Every year it seems Carl manages to generate a lot of interest and participation in the R.I.P. Challenge. Why is this challenge so successful? As both a participant in several challenges and a challenge host, I have been thinking about it, and I think what Carl gets right that other challenge hosts, including myself, don’t, involves several key factors.
First, Carl is running it for the sixth year in a row. I decided to host a challenge on a whim, and I have no intention of hosting the same challenge next year (and, if I’m honest, I can’t even really muster the enthusiasm to complete it!), but that is probably the best way to generate interest in a challenge. I can’t confirm this (perhaps Carl could), but my hunch is that he has more participants each year. It stands to reason that as those participants talk about the challenge on their blogs and convince others to participate it grows each year a little bit like those old Faberge Organics commercials from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Carl has built the R.I.P. Challenge into such an event that he would have to recruit another host if he ever tired of it. It’s one of the longest-running challenges that I can think of.
Another element of the R.I.P. Challenge that differs from other challenges is that while it doesn’t quite completely take over Carl’s blog for the two months it’s running, it is certainly prominently featured. For example, Carl usually finds an artist to design the buttons and banners and features that artist in a post. Carl also hosts several giveaways related to the challenge. The giveaways might be fun Halloween decorations or bookmarks. Carl also features R.I.P.-appropriate books during the challenge. In other words, he doesn’t just create a post explaining the challenge and leave it at that. The challenge becomes an event that drives people back to his blog to participate more.
Another thing I think Carl gets right is the length of the challenge. A lot of challenges, including most of the ones I am currently participating in and the one I am hosting, are year-long challenges. Year-long challenges are nice in that they allow late-comers to participate and also give participants flexibility without time-pressure. However, in keeping the challenge at two months and running it only during a certain time of year, Carl makes the R.I.P. Challenge more of an event, like a festival. Part of the appeal of festivals is that they don’t happen every weekend. They happen once a year, and they become something to look forward to and plan for.
Finally, I think Carl has married the perfect form of literature to time of year with the R.I.P. Challenge: creepy, gothic, scary stories are perfect for fall. By keeping the definition loose and allowing users to decide what constitutes the perfect R.I.P. book, but also putting constraints of some sort, Carl encourages readers to read books that for whatever reason just seem to define fall. It culminates appropriately with that old pagan holiday that celebrated the new year when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was especially thin—Halloween, of course—long celebrated for ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties. And naturally perfect for the challenge.
Carl does all of this with his Once Upon a Time Challenge as well, but I think the one element that the R.I.P. Challenge has that Once Upon a Time does not is that perfect marriage of time of year with subject matter. I don’t care what the temperature is outside, when I see the R.I.P. Challenge has begun, it suddenly feels like fall. The air feels crisper and I can almost imagine the leaves turning, even here in Georgia, where fall happens so much later.
I’m currently reading [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs for the challenge, and despite compiling a longlist the other day, I may or may not read those particular books for the challenge. After all, I just acquired [amazon_link id=”1463612214″ target=”_blank” ]Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes[/amazon_link] by Bernard J. Schaffer for $2.99 on my [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link] (it is still available for that price!), and who knows what else I might get my hands on before the end of October.