02 December 2007

A Tale of Two Blogs

I started the Far Outliers blog four years ago this month, mostly as an experiment to see how easy it would be to create my own blog after reading so many others. Blogger.com made it fairly easy to start, despite periodic episodes of chaos during upgrades. During the last major upgrade, I moved my blog to the new servers, but did not upgrade the layout. I plan to do that this month, unless I hear too many horror stories from readers who regret doing the same thing.

In April this year, after helping someone else start a new blog on WordPress.com, I created a WP version of Far Outliers and imported all my old posts from Blogger.com. It was very easy, and I much prefer the design of my WP blog, especially the typography and the banner image that I can replace at will. I cannot really compare how easy it is to tweak the designs of my two blogs until I upgrade to Blogger's widget-driven layout mode in place of my old syntax-driven template.

I now have over 1,600 blogposts on each blog, over 400 per year. Sitemeter reports over 200,000 visits and 300,000 pageviews at my blogspot site. I am quite satisfied with being a Crawly Amphibian in the TTLB Ecosystem, and generally keeping some distance (often centuries in time) from all the swirling controversies of every new battle in the blogosphere. I prefer to post backgrounders that add historical or extraregional perspectives on current issues and events. Several online reference works link to some of my posts on Blogger, making me reluctant to abandon the older blog.

Most of my blogspot traffic arrives via images.google.com, because I often link out to maps and images to aid readers (and myself) when delving into unfamiliar territory. My top entry page on blogger is the archive page for August 2007, primarily because the main blogpost on 25 August contains a link to a CIA political map of Southeast Asia available on a server in Middlebury, VT. The same entry, Outburst of Piracy in Southeast Asia, 1754-1838, is also the top post on my WP blog, for the same reason. Only this week has images.google.com begun directing traffic to the WP version, overwhelming the referrals from WP's tag aggregator system.

For a long time, my top post on Blogger was The German Pacific "Gutpela Taim Bipo"—not because of much interest in Germany's former colonies in the Pacific, but simply because the post had discussed floggings and executions, and had linked out to an image at a German academic site to illustrate Field Punishment No. 1 (the pillory, which replaced flogging). The German site later removed the image and I removed the link, thereby considerably reducing traffic to that post. Judging from the search terms that brought people there, a lot of people seem to be interested in flogging, public execution, the pillory, and the like, many if not most of them coming from European IP addresses, it seemed. (By the way, the Australians, not the Germans, were responsible for dramatic increases in public corporal punishments during the 1920s and 1930s in their newly acquired colony of New Guinea.)

WP's built-in blog stats keyed to individual blogposts rather than to monthly archives have yielded some surprising results, showing me that my posts about religion often attract as much interest as my posts on language. WP's tag aggregator gurus have also been kind enough to feature several of my recent posts on religion (and even war!), perhaps because I have remained relatively nonpartisan on those topics. For the record, I am a secularist who believes religion often serves a vital purpose, and also a Vietnam-era draftee who believes warfare is sometimes necessary. In short, I am neither a religion-bashing secularist nor a military-bashing pacifist.

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