Sunday, January 31, 2010
It being a Sunday and the last day in January, which was the third month of my resumption of blogging here at Early Warning, it seems worth doing a little virtual navel-gazing. As you see from the Sitemeter graphs above, things are off to a decent start. The blog started from a miniscule level of interest, but growth is very rapid - we are still more than doubling month-over-month. Presumably growth will slow down and level off at some point, but I don't have much visibility into when that will be.
The level of readership is still miniscule compared to long-established blogs. If you look at the Sitemeters at more established sites like Calculated Risk, The Oil Drum (who apparently recently removed their sitemeter link), or Econbrowser you'll see numbers one to three orders of magnitude larger than mine.
Looking at a more detailed view of how the blog went from 4k visits in December to 9k in January, the daily visit count over the last month looks like this:
From a level of about 100/day in late December, the traffic increase was largely driven by two "major posts", Iraq Could Delay Peak Oil a Decade, and Chinese Transportation Growth, which were of sufficient interest that blogs with much larger readership invited me to cross-post them, or linked to them, or discussed them somehow, and some of their readers came over to see what the fuss was, and a fraction of them stuck around.
In the last two weeks of January, there were no major posts, and it seemed like I held onto around 250-300 readers (to the extent "unique visits" at sitemeter is a proxy for "readers" - there could be some inflation from folks who check the blog from multiple computers etc).
this cafe, which is at the bottom of the hill from my house. I stagger down there every morning shortly after six am, they give me a latte while they are in the middle of setting up the tables, I open up my laptop at my favorite corner table and produce whatever I can between then and around 8am. A little additional work happens some evenings and then varying amounts on the weekend, between other commitments. What has proved practical with that level of time input is a smallish post each weekday, one on the weekend, plus about two major posts each month. In the case of January, the major posts were the Iraq one, which was a lot of work and some of the research was done over the Christmas vacation, and the China transportation one, where I just got lucky and normal daily research led very easily to an interesting post.
The timing of the major posts doesn't seem to matter too much and I will just do them as they are ready. I have a couple started for February, one of which will probably go early next week, and we will see if they drive much readership or not.
The smallish posts in between are generally follow-ups to things I was already researching, or early stages of research into things I'm exploring, or stuff where I'm not sure it's going to work out too well (like the analysis of Failed States Index). For the most part, they don't drive a lot external links, with the exception of Big Gav at Peak Energy, who seems to think more like me than most people. Also, from time to time, readers of mine will link to one of my posts in discussion at some other blog or forum, which can drive anywhere from a few to a few dozen visits. I deeply appreciate this, as well as those folks who take the time to comment - comments have been almost uniformly thoughtful and intelligent, and I greatly value the nascent conversation we have started there.
From my standpoint, the most important thing is that there do seem to be a few hundred people who are willing to stick around and read whatever I can come up with each day, which to me is plenty to justify showing up every morning at 6am or so. If the cafe was full with a few hundred people physically present and waiting to hear me speak, of course I would feel honored and would make a point of showing up and giving the best presentation I could. Although it's harder to visualize, in a way the fact that my audience is all over the globe, makes it more significant, not less. When I was in the process of deciding to start blogging again, which took me a few weeks before I was ready to take the plunge, I was reading Abraham Maslow's Towards a Psychology of Being. I don't have the book to hand to get the quote right, but there was a line in there which affected me deeply about one of the ways to remain less than fully human was to "Be the man who sees the truth and remains silent". I am no longer in that category. For whatever it's worth, my voice is no longer missing from the global conversation about what we should be doing in these difficult times.
So, overall, I find myself well satisfied. My largest uncertainty in restarting blogging was my ability to sustain a blog all by myself. But I find I now can: I can produce a daily output worth reading to enough people that I am happy to do it, and I can do so without derailing other areas of my life: my employer still wants me, my wife and children still see me, I get an appropriate amount of exercise, not quite enough sleep but I can get by, and I write this blog. As a planetary civilization, we face some very serious challenges in my opinion, and we aren't doing a very good job of facing up to them. I have no control over that, but I now have the feeling that I'm making a reasonable effort to do my part with such time and skills as I can spare from the task of making a decent daily life for my family. The rest is up to everyone else.