Reflections

It’s a funny old game, this blogging lark, isn’t it? We sit at home (other locations are available) in a kind of self-imposed solitude, thumping away at the keyboard while we spill out the contents of our mind. Then we hit that magic button marked ‘Publish’ and those thoughts can be seen by anyone in the world with access to the interweb. Doesn’t that strike you as a little strange? It does to me. Why do we do it? Are we all self-obsessed narcissists? Or exhibitionists?

It’s a given that we all had a reason for starting our blogs, and those can be many and varied. I won’t bore you by repeating yet again why I started – if you don’t know, but want to, just take a look at my ‘About Me’ page and all will be revealed (there’s a link to it in the top menu, just for you). Many of the blogs I follow have started for a similar reason to mine, but then again many haven’t. And therein lies the beauty and magic of it all, for me anyway: the sheer variety of the blogs I follow keeps me entertained, amused and in some cases instructed on a daily basis. I follow many of these because that blogger has also chosen to follow me and I deem it a courtesy to return that compliment – the likelihood is that we have interests in common and I will enjoy their blog too. There are two main reasons why I don’t follow back. The first of these is where I deem the following of my blog a blatant attempt – usually, but not always, by commercial concerns – to widen their own ‘fanbase’ by indiscriminate following of blogs they clearly have no interest in reading. Sorry guys, but you are very easy to spot! The second is…I’ll come back to that later (I’m such a tease!).

Something prompted me the other day to take a look at my blog’s statistics year by year since I first started this, back in late 2012. I was particularly taken by the stats for this year to date and how they differed from previous years. You’ll notice the link on the right to BlogSurfer – I added this not long after I started at the suggestion of the remarkable Cyd (see Thank You for more on her) and it resulted in some great stats in terms of page views up to 2015, when its influence waned dramatically. The total viewing figures for this year are only about a quarter of those for the peak years of 2013-4, but I don’t care in the slightest. Why? Because I can be pretty sure that the great majority of this year’s views have been from people who actually wanted to read my words, rather than by those who just dropped by in passing from another site. BlogSurfer has prompted just 18% of views this year – in 2013 it was over 90%. The other really revealing stats are that the total number of ‘likes’ this year is around 50% more than the combined total for all previous years, while the number of comments is 250% more!

Isn’t that why we do it? That apparently solo activity is actually helping us to communicate in a way that modern technology allows, and in a way that just hadn’t been imagined when I was younger. I don’t know about you, but I thrive on the interactions my blog generates, and these become a kind of addiction. The more I get, the more I crave. If you look at my blog posting habits, you’ll see that, apart from #NaBloPoMo in 2014 and 2015, my previous activity has been much less frequent than of late. This has also encouraged me to become much more active in commenting on others’ blogs – as some of you can attest! For me, 2016 has been the first year that blogging has really felt like being part of a community. I used to interact with some in the earlier days, but most of them no longer blog much, if at all. Several of you are now Facebook friends – people can deride that, but I see it as a mark of trust and friendship and I value it. If you look at my Facebook friends (my proper name is Clive Pilcher) you’ll see some familiar faces – including Cyd, whose daughter has left her page open for us to drop by and remember her. And if we aren’t already friends on Facebook, I’m open to offers….

I said I’d go back to the second reason why I wouldn’t follow a blog back. It’s a fairly simple one. I’m very fortunate to have English as my native tongue: it is probably the most widespread language worldwide, albeit with localised variations. I enjoyed learning languages at school and studied French and German to our A level standard. But that was more than 40 years ago and whilst I still recognise many of the words I can’t claim sufficient skills to read the languages now. I’m ashamed to admit it, but if your blog isn’t written in English I wouldn’t understand it. Until now, that is. WordPress has recently been promoting a widget for Google Translate, which is claimed to work in over 100 languages. I’ve added the widget – you can see it on the right. Isn’t this wonderful? If every blogger using WordPress added this to their site we could access so many more blogs than we can at present, and those of you that I haven’t followed back could open up your blogs to those, like me, who can only deal in English! Blogging is a global activity, so it seems a no-brainer to do this. My blog has been read by people in around 200 countries – I’d like to read yours too, then this community can truly become a global one! The support of the full worldwide blogging community can mean so much to so many, and I hope this little widget is widely adopted.

So, that’s why I do this and why it is a valuable part of my life. How is it for you? Do tell, I’d love the interaction 😉

 

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New Beginnings?

At this time of year everyone takes stock in some way. We look back at the past year and ask ourselves how it was for us, what we liked and didn’t like about it, what we could have done better, and what we have learned to take forward into next year and beyond. In doing so we have plenty of help from the media: those news reviews of the year on TV, the various end of year ‘awards’ pieces so beloved of newspaper and magazine columnists, and the (not) really uplifting montages of those public figures who have died in the past year. I blog with WordPress (other blogging hosts are available) and each year they contribute to this by providing their authors with a brief report on our blogging year. I have now had four of these and have opted to repost them here each year as a kind of record, as much for my own amusement as for yours, but they are building into a little catalogue now. I posted the latest earlier today: here, if you missed it (how could you? where were you!).

