Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Blogging

Follow-up: WordPress statistics II

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As a follow-up on topic influence on popularity: Writing that text, I contemplated mentioning a downturn in visitors when I began to write more on political questions again, especially dealing with the Left and the “Right”. However, at the time, I saw this as more of a coincidence than a systematic topic issue.

In December, however, I see something similar: I have written of topics relating to the Left and the “Right” and have not seen the “newness” boost in visitors that I am used to. One possibility is that these topics are the reverse of the topic of blogging, in that they find few readers or even detract readers.

Other possibilities include, but are not limited to, that it is still coincidence, that December is just a poor month (cf. the linked-to text), and, more nefariously, that anti-Left writings are punished by some algorithm. (While I do not consider a punishment likely in my case, especially because my low traffic makes manual attention improbable, I have repeatedly seen claims that more well-known “heretics” against the Left have had artificial problems in e.g. search-engine rankings.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 10, 2019 at 10:06 am

My future plans

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A few words on my future activities and their respective background:

I have quite a large backlog of blog posts that I want to write, some of them at least partially done. This situation was worsened considerably by the roughly five months of construction work that severely impacted my working and living conditions. I also want to spend less time blogging in order to write fiction (and have done so for the past few months).

I have some accumulated or ever re-occurring tasks relating to government agencies (e.g. the German IRS) and incompetent or dishonest businesses (e.g. the insurer HUK or my current building management). This accumulation, too, has been considerably increased by the construction work.

I have a website, which is years out of date and which I had intended to fix during my latest sabbatical. With the one thing and other, I never got around to this before ending my sabbatical to start the work on my first novel. Just fixing many issues with the existing texts and merging off-line changes that never were published* would be a considerable amount of work. Re-working it to e.g. allow a more blogging style of publication (which I consider necessary in the long term) will be another considerable amount of work. At the same time, WordPress is such a horribly user-hostile platform that I will have to get back to my website sooner or later—and every text that I publish on WordPress is one more text that I will at some point want to move to my website, which is more work.

*For various reasons, I had a very long absence from the Internet a few years ago, during which I did some considerable off-line editing. These changes are still mostly unpublished. A particular problem is that this was a few computers back, implying that I will have to search to even find out where the changes are located.

An overreaching complication is finger health: When my writing exceeds a certain level for a prolonged time, I develop finger pains. I could work through this, but I am extremely reluctant to do so, because I fear long-term damage and would like to use these fingers for decades to come. Correspondingly, even when I have the energy and motivation to write more, I have to pace myself. Fingers aside, I could sit down and write ten hours a day for a few months, and then be more-or-less done, but in reality I have to settle for a lot less.

My current plan is the following:

  1. I will take roughly one-month (rest of December, beginning of January) almost-break* from writing fiction, in order to bring as much of the government/business issues as possible out of the way, and to address some of the more important backlog items.

    *There might be a new page here and an edit there, but no set hours or minimum word counts.

    I will also do a considerable amount of reading, which is extremely helpful to improve my own writing. Indirectly, this break will also give my writing the time to “mature” a little more.

  2. At some point in January, I will return to fiction as my main focus, with another reduction in blogging, possibly to one post a week. Blogging will mostly deal with the remainder of the backlog, including the texts of my visits to Sweden (which I will hardly get done during the almost-break) and a few texts directly or indirectly relating to the building management, especially as a small-scale analogy of some larger societal problems*.

    *E.g. how the apartment owners find themselves giving up rights to the building management, which sees it self as an overseer, where it should be a service provider—much like voters and politicians, respectively.

    Ideally, it would be backlog only, but realistically, I will hardly be able to resist the temptation of the occasional new idea. I will try to be much more selective than in the past, however. Indeed, even when it comes to the backlog, I will filter considerably. (There are so many topics to address, especially based on current news, but it is unrealistic to actually address them all.)

  3. When I feel that my novel is concluded at a satisfactory quality level, likely towards the end of next summer, I will take a further break from fiction to bring my website into shape and to look for publication* of the novel.

    *Whether through conventional publishing or self-publishing, I leave open for the time being—self-publishing appears to have grown into a valid option over the years, as opposed to a crutch for those unable to find a regular publisher.

