Saturday, May 28, 2011

A View from the Beach - The Six Month Review

As of tomorrow sometime, this blog will be 6 months old.  In that time, I have not missed a day of posting, which says not much except that I have a somewhat obsessive compulsive nature.  It has been fun, and interesting, but sometimes it seems to be a bit of a chore.

This is likely to get has become long and rambly, so I'm going to put a jump here, and if you're interested to see some of the details of all of this, I encourage you to look below.

You might have some questions about why I blog, and what is the subject of this blog?

I blog because I found myself reading a lot of blogs, finding them interesting, and thought it was a good way to join in the public debate and get your ideas out. Instapundit and the Army of Davids and all.  You could write editorials to newspapers, and they might publish them, but they are forced by space constraints to pick and choose among the letters the can accept, they edit strongly "for space", and I have a strong suspicion that they choose the letters they publish according to their own agenda.  With a blog, and a free site from Blogger (a Google subsidiary), you can publish your own thoughts unedited, and Google will take care of making sure that your words are available to the world.  All you have to do is to come up with ideas that will bring them in.

So what is the subject of this blog?  In short, whatever interests me, and whatever I might think would be of interest to other people.  For a good declaration of why a blog needs to have a diverse subject list, I would point you to a master's essay, at the Ace of Spades:
Very often I get criticized for running funny or trivial stories, or going off-message. There is a contingent of folks who want their political sites doing nothing but relentlessly messaging.

First of all, I couldn't do that. Neither could the cobloggers. What you see on this site is a mix of 1, stories that are both important and which we are interested in, 2, stories which are important and must be posted even if we have nothing to add to them, and 3, stories which are not important but which we either have something to add about, or which we find interesting.

Those who demand "stay relentlessly on message" don't realize that that category 3 is often more interesting than category 2. Sure, we do category 2, because we have to. But we don't actually have anything new to add. It's just a link and quote. You can get that anywhere, and in fact, you do get that anywhere.
A quick perusal of my posts to date would suggest that I am primarily interested in:

1) Chesapeake Bay:  I try to report and comment on significant new regarding Chesapeake Bay, particularly how it may influence fishing in the Bay.  I have help in this in that there is a list serve that links to daily news articles about the bay.  I try to comment on at least one of those daily.  I am also a scientist with an interest in aquatic systems. I have a Ph.D. in Oceanography from major west coast university, specializing in Biological Oceanography, and within that, the relationships between organisms and their chemical environment, a field often unhelpfully called "biogeochemistry." We have lived in the Chesapeake Bay area since 1985, and I have worked in the academic environmental field since then.  I have not made a particular secret of who I am.  People who know who I am read this blog, and no doubt, with a little research, anyone could figure out who I am and where I work. This blog definitely does not represent the official position of any entity other than myself. But that is not what this blog is about. 

2) Fishing:  I make no secret that I am a fisherman and would like to spend more time fishing.  I also use this blog to post simple fishing reports, which I link to a couple of bulletin board sites which concern fishing to a greater or lesser extent.  I consider myself to be a good, but not a great fisherman, even though I strive mightily. My fishing posts have been a popular item in posts, as you will see later.

3) Politics:  Unlike a vast majority of academic scientists I count myself as conservative, of the libertarian stripe.  Again, this is not a secret,it is well known by a few friends, but is not widely advertised in the community.  There is definitely a degree of prejudice against conservatives in the academic community, particularly the environmental community (among others), because conservatives are generally fiscal conservatives and the environmental community depends on government funding directly or indirectly to an incredible degree, and because most academic scientists see themselves as promoting some sort of societal change through government, which conservatives often, but not always, oppose.  I generally think that government interventions in society are a mistake, that policy makers don't know enough to make large changes without massive negative unintended consequences, and that a self directed society solves problems better in the long run.

4) Science in general: As early as first grade, I had my heart set on being a scientist, probably after seeing some silly demonstrations of scientific tricks.  I can still remember a few of them.  My interests in science are eclectic; I find aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology and more fascinating.  Unfortunately, to get somewhere in science these days, you have to specialize.  But that doesn't mean you have to give up your other interests entirely.  A blog like this both forces me to read a bit more outside my field and gives me a venue to cite or comment on items I find interesting.

On a related issue, global warming, I would count myself in the weak school of pro-warming with Dr. Pielke. I suspect that human activities, including but not limited to CO2, have contributed some to a mostly natural, sun driven global warming in the 20th century.  I think most of the extreme claims IPCC, Al Gore, and the media, egged on by a clique of scientists crying DOOM, are overwrought.

5) Dogs: I like dogs in general, my dog Skye in particular (have I said today that she's the best dog ever?), and I find the interactions between people and dogs to be endlessly fascinating.

6) Music: As my profile states, I'm a wanna be musician.  One of my sons is a real one, and my father taught music, so I know the difference.  I like to throw a little music into posts at random,

7) Whimsy: Sometimes you just want to see something silly, humorous, or even people being outrageously stupid.  See Ace's post cited above.