Previously I have posted these without really thinking much about what they have meant for my blog but there has been a big change this year, which encouraged me to look more deeply. In both 2013 and 2014 I received over 20,000 page views, whereas in 2015 this reduced to around 11,000. I know I’m not the most regular or consistent of bloggers but I didn’t think I deserved that! But the big numbers hide some important pieces of information for me. Since the early days I have linked my blog to the US site Blogsurfer, which has given me a major part of my traffic: in 2013 and 2014 it accounted for around 17,000 page views each year. But 2015 has seen a massive decline in these numbers, and it has only produced around 4,000 views. Turning that around gives me a large increase – from 3,000 to 7,000 – in non-Blogsurfer traffic. I have no idea why Blogsurfer has dropped off, although there have been several occasions when the site has been down, but these wouldn’t account for that much difference. I can only assume that the user numbers for the site as a whole have fallen, or that its users are fed up with me! The other piece of data that is very important to me is the actual number of blog followers. The figure shown here includes all of the ways in which I link my posts, including Twitter, which is the biggest by a distance. This masks the actual number of followers who have chosen to read what I write. As of today these reached 200, so thank you everyone. Looking back, 34 of those have joined since I started this year’s #NaBloPoMo, which makes my stated decision not to take part in this again in 2016 possibly short-sighted!

How to draw attention to yourself!

How to draw attention to yourself!

I have enjoyed much more interaction around my posts recently, which is hugely encouraging. There is nothing better for a blogger than to know that someone has read a piece, been interested by it and has felt something in it to prompt a comment. If we’re honest, writing a blog would be pretty pointless if we only had family and pets as readers, wouldn’t it! I’ve said before that I am planning some changes for my blog, and I intend to post more on mental health and retirement issues. But the past two months have shown me that I mustn’t do that at the expense of the occasional ramblings which seem to strike a chord with you. So you will still be entertained (?) by my odd thoughts on aspects of life, and by my selections of music and videos.

A fellow blogger made the point to me that her WordPress review told her that people were still reading her older posts and that she should do something about this. My reply was that the same thing happens to me and I am happy to see it. I have a number of posts that I still enjoy seeing again when I look through my back catalogue – some of which I have updated and recycled when the mood took me. In 2013 I posted No Sex Please, We’re British in response to one of WordPress’ daily prompts, and that is one of my most read posts of 2015. Tagging a post with ‘sex’ is a good way of drawing attention from search engines – and of instantly disappointing people!

My Facebook post - click to enlarge

My Facebook post – click to enlarge

The post from this year which meant most to me was Don’t Give Up, which marked my coming off anti-depressants after four years. This attracted a lot of likes and comments, both here and on Facebook, some of those from people who have been with me for the journey since I was first diagnosed with depression and then, a year on, from when I started this blog. I may post all sorts of other things but at the heart of what I’m doing here is my passion for supporting those who have mental illness, in the hope that in my own small way I can offer them some support and help remove the stigma that still, sadly, attach to those of us who have ever been diagnosed with such an illness. I suffered this again this year, from a now ex-friend who should have known better than to judge me. Wrongly, as it turned out. Her loss though, not mine. This is why I have called this post New Beginnings? – that question mark is very important, as recent followers may not be aware of this, and what I will be doing in 2016 may seem new to them. But for me it is a continuation of what I set out to do.

I have one final and very personal thought from 2015. When I started this blog it was at the instigation of my counsellor, who wanted me to turn what I had been writing for him as part of our therapy sessions into a blog, for others to read. At around the time that I was going through this I met someone via Twitter and we became good friends. She was an amazingly creative and funny person, who had suffered much more than her fair share of the horrible things that life can throw at us, but bore it all with wit, courage, charm and determination. She was the most wonderfully supportive follower of my blog, from when it first started, and we used to chat for hours about anything and everything. Throughout this period she was ill and being occasionally hospitalised, and this took a turn for the worse when she was diagnosed with cancer. But she recovered – so typical of her! Then life played its last and most cruel trick. Within weeks of being given the all clear she began to suffer debilitating migraines, which turned out to be brain cancer. Sadly, this was one battle too many, even for her, and she was taken from us in July. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but if I did the one for this blog would be to honour her memory and the support she gave me by doing more to support others. I am just one small cog in the great scheme of things but if I can help one person in her memory I will feel I have done a very little towards that. Cyd, I owe you that for your friendship and support.

I hope you will stay with me for the ride. Happy New Year!