  4. From there on, things are vague, but I will likely start on a second novel, stop publishing at WordPress entirely (good riddance!), and continue some minor non-fiction writings on my website. A migration of existing content from WordPress to website will likely also take place at some point, but I have no idea when.

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December 5, 2019 at 1:02 pm

WordPress statistics II / Follow-up: The problem of new trumping good

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To expand on my previous text, there is a known area where either* choice of topic or tags used do have a clear effect on popularity: discussions of blogging. These texts tend to get more visits from “WordPress.com Reader” than other texts, according to the statistics pages, irrespective of quality. Presumably, either WordPress gives such texts a “preferred placement” relative other texts or many WordPress users deliberately keep a lookout for such discussions.

*I suspect tags, but have not investigated this.

This was certainly the case with the previous text, and I allow myself this second, almost gratuitous, text for the purpose of driving the lousy statistics for November up a bit. (I do not normally engage in traffic hunting, but what the hell.)

Of course, this effect is also a good example of how new trumps good: The effect is much stronger on day one after publication than on day two, and it is usually gone by day three.

Another question is to what degree traffic varies by month of year, e.g. due to vacation periods or the length of the month (visits per day is often a better measure than visits per month). To study this effect could be interesting, but would be quite hard based on the statistics for a single blog, especially because it would be tricky to isolate other factors (e.g. post count and topic choice) from the limited material. I do note, however, that December has tended to be one of the weakest months of the year for me, which could be explained by fewer people being active. (Other explanations, assuming that this is not a statistical aberration, could include that readers are just as active as usual, but read with a temporary skew towards Christmas or winter topics.)

Disclaimer: These claims need not hold for other blogs, e.g. because high-traffic blogs might (or might not) be given a leg up in the “WordPress.com Reader” irrespective of topic.

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November 30, 2019 at 1:31 pm

WordPress statistics / Follow-up: The problem of new trumping good

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Almost half-a-year ago, I wrote about newness and visitor statistics of my WordPress blog (among other things).

In short: Being new seems to trump being good.

Looking at the months since then, statistics seem to bear out that claim. For instance, July saw a record number of posts—and the highest monthly visitor numbers that I have seen since 2013. After that, I dropped my rate of publishing and the length of the average text, in order to focus more on my novel—and numbers, with some delay,* began to drop. Depending on how the last few days of November play out, it might see the fewest number of visitors in a year-and-a-half, and might be short of half the July number.

*I suspect that a greater rate of publication helps to, directly or indirectly, build a temporary standing, which then attenuates over time, while leaving some positive effect for the next month or two.

A particular interesting phenomenon was an increased interest in older texts, to the point that my satirical discussion of Plato* was competitive with my complaints about Clevvermail for one or two months. Here it appears that not the value of these texts were the deciding factor but how often I published other new material. And, yes, the interest in these older texts appears to have faded again.

*In all fairness, with this specific text, the effect was partially caused by a link from another site. Quite a few other texts were affected too, however.

The Plato text is particularly interesting as I had expected it to be quite successful (by my standards) at the time of publishing—it struck me as one of my better texts, one of the most original, and one which could bring some entertainment to the reader (where most of my others texts are heavily focused on facts and arguments). This success did not materialize until the general upswing in traffic, months later, which left me with mixed feelings: on the one hand, this belated success was a validation of my original estimate; on the other, it shows how dependent readership numbers are on factors other than quality.

I also must re-iterate the observation that the more important texts (from my point of view) are among those least read. The text on Clevvermail, a side-topic, a consumer’s complaint, is by far the most successful (in terms of visitors) in the last few years. Give it another year, and it might top the list of all posts on a blog started ten years ago. All those text on important political topics and societal problems? Were my goal to collect visitors, they would be an unproductive waste of my time.*

*Making even a rough analysis of how choice of topic affects my visitor statistics would be a lot of work, but, yes, I do have the suspicion that months are more successful when I publish less on politics and more on other topics. Such differences could indirectly have an effect on the size of the perceived newness–statistics connection.

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November 28, 2019 at 10:26 am

Blogroll update

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I recently stumbled over the German site https://ef-magazin.de/ or “eigentümlich frei”, and have read several entries that match my own opinions or provide perspective/information that would be valuable to large parts of the population on, at least, a “food for thought” basis.

