Wednesday, August 28, 2013

State of the Blog (2012-2013)

In some ways the last year since the 201-2012 state of the blog has been very quiet, certainly there have been relatively few posts. But in other ways, under the digital surface, it has been one of the biggest years yet for me! From the landing of MSL to my hiring by York University, it has truly been a year of monumental changes. Yet, my daily routine has changed little (well except for the added mechanics of teaching, granting and committee work) - I still head into York on the 196 and try my best to learn a bit more about the planets and how to unlock their secrets each day.

However, those who commonly read this space will note that both of those two developments above - MSL and my new job - have conspired to reduce my online output. Partially, this is due to the workload. When you're scurrying to get a lecture written, a paper marked or about to meet with a student, you will second-guess your inclination to post. But furthermore, both developments have given me pause at the point of hitting that post button.

As I've mentioned before, I owe a duty as a member of an ongoing space mission not to compromise the decisions being made daily or the scientific results of the team and so the easiest thing that I can do is to not post at all about MSL. Since many of my thoughts pertain to MSL, so do many of the ideas for posts and this is then reflected in a smaller number of posts that make it onto the web.

With regards to my new job, I am coming to realize a strange new effect of my current position. When I was a postdoc, I represented only myself, but now, when I speak, I represent my university as well. This too has stopped me at the point of posting on several occasions, especially where I could not see all the implications of advocating a particular point of view. However, the longer I hold this position, the better I understand this role within the University eco-system. So you can expect posts about the university and academia itself to start to come back to this blog as I gain confidence in my understanding.

I also made the difficult decision this past year to walk away from the radio show that I created, and thus there was a fall-off in informational posts. Western Worlds was truly a labour of love and I was overwhelmed by the interest and the support from the amateur astronomical community. As the ads say - "one million people can't be wrong!" It has also been very good to see the work of creating Western Worlds continue. When you create something new, there's always the fear that your presence is the only thing that sustains it. To see it continue on its own power makes me very happy.

Of course, that all of these changes together ask the question - what will this blog be about now? Part of me wants to hang the "Mission Accomplished" banner and walk away. However, there are still a lot of neat things that I'm involved with that I would like to share, and some trends in this business that are worth bringing up in discussion. Neither of which really lend themselves well to other ways of sharing. So expect more of that.... as soon as I have a good handle on exactly what "that" is!

Ok, Enough preamble; as David Letterman used to say "hit me with the digits!"

The total page-views for the blog is now up to 43,000 which represents 15,000 views over the last 13 months. That's slightly down from the 16,000 views from July 2011 through July 2012, which is not surprising, given the lack of new content here. And really, what you're seeing is a carry-over effect from late last year when MSL was constantly in the news. October 2012 with almost 4,000 views stands as the record holder for this blog all time. By contrast, since February less than 3,000 views have been recorded.

When it comes to posts, the past also outranks the present with no article from 2012 or 2013 cracking the top ten all time. The arsenic post continues to be the highest performer of all, now responsible for a staggering 25,000 page views. Yes, Virgina, nearly 60% of all visitors to this site go for that article and that article only. I do, however, find it very gratifying that at 136 page views, my article on Mars Winds is the top viewed thing that I have posted within the last year or so. As much as I love opining, it is those articles that require a little research that I enjoy best.

In terms of the number of posts, from an average of about 40 per year in each of 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, 2012-2013 has fallen to a dismal 7, as intimated above.

Finally, my audience continues to Americanize. By last state of the blog, the US had climbed to 50% of all page views. Now it accounts for nearly 60%. Most of the other countries represented have not changed, just shifted places a little with Slovenia and Ireland now falling below the top ten threshold. If I look at shorter range audience statistics, the Ukraine rises to fourth and the Dominican Republic, Poland and China are beginning to appear on the list.

What will the next year bring? At this point, I can barely speculate. But either way, I will try to make the effort to keep you all in the loop a little bit more than I had last year.

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