Monday, July 23, 2012

State of the Blog (2011-2012)

Yes, folks it's time again for the annual year-in-review here on HTWT. I'll link to last year's post so that when I come back here next year I can follow the digital trail of breadcrumbs into my own past. Without fear of reversal, I can say that this past year was truly an exceptional one on just about every level. Right now things are really looking up for the future and I hope that my current streak continues.



So, as always, let's get this post started with the statistics. The frequency of blogging has fallen off a little bit, with the number of posts falling to 38 from 56 last year. This is the result of two competing factors, first I had some compelling news to share at several points, MSL and Western Worlds chief amongst them. Western Worlds alone accounts for 16 of those posts - almost half of all posts during the year, and the vast majority of posts in 2012. However, outside of those topics my motivation to write blog posts waned a little bit. As is typical of uncertain times, I often chose to escape to escapism over writing about the real world. Therefore HTWT's loss turned out to be HNRP's gain with 37 posts over there up from 32 the year before.

Readership has also increased, with total pageviews clocking in at over 16,000, up from 12,000 last year. I continue to be astounded at this level of interest. As was the case last year, the bulk of the traffic is for my 2010 post on Arsenic. That article represents 10,000 of the pageviews which suggests that the non-arsenic readership is flat. Apparently, I'm going to need to do an update featuring the new Science Articles which challenge the conclusions of the original paper!

My articles seem to be standing the test of time well. Either that or my writing is degrading. Only one article in the past year has made it into the top ten of all time - my article on preparing to go down to Cape Canaveral for MSL's Launch. That said, six of the top ten were written in the spring prior to the last state of the Blog, so the relative lack of interest could simply reflect the decrease in the rate of postings. In the next few years, I hope to discover whether blog posts are like academic papers which tend to accumulate views/citations as they age. Or whether, like newspaper articles, they are relatively forgotten after a short while.

As for the evolving nature of my audience, it seems that my Canadian readership has fallen off and the blog has become even more US-dominated. Integrating the last two years, the USA accounts for over 50% of all pageviews. The biggest change in the last year has been surging Russia which has risen up to fourth spot after not appearing in the top ten at all last year. Another FSR - Ukraine has also appeared at rank 9. By and large, it's a different audience than my SF reviews, though Russia has always been a significant source of readership there.

So ends the note to myself that will allow me to do year-over-year subtractions! Let's get on to the real stuff:

This year saw me gain much more experience with teaching, something which really helps with one's saleability when applying to academic positions. That was really the story with last fall since the Mistastin Analogue Mission fizzled for me. Then in November came two surprising developments. First, we got to run yet another analogue mission, sponsored by the Western Faculty of Science. The Barringer Lunar Analogue Mission (BLAM) was a resounding success and a completely different kind of deployment from the others with live audio and often visual coms available. It was a neat experience, heightened when on the last day of the deployment (and two days before the scheduled launch) I recieved word that I would be part of the MSL Science Team!

That fact means that I had come full circle from my Phoenix days. As dedicated readers of this blog will note, I started this writing thing, in part, so that I would have some way to document my attempt at completing a journey back to doing space missions. Now that things have worked out you have an interesting story in the chronology over the last few years. I would not have predicted my success back then, certainly not with the relative speed with which it has occurred.

As Fall shifted into Winter my attention split several ways. First, there was the chasing of papers through publication. It's been a banner year for my academic reports with three first author papers accepted so far this year. I also had my first experience with Open Access publishing. Overall, my feelings about this are mixed. Next, I started a new Astronomy.fm radio show with help from Western. I had been thinking about starting such a show for about a year, but the support I got from CPSX and the encouragement of Paul Delaney and Michael Foerster convinced me the time was right to go ahead. It's worked out very well with over a third of a million listeners (really puts this blog to shame!) since February. Third was my usual busy season applications. While I don't want to leave you in suspense here, the results from this year's set of competitions deserves its own post. But at the very least, allow me to say that this blog will be changing. It's raison d'ĂȘtre has been achieved and that suggests some refocusing.

Of course, the blog has become very much more than a detailing of a job search over the years. In fact it is only just barely that now. In that way, we may be talking about no more than a subtle change in slope with barely a discontinuity observable. Helping this along is a backlog of two separate strains of research that I want to tell you all about. Will I get time for it all in the coming months with MSL landing in less than 2 weeks? Stay tuned.

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