Into a Twelfth Serendipitous Year



On this anniversary day for Serendipity35, we enter year 12 of blogging here.

This blog is approaching 100 million page hits. It will probably click over to that rather magical number this summer.

I don't think this is the year that Serendipity35 becomes a book.

February 2 is an interesting date to have as our anniversary.

In America, this is Groundhog Day. It's an old and thoroughly unscientific time to watch the behavior of animals (particularly the groundhog) as an indicator of what weather we can expect ahead: 6 more weeks of winter, or an early spring.

It is also the subject of a funny and thoughtful film, Groundhog Day, about someone caught in a time loop on this day.

For Christians, it is Candlemas.

But today is also the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

I find all four of these things hopeful, and I am hopeful that I will continue to want to post here about my thoughts on learning and technology.


Blogging By the Numbers

100 millionI was eager to check all my blog statistics this month because I had calculated that the numbers would trip my blog odometer over to a big number. I keep a spreadsheet for the 8 blogs where I write online. I don’t keep track of stats for my Tumblr or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other social sites I use. And I don’t obsess over the numbers month to month because I don’t get any income from people just viewing a page. I am curious about which posts got the most attention because it gives me some insight into what people want to read.

Looking at the total page hits for the eight blogs over their lifetimes, the number has now crossed the 100,000,000 mark.

That’s one hundred million page hits, which doesn’t mean there were that number of “unique visitors.” It is safe to assume that many of those hits come from the same people – and that’s a great thing. Blogs get subscribers and followers who are usually notified of new content and who, hopefully, come back to read more of your posts.

That number – 100,000,000 – sounds like the population of a country – my own little country of blogs.   My blog country is a bit smaller than the 12th largest, the Philippines at 107,668,232, but we are bigger than Ethiopia (96,633,456) and Vietnam (93,421,832). Sure, we are only half the population of Brazil (202,656,784) and Pakistan (196,174,384), but everyone in Austria (8,223,062) could visit the site a dozen times each to get us to 100,000,000.

One of my blogs, Weekends in Paradelle, has a largely North American readership, but the UK, Germany, France and India account for about 25 percent of visitors to this particular blog.

But my most oldest and most read blog is this one, Serendipity35. I have been writing about technology and education here since 2006, so it has a head start on the other blogs. It pulls in about a half million hits every month (532,468 in January and 859,860 in December 2016) and accounts for 97 million of those hits.

hourly statsSerious bloggers look at when people access their blog and then try to post in that time period. For Serendipity35, which has a much wider global audience than the Weekends in Paradelle blog, there is no “hot” hour. People are dropping by here all day and night from somewhere as the graph here shows. 

It’s nice to know there is a country of visitors out there. 



 


Hey, Maybe Your Blog Could Be a Book

blog to bookIt's a dream/fantasy of many bloggers: that their blog can become a book - or maybe even a movie. I've thought about it, and I wrote a post about the idea on another blog of mine this month. Here is a version of that post:

When I started blogging in early 2006, blogging was already becoming pretty common. I started blogging as something to use both in my teaching at NJIT and as a way to get my ideas out there. I had been doing workshops and presentations on the still-new blogs, wikis and podcasts for a while and I was trying to get faculty at the university to incorporate them into their courses.

Then I was asked to do a presentation for business people on those topics. Though I was doing podcasts and had created a few wikis, I was not a blogger. One of my colleagues at NJIT, Tim Kellers, was my tech guru and he created a blogging platform for us to use in our presentation using software called Serendipity. Thus, Serendipity35, this blog about learning and technology, was born. And it's still going.

In 2004, the New Yorker had said that books by bloggers would become a cultural phenomenon, but I never gave that a thought in those days. Since that first blog, I have added 8 other blogs to my weekly writing. As a few friends like to remind me, "if you only channeled all that writing, you would have a few books by now."

Then came stories like that of Julie Powell and her blog about trying to cook the entire Julia Child cookbook in her New York apartment. PostSecret and Stuff White People Like are other blogs that became multiple incarnations of books, but Julie was the star student.  

Her original blog on Salon.com is gone, but is archived on the great Web.Archive.org site. The blog began in 2002 as she cooked her way through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." In 2005, it became a book, Julie and Julia:365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. In 2007, a film version was announced - the first major motion picture that started off as a blog.

Say what you will about the writing of Powell, she had an established readership and that is why a publisher knew that readership could translate to book sales. This is not new to publishing, TV or film - choose things (comic books, hit plays etc.) that have a built-in following and are a surer bet.

The film adaptation, directed by Nora Ephron, also titled Julie & Julia, was released in 2009. The film was actually based on both Powell's book and Julia Child's autobiography My Life in France. This was not a small, independent film. Amy Adams starred as Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Julia's husband Paul was played by Stanley Tucci.

