Monday, December 26, 2011

Any Story Behind My Top Ten Stories?

As the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven winds down, a lot of media sites will be spending the "dead week" between Christmas and New Year's by cataloging what has transpired over these past 365 days.

They'll look at who died this past year, the natural disasters which shook our planet, and other major events which will soon become the topics of history books.

Or, perhaps more accurately, history e-readers.

I'm not a huge fan of nostalgia, but readership of this blog will likely be fairly low this week, since many people are on vacation, so I've decided to do something similar to other websites.  Today, I've run the numbers on this blog, and posted which essays have had the most activity from my readers this year.

And the list isn't exactly what most of my readers might expecting.

Granted, it's no surprise that this year's most-read essay was my report on judging at a debate tournament of homeschooled teenagers.  I e-mailed the link to some friends of mine who either homeschool their own kids, or were homeschooled as kids, and they told two friends, and so on and so on.

Harbor inaccurate assumptions of homeschoolers being a sheltered, technologically-illiterate lot if you like, but they're an exceptionally wired group of people.  And if that doesn't square with your stereotype of today's new breed of homeschooling, you definitely need to read that essay of mine!

Inexplicably, however, is the second most-researched post this past year:  my end-of-year summary post I wrote - last year, in fact, during the dead week between Christmas and New Year's - about an even earlier essay about the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. 

You'd think that with all of my tirades on matters related to the Christian faith, or even American politics, those would be the top attention-getters on this blog.  But unless Google Analytics, the user-friendly software I use to track activity on my blog, isn't as user-friendly as I think it is, and the real data on this blog's activity is hidden elsewhere, my take on the Burj Khalifa somehow has captured a lot of attention.  Oddly enough, not nearly as many readers clicked on the link to read the full article as read my summary article about it.  So weird.

Google Analytics has not recorded access to my website from web servers in Muslim countries - probably because no Muslim countries allow server farms to link their people to the outside world - so I'm not sure who my audience was for this year-old essay.  I could flatter myself and imagine Tom Cruise and his handlers were referencing it while researching the Burj Khalifa for their new Mission Impossible sequel, but... I kinda doubt it.

Of further curiosity, four of the top ten essays this year were actually written last year.  I guess "going viral" takes longer for some Internet articles than others.

Overall, however, this list helps to explain why I've been rather eclectic in my topics as I've written my essays this year.  After all, I've had access to Google Analytics' reports on my blog since last year, and this isn't the first time I've compiled this list for my own reference.  During the year, I've known that my essay on the Burj Khalifa has remained consistently popular, even though I've been thinking surely something else will eclipse it.  I like to think that my amateur hobby of architectural theory has at least some merit, but I'm not sure this data provides overwhelming evidence of that.

Indeed, I wish people would provide more feedback to me about where they saw my essays referenced, how they found my blog, and why they were interested in a particular essay.  With Google Analytics, I can see the referencing sites, and even the keywords people use to find my content, but I'd like to know if people were satisfied with the information I provided, or at least intrigued by the perspective I offered.

Alas, I suspect it's as my editor for has told me:  sometimes, no feedback means that you either did a good job, or at least you didn't offend or anger anybody.

Somehow, I find the latter hard to believe, at least in relation to this blog!

1.  Thoughts after serving as a juror for a debate tournament between homeschooled teenagers

2.  Architectural critique of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

3.  Reflections on Japanese ethics in the wake of that country's severe earthquake and tsunami this year 

4.  Architectural critique of Antoni Gaudi's iconic Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain  (another essay from 2010)

5.  Thoughts on Detroit, Michigan's historic population decline 

6.  Blunt perspective on the solution to generational poverty and the welfare state  (another essay from 2010, perhaps because entitlements came under so much fire this year?)

7.  Sharing my intrigue over the new stay-fresh packaging for Oreo cookies  (this was relevant in 2010, but why did people find it interesting this year?)

8.  Reaction to the record-setting purchase price of a Silicon Valley trophy house 

9.  Analysis of a wildly controversial pro-life advertisement in New York City 

10.  Exploring how aquatic theme shows can prioritize profits over human life

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