal problems, and life changing events. Give people a decent stretch of time to review (I used two/three days per round).
    Don't close off reviews after that time frame.
  • If you're looking to attract mods, make sure you have time for them to review, and give them plenty of notice.
    They're busy people! They keep this site going, so give them time to play with you and the others you draw in.
    Keeping mod-centric events a full week or longer.
  • If you're looking for something to do within a few days, and you don't care who you attract, this system might not be for you. However, if you have 3-6 people, with multiple poems each, who want to do a quick Poetry Exchange, make sure they know about Pirate Pads.


I sent out PMs, spoke in chat, and approached poetry people directly. Don't just send the PMs to random people, but people you think will be interested in a Poetry Exchange. Also don't send multiple e-mails about it just because they don't respond.

I looked down the Poetry Month list for people who had made Poetry Month forums, and also asked around for who was a poet on YWS. I sent it to everyone I thought might be interested within reason.

Do not expect replies.

The majority of the PMs I sent out did not get replied to.

I also searched in the Chat. This requires some tact because you need to make sure not to upset our wonderful mods. Basically, look for poetry people in chat, ask people if they write poetry, and whomever replies gets a PM, or tell them personally about the Poetry Exchange you're setting up via the private message chat, or in main chat.

Make sure you have a copy of your informational letter saved in a code box so you can copy it really easy into the PMs.

Here are some examples of how I kept my information handy while searching for participants.

Number of Participants

This is really for you to judge. I had thirteen people in mine, and we had about six people who could do the work on time, so roughly half participated. Expect this in your own Poetry Exchange.

Figure out how many submissions you want each person to review to determine submission numbers. If you want each person to review 1-2 poems, then have everyone submit two poems. Some people will still only submit one, and others might request to submit three.

As a general rule: # of submitters > # of submitted poems (by one individual) - 1 = fine.

For example,

As long as one individual does not submit more poems than the number of people submitting poems, not counting themselves, you're fine.

If you still don't understand this, don't worry, I will go over it again later.

Attracting anyone you can. The bigger the variety, the better.

Hosting the Exchange

Pirate Pads and Alternatives

Going through this I will make many references to Pirate Pads. If you choose a different medium to host this event, replace Pirate Pad with whatever other medium you picked. I will go through the pros and cons of each to help you pick.

WriterFeed Pads
  • These are provided by YWS and connected to our YWS accounts.
  • They require you edit security in order to allow other people to access the pad.
  • They remember names of guests who have signed into WriterFeed Pads and remember colors.
  • They have 8 colors in a range of dull pastels.
  • These crash semi-frequently.
  • The URLs are predictable and informative.

Titan Pads
  • These require users set up their own account and are not connected through YWS.
  • They require you edit security in order to allow people to access the pad.
  • They remember names of guests sometimes.
  • They allow admins of accounts to create multiple users for color memory.
  • They have 8 colors in a range of dull pastels.
  • These rarely crash.
  • The URLs are predictable and informative.

Pirate Pads
  • These do not require setting up an account and are not connected to YWS.
  • These do not require editing security, as they do not have security.
  • They do not remember names of guests.
  • They do not remember colors in any way.
  • They have 32 colors.
  • These rarely crash.
  • The URLs are unpredictable and uninformative.

Google Docs
  • These require signing in to a google account.
  • These require requesting users to view the document, or sending them a link after changing the security on the document to open.
  • They remember names of guests via the google account
  • These do not have colors to remember.
  • Guests would have to change their font color every time they sign in.
  • These rarely crash.
  • The URLs are highly informative.

General Information

  • Make sure they understand that they do not have to sit at the computer at 12:00 Eastern Time and wait for other people to get on.
  • They get on and review on their own terms within the day(s)/week(s)/month(s) of the start date to the end date.
  • They do not have to review alone, they can bring friends onto the poem.
  • They can bring the author of the poem onto the poem
  • They can check out their own poem during the time and edit it.
  • They need to know Pirate Pads.
  • Tell them how many poems they can submit. Encourage more than one.
  • Explain Signing In.

Signing In

Signing In is a system for Pirate Pads to tell people who is what color. Basically, once people have written in their name, they have to say 'Hi' in the chat on the Pirate Pad to log what color they are for other users.

If someone doesn't do this, you can always double check through the Time Slider, but stress 'signing in' to each Pirate Pad and put an example up on each pad by doing it yourself.


You can either have them place their work on a Pirate Pad, or do it yourself.
  • Create a Pirate Pad (or your alternative)
  • Put the work on the Pirate Pad
  • Erase the color of the work so it is easy to see when people edit and comment. (There is a circle with a slash through it which does this.)
  • The dates when the Poetry Exchange will be taking place
  • Bookmark all links to Poems

Hosting Starts

As soon as you have people sending you links as submissions, you're the host.


Step 1

Bookmark all links to Pirate Pads submitted in an easily accessible place. I put mine in a folder on my Bookmark Toolbar.

With these bookmarks make sure you attach who the poems belong to for your personal reference. I did this by editing the preferences of each Pirate Pad and changing it to their name and a number corresponding with what number poem it was submitted as. I included myself in this list.

My List of Submitted Poems looked something like this:

Audy and LosCadaver only submitted one poem, so they each did not need a number after their name. Jordin submitted 2 poems, so I put both of his poems next to one another in my list and numbered them.

You will also want to create a List of Submitters, which only includes each person once.

Everyone Submitted 3 Poems, but There Are Only 4 of Us!

