Monday, July 09, 2007

Bringing Traffic Home

When we started EPB last fall, we wanted to create a group (multi-) blog that would give voice to foundations of education scholars on issues of practical and political concerns, and we wanted to be heard, to be read. The following graph, generated just now by StatCounter.Com, shows that we're being read:

It might be interesting to compare the peaks on this chart with the events in our history, for example the announcement of our blog in particular publications, or listservs, or the date of certain posts. What is clear is that we have attained a critical mass of regular readership, but haven't yet found our way into the big leagues. I welcome our community of writers and readers to use the Comments section of this post to help us strategize how to take these numbers into the regular triple figures.



Craig A. Cunningham said...

One thing is clear to me; only a few of us are actually posting on the blog. We need more regular posting by all of our members, or we need members who will post regularly. And, clearly, we need more participation by women on our team. What is it about this blog, or our team, or our topic, that seems to privilege the voices of middle-aged white men?

Jim Horn said...

What builds readership is day-in, day-out posting, regular posting. No one is going to make EPB a part of her habit if there is nothing new to read.

Along with a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases, I would suggest a commitment by each contributor to post something once a week.

my 2 cents.

Jim Horn said...

What builds readership is day-in, day-out posting, regular posting. No one is going to make EPB a part of her habit if there is nothing new to read.

Along with a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases, I would suggest a commitment by each contributor to post something once a week.

my 2 cents.

Aaron Schutz said...

In terms of who is blogging, I think that if we want to have people who blog, we will need to recruit people more actively. I wonder if we could pull in more people who already have their own blog to do some cross-blogging, like I hope Jane will do from her Education and Class blog. I also bet there are graduate students out there in our programs who might be interested in blogging and more used to this electronic universe than those of us who still remember using typewriters.

I think members with other blogs should cross-post more.

I notice on the chart that the return visitors number is pretty low. Does this chart capture people who get RSS feeds? For example, I get mine on bloglines, and bloglines says there are 26 members who receive our posts (me plus 25). In comparison, The Loom, a popular science blog has 114, Nick’s PBD has 46, Talk to Action, a somewhat influential blog that critiques right-wing religion has 52, Crooked Timber, probably the most popular “academic” blog (which now has Berube) has 279. So 26 is not bad.

I have also been wondering why others on the masthead don’t blog that much. I have a feeling that people may not be blogging because they see it as something “extra” that they don’t have time for. Or, as A.G. points out, people see it as yet another hightly evaluated academic publishing outlet, which it shouldn’t be.

As someone new to blogging, I thought I’d lay out some ways I find topics to blog on and use it for my own purposes, so that it doesn’t seem like yet another burden. I’ve been trying recently to put up one post a week.

1) Future Topics
I blog on topics that I’d like to write about in the future. For example, I’d like to write a book about community organizing and education, but don’t have time right now. By writing these small pieces, I’m laying the groundwork for a more academic piece, and essentially putting my notes together on issues I’d like to discuss.

2) Stuff that Occurs to Me
These may be topics I’d like to write about in the future. Usually stuff occurs to me but then I just forget about it. Like the post I just wrote on Buddhism. I probably won’t ever write an article about it, but it was kind of fun to think it through.

3) Peripheral Issues to Current Research
These are issues that I probably won’t write about in detail, but that emerge in the context of other research. For example, I’m thinking of writing a post about ownership and the free schools movement—the way the free schoolers assumed that personal ownership of space and things was a “natural” part of human freedom. I probably won’t write a paper about it, but I think it’s interesting.

4) Keeping Track of Multiple Projects
I’m not sure how others do research, but I tend to move back and forth between different projects as I get bored of one or another. For example, I’m supposed to be writing up research about a social action project we’re doing with high school students, but I’m also reading chunks of a biography of Hegel for a project on Dewey that’s on the back burner (and because I’m just interested, as sick as that may sound). If something interesting occurs to me, I might blog about it.

To some extent, I see blogging as a way to formalize vague ideas and to organize my thoughts and notes about different issues. This seems better than the notes I sometimes scrawl out and then lose. I don’t blog about everything I’m thinking about, but if it seems relevant, why not put it out there. I treat them as “think pieces” and so unless I’m pulling together research for my own purposes (like a piece I wrote on churches and organizing) I don’t worry if I’m mostly just speculating.

I feel like the blogging will give me drafts to pull together when I am working on different projects.

It’s also a way to keep academic writing going when I’m too busy to do any “real” work (e.g., when I have two kids running all over the place).

Steve Poling said...

I always enjoy reading your blog, so keep up the great work. I think that you have a large audience, as evidenced through your stats. For the academic-type posts you provide, I would have guessed a smaller audience. Also, I read your posts through Bloglines so my hit isn't read through your Stat Counter. You likely have many more readers, such as myself, who don't show up in your numbers. Keep on blogging!

Steve Poling
Ed.D. Student
Elementary School Principal
Tucson, Arizona

Dan W. Butin said...

My two cents:

My guess is that a lot of traffic comes from not simply cross-posting, but actually providing links to readers of large scholarly listservs. For example, I have tried to post links to my own and others' posting (when relevant) on AERA, Anthropology of Education, Higher Education, and Service-Learning listservs I belong to. I certainly know that when I receive an email from one of those listservs with an interesting link, I click on it.

To that end, I would highly encourage the strategy (which A. G. is phenomenal at) of providing links with the multiple academic constituencies we are all a part of. I think we should embrace the existential stance that belonging to a blog is, by definition, to throw one’s ideas out into the world. As such self-promotion is part of the name of the game since blogging is about promoting ones’ ideas in order to foster dialogue. So not only should we commit to one blog posting a week; we should also commit to linking a post to one of our listservs each and every week. How’s that for a manifesto?

Oh yea, I need to post more often too.


A. G. Rud said...

Interesting comments and lots of energy. Craig, Nick, and I talked about these topics when we had that first meeting at UIUC to start this blog. I know I have made comments on this post to just our group but here are some more.

Couple of things I have learned by getting on our actual site: I didn't get Steve Poling's post sent to me via email, so it was nice to see that, thanks Steve! I also learned from him that a Bloglines subscription doesn't show up on StatCounter. As I have said, I use Bloglines to read all my blogs, with the exception of this one and Nick's Progressive Blog Digest, which I get "pushed" at me by email.

Let me think of other ways too we can publicize and link to what we are doing. Er, I mean what YOU all are doing...I haven't posted much lately, been in a bit of a blogging funk (blame the home renovation?) and now have taken on the blogmeister role on another blog, on research ethics. So maybe I will be crossposting up a storm with that and my Moo2 to do triple duty!

Dan said...

you should really work on getting your subscriptions up, here's a couple tips:

- get the subscribe link above the fold on all pages

- add a line to the bottom of each post that says something like "Don't miss a post, subscribe to our feed" and link to the feed url. This will increase subscribers *big time* check my blog for an example.

- add email subscription as an option, a large portion of your audience, like mine, has no idea what rss is or how to use it.
they will subscribe by email though.

- build a bigger blogroll (by linking to related sites like mine!), bloggers pick on on these links quickly and will link back to you.

Good luck!