Dynamic Ecology (and Oikos Blog) year in review

Dynamic Ecology has only existed since July, but I figure that’s long enough to look back at how we’re doing so far. And I also want to look back on my personal blogging year, which means looking back at my work this year on the Oikos Blog before I left. And I’m doing this a bit early (today is Dec. 17) because I’m trying to get ahead and not have to write new posts over the holidays.

I freely admit that this post is self-indulgent, so if you don’t care to read about our traffic statistics, just skip it.

I figured Dynamic Ecology would hit the ground running in terms of traffic, because I’d already built up an audience at Oikos Blog. But I thought we’d basically build up quickly to the traffic level I used to get at Oikos Blog, then slow dramatically. That is, I thought that Oikos Blog had basically gotten about as popular as possible for a blog aimed primarily at developed world academic ecologists. I’m sincerely flattered to say I was wrong. Dynamic Ecology now routinely draws a minimum of about 3500 non-syndicated pageviews per week, which was a good week when I was at Oikos Blog. A typical week for Dynamic Ecology is >4000, and we’ve gotten as many as 5,474 non-syndicated pageviews in a week. Adding in syndicated views would increase those numbers by at least several hundred. We also have more than 60% more followers (Twitter, WordPress, email, RSS) than the Oikos Blog had when I was there.

Daily traffic numbers bounce around a lot depending on if a new post went up that day. On our biggest day we got 1526 non-syndicated views.

Of course, I can’t claim credit for this growth: it’s very much down to Dynamic Ecology becoming a group blog. When I invited Meg and Brian to join Dynamic Ecology, it was because I had reason to think they’d say yes, and that they’d be good at it. But I had no idea just how good they’d be! None of us chases traffic for traffic’s sake, so the massive new audience that Meg and Brian have drawn to Dynamic Ecology is a testament to their ability to write really interesting, provocative (and in Meg’s case, also very funny) posts.

I’ll give the data for our top posts in a second, but first I want to talk about data on unique visitors, as WordPress.com has finally started providing these numbers. The data only go back to Dec. 3. In the first two complete weeks for which we have data, we’ve gotten 1229 and 1508 unique visitors, with an average of about 2.5 non-syndicated pageviews/unique visitor/week. And those two weeks were slow weeks for us in terms of pageviews, so I’d guess they’ll turn out to be slow weeks in terms of unique visitors as well. One surprising feature of these data for me is just how large our “occasional” readership is. Based on the number of responses to our reader survey, and the number of followers we have, we probably have several hundred avid readers. But I had no idea just how small a fraction of our total readership those avid readers are. Comparing the numbers of unique visitors calculated over different time periods (daily, weekly, monthly) seems to indicate that most unique visitors visit Dynamic Ecology once/week or even less. For instance, so far we’ve had 2668 unique visitors in Dec. If you sum up the daily numbers you get 3678, which is higher than the true cumulative number, indicating that some visitors have returned on multiple days in Dec. But it’s not really all that much higher, which means that a large fraction of our visitors have visited only once in Dec. I’ll be very interested to see how the unique visitor data play out in future.

Perhaps we have so many one-time visitors because they just came for one amazing post of Brian’s or Meg’s! 🙂 As indicated by the table below, they wrote most of our most popular posts this year.

Statistical machismo? (Brian): 3190 views (syndicated + non-syndicated). This is also far and away our most-commented post, with 125 (!) comments. Brian basically worked full time for two days responding to the comments.

Some well-known tricks for clear writing (Brian): 1857 views

Do bird papers have the best figures? (Meg): 1854 views. This is our current record holder for first-day views with more than 1000. Meg’s active on Twitter and her posts often get widely retweeted, leading to massive traffic (sometimes 200+ views/hour!) the instant they’re posted.

The insidious evils of ANOVA (Brian): 1673 views

Can the phylogenetic community ecology bandwagon be stopped or steered? (me): 1663 views. Hey, look at that, sometimes people read my stuff too!

I’ve been absolutely stunned by the amount of traffic some of these posts have drawn, as it’s far more than I’ve ever drawn. I actually felt a little bad because, before Meg and Brian would agree to join, they wanted to know how much work they’d have to do in terms of things like responding to comments. I told them it wasn’t that much work, only occasionally did we ever have a post draw more than a few hundred views or more than a few comments. Of course, they have only themselves to blame for making a liar out of me! 🙂

I also wanted to take this opportunity to look back on my work at Oikos Blog, which I left in July. Basically, those data illustrate the popularity of my “back catalog”. My most popular Oikos Blog posts this year were all posts that I wrote more than a year ago! Which is surprising because the traffic for most posts is highest on the first day and declines rapidly over the next view days. But some old posts have really long “tails”, or get unexpected bumps in traffic. My old post on how to choose between Bayesian and frequentist statistics (archived here) has gotten over 5500 (!) views in the last year. That’s due to its long tail, plus a massive spike in traffic from the xkcd forums, which I didn’t even know existed. Popular science-y webcomic xkcd has an online forum where readers can discuss each comic. And when xkcd did a controversial comic mocking frequentist statistics, someone in the forum linked to my old Oikos Blog post, which generated thousands of pageviews. My old post explaining why Gould and Lewontin’s “Spandrels of San Marco” isn’t a good paper has gotten almost 2500 views this year. Presumably in part because that paper is really famous and still widely assigned to students. If you google “spandrels of san marco” or related terms (as a student assigned the paper might), my post comes up on the first page of hits. My original zombie ideas in ecology post (archived here) remains a steady earner, with about 2400 views on the year, as do several other old posts. My most popular Oikos Blog post written this year is the one where I announced that I was leaving (about 1400 views), followed by the one asking readers to name their favorite ecology textbook (archived here). I admit I’m proud of the fact that, collectively, my posts still get something like 100 views/day on the Oikos Blog even though it’s been months since I left.

As always, thanks very much for reading everyone! Looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring. Not just for this blog, but for ecology blogging in general.

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