A Little Contemplation: What My Blog Is, and What it Isn’t
Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 15, 2010
I read the happy note from Jeff at The Air Vent, regarding his blog traffic and congratulate him on having taken his blog from a little-known entity to a must-read for thousands of people. Jeff is a great guy and his work has astounded me. Not only has he put a great deal of effort into digging into the minutae of different data sets, running reconstructions, and analyzing the statistical and modeling methods of various papers and scientists, but he has done so in an entertaining way. In addition, he has kept his blog very active, always providing his readers with new information or thoughts.
This set me into contemplation mode. I’m an actuary who happened to start playing around with some numbers a while back with regard to all this temperature stuff. I had started my blog not as a science or stats or global warming blog, but as an outlet for random posts and thoughts. I really had no intention of doing it, but my wife encouraged me and actually set it up initially to try to get me to do it. Why? Because I’ve always enjoyed writing, and she perceived that I needed an outlet.
Some time ago, this blog moved more and more towards a global-warming theme, to the point where I actually gained an increased audience (not like Jeff’s, but it was growing on a weekly and monthly basis) because I guess a few people liked the charts I was throwing out. This caused a bit of a conundrum: if people were coming here for one primary reason, those same people likely didn’t care about thoughts on completely unrelated things. My blog was somewhat schizophrenic. So, I decided to just create different blogs for different topics. Largely, those other blogs are mostly inactive, but occasionally I get the urge to post something, and so I do.
Which leads me to the question about what this – and my other blogs – are really about. What are my goals? What’s the purpose?
Let me start with an observation: We have some very, very good analysts out in the blogosphere. We have guys like Jeff, and Steve McIntyre, and Lucia who are not only smarter than me, but really, really get into getting dirty with the source of data, making sense of it, reconstructing it, and discovering exactly what all the assumptions are and whether the approach looks to be sound. I am NOT one of those people, and I have no desire to be. I’m much more high-level. Sure, as an actuary I need to do these things, but in the end I’m more of a business-sense/common-sense/80-20 rule kind of guy. I very much enjoy manipulating data and observing trends, and noting interesting things about the data. I have NO desire at all to really dig into all the details about how that data is produced, what the algorithms and assumptions are, and all that.
Fortunately, there is no need for me to do that. We have People like Jeff, Steve, and Lucia (among others) to handle that. They really get into it, and they deserve much credit. It is a very time-consuming, and often frustrating, exercise. I have neither the time nor personal commitment to do the same.
So, from an actual content standpoint, my blog is more or less about looking at the data we have and manipulating it to see what it tells me. What are the trrends? How can I analyze it and what are the conclusions? I fully admit that the analysis is only as good as the underlying data, and there are problems with the data to one degree or another, and we have others to let us know about them. However, my interest is in using the data I have rather than solving all the issues related to it.
Then there’s the frequency of posting and commitment aspect. The Superman in the climate blogosphere is clearly Anthony Watts. I don’t consider his blog in the same light as Jeff, Lucia, and Steve’s. Most often, any technical analysis is a guest post, and he covers an entire range of topics on a daily basis, from simple news stories to heads up on simple trends, to highly technical analysis of one thing or another. It’s a great catch-all source that is almost everyone’s starting point for the daily global-warming-news-fix. But where he and other successful bloggers (those who get thousands of followers) set themselves apart, in addition to quality content, is the commitment to blogging. Posts every day – usually multiple ones – with quality effort behind them. Good presentation, as well.
So, I contemplated my own blog, and quite honestly determined that I’m fine with what I do. I have to admit to my relatively fewer readers that the primary purpose of this blog was – and still is – an outlet for me. By no means am I minimizing my appreciation and gratitude for all those who visit – believe me, even seeing a few hundred hits will keep me going at times where I feel like stopping altogether. And the fact that people do check in makes me want to put together a post of high enough quality that it be interesting and understandable. Sometimes this actually deters me from posting, because it takes more time to put my thoughts together this way than if I just hopped on and threw out some random observations.
Also, I fully admit that it’s pretty intriguing to look at the blog traffic stats and see them improving. It does make you want to get to that next level. At times, I’ve tried to force commitment to the blog for that very reason. But because this isn’t really my driving force, I end up overdoing it for my available time and then kind of go into hiatus for a while, which probably isn’t good either. So, I really need to just accept, and hope my readers accept, that the blog will just be updated when it gets updated. I’ll go in streaks where I need this as more of an outlet at times than others. I’ll go in streaks with what it is I feel like analyzing. And as long as I accept that I’ll never be one of those 10,000 readers a day guys, this is actually somewhat of a comforting thought. Once you reach those levels, I suspect you’ve pretty much committed to it, and you need to make sure you’re blocking out enough time to keep it going.
In summary: Please continue to check in, but understand that I’m not in this to the extent that others are. However, I haven’t lost interest in the subject, and I will continue to post my charts and observations as determined by my need and desire to do so, and my available time. Remember that my analysis is usually pretty straightforward. I’ve never really felt like what I present is anything extraordinary, but perhaps it’s just presented or looked at in a little bit of a different way than what’s often presented. Please support other bloggers with your daily check-ins who put so much effort and time into what they are doing. I truly believe that we are all playing a very important role into slowly but surely getting people to re-think some of the propaganda they’ve been spoon-fed for years.
And, by the way, I am back to my old self. I feel the best I have in months, and that in and of itself will probably get me posting more.
Take care, everyone. Thanks for your patience and understanding.