It’s time once again for my year-in-review wrap-up post. I encourage skeptics to measure what they do, so this is part of my effort to practice what I preach.
Something different for this year, I’m going to include some non-skeptical, personal items because – what the heck. I’ve spent a bunch of effort losing some weight and making other improvements in my life. In the spirit of quantified self why not look back on that too?
So here we go…
I also had a few personal improvement goals this year. One was continuing my weight loss plan begun in the fall of 2013. This was done by increasing my activity level (mostly by walking with our dog each day) and by logging the food I consume versus my expended energy. I used smartphone apps for this, of course.
I can report success – I walked over 500 miles in 2014 and I’ve lost over 60 pounds and kept it off. Not only does my doctor approve of my current weight, but he’s been able to reduc the dosage of my blood pressure medication! I’m upping my goals for walking in 2015, and concentrating on maintaining good food habits. (Stop snacking, it adds up!)
I travelled five times in 2014. The two purely pleasure trips were very relaxing low-key affairs – one to hang out with friends in Colorado and the other at the beach in Florida. That was fun to do, many of my past trips have been much more planned out, but it’s good to do something much simpler sometimes.
On the suggestion of my fiancé Jessica, I’ve also tried to read more books (particularly fiction) this year. Naturally I read all the time, but because of the vagaries of work and the blog much of what I read is in the form of short articles or research. It’s good to read more long-form things.
I set a goal to read 24 books in 2014, which I did not reach, but I did get to 13. Only three were physical books, the rest were audiobooks (another new habit that I much enjoy, and which helps with my busy schedule). Four were non-fiction, six fiction and three memoirs. Two were revisits to books I’ve read before.
I’d have to say my favorite book I read this year was Year Zero by Rob Reid, a comedic novel that uses a science fiction story to ridicule the strange vagaries of U.S. copyright laws. Close second was Redshirts by John Scalzi. My least favorite was B.J. Novak’s collection of short stories One More Thing, which I found so unappealing I stopped just over halfway through. (On the other hand, I did quite like the children’s book Novak did this year – The Book with No Pictures. We gave that one as holiday gifts to nephews).
I saw 21 movies in theaters this year, my favorite was The Lego Movie, which I saw twice in theaters. (I haven’t done that since the days of the first Star Trek and Star Wars movies!) Lego was one of two animated movies, and I also saw two documentaries. Other favorites this year included Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy. Best laugh for me (outside of Lego) was a sight gag in Big Hero Six, when Wasabi attempts to cut through the door.
Losers on the list were The Signal and Transcendence – wanted to like them based on the cast but their stories just didn’t make much sense. I saw a number of other movies at home on TV, but I did not keep track of these.
I saw 14 live shows in 2014 – two music, seven comedians, four live simulcasts and a spoken word performance. Favorite shows included The New Mastersounds, Pomplamoose, Aziz Ansari, Joe Zimmerman and Monty Python Live (Mostly). I finally got to see Story Collider in person at the Atlanta Science Festival.
Historically I’ve seen more music acts than that, I may try to correct that this year. But I’m definitely going to continue to work on my reading – I’ve read three books already in 2015.
Before I get into the stats for the blog and the like, a quick review of my skeptical projects for this year. I think I got quite a bit done.
I started blogging at the brand new Insight blog at skeptic.com, edited by my friend Daniel Loxton. That gives me a venue for skeptic writing that doesn’t quite fit the remit of this blog.
The Skepticality podcast, for which I do a regular segment, won an Ockham Award for best podcast at QED 2014.
Virtual Skeptics got to 100 episodes and continues (almost) weekly.
In 2014 I relaunched Skeptic History as its own Twitter and Facebook feed. I also launched social media feeds for the Skepticism Convention Guide on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Part of the purpose of this is to judge interest levels for these projects going forward.
I did better in 2014 than the previous year in blogging, with exactly twice as many posts here at Skeptools. I’m still not hitting the strides in my writing that I’d like. I need to learn how to write useful short posts more often – I have a tendency to turn every post into an epic that requires tons of editing.
But what I did write paid off in readers – I had well over twice the page views and unique visitors in 2014 that I had the previous year. Here were my top traffic draws on the blog that were new posts:
- March 25: Wikipedia founder responds to pro-alt-med petition; skeptics cheer
- March 3: See how to debunk viral photos in seconds using image search
- August 25: WiFi and Internet guide to #DragonCon 2014
- January 27: A butterfly flaps its wings on Twitter, and a vaccine map goes viral
- May 22: Misleading posts in Deepak Chopra’s Twitter feed verge on trolling
- January 9: Lawsuit reminds us that Facebook is a double edged sword for skeptics
- April 16: When you’re not here to create an encyclopedia, your Wikipedia statistics show it
The first post had twice the readers of the second post, and both outpaced most other posts by a factor of 5 or more. You can definitely see that newsworthy posts do well.