8) Rule 5 - Rule 5, as explained by Stacey McCain in his well cited classic "How to get a million hits on your blog in a single year" , is that "Everybody loves a pretty girl;"
It's not just guys who enjoy staring at pictures of hotties. If you've ever picked up Cosmo or Glamour, you realize that chicks enjoy looking at pretty girls, too. (NTTAWWT.) Maybe it's the vicious catty she-thinks-she's-all-that factor, or the schadenfreude of watching a human trainwreck like Britney Spears, but no one can argue that celebrity babes generate traffic. Over at Conservative Grapevine, the most popular links are always the bikini pictures. And try as I might to make "logical arguments" for tax cuts, wouldn't you rather watch Michelle Lee Muccio make those arguments?
I stumbled on to the Rule 5 phenomenon early on, with a snarky post about Hugh Hefner, and his soon bride to be, former Playmate, Crystal Harris with a racy, perhaps slightly NSFW picture of her below the fold.  I noticed that post was getting hits for weeks afterwards, not a lot, but since my traffic was minuscule at that point, enough that it was, for a while, the most popular post on the blog.  Well, I didn't need any more encouragement than that, and I have tried to keep my "Rule 5" content enough to provoke a little traffic ever since.  In the past couple of months, I have been whoring my Rule 5 posts out to Stacey McCain's Rule 5 compendiums, and they've been steady producers.

So how is the blog doing you might very well ask?  I really have nothing to compare it to, but, overall, I'm satisfied.  I have passed 35,000 hits, and my monthly readership has grown consistently (click to enlarge):

You can see this more clearly in the ups and down of daily posts.  I started tracking this in Excel too late to get the first month or so, but:

You can see my inauspicious beginnings, when I was struggling to get 30 people a day to view it, most of them friends from a fishing message board.  The first spike, around the end of January, was my very first fishing report on the blog, which I linked to Tidal Fish, a large fishing message board. Wow, three hundred hits in one day!  A few extra the next, then back to where I was. A few of the other similar spikes are fishing reports too.  The "pimple" around 2/20 probably represents traffic from the report of a fatal boat accident in the Bay. I can't really explain all of March.  Lots of fishing posts, and traffic, a few rule 5s, including one I'll go into later, but the biggest thing of all was the Japanese Earthquake, which generated quite a bit of traffic to a few posts.  But the big mass ended fairly abruptly, leaving me struggling to get 200 a day.  There was also a nice swell in middle of April, through early May, which has dropped off.  Again, I think the Osama death jokes were a big part of that, and the interest in that has largely faded.  I need a new hook...

So about those top posts?

You'll easily see one inexplicable (at least to me) post that tops all the others, with almost 10,000 hits, or almost 25% of my total hits ever.  It was a post on Dictators wives (and how good looking they are) "It's Great to Be King (or Dictator)".  I've told the story elsewhere, but briefly, this trivial, unimportant post, largely plagiarized from Maggie's Notebook (Thanks Maggie!), started getting hit after hit after hit from nowhere.  At one point, a couple months after it was posted, it was still getting 300 hits a day.  The hits were coming from Google, and most of the hits were on Asma al Assad, the wife of the Syrian dictator (there were others but they didn't garner nearly the attention that Asma did).  I'm sure this was partly in response to the "Arab Spring", but for the life of me, I can't imagine all the people who must be Googling Asma Assad and looking at the 25th page.  This is still often the second most popular post on the blog daily listings.  Just plain weird. I'm guessing they're mostly disappointed with what they find.  Good, Bashar al Assad is a bloody dictator.

I've already mentioned the  Osama Bin Laden Death Jokes post, it went strong for a while, but now seems to be largely forgotten.  Evil deserves mockery.

The next three posts, fittingly, are fishing posts.  Two reports, and the boat accident I talked about.  Then my most recent the Rule 5 post, Sultry Sci-Fi Sweetness, has moved  6th place spot, with two more fishing posts, and a couple of Rule 5 posts round out the top 10.

Top 10 search combinations currently only show variations of the Asma Assad, and Bin Laden death jokes.

So, where do you all come from?

Google is clearly a big contributor, at #'s 1,4,6,8,and 9.  Fishing message boards are at #'s 2 & 3 and 10.  The Other McCain (Rule 5 links) come's in 5th, and another social site come in #7.

Most of you speaka da English.  Blogger reports most of the hits come from the US (of course), UK, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Australia, France, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, but daily some odd ones are apt to crop up.

What are my greatest disappointment?  Comments!  I would like more people to comment on posts, even if only to say "That sucks; it's not original!"  I know,  I put a lot of it there to get people to see something they might not otherwise look at.  But there have been a few significant comment threads.

So what about the future?  I guess I'll keep plugging along.  I told myself if I ever got over 1000 hits a day, I would allow Google to put some ads on here and try to make a little back.  I've hit 700+ with a lucky 1-2-3 combination, but it doesn't look like that day is coming any time soon.

Well, that's enough for now, maybe I'll do some more navel gazing in November.


  1. For the most part I find the topics you select to be interesting and/or amusing, and quite often the first I've heard them mentioned. Being a little familiar with your online point of view I'm not often surprised by your commentary, but occasionally you surprise me in a positive way. Just my 2 cents. And no ads.

  2. You might get a lot more hits if you feature Red the Wonder Labrador, pictures and stories.

  3. Im glad you are sticking around. The animal and science posts are my favorites.

    I cant get into my account so my name isnt wanting to come up...this is Khadra.

  4. I usually read your posts and find them interesting but I usually comment on the oard you posted the link from. This is Brian and I usually post as anonymous.

  5. i only visit your blog because it confuses the organizations harvesting my online useage data