But that is one blogger who got great deals out of many millions of bloggers. It is tough to find a number for how many blogs exist (active and archived) currently but just Tumblr.com's cumulative total blogs in July 2016 surpassed 305.9 million blog accounts. That makes the odds about the same as winning the Power Ball lottery.

Yes, Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody got a book deal out of her blog (not the one that led to her best known screenplay for Juno though).

Another success story is Tim Ferriss, whose blog, the Four Hour Work Week, was listed at number one on the top 150 Management and Leadership Blogs.

In 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton started a project to create a photographic census of New York City and his blog version (and Facebook page) of Humans of New York became the book Humans of New York: Stories and was a bestseller.

All of these are why you can find lots of blog posts about turning your blog into a book. For example, look at thebookdesigner.com/2015/06/making-the-leap-from-blogger-to-book-author/ and authorunlimited.com/turn-your-blog-into-a-book-effectively.

I still haven't moved any of my blogs to the print (or film!) world. I could see my poetry project at Writing the Day as a poetry collection. I'd like to think that Weekends in Paradelle and One-Page Schoolhouse have enough posts to produce a collection of essays. The same might be true of the several thousands post on Serendipity35, but I realize that many of my posts are "dated" in the time they were written. Editing would be a major part of turning a blog into a book. I believe that, despite tales of the death of print, an actual book still holds a special, higher place in our culture than a website.

Publishers: contact me.

 


The Vanishing Blogspot Blog of Dennis Cooper

June 27, 2016: Dennis Cooper is on his computer and his Gmail suddenly reloads and he is logged out.

He tries to log back in and instead of his inbox there is a message saying his account had been disabled.

He checks his blog http://denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.com/ that he has been doing for 10 years on Blogspot, Google's blogging platform. The blog is gone.

The only information he has been able to get since comes from a link that was there saying that the suspension was due to a violation of Blogspot’s terms of service.

Lost blog. Lost mail. What violation? No clue.

Cooper does blog about sex - also death, violence, male escort tales and abandoned things, plus a “GIF novel” made up of GIFs found online. Maybe he did violate some term of service. If so, where is the warning, or explanation, or opportunity to export his content? 

He hasn't gotten any response to queries. he even had a lawyer contact Google. I have several blogs on Blogger and I don't like this. Plenty of others are angry or would like an explanation. If this happened to me, I couldn't afford a lawyer to battle Google. I wouldn't get articles about me or in my defense from newyorker.com or nytimes.com or theguardian.com.

My own experience with Google doing some evil was when - without warning and without any way to get an an explanation or recourse (Sound familiar?) - my Google Adsense account was suspended "for life." (read my post on that)  Why? Our best guess was that because we had been hit with a server attack, they viewed it as some way of boosting our ad "hits." 

What happened to Do No Evil and transparency, Google?



 


Top Higher Education Blogs

Lists of the "top" of anything are debatable, but we were happy to note (a bit late) that Serendipity35 made the list at http://universitywebinars.org/top-higher-education-blogs/.

The list is useful in that it will probably alert you to some other higher education blogs that you were not aware existed in blogland.

Here is their stated METHODOLOGY for the selections:

At the end of 2012, we looked at college and university blogs as a key source of new, meaningful information.  In order to identify the most useful resources, we ranked the blogs we came across.  The sites we found cover a wide range of ideas and concepts, but our methodology stayed the same.  To create this list, we audited blogs at two different levels.

Level 1: We aggregated a list of over 200 higher education blogs that were already recommended by other respected sources.  We then analyzed each blog one-by-one, color coding the ones we would be most likely to recommend.
Level 2: Our editors visited the top recommended blogs, assessing them for post frequency, comment volume and engagement with the higher ed reader community.  They also looked a variety of other factors, including relevancy, helpfulness, insight, design, reputation and more.



The Writing Initiative Blog

I don't really need another place to blog, but the Writing Initiative that I direct at Passaic County Community College has an Initiative blog that we use to communicate with our campus community. Though some of the posts are directed directly at our students and faculty, a number of the resources we write about are useful to anyone doing writing across the curriculum.

For example, today's post is about an article from The New York Times on "Tech Tips For Teachers: Free, Easy and Useful Creation Tools."

The tools include free online sites to help students visualize texts (with tools like Wordle, Tagxedo or The New York Times Visualization Lab), create timelines (using Xtimeline, Time Glider or Timetoast) and design presentations that go beyond PowerPoint (with Glogster.edu and Museum Box).

For prewriting, mind maps on paper, and now electronically, are popular idea-processing tools. Their use was popularized by the British IQ specialist Tony Buzan starting in the 1960s.

Bubbl.us, CoSketch.com and Cacoo are good starting places that also allow collaboration by student pairs or groups. Of course, students can also use The Times for generating ideas on many topics across disciplines from math to fine arts.