How May 2021 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I’ll take this chance now to look over my readership from the past month. It’s either that or actually edit this massive article I’ve had sitting for two months. I keep figuring I’ll edit it this next weekend, and then the week ends before I do. This weekend, though, I’m sure to edit it into coherence. Just you watch.

According to WordPress I had 3,068 page views in May of 2021. That’s an impressive number: my 12-month running mean, leading up to May, was 2,366.0 views per month. The 12-month running median is a similar 2,394 views per month. That startles me, especially as I don’t have any pieces that obviously drew special interest. Sometimes there’s a flood of people to a particular page, or from a particular site. That didn’t happen this month, at least as far as I can tell. There was a steady flow of readers to all kinds of things.

There were 2,085 unique visitors, according to WordPress. That’s down from April, but still well above the running mean of 1,671.9 visitors. And above the median of 1,697 unique visitors.

When we rate things per post the dominance of the past month gets even more amazing. That’s an average 340.9 views per posting this month, compared to a mean of 202.5 or a median of 175.5. (Granted, yes, the majority of those were to things from earlier months; there’s almost ten years of backlog and people notice those too.) And it’s 231.7 unique visitors per posting, versus a mean of 144.7 and a median of 127.4.

Bar chart of two and a half years's worth of monthly readership figures. The last several months have seen a steady roughly 3,000 page views and 2,000 unique visitors a month, an increase over the preceding years.
The most important thing in tracking all this is I hope to someday catch WordPress giving me the same readership statistics two months in a row.

There were 48 likes given in May. That’s below the running mean of 56.3 and median of 55.5. Per-posting, though, these numbers look better. That’s 5.3 likes per posting over the course of May. The mean per posting was 4.5 and the median 4.1 over the previous twelve months. There were 20 comments, barely above the running mean of 19.4 and running median of 18. But that’s 2.2 comments per posting, versus a mean per posting of 1.7 and a median per posting of 1.4. I make my biggest impact with readers by shutting up more.

I got around to publishing nine things in May. A startling number of them were references to other people’s work or, in one case, me talking about using an earlier bit I wrote. Here’s the posts in descending order of popularity. I’m surprised how much this differs from simple chronological order. It suggests there are things people are eager to see, and one of them is Reading the Comics posts. Which I don’t do on a schedule anymore.

As that last and least popular post says, I plan to do an A-to-Z this year. A shorter one than usual, though, one of only fifteen week’s duration, and covering only ten different letters. It’s been a hard year and I need to conserve my energies. I’ll begin appealing for subjects soon.

In May 2021 I posted 4,719 words here, figures WordPress, bringing me to a total of 22,620 words this year. This averages out at 524.3 words per posting in May, and 552 words per post for the year.

As of the start of June I’ve had 1,623 posts to here, which gathered a total 135,779 views from a logged 79,646 unique visitors.

I’d be glad to have you as a regular reader. To be one that never appears in my statistics you can use the RSS feed for my essays. If you don’t have an RSS reader you can sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. You can add any RSS feed by https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or https://www.livejournal.com/syn and have it appear on your Friends page.

If you have a WordPress account, you can add my posts to your Reader. Use the “Follow NebusResearch” button to do that. Or you can use “Follow NebusResearch by E-mail” to get posts sent to your mailbox. That’s the way to get essays before I notice their most humiliating typos.

I’m @nebusj on Twitter, but don’t read or interact with it. It posts announcements of essays is all. I do read @nebusj@mathstodon.xyz, on the mathematics-themed Mastodon instance.

Thank you for reading, however it is you’re doing, and I hope you’ll do more of that. If you’re not reading, I suppose I don’t have anything more to say.

Announcing my 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z


I enjoy the tradition of writing an A-to-Z, a string of essays about topics from across the alphabet and mostly chosen by readers and commenters. I’ve done at least one each year since 2015 and it’s a thrilling, exhausting performance. I didn’t want to miss this year, too.

But note the “exhausting” there. It’s been a heck of a year and while I’ve been more fortunate than many, I also know my limits. I don’t believe I have the energy to do the whole alphabet. I tell myself these essays don’t have to be big productions, and then they turn into 2,500 words a week for 26 weeks. It’s nice work but it’s also a (slender) pop mathematics book a year, on top of everything else I write in the corners around my actual work.