These include:

A text on misinformation about nuclear power that distort the public opinion. Indeed, one of the greatest paradoxes in current politics, in my opinion, is how the German “Green” party is now reaping the political benefits of a climate crisis that has been severely worsened through the irrational hatred of nuclear power that this party (and many of its international peers) has. For thirty or forty years, this issue has been the likely single greatest item on the “Green” agenda, driving up the use of fossil fuels much further than would have been necessary.

A suggestion to rework the financing of public service TV in light of recent British suggestions. Indeed, for more than twenty years, I have viewed the variations of the “everyone must pay” systems used in both my adopted Germany and my native Sweden as grossly unethical, distortive to fair competition, and bringing very little value in light of the disputable quality of public service. This the more so after the Internet has made much of the original motivations redundant, e.g. through the great availability of free news.

Reporting on hateful Leftist students who grossly unethically and anti-democratically try to silence a lecturer with the “wrong” political opinions, in the same style so often reported from the U.S., e.g. by Minding the Campus. If in doubt, they are not only infringing on the lecturer’s right to freedom of speech and opinion, but also on the fundamental right of other students to form their own opinions—and not to just be force fed the official Leftist truth. This case is particularly perfidious: The victim is a professor* who attempted to hold a lecture on macroeconomics. The rejection stems from his being a member of the “wrong” party and seems unrelated to the actual lecture. In effect, his ability to perform in his profession is now being limited because of his political activity.

*“Hochschullehrer”: Literally, “university teacher”, which could conceivably imply something different than a professor, but I do not want to get bogged down with research and translations.

This site is put on the temporary blogroll. For the time being, I do not use the permanent for two reasons: Firstly, it appears to not be an entirely free-of-charge site. Secondly, the tone of writing is not always as neutral and factual as I would prefer. (In all fairness, it still does better than most Leftist sites and slips in tone usually have a far better reason than among the Left.)

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October 20, 2019 at 9:00 am

Sabbatical over, going pro

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With the end of July, I am officially terminating my sabbatical to become a professional author of fiction. If and when I will be a good, published, and/or money-earning author—that is yet to be seen.

As for now, I have a number of ideas for books and short-stories, one of which I have been planning in my head for some time. While the planning stage is not yet finished, I will gradually start to generate text—should I make a mess of it, well, Rome was not built in a day and even Steinbeck’s first effort was poor. (Cf. a footnote in an older text.)

The road to this point, has been long: I have casually toyed with the idea since I was a teenager, possibly even earlier, and I fell in love with one particular book-idea at some point in the winter 2017/2018. This idea first made me consider writing books seriously (but I will save it for a time when my skills have improved considerably). During my sabbatical, starting in April 2018, I have grown the conviction that I need to go professional to have a reasonable chance at achieving something, as well as spent considerable time improving my understanding of fiction, writing, what it might take, etc.—including through a more active/conscious reading of fiction, reading about fiction, experimenting with small test stories, and writing about related topics (cf. a number of earlier texts).

I am a few months behind plan for three reasons: a shyness in pulling the trigger, great problems with finding an official source of information on the bureaucracy side,* and the disturbances through renovation works in my house that have made work hard and often forced me to spend a significant portion of the day outside my apartment (cf. several earlier texts; the last period has, knock on wood, been considerably better).

*Including options for health insurance, whom I need to tell about my plans, and similar. I have a text in planning to discuss this in more detail. Short story: plausible sounding information source A insists that I should ask implausible source B who points to source C, who ignores my specific questions in favor of a few PDF files that I had already downloaded and read on my own.

My other writings will likely be scaled back a fair bit as a consequence,* and I will likely focus on the neglected “Sweden visits” texts in the short term.

*Especially compared with this July, which has set a record—partially, because I wanted to get a few texts out of the way.

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July 31, 2019 at 12:51 am

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A few notes on my language errors III

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A few more notes:

  1. I have already written about my problems with spelling “shelf”. Recently*, I have been bothered by the fear that I have made a much more serious mistake: Using “shelf” to imply something other than a shelf…

    *Specifically, caused by a text on bookstores ([1]), where my doubts arose and I took the safe path by using “bookcase” (but kept some plausible uses, e.g. “shelf meter”).

