Gas station without pumps

2016 July 7

Suki’s blog posts from Home Education Magazine

Filed under: home school,Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:33
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Suki Wessling has started reposting articles she wrote for Home Education Magazine, now that they are defunct, as blog posts.

Here is one in which I am quoted: College Prep Unschooling

Her articles are generally worth reading, and I recommend that home schoolers add her to their blog roll.

 

2016 January 4

International Blog Delurking Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:00
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Thanks to xykademiqz’s post, I just found out about “International Blog Delurking Week”, which runs 2016 Jan 3–2016 Jan 9. The tradition seems to have started in 2005 (at any rate, there are a lot of Google hits for “delurking week” and 2005, but all the top ones for “delurking week” and 2004 are from later years).

The idea is a simple one: ask lurking readers to step out from their silence to make a comment, even an inane one. Like most blog writers, I get few comments, and it sometimes feels like shouting in a large empty building—there are a lot of echos, but no one there to hear what I say.

Many of my views come from search engines and people passing on links to specific posts, but I don’t really know who is coming to my home page or reading on an RSS feed, aside from the handful of folks who comment regularly. (And a big thanks to them—it helps me believe that my audience contains real people, and not just spider bots crawling the web to link to my posts.)

Tell me something about yourself: are you a student? a faculty member? a home schooling parent? an electronics hobbyist? …

What would you like me to write more about in the coming year?

You can post anonymously if you are shy—I don’t need to know who you are in real life, just who you are as my blog audience.

2015 December 31

Blog year 2015 in review

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:06
Tags: ,

At this time of year, WordPress.com posts some rather pointless “year in review” for the blogs they host:  the one for my blog is at https://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2015/annual-report/.

Here are some of the stats from the wordpress stats page (which is rather difficult to get decent reporting from):

2015 all time
Posts  205  1,653
Comments ?  4,528
Views 101,150  513,069

I’m responsible for about 39% of the comments on my blog (pingbacks, replies to other commenters, and corrections to posts).  The other commenters are a somewhat different crew this year, with CCPhysicist, xykademiqz, Michael K. Johnson, Erich Styger, and gflint having the most comments.

The most viewed posts and pages of the year are the home page and pages mainly reached through search engines:

Title Views
Home page / Archives 27,544
How many AP courses are too many? 6,893
Making WAV files from C programs 3,010
Carol Dweck’s Mindset 2,661
Installing gnuplot—a nightmare 1,475
Why Discrete Math Is Important and The Calculus Trap 1,444
Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest 2014 1,382
Plagiarism detected 1,364
Circuits course: Table of Contents 1,268
West Point Bridge Designer 2011 954
labhacks — The $25 scrunchable scientific poster 933
Why no digital oscilloscope for Macbooks and iPads? 928
Journals for high school researchers 859
Physics posts in forward order 738
2014 AP Exam Score Distributions 719
Pressure sensor with air pump 709
Getting text from Amazon’s “Look Inside” 708
Algorithmic vs. Computational thinking 660
Homeschooling chemistry this year? 607
EKG blinky parts list and assembly instructions 591
Teaching voice projection 557
Conductivity of saline solution 540
Difficulties with the new Common Application 531
Spread on SAT2 raw scores 503

Of the top 20 most-viewed posts, only the Plagiarism detected post was written this year, but the popular posts are mostly more contentful posts than in previous years, which often favored posts that were little more than links to other sites, though students looking for bridge-design contest cheats are still a large chunk of the searches.  Two of my post popular pages (Circuits course: Table of Contents and Physics posts in forward order) are organizational aids to posts on the blog, and the circuits course page was updated 100 times in 2015, as 100 posts or pages were added to the blog for the applied electronics course (almost half the posts for this year).

I have no way of querying the WordPress.com stats for comments made this year—their stats are based either on the 1000 most recent comments or on all-time comments (it isn’t always clear which). The most commented-on posts based on whichever criterion they are using are also mostly not from this year (only the Why doesn’t anyone comment on blogs? post is from this year):

Post Comments
We create a problem when we pass the incompetent 27
Teaching engineering thinking 25
Why doesn’t anyone comment on blogs? 25
Why Python first? 21
Coursera Course Catalog 19
College tool box 18
Changes to UC admissions requirements 17
Storytelling to close the gender gap? 17
Student debt 16
A critique of CS textbooks 16

Other than internal links on my blogs, the biggest numbers of clicks were to Carol Dweck’s materials at Stanford, my web pages at UCSC, Wikipedia pages, Digi-Key product pages, and Art of Problem Solving pages.