So how to do less, and without losing the Mathematics A-to-Z theme? And Iva Sallay, creator of Find the Factors and always a kind and generous reader, had the solution. This year I’ll plan on a subset of the alphabet, corresponding to a simple phrase. That phrase? I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to think of, but it must be the right one.

I plan to do, in this order, the letters of “MATHEMATICS A-TO-Z”.

That is still a 15-week course of essays, but I did want something that would still be a worthwhile project. I intend to keep the essays shorter this year, aiming at a 1,000-word cap, so look forward to me breaking 4,000 words explaining “saddle points”. This also implies that I’ll be doubling and even tripling letters, for the first time in one of these sequences. There’s to be three A’s, three T’s, and two M’s. Also one each of C, E, H, I, O, S, and Z. I figure I have one Z essay left before I exhaust the letter. I may deal with that problem in 2022.

I plan to set my call for topics soon. I’d like to get the sequence started publishing in July, so I have to do that soon. But to give some idea the range of things I’ve discussed before, here’s the roster of past, full-alphabet, A-to-Z topics:

I, too, am fascinated by the small changes in how I titled these posts and even chose whether to capitalize subject names in the roster. By “am fascinated by the small changes” I mean “am annoyed beyond reason by the inconsistencies”. I hope you too have an appropriate reaction to them.

How April 2021 Treated My Mathematics Blog, and a question about my A-to-Z’s


I grant that I’m later even than usual in doing my readership recap. That news about how to get rid of the awful awful awful Block Editor was too important to not give last Wednesday’s publication slot. But let me get back to the self-preening and self-examination that people always seem to like and that I never take any lessons from.

In April 2021 there were 3,016 page views recorded here, according to WordPress. These came from 2,298 unique visitors. These are some impressive-looking numbers, especially given that in April I only published nine pieces. And one of those was the readership report for March.

The 3,016 page views is appreciably above the running mean of 2,267.9 views per month for the twelve months leading up to April. It’s also above the running median of 2,266.5 for the twelve months before. And, per posting, the apparent growth is the more impressive. This averages at 335.1 views per posting. The twelve-month running mean was 185.5 views per posting, and twelve-month running median 161.0.

Similarly, unique visitors are well above the averages. 2,298 unique visitors in April is well above the running mean of 1,589.9, and the running median of 1,609.5. The total comes out to 255.3 unique visitors per posting. The running mean, per posting, for the twelve months prior to April was 130.7 unique visitors per posting. The median was a mere 114.1 views per posting.

There were even nice results in the things that show engagement. There were 70 things liked in April, compared to the mean of 54.1 and median of 49. That’s 7.8 likes per posting, well above the mean of 4.1 and median of 4.0. There were for a wonder even more comments than average, 22 given in April compared to a mean of 18.3 and median of 18. Per-posting, that’s 2.4 comments per posting, comfortably above the 1.5 comments per posting mean and 1.2 comments per posting median. It all suggests that I’m finally finding readers who appreciate my genius, or at least style.

Bar chart showing two and a half years' worth of of monthly readership figures. There's a huge spike in October 2019. Beyond that, the past several months of 2021 have shown a fair rise to around 3,000 page views and 2,000 visitors per month.
I would have sworn I’d managed ten posts in April. No way to tell, really, except by counting.

I have doubts, of course, because I don’t have the self-confidence to be a successful writer. But I also notice, for example, that quite a few of these views, and visitors, came in a rush from about the 12th through 16th of April. That’s significant because my humor blog logged an incredible number of visits that week. Someone on the Fandom Drama reddit, explaining James Allen’s departure from Mark Trail, linked to a comic strip I’d saved for my own plot recaps. I’m not sure that this resulted in anyone on the Fandom Drama reddit reading a word I wrote. I also don’t know how this would have brought even a few people to my mathematics blog. The most I can find is several hundred people coming to the mathematics blog from Facebook. As far as I know Facebook had nothing to do with the Fandom Drama reddit. But the coincidence is hard to ignore.


