A look back on 2020

The following is not a holistic or even personal review of the (widely panned) year 2020. It applies only to the year as experienced by this blog, which I would go as far as to call… relatively good! In keeping with the venerable tradition started last year, here’s a meta-blog post highlighting “our” performance in 2020.

Achievement unlocked: 3,000 annual views

I’ve jokingly referred to 2019 as a “record-breaking” year for this blog because it just barely beat out the viewership record I set in 2016, itself a pretty small feat. But this past year involved a much starker improvement in terms of both visitors and viewership as the result of concerted if minimal efforts. Eddiethoughts.com had over 3,000 views from more than 2,000 visitors in 2020.

I’m unironically proud of this! While we’re by no means dealing with large numbers, the increase in views and visitors reflects some successful strategizing on my part and makes me feel like I could do even better with some additional effort. There is something to be said for setting a goal, no matter how mundane, and accomplishing it.

As far as the aforementioned strategizing, I tried a few new things this past year. First, I wrote more—a total of 17 posts, compared to nine in 2019 and 12 in 2018—having observed last year that per-post engagement was increasing. I reasoned that writing more would lead to improved viewership. I think it worked—at least a little. (I believe update frequency has some bearing on search engine rankings, and as you’ll see below, search engine referrals to the site greatly increased this year relative to the last two.)

Second, I embraced “cross-posting” to a much higher degree than in years past. Mostly, this has meant shilling blog posts in opportune Twitter threads (follow me if you feel like it!) or posting plots with links on r/dataisbeautiful. This is easily the biggest factor in the 2020 viewership jump, as evidenced by the changing composition of my site’s referrals.

Lesser, ancillary strategies included adopting an “evergreen” mentality with regard to some of the written material on this website (i.e. linking to old posts when there’s a good opportunity to do so) and writing about people or works that already have large followings, the latter most notably done with the review of the late David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, which the author himself retweeted, likely bringing an extra 150-or-so views to the post in question.

Top blog posts in 2020

(How’s that for SEO?) Following are the top ten blog posts by views during 2020. Bold links were written in 2020, others are older. The number next to each link is its corresponding view count (during last year).

  1. Smoking and the Hispanic Paradox [975]
  2. Review: Bullshit Jobs: a Theory [215]
  3. The Kids Are All Right [142]
  4. Cigarette Daydreams [107]
  5. Massachusetts Cities and Coronavirus [82]
  6. Quito, en Casa [67]
  7. A Quick Rant About “American Collapse” [57]
  8. Thoughts on Marc Andreessen’s IT’S TIME TO BUILD [43]
  9. A Study in Cat Ladies [41]
  10. Kicking Away the Ladder? [31]

Going forward

I haven’t felt much like writing lately, and I don’t know if this will change any time soon. I think this is due to the collapse in my (and most others’) social life, the excruciating tenor of politics in an election year, and a newly onset and profound disillusionment with our sense-making institutions, which had formerly been a source of inspiration.

I’m going to try to get back into it, though. It’s important to have an outlet, and there’s certainly plenty to write about. We’ll see.

Here’s to the new year, friends.

2019: A short review

With the close of 2019 and the decade, I thought I’d put together a quick highlight reel of the content produced on this blog in the past year. Enjoy the resulting meta-blog post, and if you haven’t already, follow this blog by clicking the button at the bottom of this page.

Top Posts in 2019

The top five most-read blog posts of 2019 were all written in the same year. (That sounds self-evident, but it’s not—some of my older essays remain stubbornly popular, even if I consider them somewhat embarrassing in hindsight.) Here’s the list, with [2019] view counts:

  1. The Kids Are All Right (98)
  2. Summer Vacation to the Southwest (75)
  3. What Colleges Sell (58)
  4. “IRL Impressions” (50)
  5. Birds, Bees, and (Abortion) Bans (48)

It’s hard to infer much from this list, but if I had to guess, it would be an endorsement of graphs and photos—both of which do well on social media and thus bring people to the site. Speaking of which…

Favorite Data Visualizations of 2019

Last year I really leaned into adding data visualizations to these blog posts. This was mostly motivated by a desire to get better at R and statistics. Here are my favorites from this past year, in no particular order:

religious nones

This one is from Kicking Away the Ladder? The rich-world’s flight from religion is one of the defining phenomena of our era. The relationship between religious affiliation and fertility rates, which became one of my favorite topics this year, makes it even more interesting. Also, I think the blue confidence band is pretty.

MGM revenueMarijuana revenue

Both of these graphs are from State of Sin, which looked into the revenue generated by the newly legalized casinos and pot shops across Massachusetts at the end of fiscal year 2019. Mostly, I just think the gap between the state’s expectations and reality is funny. It’s also nice to look at local data. (The MGM casino is two blocks from my apartment.)

One of the cool things I learned from chatting with readers is that the dearth of pot shops across Massachusetts, combined with the ease of growing marijuana in one’s own home, has actually stimulated the “illegal” marijuana market.

abortion any reason

This graph, from Birds, Bees, and (Abortion) Bans, displays the differences (or lack thereof) in men’s and women’s views on whether abortion should be legally attainable for any reason. This is probably my favorite graph of the year, for a few reasons: it contradicts a popular assumption about public opinion, and it effectively and aesthetically displays information. As a bonus, I even managed to throw it and the accompanying essay together while the topic was still hot (during the rash of abortion bans in the summer).

Conservative have more kids

Finally, this year-old graph shows the differences in mean number of children had by men and women of various political persuasions. As I’ve mentioned, I think this is one of the most important political quirks out there. This graph is from The Kids Are All Right, which set an unattainably high bar for essay names.

Improving readership?

As you saw above, there isn’t a tremendous readership at this blog. That’s okay with me, as this is just for fun, but more is obviously preferable! That said, it does seem like this blog has hit its stride in some sense. The site had more views this year than in any other, despite me having only written nine blog posts. That’s efficiency, bay-bee.

Views and posts of eddiethoughts.jpeg
New aesthetic courtesy of ggplot2. Thoughts?

The fact that the blog is doing better by most metrics on a per-post basis leads me to believe that simply writing more would go a long way. Since I, uh, parted ways with my previous employer a little over two weeks ago, I suppose that’s more feasible at the moment than it has been for the last three years.

per post statistics

I’m also up for covering topics that are more interesting to readers, as long as they’re aligned with what I usually write about. (This isn’t about to become a wellness blog or something.) If you have suggestions or requests, get in touch! Use the contact form on the about page or leave a reply below.

Here’s to the new year.