Monday, May 4, 2009

What I Learnt from a Year of Blogging!

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneOne Year Birthday Cake
Do have a virtual slice of my blog’s birthday cake.

One year has passed since I made the decision to attempt a spot of blogging. It has been colourful and worthwhile. So has the learning, which is great, for learning is still my goal. I have Michele Martin to thank for all this for it is she who enticed me into taking part in the Comment Challenge in May 2008.

World Map Statistics from Google Analytics
During this past year I published 193 posts on newMiddle-earth Blogspot. According to Google Analytics, people from 73 countries visited Middle-earth in the last month – a total of 1352 visitors. The most visits came from USA (529) followed by New Zealand (342) of which 325 came from Greater Wellington. The actual numbers shown here indicate relative estimated ratios rather than actual visits, since I didn’t collect data on RSS use.
That means You
I have 10 loyal followers from countries throughout the world.

I got a lot of help, and by different means, from many of the visitors to Middle-earth.
‘Visitors’ means YOU!

I take this opportunity to thank you for following this blog and for your support.

What have I learnt?

It is difficult to say, even at this stage, precisely what has been the most useful thing learnt. A lot of that learning has been about me, and I don’t mean that in a navel-gazing way. Nevertheless, there are observations that I feel are notable and I’ll list those here.

Google Analytics and PostRank

I was introduced to Google Analytics (GA) and later to PostRank (PR) and found that, as expected, data gathered from GA on the popularity of posts correlates well with ratings gathered from PR. While there are differences, these two data gatherers complement each other. I learnt that the popularity profile of a post created a tail over time and that the fatness and length of that tail bore some relation to the ongoing interest that visitors had for the content of the post.

Blog persona
Typealayzer Brain Chart
I came across the Web2.0 application Typealyzer and learnt that posts I’d written had the persona of a thinker. There was a lot of discussion throughout the blogosphere on the worth of Typealyzer.

I found that most who knew about it misunderstood what it was reporting. I learnt they held the
erroneous belief that Typealyzer was analysing their personality type rather than the persona of what they wrote and posted on their blog.

Telling a story

I learnt the merit of telling stories in posts and found that among the most popular posts were those that tell stories for they had the longest and fattest tail in their popularity profile. Posts that do this invariably reach a high rating on GA and PR often within a few days.

The example post Blogging, When A Thing Is Worth Doing Badly, which has held its PR rating since January 2009,
shows this trend.

Reading Ease

I was introduced to the concept that writing can have a quality known as reading ease according to the Flesch scale. So I researched the use of Flesch Reading Ease in Word. I later analysed the writing of other bloggers who, incidentally had favourably high Flesch ratings and prodigiously popular blog sites.

90:9:1 rule and so-called community

The rather contentious 90:9:1 rule seems to be obeyed quite well on newMiddle-earth Blogspot. From a total of 1352 visitors in the past month, a count of 13 visitors submitting 25 comments closely follows the order expected from the 90:9:1 rule. Other similar periods examined using GA yield comparable ratios.

While this may seem trivia to some, for me it represents confirmation of the difficulty involved in soliciting participation in so-called communities, notably those that are referred to as learning communities. Anyone who has followed my posts on themes to do with communities will perhaps understand that it is not by coincidence that this theme is threaded through my posts from the first month I began blogging.

Who are the commenters?

A significant observation about my commentsphere is that, almost without exception, commenters are also bloggers. The supposition is that people who do not have their own blogs will visit and read rather than participate in discussion. However, it’s also improbable that all visitors who do not leave a comment are not themselves bloggers.

Post topic and content

I found that posts about my commentsphere and the people that are likely to contribute to it, also reached predictable high ratings. This was one of the first observations I made when I set up GA on my blog. I can predict with an unerring accuracy that a post about the commentsphere will soar in its ratings.

Elearning - an exceptional topic

I was delighted to find that posts specifically about elearning, carry substantially high ratings in both GA and PR. A giant among those is The Elearning Apprentice, posted in October 2008, which has a fat tail that pulls a rating matching that of recent also-rans.

Another extraordinary post in terms of its popularity characteristics is Working With Online Learning Communities, which has such an amazingly even visitor rating from day to day, it has not varied significantly since the tail first took shape.

Google Analytics Popularity Graph
Highly complex

As absorbing as all this gathered data is to me, I am still quite unable to make logical sense of the characteristics of ‘my part’ of the blogosphere. I suspect that it is highly complex and likely to be even more so because of the varied nature of the post topics that I choose to write about. I concede that my range of topics is eclectic enough to cause me a considerable headache if I try to make too much sense of some ratings.

Why am I interested in ratings?

My original intention was to study communities in the blogosphere with the purpose of understanding more about what engages learners. I’ve never lost interest in that study. I’d always hoped that post ratings in GA, PR or other such analytical data gathering tool would provide me with avenues for studying community engagement. They do provide some of these, but the data is far more complex than I first envisaged.

The more I observe and learn about community engagement, the more absorbed I become in it. Communities and their complexity are fascinating things.

An exceptional opportunity

What I find is fascinating about my commentsphere is the huge variety of personalities and the backgrounds of the people who I regularly commune with, either through their comment on my blog or on their own blog. They range from colleagues who, like me are interested in sharing ideas on teaching and learning to business managers, from academics working at faculty in universities to CEOs of companies, from consultants in elearning to school principals.

Within those groups of wonderful people are blog-colleagues who I first met in the blogosphere when on the Comment Challenge in May last year. Among them:

Andrea Hernandez, who has been supportive of me blogging from day one - I wrote a post, about one of her goals for the year which she has adhered to,

Bonnie Kaplan, who reminded me most recently
in a comment of the fun we had during the Comment Challenge,

Sue Waters, who sent me a series of emails recently while we collaborated to track down a virus and who was one of the Comment Challenge organisers,

Tony Karrer, who invited me to join the eLearning Learning community to which I now regularly contribute,

Virginia Yonkers, who is one of my most frequent commenters and a great blogging companion,

Kevin Hodgson, who emailed me yesterday to ask if I’d mind hosting a Day In A Sentence on my blog again. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. It’s all about people.

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes


Paul C said...

Congratulations on reaching one year of posts. Your analysis illustrates well the dynamics of blog writing regarding writing style, tone, and message. It's always interesting to drop by periodically to read your latest. All the best!

Kevin Hodgson said...

It's been a pleasure to be part of your circle.

Britt Watwood said...

It has been fun watching your year unfold. And while it is undeniable that YOU learned much this past year, the same can be same from those of us who followed you on this journey!

Teaching Sagittarian said...

Happy Happy First Year Blogging!! Love seeing your posts pop up in my reader! Here's to the next year of blogging :)

Illya Arnet said...

A big congratulations and thanks for the piece of cake!

It was interesting to read this post as I have just taken a longish break from blogging, which does in fact seem to include reading other blogs and leaving comments.

I have indeed enjoyed the posts I have read and all the comments you have left on my blog during your year of blogging and I hope that you will continue sharing. I for my part am back in the game and looking forward to another year of meeting you here and there in the blogosphere.

Sue Waters said...

WOW I can't believe it has been a year! Well done and keep up the excellent blogging.

Yes I really appreciated your help in identifying that there was an issue so that we could track down the source.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai!
Haere mai!
Haere mai!

It has been a wonderful year and I'm looking forward to all that happens in the next.

Ngā mihi nui
Best wishes