Blog post analysis, with time dimension

In a vain attempt to figure out what you, dear visitors, are most interested in when bothering to visit my blog, I have been collecting blog stats over the last 4 months (with a sampling once a month) of the blog posts I made in the past two years. The hope is to figure out

1) What’s hot and what not?

a. Are readers interested in posts about my research output (or about other topics)?

b. Is there a correlation between amount of visits and comments (barring me and pingbacks)?

2) Given the assumed short attention span of blog readers, do visits to older posts (age > 4 months) stagnate?

Results

The raw data set (xls) can be viewed here; 32 posts are included that were posted since April 2006, with an overall amount of 3254 page visits by 18-6-2008 according to the sum of individual post visits. This is different than the wordpress graph for monthly aggregates, shown here that counts more visits (6674 as of today).

Visitors care little about my main research topics (granularity, part-whole relations, formal conceptual data modelling), but there is slightly more interest in the side-topics with bio & reasoning. Topics that are not (or not yet) part of my research or are not about research at all but were fun writing about receive much more traffic.

There is no correlation between amount of visits and comments.

The answer to question 2 is inconclusive: some posts stagnate, some keep on being visited and steadily increasing in amount of hits. They generate about 51 % of the monthly page hits.

Discussion

Possible explanations are that I have not been able to write in an accessible manner about my research, or that, indeed, there are very few people can get excited about those topics, or, given the somewhat higher visits for bio & reasoning, the blog is not in the ‘right’ network for those topics (maybe there is none?) but it is at least to some extent linked with the bioinformaticians and therefore has relatively more visits in that area. As far as the visits to the, in my opinion, “fun topics” concerned: are you here to slack? Or maybe the general assumption of blogs is more about diversions and networking; but if it were, then why is there no correlation between visits and comments? Maybe my “fun topics” are another person’s daily research (e.g., sudokus, AI and cultural heritage).

The posts that stagnate are clearly out-of-sight-out-of-mind. For the posts that keep on being visited, my informed guess – based on random checks of the search terms – is that there has been a critical mass of visitors so that those pages made into the search engine rankings. An alternative explanation is that they are cross-linked on other blogs (such as Women in Science and Computational Biology News, and I made it once into the BioBlogs), which is only partially true, given that the ones about multitasking and that we are what we repeatedly do are not linked by other blogs, yet score among the top three.

Last, there may be problems with the data: (i) the data set may be too small with infrequent postings and/or (ii) the existence of the blog is too short, and/or (iii) the total amount of hits is insignificant anyway.

Conclusions

Based on post visits, posts about my research are deemed comparatively uninteresting. Older posts still can generate substantial traffic compared to the overall amount of visits.

Future work on deciding what to write about depends on the value system in place, and maybe other bloggers can do a similar analysis so as to obtain statistically significant conclusions. In a different light: the same does not hold for my home page visits (the causes of terrorism scores best by a large margin, but I actually did my MA thesis on terrorism, and several research papers are being accessed more than the “random topics”); why does this discrepancy between blog and homepage visits exist?

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”The future of our home country necessarily has to be a future of scientists.”

Who said this? No, it was neither Bush nor Brown, nor Blair, Berlusconi, Balkenende, or Benedict XVIth. It is a liberal translation of “El futuro de nuestra patria tiene que ser necessariamente un futuro de hombres de ciencia”. It was Fidel who said it, back in 1961. This phrase is not only on the front page of the science & tech section of the online version of the Cuban national newspaper, the Granma, but also painted on the first building of the ICA complex (see photo). \The ICA—Instituto de Ciencia Animal [Animal Science Institute]—in San Jose de las Lajas, near Habana, is an integrated whole of science, technology, and society, quite different from the common university campuses with spin-offs close by in European and US’s cities’ peripheries. Maybe science researchers and philosophers of science can look into the matter if, and if yes how, this is a more sustainable and effective way of building a knowledge society (what the EU purports to build since the Lisbon Agenda in 2000) than the 3+2+3 streamlining in higher/university education and hidden research institutes. (The Venezuelan government thinks it is a good idea, and they are setting up similarly structured institutes in Venezuela.)

Aside from taking a few days off, I did visit the ICA again (the Agromatica department, headed by Abiel Roche), passed by the University of Havana—the oldest in Latin America that has a fantastic entrance with many stairs and an alma mater sitting at the top—and got informed about the Cuban policy decisions to invest in computer science. Regarding the latter, there’s since 2003 the UCI, the Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas [university of computer science], with some 10000 students, national programmes in computer literacy, and people are working on installing a fibre optics cable to increase bandwidth by some 3000 fold, to name but a few things. The latter obviously implies that, contrary to some ‘regular media’ reports, Cuba is already connected to the Internet and even Jo and Joanne Soap can email and browse the Web; they already could when I visited Cuba in 2004. Admitted, it is not cheap and relatively slow, but possible it is (be it at work, in an internet café, or at home with a modem).

Mobile phones are officially allowed since about 2 months and to my surprise, my lame 3-year old nokia-with-vodafone Italian phone automatically detected Cu_com so I could send messages all around the world (I did not try calling, which is probably mad expensive), which proved to be very useful for meeting with friends at some flexible timing in front of the capitolio, ensuring I made it safe home in Vedado coming from Alamar, and whatnot.

There can be many more things to write about, such as the detrimental effects of recent international biofuels policies and the entry of some of capitalism’s bugs through the tourism sector, but I will close with two announcements. One is for the computer science conference Informática 2009 next February with article submission deadline in August (for those of you who prefer to have an excuse to visit Cuba) and the timely book “The changing dynamic of Cuban civil society” (not that the notion of ‘civil society’ is alive and kicking in Cuba, but it certainly is worth a read nevertheless).