My Top Posts of 2011: A Lesson Learned Again

This is the time of year you see a many “year in review” posts. It’s good to take a moment and look back at what you’ve done.

In the spirit of this blog, I’ve got a year in review post coming later that will be a how-to about measuring your own skeptical contribution for the year. But for this one I just thought I’d look at what my top posts in each venue (blog, social media and so on) were and how much traffic or attention they got.

As I’ve pointed out before, raw traffic levels are often a misused indicator. Traffic can surge for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality or importance of the post itself, so it can be dangerous to let yourself be guided entirely by “ratings” as it were.

That having been said, the traffic levels may have some a lesson to teach us (albeit one that we have seen before on this blog). Read on.

Blog Posts (skeptools)

The top posts on this blog are dominated by the first two, which were both responses to the Mabus problem. Number one is the epic story of Mabus, posted on the day his arrest became public knowledge. It was linked to by the New York Times and such Twitter luminaries as Jay Rosen, and used as source material by many other news stories you can find in the August wrap-up. It continues to get about 50% of all the clicks this blog receives.

  1. Case Study: How a notorious spammer was brought down by Twitter (57K views)
  2. How to filter persistent trolls (and spammers) on Twitter (7K views)
  3. Gamification and skepticism (2.5K views)
  4. Digital Guide to The Amazing Meeting 9 (TAM9) (1K views)
  5. Digital Guide to Dragon*Con 2011 (1K views)
  6. Web of Trust is a useful tool for skeptics (1K views)

The blog as a whole got 86,000 views in 2011, not bad for a very special purpose niche blog that only had 31 total posts for the year. Those five posts above got about 69,000 of those views, again the vast majority of them going to the Mabus case study.

I think there are some lost gems down in there, please explore and see what you’ve missed. I suggest visiting the metrics category. I’m very proud of the work I did there to actually measure what skeptics are doing online.

Blog Posts (randi.org)

I was appointed a Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation in June, and so I’ve been blogging for their site as well. This provides a good outlet for things I write that don’t exactly fit the niche target of this site, but are still of interest to skeptics. I’ve posted 19 times at randi.org, here are the top 5 by hit count:

  1. Skeptic History: A Big Birthday (14K views)
  2. Skeptic History: Archaeological Fakes (12K views)
  3. “Dave Mabus” Diagnosed and In Treatment (7.7K views)
  4. My Skeptic Elevator Pitch (6.8K views)
  5. UK Alt-Med Practitioners Are Feeling Pain (6.7K views)

Again, Mabus makes an appearance. But it’s an interesting mix, and a good example of how traffic numbers can be confounded by other factors (such as time of day posted, what else is going on that day, and so on). I never would have guessed that one of my small Skeptic History posts (which are just short bits of trivia) would have more views than the more newsworthy items.

In any case, the 19 posts over at JREF got a total of 89,000 views (at this writing), slightly outpacing this entire blog for the year – with fewer posts that only appeared in the second half of the year.

The lost gem in this, way down at #12 in the list, was Skeptic Metrics: Measuring Our Impact Online. I think that post has tons of great links and ideas, and summarizes what I’ve been doing in my metrics-related articles mentioned above.

Wikipedia articles

I wrote a post back in July about how traffic statistics show the importance of Wikipedia to skepticism. The ghost of that article is about to haunt this one.

I decided to look at the Wikipedia article traffic for the dozen articles (half skeptic, half unrelated) which I authored myself. All but one of these articles I actually created, so if I hadn’t taken action they would not be in Wikipedia at all. Only one of them actually was posted in 2011, so most of them were available the entire year.

The total traffic on my dozen Wikipedia articles was about 86,000 views – almost the same as the view total for the more than fifty posts (plus the home page and miscellany) on this blog. If you toss out the outliers (like the massively popular Mabus post, and my article about a historic building on Wikipedia), there’s not a single article on this blog that hasn’t been outpaced by one of my Wikipedia articles this year:

  1. George Hrab (9.4K views)
  2. Richard Saunders (7K views)
  3. Harriet Hall (5K views)
  4. Karen Stollznow (5K views in 6 months)
  5. Robert A. Baker (3.3K views)

Yet more evidence of the incredible power that Wikipedia has to put eyes in front of skeptical topics. I could have written any of those articles as a blog post here, indeed it would have been far easier because I wouldn’t have had to follow Wikipedia’s sometimes labyrinthine rules. But by taking the time to get them properly posted over there, I got that content a much larger audience that will continue to grow. And I hope I’ve helped promote the skeptic community to the general public.

Social Media (Twitter)

It’s not possible to get true hit counts on social media posts, for a number of technical reasons. On Twitter, however, you can often gauge the popularity of a post on the basis of what other users do with it. If they mark it as a favorite or send it on to their own followers (“retweet” it), that’s a good indication they liked the post. Based on those measures and counts provided by Favstar.fm here were my top social media posts of 2011:

(10 favorites, 41+ retweets)

(6 favorites, 37 retweets)

(5 favorites, 33 retweets)

(2 favorites, 35 retweets)

(13 favorites, 20 retweets)

(2 favorites, 30 retweets)

(2 favorites, 30 retweets)

(1 favorite, 31 retweets)

(3 favorites, 28 retweets)

(3 favorites, 27 retweets)

Once again, we see Mabus making his appearance amongst an interesting mix of posts. Of course you can get these as I post them by subscribing on Twitter using the button at right or the any of the follow buttons you see here.

Watch this space soon for a how-to post that will explain how I gathered the stats above as well as other numbers about my online skeptical contributions in 2011.

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About Tim Farley
Focused on online misinformation, Tim Farley is a software engineer, computer security expert and scientific skeptic who created the site What's The Harm. He is a Past Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

3 Responses to My Top Posts of 2011: A Lesson Learned Again

  1. sgerbic says:

    Don’t forget that each of those Wikipedia articles you wrote introduces readers to other skeptical pages. JREF, CSICOP, MonsterTalk, The Geologic Podcast, The Australian Skeptics, Skeptic Magazine, Skepticality and many more. Who can resist clicking on those Wikipedia hyperlinks to learn more, especially the pigasus award which gets over 3K hits each month, which in turn leads to more clicking.

    Also having these people’s Wikipedia Backs gives creditability and professionalism to the skeptical community.

    Great job on 2011 Tim! Can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring.

  2. Pingback: Content Roundup: January 2012 « Skeptical Software Tools

  3. Pingback: The JREF Forum Scholarship, and an Internet Family | Two Different Girls

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