Friday, 4 January 2013

What I've learnt from another year of blogging

I was hoping to do a bit of an End of Year review for the blog with the top posts of 2012. Unfortunately, blogger does not seem to be able to provide annual stats - it's limited to the last day, week, month or all time. Google Analytics is more useful but, unfortunately, I only set it up on the blog in April so I cannot use that either. Instead, here are the top six posts from 2012 based on all time stats at the beginning of January:

1Kumala Zenith Merlot/Cab Sav/Shiraz - another bargain red
6 Feb 2012
2There's nothing scary about the Spice Kittens
16 Oct 2012
3Tim Minchin talks to Caitlin Moran
30 Aug 2012
4How to root a phylogenetic tree
7 Jun 2012
5A fan fixes Star Wars (Machete Order)
7 Oct 2012
6Finding Nemo's sex-changing father
18 May 2012

So, what have I learnt from this year's blogging?

✏ People like wine. (OK, I already knew that.) Although I do not really consider The Cabbages of Doom to be a "science blog" per se, I am a bit disappointed that the science posts have not rated higher. It's especially embarrassing to see a wine post top the bill as I don't really know much about wine and the posts show that! (They're really just for me to keep track of wine I like!)

✏ Sex, celebrities and kittens sell. Also not really surprising, I guess - this is the internet - but three of the top six feature sex, celebrities and kittens. Not things I blog about often but good to remember if I ever feel the viewing stats need a boost!

✏ Education, education, education. I've blogged before that Education is the key to impact and it seems to hold true for blog posts too - mine at least. The top science post was the education-related How to root a phylogenetic tree and the second also stemmed from a lecture. Still, good motivation to blog some more lecture-related material when I have the chance.

✏ Blog what you like. The philosophy behind my blog has always been "because the internet has a better memory than I do". I don't think it is easy - or that healthy - to try and predict what other people will be interested in and write about that, unless you are trying to blog professionally, of course. Given that I do not think I would have predicted any of the above as top posts, I think this is a good philosophy to continue.

✏ It doesn't have to be fresh. Especially with science, it sometimes feels like a race to "get in on the action". The more I blog, the more I feel it's best to leave that to the pros. There is something nice about returning to the scene after the dust has settled and there's less pressure to try and be original.

✏ Quality not Quantity / Fun not Frequency. There was a period when I got a bit obsessed about trying to knock out one post a day. It did not last too long and it killed some of the fun. One of my favourite blogs, coelsblog, probably posts one or two times a month on average. This is a hobby, not a job, so it's perfectly OK for it to be sporadic.

✏ Comment on other people's blogs. I don't mean leave snarky troll comments all over the internet but making positive contributions to other people's comment threads is a great way to get a few extra page views heading your way from those with similar interests. Even without the carrot of extra page views, I still recommend leaving comments that encourage posts you have enjoyed - as a blogger, I know how nice (although sadly rare for me!) to get them. (Desire for feedback is also part of the point of blogging.) Such conversations can also provide good inspiration for future posts. (On the subject of other blogs... more end of year blogging wisdom can be found at Under The Banyan.)

✏ Be polite. Attack the idea, not the person. Or, better still, question the idea. (Usually, the best defence is not offence.) Both when blogging and commenting, always remember than you are effectively self-publishing to the world. I'm sure I don't always get it right but I try to stay mindful of (and avoid) anything that might come back and bite me later, hence my blog disclaimer: "Any unsourced opinions on this site are my own. I sometimes get things wrong and will be happy to amend my position in the light of new information."


  1. Re: Comment on other people's blogs ... I like your blog ... keep doing it :-)

  2. often it's commenting system that stops me from posting comment. when it requires just that extra step, i told myself i'll come back to it but that often doesn't happen.

    now, what i seriously need to do is prune my blog list on reader as many bloggers have not been blogging for many moons...


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