    My true intention was what the Germans call “Regal”—a set of shelves (strict sense) above each other, typically held together by two sides and/or a back. A bookcase is a special case of this, but English does not appear to have a good generic term, short of using “shelf” in a wider (and, likely, dubious) sense. German Wikipedia on “Regal”* does not point to a counter-part in English (but e.g. Swedish, Russian, and Polish are included). Vice versa, English Wikipedia on “shelf”, does not point to a German counter-part (but e.g. Spanish, French, Russian are included)—and the text deals mostly or solely with “shelf” in the stricter sense.

    *This is a “disambiguated” page. There are other pages that might have an English counter-part, but these deal with other meanings. In particular, the disambiguation page exists in English too, but does not list anything with the right meaning. Here and elsewhere, note that I refer to the state of the page at the time of writing and that the state at the time of reading might be different.

    Some hope is given by translation-website Leo, which does cite “shelf” as one* of the possible translations of “Regal”. Similarly, Wiktionary on “shelf” and Wiktionary on “Regal” gives the respective other as a translation. However, such sites are often highly approximate, in the same manner as entries in a thesaurus usually are only approximately the same in meaning.

    *Together with e.g. “rack” and “frame” in a somewhat similar meaning, and e.g. “royal prerogative” in an entirely different one.

  2. Re-reading [1], I note a rare variation of the words-that-sound-alike* theme—use of “fair [poorly]” for “fare”. Here the cause is different than the main case discussed earlier: the similarity of the words, and/or too few exposures to the written version, led me to actually consider “fair” correct. Re-reading, the optics struck me as somehow odd, and I eventually concluded that it really must be “fare” (cf. “farewell” and the more reasonable core meaning of “fare”).

    *Discussed in e.g. the first installment of the language-error discussions.

    (I also used “reminder” for “remainder”, which is a more typical case. Other errors might be present.)

  3. Issues like hyphenation and treatment of compound words have been on my mind lately. In German and Swedish, these are usually written together in a near blanket manner, sometimes with, much more often without, a hyphen.* In English, they are typically still written as separate words long after e.g. German has made one out of them. Worse, the “full” (“XY”) and “spaced” (“X Y”) compounds can have different meanings (as might the “hyphenated”?). Consider “side wall” and “sidewall” according to Wiktionary:** The former points to walls that are at the side of something, possibly*** restricted to a specific context of certain sports, while the latter has the “side of a tire” as the primary meaning (but also allows a side wall as a second meaning.)

    *Hyphens are typically used when a word becomes very cumbersome, is a bit ad hoc, or is ambiguous. (The latter similar to the, too rare, introduction of hyphens between separate words in English, e.g. to differ between “Female-Body Inspector” and “Female Body-Inspector”.)

    **Better examples exist, but this one arose from the writing of the current text: I originally used “by two side-walls” where the above reads “by two sides”. Being uncertain how to join “side” and “wall”, I actually checked Wiktionary, and found it best to go with “sides” instead…

    ***The linked-to Wiktionary page is poorly written and likely is just too vague on the wider meaning. I also suspect that the pages are poorly coordinated, which is a common problem with Wiktionary.

    Here I am often a bit confused and/or deliberately deviate from the most likely “native” use, especially because the lack of “true” compounds is a considerable weakness of the English language, in my eyes. This in at least three ways (by order of likelihood): (a) using a hyphen (“X-Y”) instead of a space (“X Y”), (b) fully joining (“XY”) something instead of using a hyphen (“X-Y”), (c) inserting a hyphen (“X-Y”) between two fully joined words (“XY”). The former two to some degree overcome the weakness; the third might increase it, but can lead to a more consistent use, might be etymologically sounder, and lessens the secondary weakness of inconsistent treatment of compounds in English.

    In the faraway past, strongly influenced by my native Swedish, I very often went from a “spaced” compound (“X Y”) to a “full” compound (“XY”) without reflection and awareness. I likely still do on occasion, but I try to avoid it and have long overcome the knee-jerk application of Swedish rules for compounds to English.

    (In addition, I also often, very deliberately, add hyphens for other reasons, e.g. disambiguation, grouping, or introduction of a lengthier ad-hoc compound.)

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July 24, 2019 at 6:14 pm