As said, I posted nine things in April. Here they are in decreasing order of popularity. This isn’t quite chronological order, even though pieces from earlier in the month have more time to gather views. It likely means something that one of the more popular pieces is a Reading the Comics post for a comic strip which has run in no newspapers since the 1960s.

My writing plans? I do keep reading the comics. I’m trying to read more for comic strips that offer interesting mathematics points or puzzles to discuss. There’ve been few of those, it seems. But I’m burned out on pointing out how a student got a story problem. And it does seem there’ve been fewer of those, too. But since I don’t want to gather the data needed to do statistics I’ll go with my impression. If I am wrong, what harm will it do?

For each of the past several years I’ve done an A-to-Z, writing an essay for each letter in the alphabet. I am almost resolved to do one for this year. My reservation is that I have felt close to burnout for a long while. This is part of why I am posting two or even one things per week, and have since the 2020 A-to-Z finished. I think that if I do a 2021 A-to-Z it will have to be under some constraints. First is space. A 2,500-word essay lets me put in a lot of nice discoveries and thoughts about topics. It also takes forever to write. Planning to write an 800-word essay trains me to look at smaller scopes, and be easier to find energy and time to write.

Then, too, I may forego making a complete tour of the alphabet. Some letters are so near tapped out that they stop being fun. Some letters end up getting more subject nominations than I can fulfil. It feels a bit off to start an A-to-Z that won’t ever hit Z, but we do live in difficult times. If I end up doing only thirteen essays? That is probably better than none at all.

If you have thoughts about how I could do a different A-to-Z, or better, please let me know. I’m open to outside thoughts about what’s good in these series and what’s bad in them.


In April 2021 I posted 5,057 words here, by WordPress’s estimate. Over nine posts that averages 561,9 words per post. Things brings me to a total of 17,901 words for the year and an average 559 words per post for 2021.

As of the start of May I’ve posted 1,614 things here. They had gathered 131,712 views from 77,564 logged unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader here, you have options. One is, if you have an RSS reader, to follow essays from the RSS feed. If you don’t have an RSS reader but want one, good news! Sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. You can use their Reading/Friends page as an RSS reader. Add any RSS feed using https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or https://www.livejournal.com/syn.

If you have a WordPress account, you can use the “Follow NebusResearch” button, and posts will appear in your Reader here. If you’d rather get posts in e-mail, typos and all, you can click the “Follow NebusResearch by E-mail” button.

On Twitter my @nebusj account still exists, and posts announcements of things. But Safari doesn’t want to reliably let me read Twitter and I don’t care enough to get that sorted out, so you can’t use it to communicate with me. If you’re on Mastodon, you can find me as @nebusj@mathstodon.xyz, the mathematics-themed server there. Safari does mostly like and let me read that. (It has an annoying tendency to jump back to the top of the timeline. But since Mathstodon is a quiet neighborhood this jumping around is not a major nuisance.)

Thank you for reading. I hope you’re enjoying it. And if you do have thoughts for a 2021 A-to-Z, I hope you’ll share them.

How March 2020 Treated My Mathematics Blog


March was the first time in three-quarters of a year that I did any Reading the Comics posts. One was traditional, a round-up of comics on a particular theme. The other was new for me, a close look at a question inspired by one comic. Both turned out to be popular. Now see if I learn anything from that.

I’d left the Reading the Comics posts on hiatus when I started last year’s A-to-Z. Given the stress of the pandemic I did not feel up to that great a workload. For this year I am considering whether I feel up to an A-to-Z again. An A-to-Z is enjoyable work, yes, and I like the work. But I am still thinking over whether this is work I want to commit to just now.

That’s for the future. What of the recent past? WordPress’s statistics page suggests that the comics were very well-received. It tells me there were 2,867 page views in March. That’s the greatest number since November, the last full month of the 2020 A-to-Z. This is well above the twelve-month running average of 2,199.8 views per month. And as far above the twelve-month running median of 2,108 views per month. Per posting — there were ten postings in March — the figures are even greater. There were 286.7 views per posting in March. The running mean is 172.9 views per posting, and the running median 144.8.

