Thursday, November 28, 2013

Taking Stock and My Human Face

You ask me, “How’s that blog coming along?” Being happily self-disciplined, I’ve just filled another web administrator’s page of 25 lines, showing the statistics for 25 weekly essays.

Taking Stock
As for “how it’s going,” stats-wise, for this free blog, hosted by Google, I guess they must have changed their algorithms again. According to my Google stats feature, I used to get lots of hits from “key word” searches: I would wonder if my posts were giving school kids a glimpse of “real world” essays. Now I get “stats not available yet, check back later” and then, when I check back, I find almost no search words. As for the kids, I wonder if the keener ones are getting a jolt from my Understanding Essays piece, (July 2012) an essay that could frustrate any teachers who come across it. The duller students, I guess, doing their practical searches, would never stumble across it, or if they did, they’d be too uninterested, being too close-minded to chew it over enough to release a sour jolt.

I’ve been quite surprised, and quite pleased, to see that from China, a nation where the ethics of Confucius were blasted away by the raging red tide of communism, I have recently been receiving a steady stream of hits on my Media Ethics piece. (November 2012) I wonder if alert Chinese journalists are preparing for the day when freedom rings. Or maybe my red readers are inquiring students: As I said in my piece, “Before we are constrained to compromise we should first determine what is Right. “(As Peter Drucker advises)

On this latest administrator’s page, whether from coincidence or something computer related, I’ve noted patterns. If I change my title just a few minutes after I first post an essay, then I get way fewer hits; it’s as though I mess up the RSS feeds. If I post a re-run I get somewhat fewer hits; it’s as though my readers (or their software) have the memory of a computer, and don’t need to re-read a piece. Probably coincidence.
(Update: Or it could be the software over at Google. I just read an article from last year saying that most of Google's search function, as we know it, will be gone in two years, partly due to favouring "local searches" for readers.) 

As for whether I have more than a few count-them-on-your-fingers-of-one-hand regular readers, and whether I am on any RSS feeds at all, I just don’t know: On the one hand, no reader is moved enough to type any comments, but on the other hand my visits are not evenly random through the week, but instead are mostly on the day I post, or in the first few days. This while Google stats seemingly won’t count the people who go direct to my home page.

Hit counts don’t impress me: Another change in these last 25 posts is that I’ve been getting way more hits from (I think) spam, probably because I’ve been going onto low brow sites that link from the Joss Whedon fan page, “Whedonesque.” By low brow I mean popular (not classic or artistic) culture: entertainment rags and glossy magazines, the sort with big pictures where they take the easy way out of throwing together numbers: “Ten TV death scenes” or “Twenty TV heroines.” You can fill up a lot of article space that way. And then you can spam your web viewers, because, according to a schoolteacher, consumers of lowbrow culture, in contrast to watchers of PBS, are more inclined to buy what they see advertised.

On my previous admin page I noted that blogs are declining in popularity. (Fading Blogs and Human Nature February 2013) This could explain why I’m no longer getting comments. Yet my site is probably increasing in number of users: The stats for my posts are increasing and, more significantly, I can see that my hit count for “view personal profile” is up. I doubt that spam robots ever crawl as far as my profile. Or do they? —Sigh! —I don’t know much about computers. Have you any comments?

My Human Face
I have said before this is not a blog, and so I don’t talk about myself unless it is relevant to my essay.

Well. For my next two essays I will talk about having “brights,” to cheer up people in the workplace, (And touch on capitalism) and light-heartedly talk about losing my hair. (And touch on feminism) It has become relevant, therefore, to disclose that I am somewhat artistic, independent, and like to “push the envelope” as far as I can get away with. No, I don’t wear a beret or an earing, but yes, I have an artsy imagination. This explains my long-ago decision not to write in “Basic English.” Of course I respect my readers in China and elsewhere, but pushing the envelope means I will use big words and idioms and slang and archaic phrases. My attention is on nearby English speakers, with folks far away being welcome to listen in.

Besides, there’s precedent for such nearby attention. Classic writers, such as Jane Austen, have shown that if they pay attention to a very specific person in a very specific space-and-time then readers who “listen in” find themselves enjoying some universal truths. It all works out.

Back in college, our teacher for ‘free lance feature writing’ warned us about two things: Don’t go back and re-read your old stuff, lest you cry at how bad it is (Not me, I love my old darlings) and second, while we all have our pet peeves, “don’t write about them: You just aren’t that objective.” And so while I have passion about my day-job profession, I won’t write about professional issues—it’s bad enough I write down my peevish conspiracy theories. (Last week I posted Conspiracies and Inflation)

Sometimes my essays are about aspects of personal growth. Back in February I posted that writing all these left-brain essays, all this prose, had somehow—mysteriously— allowed me to pour out right-brain poetry and humor. Now I wonder if all my chairing meetings at work and elsewhere had mysteriously seeped through into my essence, to be visible to others. You see, I attend a weekly FreeFall writing group, one far trickier to facilitate than a normal group, and I have never told the other writers about my outside life, nor that I chair meetings. You can imagine my surprise … when our chairman was absent last week… and the other writers asked me to chair the meeting. Luckily, the rest of the group helped me—but still, such an honor… and a lesson in encouragement for me and for my readers not to shrink from long-term personal development. It all pays off.

That’s enough for now—I doubt I will write this much about me after my next administrator’s page.

Any comments?

Sean Crawford
November 2013
Update: Oh, irony: I gave the first half of the title the same  words as the first half as another "taking stock" piece. I guess I didn't believe my own observation that titles that repeat get fewer hits. This one is way down, hits-wise. 

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