Overall, I’m moderately satisfied with this year’s blogging.  The variety of posts has been down a bit (more than half the posts have had to do with electronics or teaching the electronics course, and those posts are not as popular as what I was writing a few years ago), but I’ve still got stub drafts for over 200 more posts, and another 500–600 bookmarks that haven’t even made it to stubs yet, so I won’t run out of material if I ever get the time and energy to do more blogging.

2015 January 2

Why doesn’t anyone comment on blogs?

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:27
Tags: , , ,

Nina Simon’s Muesum 2.0 blog post, What You Lose When You Become Embedded, and a Moment of Mourning for Blog Conversations, discusses how her posts start a lot of conversations that she is not privy to, and that she would really like to be included in discussions of her posts.

Problem is, I’m only part of a tiny fraction of those conversations. I’m learning less. I feel more lonely in my writing. It makes it harder to keep it up.

This “problem” disproportionately impacts only one of this blog’s thousands of users: me. For me, this content being embedded across different platforms and conversations is lovely in the abstract but frustrating in the day-to-day. I used to feel like a party host with really amazing guests. Now I feel like a street performer. I’m part of a bigger city. I supply some content but only get to talk with a few gadflies who stick close to the show (of whom I am very appreciative). One of my greatest blogging-related joys is when someone shares a blog post with a colleague and accidentally hits “reply” instead of “forward”—thus letting me in on their conversation.

This is what it means to be embedded. To not be the center of attention. To be used by someone else, somewhere else, without notification or participation. To be more important, but to feel less important.

In response to a comment of mine on the post, Nina Simon pointed me to another article about blog comments that she wrote way back in 2008, Museum 2.0: Why Doesn’t Anyone Comment on Your Blog?:

When people ask about blogging, the question of comments comes up more frequently than any other. It’s a bit strange. Why not ask more typical website questions, “why don’t more people visit my blog?” or “why don’t more people link to my blog?” There are many good ways to measure a blog’s value, but somewhere inside ourselves, we feel that comments are the thing that validate a blog’s existence. They prove that the conversation is two-way. They demonstrate that the blog is a more participatory vehicle than other kinds of media. So when people ask, “Why don’t more people comment?,” it gets me excited. It means that you are blogging because you want to hear from someone else.

In both her old post and her new one, she talks about why people don’t comment much. Although it is clear that she accepts the rather low ratio of commenters to readers, it is also clear that she would rather have more public conversations in her blog.

Me too.

The external commenting rate on my blog is about 0.6%—that is, about 6 comments from people other than me per 1000 views.  I’d like to have a rate more like 2–3%, that is, four or five times as many comments as I now get.

One of her commenters pointed out that a lot of ephemeral discussion happens on Facebook and Twitter, and that many people are intimidated by the greater permanence and public nature of blog comments.  Some of her lurkers have promised to try to comment more on her blog (though they recognized that this was likely to go the way of all New Year’s resolutions).

I don’t even have that comfort of triggering discussions on other platforms, as I doubt that my posts are getting much attention on Facebook or Twitter—the referral numbers to my blog from either is rather low. About 2/3 of my views are coming from search engine hits—people are looking for specific material that Google thinks they can find in one of my blog posts.  They may read just one blog post and not return, though I do have a (small) number of regular readers who subscribe to the blog.

One big difference, I suspect, between her blog and mine is that she has a fairly large community of regular readers on her blog, almost all of whom are interested in museum administration. They have a lot to say to each other. My more scattered posts on electronics, programming, teaching, home schooling, university administration, and random stuff that interests me does not result in a large, loyal following. People who are interested in only some of my posts may have nothing to say to people interested in other of my posts. When I put up a series of posts on one topic, I may lose subscribers who were only interested in one of the other topics.

I follow a lot of blogs (too many, actually, as it eats up too much of my time), and I try to comment on them whenever I have anything to say, because I know how much comments mean to blog writers. Even slightly stupid comments are better than silence. (I try not to make stupid comments, but I’m sure I do sometimes.) Some of my most frequent commenters are fellow bloggers whose blogs I comment on—we sometimes have blog conversations that are not contained just within the comments, but that trigger longer posts on our own blogs.  These are often quite satisfying conversations, which we are glad to share with other readers—and we invite you to join the conversation in the comments.

