trenchant.org

by adam mathes
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Learning From 11 Years of Personal Publishing Analytics

At the beginning of this year I resolved to return to proper blogging and began updating this site every weekday as I had intended to do many years ago when it began.

Part of the reasoning for this was that the content I really care about is here, and yet I was spreading myself thin and expending my energies on corporate owned tools instead. This has slowly changed how I published, what I wrote, and where it ended up.

Now that I have refocused and stabilized my efforts here, I decided to do a little more detailed analysis of how I have spent my time and efforts online over the past decade.

I wrote some scripts to download machine readable archives of all of my content across: this site, delicious, flickr, Google Reader (1), tumblr, twitter, and mlkshk.

I normalized the content put it into a document-oriented database (mongodb.) I ran some queries over it and eventually exported some aggregations to make charts.

These are far from the most exciting information visualizations you’ll see, but here’s some of the initial analysis I did.

trenchant daily’s rise, decline and rebirth

When I began writing this site in 2001, I intended to write one entry every weekday. Not more, not less. This shows how close I was to meeting that goal each month.

That goal had been slowly slipping over the years, and pretty much had fallen apart by 2011. But so far in 2012 I’ve met my goals.

While some of the changes in frequency over the years reflect life changes – for example, after graduating college things are less stable until I entered graduate school, sometimes work got in the way, I wanted to look at the larger sphere of contributions across the web to see how that impacted things.

Services Over Time

[Click for larger version]

So, there’s a lot going on here, though it’s probably a lot more interesting to me than anyone else.

Part of the context was changing my website in 2007 or so to be an integrated feed of all the various posts I made. By posting photos to Flickr, links to Delicious, and various “things” to Tumblr, trenchant daily posts declined.

This predated FriendFeed and large corporate (Facebook, Google Buzz, etc.) adoption of the “activity stream” as the next big thing.

I got rid of that a while ago when I soured on the concept, which I like a lot more in theory than practice. (A topic for another essay.)

More things to note:

  • I quit using Delicious and links end up in my browser or elsewhere now (see next chart)
  • I use mlkshk more than I realized
  • twitter is a habit that is impossible to kick?
  • I anticipated a more negative correlation between twitter and trenchant daily, but it looks stronger between tumblr and trenchant daily. (I should run real correlation numbers.)
  • Google Reader starring (which let’s say is a proxy for “engaged reading” on my part) slowly fell off until I threw out all my subscriptions and started over with a more focused reading list
  • The decline in Flickr usage surely correlates to my own photography habits in part, but is also likely due to the audience “leaving” Flickr and the web’s general distrust of Yahoo’s stewardship of the product

Link Sharing

These aren’t all equivalent, but it looks sort of like my activity on delicious migrated to tumblr, and over time mlkshk displaced tumblr.

Conclusion

Much of what I saw was anticipated, but a lot of it was not, and there’s more I think I can learn from the data.

I think analyzing this data and these trends will help me be more mindful of how I spend my time online and happier with my output, which was my real goal.


(1) At various points my Google Reader Starred items were aggregated and shared when my site was primarily an integrated feed of all my activities across the web. I never used the built-in suggested Google Reader sharing tools, which I thought were an abomination. I am not linking to my starred items because Google has deprecated the publicly accessible version of those feeds as far as I can tell.

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