That means each person gets one poem from everyone else! That's great! It makes your job super easy. Put the List of Submitted Poems in the Randomizer anyway, but when you're writing the list for reviewing, it will look something like this:

    Participant: Poems to review
    Aley: Gee2, Sparkle3, megsug1
    Gee: Aley2, Sparkle1, megsug2
    Megsug: Gee1, Sparkle2, Aley3
    Sparkle: Gee3, Aley1, megsug3

Step 2

Keep pestering people who haven't submitted yet that say they want to submit. They might just have forgotten.

Step 3

Keep looking for new people to submit.

Step 4

Write a letter to send to the people when the Poetry Exchange starts. Your first order of business once it's time is to scramble the list you've made and send out the poems you want them to review. This means you have to have another letter saying what they'll be doing. These have to be individual as the links will be unique. It is a good idea to save a letter somewhere in advance.

The simple explanation is they'll be reviewing the following poems on Pirate Pads. Supply them with links to their poems they submitted, the poems they will be reviewing, and remind them to sign in.

Step 5

If you don't get enough submissions double up on people who are reviewing one poem. Doubling Up will be explained later.

The Poetry Exchange

When you hit your deadline date, you will have to set aside time to actually get everyone their links and start the exchange.

Step 1

Write a list of participants somewhere to keep them in order if you haven't already done so. I wrote mine out on paper. Do not include multiples of the people, just include each participant once on your List of Participants.

Step 2

Use to shuffle your List of Submitted Poems.

Step 3

Once they're shuffled, go down the list and put the scrambled list with the List of Participants. When you reach the end of your List of Participants, start at the top again and continue going down the list, and putting the poems next to the participants.

  • Make sure you do not have one person reviewing all of another person's work.
  • Try not to repeat writers on one submitter
  • If the person is likely to fail in participation, give them fewer poems.
  • Use your knowledge of the submitted poems to gauge the amount of reading one person will have to do vs. another.

If you run into someone reviewing the same person repeatedly, reviewing themselves, or other such problems, switch the poem with the next poem on the list. Avoid favoritism by being strict about this.

Double check your list to make sure everyone's poem is there. I ran into a few poems where I goofed and they didn't get included immediately in the review. If this happens, double up on them in the Second Round.

Step 4

This part is tedious, send links to everyone. I would suggest using the letter made earlier, but if you didn't make one it can be as simple as:

Poems to Review:
- link
- link

Your Poems:
- link
- link

Brief instruction. - Reminder to Sign In

Step 5

Through Round One, check in on everyone. Go through your bookmarked list and see who is reviewing, who isn't. If they aren't reviewing, send them a personalized message asking them what's up, if they're alright, etc.

Step 6

If anyone comes in late, you can shuffle them in during Round Two. Each round, you assign people to review poems they haven't seen before. This gets a wide variety of feedback and allows people to disagree about comments. Pirate Pads creates a quickly accessible environment without the goofs of down systems, signing in nonsense, or changing the font color. They are also quick to create, and are automatically erased if no one signs into them within a certain time frame, so there is no clean up.

For the shuffling have a record/remember who had what poem. You can do this by checking to see who reviewed it, or keeping a copy written down/stored somewhere. I used a written copy.

The Rounds

Do as many rounds as you like, each time giving people poems they haven't seen in the Poetry Exchange before.

Each time, use the randomizer, common sense, and luck to organize the poems into groups for each person to review and then jump into reviewing poems.

Try to keep everyone's number of poems to review even, this will put less stress on people who have gotten caught up in things.

For example, some of my reviewers didn't show up at all in the first round. Instead of giving them 3 things to review, again, I just added one or two poems to each of them so they only had three total things to review. This screwed up my numbers for the other people, making each active reviewer receive four poems, but it worked out well. All of the poems were reviewed at least once.

During the Second Round you may even want to forgo the randomize and just assign things yourself. This way, things that haven't been reviewed yet can be doubled up on, in case the user doesn't come back.

Guidelines to Mental Shuffling

  • Assign poems with reviews to users who haven't been active.
  • Assign poems without reviews to users who are active.
  • Assign high quality poems to active users as a reward. (Judgement of this is left to you)
  • Consider doubling up on poems without reviews.
  • Consider doubling up on poems assigned to inactive users in the second round.

Doubling Up

It is just as it says, put more than one person on a single poem during one round. This means you send two participants the same link, and they may, or may not, run into each other.

I reserved this as a tool to combat a failure to review. I would suggest you do the same. However, you could pass around all the links to other people's poems to everyone who isn't that person, and double up on everything. This would only make one round though, so take it into consideration before you do things this way.

The Second Round

For the Second Round, when you send participants the poems, include the poems for the first round they failed to review so they have a fresh copy of the link and know you still want them to review it.

Concluding the Poetry Exchange

To conclude the Poetry Exchange, I have a few suggestions.


I did a survey with my Poetry Exchange that I sent out during the Second Round. I created a Pirate Pad just for asking questions to other users. I would suggest making one survey Pirate Pad and sending it out during the Second Round PM for questions to be added by your participants. This can be a fun way to conclude things.

Master List

Now that the hard part is over, hand over the master list of all of the poem links to the YWS group. This can be as simple as right clicking on the folder in your bookmarks toolbar, selecting copy, and pasting with a short message.

You could also make this complicated and indicate who has what poem from the list. It shouldn't take you very long and it allows people to review/surf/explore after the Poetry Exchange is done.

Send a Thank You Letter

This really helps people know that you're done with them. I recived more replies to my Thank You Letter than all of my other letters, so that's a good feeling as well.

You read it all
Good luck

Stupidity's the deliberate cultivation of ignorance.
— William Gaddis