Bar chart showing monthly readership for the preceding two and a half years. After a loose deecline in January and February both readership and visitor counts were up sharply in March, though still far below the October 2019 peak.
While I am curious what kind of insights Cloudflare Analytics could hope to offer me, I suspect what it really amounts to is “Cloudflare will allow me to give them some money in exchange for confirmation that the most popular stuff is the things that lots of people like”.

There were 1,993 unique visitors in March. This is well above the running averages. The twelve-month running mean was 1,529.4 unique visitors, and the running median 1,491.5. This is 199.3 unique visitors per March posting, not a difficult calculation to make. The twelve-month running mean was 121.1 viewers per posting, though, and the mean a mere 99.8 viewers per posting. So that’s popular.

Not popular? Talking to me. We all feel like that sometimes but I have data. After a chatty February things fell below average for March. There were 30 likes given in March, below the running mean of 56.7 and median of 55.5. There were 3.0 likes per posting. The running mean for the twelve months leading in to this was 4.2 likes per posting. The running median was 4.0.

And actual comments? There were 10 of them in March, below the mean of 14.3 and median of 10. This averaged 1.0 comments per posting, which is at least something. The running per-post mean is 1.6 comments, though, and median is 1.4. It could be the centroids of regular tetrahedrons are not the hot, debatable topic I had assumed.

Pi Day was, as I’d expected, a good day for reading Pi Day comics. And miscellaneous other articles about Pi Day. I need to write some more up for next year, to enjoy those search engine queries. There are some things in differential equations that would be a nice different take.

As mentioned, I posted ten things in March. Here they are in decreasing order of popularity. I would expect this to be roughly a chronological list of when things were posted. It doesn’t seem to be, but I haven’t checked whether the difference is statistically significant.

In March I posted 5,173 words here, for an average 517.3 words per post. That’s shorter than my average January and February posts were. My average words-per-posting for the year has dropped to 558. And despite my posts being on average shorter, this was still my most verbose month of 2021. I’ve had 12,844 words posted this year, through the start of April, and more than two-fifths of them were March.

As of the start of April I’ve posted 1,605 things to the blog here. They’ve gathered 129,696 page views from an acknowledged 75,266 visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, there’s a couple approaches. One is to read regularly. The best way for you to do that is using the RSS feed in whatever reader you prefer. I won’t see you show up in my statistics, and that’s fine. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can open a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal and add any RSS feed you like. This from https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or https://www.livejournal.com/syn depending on what you sign up for. If that’s too much, you can use the “Follow NebusResearch By E-mail” button, which will send you essays after they’ve appeared and before I’ve fixed typos.

If you have a WordPress account you can use the “Follow NebusResearch” button to add me to your Reader. If you have Twitter, congratulations; I don’t exactly. My account at @nebusj is still there, but it only has an automated post announcement. I don’t know when that will break. If you’re on Mastodon, you can find me as @nebusj@mathstodon.xyz.

One last thing. WordPress imposed their awful, awful, awful ‘Block’ editor on my blog. I used to be able to us the classic, or ‘good’, editor, where I could post stuff without it needing twelve extra mouse clicks. If anyone knows hacks to get the good editor back please leave a comment.

Thank you all for reading.

How February 2021 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I hadn’t quite intended it, but February was another low-power month here. No big A-to-Z project and no resumption of Reading the Comics. The high points were sharing things that I’d seen elsewhere, and a mathematics problem that occurred to me while making tea. Very low-scale stuff. Still, I like to check on how that’s received.

I did put together seven posts for February — the same as January — and here’s a list of them in descending order of popularity:

I assume the essay setting out the tea question was more popular than the answer because it had a week more to pick up readers. That or people reading the answer checked back on what the question was. It couldn’t be that people are that uninterested in my actually explaining a mathematics thing.

That’s it for relative popularity. How about for total readership?

Bar chart of monthly readership statistics for two and a half years worth of blogging. After a rise in late 2020 the readership's been dwindling the last several months, though not precipitously.
Oh, WordPress has given up on that little window promising a strategy to make money while blogging. I’m gratified they admitted it so swiftly.

