Just for fun, I just looked up our least-read posts. Some of what I found was unsurprising, but other things were kind of interesting. Any of you who are thinking of starting your own blogs might find some useful tips here as to what sort of posts people don’t want to read.
- Unsurprisingly, announcements about the blog (e.g., “Meg’s away for a while”) don’t draw readers. Which is fine, sometimes you just need to say things for the record.
- Our Friday linkfests drew very few readers early on. They’ve become more popular, which has convinced us to keep doing them. Plus, I find that doing them is a good source of new post ideas. But they’re still easily the least-read sort of post that we do regularly. I’m not surprised. People mostly share links via social media these days. And apparently, our brief commentary on our links doesn’t add enough value to draw many readers.
- But even less-read than Friday linkfests are short posts sharing a single link. Even if they’re pretty cool links to old stuff like this. That’s actually one reason we do the Friday linkfest posts–the alternative is to do lots of short, single-link posts that nobody would read.
- Joke posts like this one mostly get ignored. Clearly, our readers have no sense of humor. 🙂 This is why I’ve mostly stopped doing joke posts.
- The job ads that we occasionally post for ourselves and for friends don’t draw many readers, unsurprisingly.
- Posts that mostly consist of an interesting or provocative blockquote mostly don’t get read. Not even if the person quoted is Charles frickin’ Elton.
- Somewhat to my disappointment, posts where we just pose a question to readers, or ask readers a poll question, draw few readers. If we just toss out a question and “open the floor” for discussion, we usually get next to no response. The partial exceptions seem to be our “ask us anything” posts, and posts that pose really fun questions.
- Meeting previews and recaps mostly draw few readers, unless we write them in such a way as to effectively turn them into regular posts (and sometimes not even then). I know there are some readers who really appreciate these posts as a way to attend scientific meetings vicariously. But I’m sorry, there just aren’t that many of you. I’ve been dialing back on the effort I put into doing ESA preview and review posts, and I’ll probably dial back further in future.
The general principle seems to be that readers want to read what we think, preferably at length. They don’t want us to just pose questions for them to think about, or write little mini-posts, or toss out links. And they only want jokes about bird poop. 🙂
More interesting are the substantive posts that were little read, but for no obvious reason that I can see. Here, in no particular order, are our least-read substantive posts. Note that the list includes a couple of posts I think are quite good, which just shows how much I know. 🙂 Note also that all of them are by me; Meg and Brian are nowhere to be seen on this list. Make of that what you will. 🙂
Getting over Robert MacArthur. Sparked a good discussion, but in retrospect it’s a bad post. I did a poor job of articulating what was bugging me. So good on y’all for not bothering to read it.
Against live-tweeting talks. A brief post linking to and agreeing with something someone else wrote. It drew very few readers, which is probably for the best as it’s a lousy post. I was mostly wrong, as commenters and some other bloggers politely pointed out. I was also unclear, which caused some people to misread me. And given that the post touched on a hot-button issue for some readers (a fact I suspected when I wrote it), it really needed to be above average rather than below average.
Yes, the IDH is a zombie: a response to Karl Cottenie. A good, productive exchange with Karl Cottenie on the IDH, but hardly anyone read it, despite the fact that the whole “zombie ideas” meme is one of our most popular memes. Maybe this post just seemed too much like a private, technical conversation?
Is macroecology like astronomy? I think this is one of my best efforts and it sparked a really good discussion. Heck, I even think the title is pretty good! But hardly anybody read it. Go figure.
Take-home messages vs. the devil in the details. Argues that we all (including me) skim in many situations when we ought to be reading carefully. But you wouldn’t know that because you didn’t read it. 🙂
Thoughts on NutNet. I think NutNet is one of the great ecology experiments of the past decade, and we should all be racking our brains for other questions ripe for attack with the same approach. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you really should click through.
Why are some ecological ideas controversial? Ok, this one got few readers because I posted it on New Year’s Day. #amateurhour
p.s. Yes, I am aware of the irony that this post isn’t likely to get many readers. 🙂