Today marks the first birthday of this web log! The first post, a tentative toe-dip, went up on January 18, 2007. All Manner of Thing started as an experiment, and as I look back over the past twelve months, I think I may justly judge it a success. To celebrate, I would like to give a brief retrospective.
My records show that in the past year I have written 177 posts. It has been great fun. Along the way, I have made no deliberate attempt to limit the scope of my subject matter; for the most part I have simply roamed wherever my interests took me. I knew at the outset that this model could prevent my attracting many readers, for few are going to consistently have the same interests as me, and consequently few will have a reason to make regular visits. Nonetheless, the site has received a fair number of hits all the same: on a typical week, several hundred people stop by. I know, too, that a handful of friends are regular readers. To them, and to everyone who takes the time to read the things I write, I offer my sincere and humble thanks.
Over the course of the year the ease with which this site can be found with Google has been improving. For the past few months, in fact, it has been the top search result for the phrase “All Manner of Thing” (with or without quotes). This proves that even Google’s much-lauded search algorithm has some serious problems, for a world in which I am ranked higher than Dame Julian or Mr. Eliot is a world without justice. I ask their pardon.
Given the number of visitors the site receives, I am somewhat puzzled by how few leave comments. There are a group of folks who regularly comment, but they are small in comparison to the whole, and I wonder what keeps the others quiet? Perhaps it is partly attributable to the coolness of my online “persona”. I think it is true that the person people meet here is rather tightly buttoned and reserved. This is partly due to my native temperament, but also partly to my awareness that what I write here will be accessible to anyone for a long, long time. Consequently, I step somewhat warily, and mute my trumpet, and that may well keep visitors from engaging with what I write. I wish I could change that, because I really enjoy reading and responding to the comments people leave. I am still waiting for the day when my comment-ers start talking to one another! Then, even for the briefest instant, this site will have taken on a life of its own. Perhaps I’ll experiment a little with inflammatory rhetoric to provoke more comments in the future.
I think it would be fun to take a few moments to dig into the statistics that have been accumulating over the past year. They tell me, for instance, how many people came to the site to read particular posts. The results are fascinating. (The numbers don’t count those who only visit the main page; to be counted the reader must click on a particular post.) The basic point the statistics make is that I have no sound instincts for what will attract readers.
No-one is more surprised than I am to learn that the most popular post over the past year, by a wide margin, is my Book Note about Thomas Wharton’s novel Icefields. It was originally posted in March, and has consistently attracted readers. I have no idea why; I had thought this a pretty obscure book. Thankfully, I think I did a half-decent job with that Book Note, so I need not be embarrassed. What is more, the number of hits has recently begun to increase on account of the novel’s selection as a finalist in the Canada Reads 2008 program. It seems its good fortunes will continue for a while yet.
The second most popular Book Note I wrote was for Josef Pieper’s intellectual history Scholasticism: Personalities and Problems of Medieval Philosophy (from February). In third and fourth place were Karl Sabbagh’s The Riemann Hypothesis (from March) and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (from August). I would not have guessed it.
The second most popular post of the past year, from July, was my account of the Van Morrison concert I attended at Bluesfest. The reason for its popularity is that a local newspaper linked to my post in their festival coverage, and some proportion of their readers trickled (clickled?) through to me. This is a great way for a small-scale web log like mine to get readers. I felt like Lazarus, getting the scraps from the rich man’s table. Something similar happened when Amy Welborn linked to me: it resulted in the highest number of hits I saw in a single day (94). The difficulty is to somehow contrive to have these incoming links more frequently.
The third most popular post — though it received fewer than half of those garnered by the Icefields Book Note — was my unfolding of my Ptolomeic reading plan. Like some horrible disease, the mirth this post provoked at my expense was infectious. I am glad that everyone enjoyed themselves.
In some cases, posts which I thought would be popular turned out to be duds. When I wrote Rome Recommended, for instance, I thought that it had a good chance of shooting to the top of my hit parade. Plenty of people go to Rome, right? And surely some them will look online for suggestions? I was sort of right. It did creep into the Top 10, but barely.
It has been a good year: I have greatly enjoyed writing for this web log, and there are apparently at least a few people who enjoy reading it. I tip my hat to each of you, and carry on.