As usual, several other older posts made it into the top tiers of traffic this year as well:
- August 2013: Do Not Link allows you to ethically criticize bad content
- April 2012: How many skeptic podcasts are there? Please help me find them all
- March 2011: How to filter persistent trolls (and spammers) on Twitter
Both old and new “how to” posts, probably my stock-in-trade, definitely do quite well – not everything has to be ripped from the news. The popularity of my original post on Do Not Link helps explain why its creator credits this blog for its popularity.
I may be re-adjusting my topics for this blog to be a bit more general this year, to open up some additional opportunities. It will still be technology and skepticism, but not quite so strictly about online tools. More on that soon.
Here are the top social media posts of mine for 2014. The number one post this year is also my number one Twitter post for all-time in terms of retweets and favorites, and as you might expect it’s basically a meme:
I wish I had come up with it! But I merely noticed it in my tech circles and relayed it over to my skeptic circles. Because of all the retweets it was seen by over 48,000 people.
(Seen by over 53,000 people)
(Seen by over 30,000 people)
Since last year, Twitter has opened up their analytics to all users, so now I can see how many people actually saw each of those posts, which I’ve noted above on a few. Interestingly enough, even though it got far fewer retweets, the second most popular post was actually seen by several thousand additional people. The others lagged quite a bit behind behind the top three.
Virtual Skeptics continues to crank along every Wednesday reaching episode 100 this year. We never get truly viral numbers on these, but the viewers are certainly equal to or larger than to the number of people who might view a panel at a conference. By doing the show live we’re able to comment on newsworthy stories right as they happen, difficult to do on a regular edited podcast.
The big story for me in 2014 was again the viral success of my repost of the famed Buzz Aldrin punch video – with proper meta-data and captioning. The 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 happened in July, which meant several major sites linked to my copy of the video, and now it is over 2.3 million views. Quite the achievement for a 13 year old piece of video that I reposted on a lark.
I continue to curate the history of skeptical conferences on Lanyrd in the Skepticism Conventions Guide, with the help of others.
A year ago the guide contained 268 events (25 upcoming at that time, 243 past). Now it contains 28 upcoming and 400 past events! Plus many thousands of linked photos, videos, blog posts, liveblogs and so on.
Even if you don’t use those links, the speakers guide on Lanyrd is now a valuable tool, because each speaker is documented with the history of their appearances.
Crowdsourcing and Other Stuff
I don’t have metrics for the viewership on many of the other things I produced this year, but here’s a simple rundown of what I did:
- Insight at skeptic.com blog: I wrote 3 posts, one per month as planned.
- Skepticality: 17 Skepticism Past and Future segments (up from last year, but I still miss an episode every so often)
- What’s the Harm posted 315 stories on Twitter – usually one per day.
- Skeptical Inquirer: All 6 issues had content by me, mostly the anniversaries on the Last Laughs page
- Skeptic History: Posted every single day on Twitter and Facebook. Added 59 items to my database, it has 1676 items now. (I have over 248 items queued up in Evernote to be added)
- Wikipedia: 44 edits plus 61 edits at Wikimedia Commons. No new articles written.
- Web of Trust: 32 site ratings.
- RBUTR: 10 rebuttals added.
- Conferences: I presented in 9 sessions at 3 different events.
Phew, that’s a bunch. Did I forget anything?
I still can see some room for improvement on my crowdsourcing efforts.
As I mentioned above, I may change the scope of this blog a bit, to open up some new post ideas. I may also start a new blogging venture, kind of a rebranding of sorts. Still working out how that will work – I don’t want to abandon this blog entirely, but I want to start something that will be more appealing to people who don’t self-identify as “skeptics”.
The big project for the first part of 2015 is to get the main What’s the Harm website revamped – something that is long overdue. I think I have a cool plan to accomplish it that will allow the stories to be viewed in some neat new ways.
Otherwise I hope to continue with most of these projects, perhaps in a slightly different mix of emphasis. We shall see. Part of the purpose of this post is to see what’s working and what’s not, to make adjustments going forward.
How was your 2014? What are you planning to do more of or less of in 2015?