How September 2015 Treated My Mathematics Blog

So, well, that was disappointing. My readership was off in September. The month saw the fewest page views since November of 2014. The number of unique visitors was only back to about what it was in June of 2015, though, which is less alarming. Still, I can’t fault WordPress’s suspect statistics, not without inconsistency. My humor blog saw its highest readership on record and if I accept that, I have to accept the other.

The humor blog readership I understand. I started explaining what the heck was going on in Apartment 3-G and it’s been really baffling for a long while now because nothing has been going on since February, maybe March at the latest. You can see how that attracts eager readers.

But here’s the sad numbers count: there were 708 views on the mathematics blog in September, down from 909 in August and 863 in July. And well done from June’s record of 1,051.

The number of unique visitors was 381, down from August’s 506 and July’s 415. June had only 367 unique visitors, but that was part of the big Summer 2015 Mathematics A To Z project. That’s probably why more people were reading, too.

I can’t even point to signs of reader engagement. The number of likes was down to 188, compared to August’s 282 and July’s 381. Extrapolating, November should see me get a negative number of likes. Comments are even worse: after three months in a row of about a hundred comments each there were only 25 in September.

So as I say, disappointing. I can think of a few things I did differently in September. The most obvious is that I didn’t have the time I needed to go around to other mathematics blogs and pay visits. I can’t fault people not coming around to me when I don’t come around to them. And I can admit that September didn’t have the richest diversity of postings. A lot of it was Reading the Comics posts, which are fun but I admit also prone to sameness. On the other hand, those are the most popular posts too. I haven’t found a new project that engages my imagination the way the A To Z did, although I think the Set Tour has promise.

I would also put some blame on WordPress’s Publicize, which they keep making worse and worse. See, Publicize announces new posts to Twitter and whatever other social media networks you have linked to it. And in the old days of, like, May, it just worked. By default it posted the name of the article and a shortened link. If you wanted to customize this you could hit an ‘edit’ button and the article name and shortened link were there at the start, and it was easy to add a short sentence to tell people what’s happening.

But in June they stopped with the shortened links; instead it shows as much of the full URL as fits in the Twitter 140-character limit after whatever text you enter. And last month they made it worse. It’ll give the article name as a suggested default publicity post, but you have to copy-paste or retype the name to get even that. The message WordPress is sending is, clearly, ‘stop using Publicize’, although what they have as a substitue is unclear.

I suspect what they mean for us to do is use the new modernized article-entry page. The trouble is, the page is awful. It might be salvageable, or something I could get used to, in time. But it’s also this very watery and Ajax-dependent thing that assumes you have fast, reliable Internet. And I don’t. I have AT&T, which has no interest in providing high-speed Internet to my neighborhood and possibly my city. They aren’t even willing to pretend they mean to bring it in anytime soon. We’d dump them happily but the only alternative right now is Kabletown and goodness knows that’s a recipe for disaster. I suspect AT&T and Kabletown have decided not to compete for the Lansing, Michigan, market and we’re stuck between awful we know and awful we know we’d flee to.

Anyway, my suspicion is that the equivalent of Publicize for the newfangled WordPress add-a-post page works better. But that is blaming WordPress for my own laziness; there’s no reason I couldn’t put in the post and link and a clear #math tag so people know what they’re getting into. It just seemed like too much work. I suppose for a week or two I should try changing just that and see if there’s an appreciable difference.

I’m sorry to turn all this into a round of crankiness, especially when I can think of easy things I should be doing to get better results. I’m just sulking. It’ll pass.