Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of the year - the blog

I'm doing these two posts the wrong way round mainly because this is the easier one to right. The premise of these two posts are it's a year since I started in my present job and I started this blog at pretty much the same time. The second post will reflect on my academic development and interests, but this will focus on the blog itself.

In numbers, the popularity of this humble, and rather mediocre, blog has been beyond my wildest dreams. As I'm writing this on the 31 December the blog has had a total of 3,148 hits on its 35 posts. Nearly a third of that traffice has been in the last month with 1,039 hits. It says a lot that the number one generator of traffic has been Twitter. I've luckily had the opportunity to use my twitter account (@urbaneprofessor) to build a strong network over the past year and this means that the links to my blog I tweet quickly get picked up and retweeted by others. For example, my most viewed post is my cyclists' rant on "Child Murder"  which was retweeted by the psychology researcher and specialist on bike helmets at the University of Bath, Ian Walker. It must've touched a nerve with many cyclists groups as it was quickly retweeted and made it back to some other writers who knew a lot more about the "Stop Child Murder" campaign (see comments below). It was also retweeted by cyclists groups in Edinburgh attracting a local audience.

I don't actually understand why my second most-read post is the most read, my most recent post: Why the National Performance Framework is not boring and we should obsess about it and critique it (224 hits and growing by the second). The Blogger stats don't give me much detail about where the traffic is coming from, although I have my suspicions. I mentioned it to a Civil Servant I was chatting to and when the big peak in traffic to the post happened it was mainly from Internet Explorer. Left-wingers and academics being who they are most of my traffic comes from Firefox, Chrome and Safari, and I know the Scottish Government uses IExplorer so I suspect the traffic came from there. If you have read it, can you let me know, as am intrigued. Given I still get fairly small amounts of traffic from Russia and India, I'm presuming it's not bots reading it.

Anyway, given it was the sort of post that I wanted to write when I set up this blog I'm actually quite chuffed that it has been so well read. The other reason I thought I'd get value out of blogging was engaging with other academics. One of the most rewarding examples of this recently was my discussion about a possible final paper I'm thinking of extracting from my PhD thesis, here. If you look at the one comment, it was the productive Twitter exchange afterwards that I really valued. I'm going to make time to write this paper in the New Year. In a similar vein was my third most read post, my hexperiment in crowd-sourcing my Pathways to Impact Statement for my ESRC Future Leaders bid (212 views) which was picked up by the LSE Impact blog (and made a lot less of an impact over there!)

During the year I was also glad that STV Edinburgh picked up on my tweets about the project management farce that is the Edinburgh Tram and led to this comment piece for their website that signally failed to elicit the comments of any anti-tram interwebs trolls. And anyway, it's a high speed light rail system, not a tram.

So, all in all I'm glad I started this blog. I know really understand the power of Twitter in promoting academic blogging and I'm hoping in the New Year that I will still have time to Tweet and blog. It seems the road to academic Hell is littered with the remains of blogs of good intentions. What does the New Year have in store for you, the reader? Well, my PI Annette Hastings and myself submitted our realist synthesis of middle class community activism in time to the AHRC on time. We're just waiting for them to publish our short report online and then I'll probably start blogging about that a lot more. Similarly, if the Gods are looking favourably and my ESRC Future Leaders bid on middle class citizen-initiated contacting is successful then you'll hear more about that. I'm also part of two AHRC Connected Communities follow-on projects, and the project focused on Wester Hailes will definitely be making an appearance on these pages. Finally, I'm teaching two courses this coming semester, so expect some random posts on topics as diverse as equalities, environmental justice and waste management tagged SocSus and UrbanIM that I will be using as teaching material.

We also have some important news stories on the agenda for me that I'll try to mention on here. The most important of which is the 2012 local government elections in Scotland. Two things of specific interest here - will the LibDems be destroyed as a political force in Scotland, even with an electoral system (STV) that favours them? And will the SNP win the major cities (Glasgow in particular) and become the dominant force in Scotttish politics for the next decade. At the moment I suspect the answer to both is yes and yes. As the economy slides into recession again and the coffers run even drier at Westminster and Holyrood, the other big question is how this translates spatially and whether the positive outcomes of devolution, regional policy and regeneration policy will slide backwards to the dark days of 1981-1995?

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