Robin's Blog

Happy 7th Birthday Blog!

No, I’m not seven years old (even though I may act like it sometimes)…but this blog is! My first blog post was on the 11th November 2008 – a rather philosophical post entitled Wisdom and Knowledge – and so on this anniversary I thought I’d look at my blog over the years, the number of visits I’ve got, my most popular posts, and so on.

The earliest snapshot of my website available at www.archive.org is shown below, with my second ever post on the home page (an article that was later republished in the Headington School magazine).

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Traffic

Unfortunately it’s a little difficult to look at statistics across the whole of this blog’s life – as I used to use Piwik for website analytics, but switched to Google Analytics part-way through 2014 (when Piwik just got too slow to use effectively). Cleverly, I didn’t export my Piwik data first – so I can’t look at any statistics prior to 2014.

However, I can say that since August 2014, around 240,000 people have viewed my blog, with around 300,000 individual page views – a fairly impressive total, averaging at around 15,000-20,000 visitors per month, but increasing in recent months to around 25,000 per month.

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There’s a very noticeable pattern in page views, with significantly fewer views at weekends – probably reflecting the work-like nature of my blog.

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The vast majority of these views come from so-called ‘organic searches’ – basically just people searching online for something. The referrals I get tend to be either from social networks (mainly Twitter, but sometimes Facebook too), or from ‘blog aggregators’ that some of my posts are contributed to (my R posts can be found on R Bloggers and my Python posts on Planet Python).

Most popular posts

So, what are these people coming to read? Well, a lot of them are coming to find out how to fix a network printer suddenly showing as offline in Windows – in fact, 51% of all of my page views have been for that post! It’s actually become quite popular – being linked from Microsoft support pages, Microsoft TechNet forums, SpiceWorks forums and more.

My second most popular post is also a how to post – in this case, how to solve Ctrl-Space autocomplete not working in Eclipse (10% of page views), and my third most popular ‘post’ is actually the second page of comments for the network printer post…obviously people are very keen to fix their network printers!

The next most popular posts are:

  1. John Snow’s Cholera data in more formats
  2. How to: Set raster values to NoData easily in ArcGIS 10
  3. How to: Fix ‘WARNING: terminal is not fully functional’ error on Windows with Cygwin/Msysgit
  4. Producing polar contour plots with matplotlib
  5. How to: Reset the Software Update URL in OS X
  6. John Snow’s famous cholera analysis data in modern GIS formats (this gets a lot of referrals from the Guardian article which uses my dataset)
  7. How to: Fix problem where EndNote only shows the EndNote Web toolbar in Word
  8. How to: Set up a simple service to run in the background on a Linux machine (using daemontools)
  9. Free Julian Day calendar poster download
  10. Introducing recipy: effortless provenance tracking with Python (impressive that this is already in this list, given that it was only published at the end of August this year)

These posts make sense as the most frequently viewed posts: they are either posts that help solve very frustrating problems, posts which have been linked from high-traffic websites (like the Guardian), posts which show you how to do something useful, or posts that have received a lot of attention on Twitter.

My favourite posts

It’s hard to choose some favourites from the 130-odd (some very odd!) posts that I’ve published – but I’m going to try and choose some from various categories:

How and why do I do this?

Well, partly because it’s fun, partly because it’s useful and partly because I feel I ought to. Let’s take those separately:

  1. It’s fun to write interesting articles about things. I enjoy sharing my knowledge about topics that I know a lot about, and I enjoy writing the more philosophical articles.
  2. It’s useful because it records information that I tend to forget (I can never remember why I get this error message without looking it up – and I’ve found my own blog from Google searches many times!), it gets me known in the community, it publicises the things that I do, and it shares useful information with other people.
  3. I feel that I have an obligation to share things, from two perspectives: 1) As a scientist, who is funded mostly by taxpayers, I feel I need to share my research work with the public and 2) As a user of lots of open-source software, I feel a need to share some of my code, and share my knowledge about programming.

(For another useful guide on reasons to blog as an academic, see Matt Might’s article – in fact, read his whole blog – it’s great!)

Conclusion

I started this blog as an experiment: I had no idea what I would write, and no idea whether anyone would read it. I posted very little in the first few years, but have been posting semi-regularly since 2011, and people actually seem to be reading it. Hopefully, I will continue for another seven years…


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