It's become a tradition around here to reflect once a quarter on how the blog is coming along. It's that time again, as Q1 of 2011 ended yesterday. The above graph shows the monthly visitorship according to the Sitemeter. As you can see, this has been an extremely good quarter, with stats growing by leaps and bounds.
I got some insight into the stagnation/decline in my readership in the second half of last year by looking at the Sitemeter for the Oil Drum (where I was an editor some years ago). Obviously, TOD is a much longer-established site with a larger readership, but what was striking to me is that their readership spiked hugely in summer 2010, when mine was stagnating. And this was almost certainly driven by their intensive coverage of the energy story of the moment: the Macondo spill in the Gulf of Mexico. My judgement was that this incident didn't have lasting global or even national significance: it was a severe regional environmental disaster for the Gulf of Mexico, and that was the main impact. Since half the blogs in my reader were covering it intensively, I felt the issue was totally oversaturated and I decided not to write about it. I still believe my judgement about its ultimate significance was correct and I'm comfortable with my decision. At the same time, it's clear that I paid a short term price in readership: a lot of the people interested in energy/resource issues wanted to read about the spill, and I wasn't doing it for them. So be it.
However, since the end of last year, we've had a lot of dramatic stories with an energy/resource angle that have seemed to me of more lasting significance: food prices and oil prices going up, unrest in the Middle East, nuclear disasters in Japan, etc. We live in interesting times, and this has clearly driven readership here up sharply. Welcome to all the new readers!
One negative has been the need to moderate comments (driven by a single individual). I haven't found the actual act of doing the moderation at all onerous - if anything it's nice to have a single place to see them all. However, it's got to make commenting a less interactive experience, and in particular make it unlikely that good conversations can happen between commenters when I'm away from the computer. I'm not sure what the outlook is here: in general, I'd far rather have quality than quantity in commenting as in readership, so I'll continue moderating as long as it feels necessary.
A few personal updates (since the blog has proven to be a driver of developments in my personal life much more than I realized it would):
- We are still in transition up to our country property. We are living in the rental house in Ithaca through late May, but I have my office up at the farm and am there every day, and doing various projects around the place on the weekend: insulating studio/workshop space in the barn, etc. It took a long time to get the woodstove in (we decided to have the floors refinished first), but I finally installed it a few weeks ago, and have been enjoying working in front of the fire since. I set the thermostats on the electric baseboards to 50F to provide a baseline of heat at night, and then rely on the woodstove to heat the downstairs to a reasonable daytime temperature.
- Living on all commercially bought renewable power is a complete snooze. Agway Electric shows up on the bill, which is slightly larger than it otherwise would be. Other than that, there's nothing to see, and no difference in our lives. It's not nearly as flashy as having a big set of solar panels on the roof, or a windmill, to impress/provoke the neighbors, but a lot less hassle too.
- I continued to cycle right through the winter. There were odd days when there was too much snow, or it didn't work with my schedule, and then there was the back problem, but by and large I have kept it up. However, I did switch to cycling to a cafe for lunch rather than breakfast, so I was doing it in daylight.
- I made a tactical retreat on the Chevy Volt. The dealerships I talked to were selling all the Volts they could get their hands on at $8k-$12k over list, and the planned production for 2011 was small enough that it seemed to me likely that situation would last all into 2012. With that markup, the car is twice as much as other small environmentally-half-decent compacts. I'm just not willing to pay that much extra for what is basically a green status symbol, not when I'm saving to build the straw-bale fantasy house. So I bought a VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI for now. I'll probably trade it for a PHEV in a few years when the prices and choices are better.
- Although our property is surrounded by land trust land on which there will be no shale gas drilling, the lady up the road told me that most of the rest of the valley is already leased. She apparently leased her farm before understanding the issues, but now is one of the folks campaigning to have the town ban fracking. Currently there's a temporary moratorium while the state of New York studies the issue. So fossil fuel extraction may, or may not, come to my valley - I guess I need to understand the issues better.
- Finally, at the instigation of my new doctor here in Ithaca, I read The China Study and was blown away by the book. I immediately switched to a 98% vegan diet (I'm still negotiating with my wife to get rid of the 2%). I highly recommend the book, especially to my readers entering or in middle age. Apparently, I'm in good company.