For those of you who don’t feel you have anything to say, here are some questions I’d like answers to: What brings you to my blog? What should I write about to keep your interest? What topics would you feel more comfortable commenting on?


I’m a bit of a fringe member of Nina’s blog community, having gotten interested in the Museum 2.0 blog mainly because of what she had done to turn the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz from a stodgy little provincial museum, of no interest to almost anyone, into a vital part of the community. I keep reading her blog, because she writes well and gets me thinking about things I would otherwise not consider, even if much of what she writes about has no application to my professional or personal life.

2014 December 31

2014 in review

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:15
Tags: ,

WordPress.com prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog—missing, of course, the last 3 days of 2014.  I prepared my own report today, with somewhat more up-to-date statistics.

I had about 116,000 views in 2014, up slightly (about 3.6%) from 112,251 in 2013. My blog seems to have reached a nearly steady state of readership, with only 3.5% growth a year for the past 2 years. The standard advice for making popular blogs (creating a narrowly focused, single-topic blog and pushing it a lot on social media) does not appeal to me, so I’ll continue making an eclectic mix of things that interest me, and be content with having relatively few readers.

I still don’t get many comments though, with the total number of comments about 0.97% of the total number of views, and about 39% of the comments are mine (either automatically generated links to newer posts or replies to other commenters), so the outside comments per view is more like 0.6%. These numbers are approximate, because WordPress doesn’t provide a time-based analysis of comments. My top commenters are thoughtful people, and I appreciate the comments they provide.

My readers are from around the world, though the US dominates (not surprising, since much of my content is about education in the US):

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 76,890
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 4,064
Canada FlagCanada 3,216
India FlagIndia 2,608
Germany FlagGermany 2,207
Australia FlagAustralia 2,000
France FlagFrance 1,885
Korea, Republic of FlagRepublic of Korea 1,357
Italy FlagItaly 1,192

The most popular entry point this past year has been home page (which is what subscribers go to, or people looking specifically for my blog), but the home page accounts for only about 30% of the views—the rest come from direct links to the blog or search-engine hits.  The most popular posts this past year are an eclectic mix—some are technical help (like installing gnuplot or making WAV files from C programs), some are educational musings (how many AP courses or Carol Dweck’s Mindset), some are looked for by students cheating on homework (the various bridge design contest posts), and some are just pointers to other sites (like the AP exam score distributions). Of the posts with ≥500 views, only 4 were written in 2014, 4 in 2013, 8 in 2012, 7 in 2011, and 1 way back in 2010.  My stuff seems to get more popular with age (or I was a better writer 2–3 years ago).

Home page / Archives 34,570
How many AP courses are too many? 4,602
Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest 2014 2,603
Installing gnuplot—a nightmare 2,537
Carol Dweck’s Mindset 2,333
Making WAV files from C programs 2,133
Why no digital oscilloscope for Macbooks and iPads? 1,831
West Point Bridge Designer 2011 1,675
Why Discrete Math Is Important and The Calculus Trap 1,544
2014 AP Exam Score Distributions 1,422
2011 AP Exam Score Distribution 1,345
CS commenters need to learn statistics 1,161
Essay prompts for college applications 1,161
Homeschooling chemistry this year? 1,008
Journals for high school researchers 937
Summer project 937
Difficulties with the new Common Application 853
FET threshold tests with Bitscope 790
labhacks — The $25 scrunchable scientific poster 662
EKG blinky parts list and assembly instructions 654
Teaching voice projection 605
Physics posts in forward order 577
EMG and EKG works 562
Soda-bottle rockets 532
Making Ag/AgCl electrodes 530
West Point Bridge Design Contest 2012 523
Getting text from Amazon’s “Look Inside” 509

The WordPress annual report referrer list is misleading, as the search engines and social media outstrip the web pages that they list, with search engines being the main way that people find posts on this blog. The Facebook and Twitter links are interesting, since I don’t use either service. I do comment a lot on computinged and xykademiqz, and the writers of those blogs are also frequent commenters on my blog, so the views from those more popular blogs are welcome.

Referrer Views
Search Engines 61,171
slashdot.org 549
computinged.wordpress.com 492
Facebook 484
Twitter 369
xykademiqz.wordpress.com 272
users.soe.ucsc.edu 211

 

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