A year of Grow Fins

I started this blog a year ago today. I didn’t have any expectations when I started it (I still don’t), so it’s difficult to say whether I’m satisfied with the frequency and the quality of my posts, the reactions, and the readership. But let me try to say a few things.

First of all, I have noticed that blogging forces me to think about the relevance of the work I do. If I go to a conference, what do I learn that I can explain to a lay person? If I publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal, how does it relate to a non-academic reader? Another thing is that it forces me to follow not just the scientific literature, but also the public debate. Shortly after starting this blog I opened a Twitter account, and this is a great way to keep track of the debate if you manage to sift through the non-news from some users (look everyone, new boots!) and feel-good tweets from others (did you hug a tree today?). I follow the online news of some Dutch and UK newspapers but I don’t have a high esteem of most of them, except for The Economist, which is the only newspaper I actually pay for. But most news on fishing and other marine issues is too obscure to be published in any of these newspapers anyway, so that most of what you do read is based on press releases from environmental NGOs, or from scientific journals (Nature and Science, basically) that like to publish oversimplified and overgeneralised research (2048, anyone?). Twitter fills this gap nicely.

Second, I try to write one post per week but that’s more difficult than I thought. I cannot begin to grasp how David Zetland writes about 4-5 posts per week. (Perhaps I should write shorter posts, I know.) Sometimes I publish more, sometimes I write more but I save the posts for later. During my Vietnam trip I did this on purpose in order to publish them after my return. (Burglars have internet access, you know.)

Third, Blogger keeps the stats of its blogs so I can get some idea of what has been read and what has not been. In the past year I posted 78 posts, which altogether were read 3196 times. That may seem like a lot (almost 40 reads per post) but the numbers include a bot attack that generated a lot of artificial traffic. Keeping that in mind, the top 5 of most frequently read posts is:

Why economists argue with ecologists (4): Economics and thermodynamics 105
Yet another scientific fraud scandal in the Netherlands 85
Stuff I do: marine invasive species 56
At least they read my CV 48
The Stapel affair: it is worse than we thought and
The Living Planet Report (2): Ecological Footprint makes for nice reading but abominable science

One thing to mind, of course, is that older posts have had more time to be read, and hence get more reads, than newer posts. Here are the most used search terms that led readers to my blog:

dirk smeesters, dirk smeesters fraud, stapel smeesters, dirk smeesters cv
choke species, “choke species” 18
blog “marine economics” 10
laura dean acquisition editor
why economists argue with ecologists

I’m honoured people actually searched for my blog, although I wonder why you would search for a url rather than type it into the address bar of your browser. The two scientific fraud affairs (Diederik Stapel and Dirk Smeesters) were a lot in the news last year, which explains why people search for them, which explains the number of reads for my posts on this topic. Lots of scientists must also be wondering who is Laura Dean, and I’m happy that at least some people found my post where I referred to another blog that explains why this name is associated with one of countless predatory publishers.

But what I like most is that people searched for information on choke species, differences between economists and ecologists, and ecological footprint (not shown here), and found my blog. I know, if all those people were in one class room and I would be teaching them I’d call it a very small class. But it’s enough for me to keep on blogging.

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