I had expected readership to continue declining, since I’m publishing fewer things and having my name out there seems to matter. But the decline’s less drastic than I expected. There were 2,167 page views here in February. But in the twelve months from February 2020 through January 2021? I had a mean of 2,137.4 page views, and a median of 2,044.5. That is, I’m still on the high side of my popularity.

There were 1,576 logged unique visitors in February. In the twelve months leading up to that the mean was 1,480.7 unique visitors, and the median 1,395.5.

The figures look more impressive if you rate them by number of postings. In that case in February I gathered 309.6 views per posting, way above the mean of 157.9 and median of 135.6. There were also 225.1 unique visitors per posting, again way above the running mean of 109.9 and median of 90.7.

I’ll dig unpopularity out of any set of numbers, though. There were only 47 likes granted here in February, down from the running mean of 55.8 and median of 55.5. That is still 6.7 likes per posting, above the mean of 3.9 and median of 4.0, but it’s still sparse likings. There were a hearty 39 comments given — my highest number since October 2018 — and that’s well above the mean of 17.0 and median of 18. Per posting, that’s 5.6 comments per posting, the highest I have since I started calculating this figure back in July of 2018. The mean and median comments per posting, for the twelve months leading up to this, were both 1.2.

WordPress’s insights panel tells me I published seven things in February, which matches my experience. I still can’t explain the discrepancy back in January. It says also that I published 3,440 words over February, my quietest month since I started tracking those numbers. It put my average post at 590 words for February, and 573.3 words for the whole year to date.

I start March, if WordPress is reliable, having gathered 126,829 views from 73,273 logged unique visitors. This after 1,595 posts in total.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, I’d be glad to have you. You can read without showing up in my statistics by adding my RSS feed to whatever your RSS reader is. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can make one by signing up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Then you can add feeds from here, or any web site with an RSS feed. Use https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ for Dreamwidth or at https://www.livejournal.com/syn for Livejournal. More blogs than you think have RSS feeds, even if they’re not advertised. Try adding /feed or /?feed=atom to the end of a blog’s URL. It may work!

If you have a WordPress account you can add me to your Reader by clicking the “Follow Nebusresearch” button on this page. I’ve also re-enabled the “Follow NebusResearch By E-mail” option, for people who want to see posts before I’ve fixed the typos. The typos will never be fixed. Every time an author looks at an old blog post there are three more typos, even if they’ve corrected the typos before.

My Twitter account is still feral; it announces posts but I don’t read it. If you want to social-media-engage me the way to go is @nebusj@mathstodon.xyz on the Mastodon microblogging network.

Thank you all for reading, whatever way you do that.

How January 2021 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I did not abandon my mathematics blog in January. I felt like I did, yes. But I posted seven essays, by my count. Six, by the WordPress statistics “Insight” panel. I have no idea what post it thinks doesn’t count, but this does shake my faith in whatever Insights it’s supposed to give me. On my humor blog, which had a post a day, it correctly logs 31. I haven’t noticed other discrepancies either. And it’s not like any of my seven January posts was a reblog which might count differently. One quoted a tweet, but that’s nothing unusual.

I’ve observed that my views-per-post tend to be pretty uniform. The implication then is that the more I write, the more I’m read, which seems reasonable. So what would I expect from the most short-winded month I’ve had in at least two and a half years?

Bar chart of about 30 months' worth of readership figures. January 2021 sees a slight rise in views and visitors from December 2020, though the number's below that of October and December 2020.
It’s exciting to think what this implies for the month when I publish nothing at all.

So, this might encourage some bad habits in me. There were 2,611 page views here in January 2021. That’s above December’s total, and comfortably above the twelve-month running mean of 2,039.5. It’s also above the twelve-month running median of 2,014.5. This came from 1,849 unique visitors. That’s also above the twelve-month running mean of 1,405.8 unique visitors, and the running median of 1,349 unique visitors.

Where things fell off a bit are in likes and comments. There were 41 likes given in January 2021, below the running mean of 55.2 and running median of 55.5. There were 13 comments received, below the running mean of 16.5 and running median of 18.

Looked at per-post, though, these are fantastic numbers. 373.0 views per posting, crushing the running mean of 138.8 and running median of 135.6 visitors per posting. (And I know these were not all views of January 2021-dated posts.) There were 264.1 unique visitors per posting, similarly crushing the running mean of 95.8 and running median of 90.7 unique visitors per posting.

Even the likes and comments look good, rated that way. There were 5.9 likes per posting in January, above the running mean and median of 3.7 likes per posting. There were 1.9 comments per posting, above the running mean of 1.1 and median of 1.0 per posting. The implication is clear: people like it when I write less.

It seems absurd to list the five most popular posts from January when there were seven total, and two of them were statistics reviews. So I’ll list them all, in descending order of popularity.

WordPress claims that I published 4,231 words in January. Since the Insights panel thinks I published six things, that’s an average of 705 words per post. Since I know I published seven things, that’s an average of 604.4 words per post. I don’t know how to reconcile all this. WordPress put my 2020 average at 672 words per posting, for what that’s worth.

If I can trust anything WordPress tells me, I started February 2021 with 1,588 posts written since I started this in 2011. They’d drawn a total of 124,662 views from 71,697 logged unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, you can add the feed for these essays to whatever your RSS reader is. If you don’t have an RSS reader yet, sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. You can add any RSS feed to your Reading/Friends page from https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or https://www.livejournal.com/syn. And, if you have a WordPress account, you should be able to click the “Follow Nebusresearch” button on this page, and add this to your reader.

On Twitter I have an account that announces new posts; I guess I’m never going to work out what I have to do to access my account again. My actually slightly active social-media front is @nebusj@mathstodon.xyz on the Mastodon microblogging network. I’m still working out how to be talkative there.

Thank you all for reading. And, I hope to have a follow-up to that MLX post soon. I’m enjoying working towards it.

Breaking Andertoons News: Wavehead has a name


I will be late with this week’s A-to-Z essay. I’ve had more demands on my time and my ability to organize thoughts than I could manage and something had to yield. I’m sorry for that but figure to post on Friday something for the letter ‘Y’.

But there is some exciting news in one of my regular Reading the Comics features. It’s about the kid who shows up often in Mark Anderson’s Andertoons. At the nomination of — I want to say Ray Kassinger? — I’ve been calling him “Wavehead”. Last week, though, the strip gave his name. I don’t know if this is the first time we’ve seen it. It is the first time I’ve noticed. He turns out to be Tommy.

Wavehead meeting the substitute teacher: 'I'm Tommy. You're going to read all about me in the sub notes. I just wanted to say welcome, remember to breathe, and good luck. The game is afoot.'
Mark Anderson’s Andertoons for the 3rd of December, 2020. All the many times I write something about Andertoons and we get this news on a completely mathematics-free panel? It hardly seems fair.

And what about my Reading the Comics posts, which have been on suspension since the 2020 A-to-Z started? I’m not sure. I figure to resume them after the new year. I don’t know that it’ll be quite the same, though. A lot of mathematics mentions in comic strips are about the same couple themes. It is exhausting to write about the same thing every time. But I have, I trust, a rotating readership. Someone may not know, or know how to find, a decent 200-word piece about lotteries published four months in the past. I need to better balance not repeating myself.

Also a factor is lightening my overhead. Most of my strips come from Comics Kingdom or GoComics. Both of them also cull strips from their archives occasionally, leaving me with dead links. (GoComics particularly is dropping a lot of strips by the end of 2020. I understand them dumping, say, The Sunshine Club, which has been in reruns since 2007. But Dave Kellett’s Sheldon?)

The only way to make sure a strip I write about remains visible to my readers is to include it here. But to make my including the strip fair use requires that I offer meaningful commentary. I have to write something substantial, and something that’s worsened without the strip to look at. You see how this builds to a workload spiral, especially for strips where all there is to say is it’s a funny story problem. (If any cartoonists are up for me being another, unofficial archive for their mathematics-themed strips? Drop me a comment, Bill Amend, we can work something out if it doesn’t involve me sending more money than I’m taking in.)

So I don’t know how I’ll resolve all this. Key will be remembering that I can just not do the stuff I find tedious here. I will not, in fact, remember that.