A Reflective Anniversary

Happy anniversary to “nashworld.”  This post is the 65th of the year, and it comes exactly one year after my first post on April 21st, 2008.  Wow.  Looking back at that post, it was quite clear I was full of questions for the coming year of study and reflection, but very shy of answers.  In fact, this blog was initially titled “virtual southside” that first month.  My first plan was for this space to be a group blog to facilitate PD for our brand-spanking-new tech cohort starting in June.

My first flickr anniversary!

Forming a purpose

Then I found Ning.  In one weekend, it was clear to me that this platform would be a far better, and more flexible, match for our school’s edtech PD mission.  It also served to bring some comfort for our staff in the world of social media.  Though we control membership to the site, it is certainly a more free-wheeling place than a simple group blog.  It was the decentralized nature of a Ning network that I loved.  I didn’t want to drive “virtual southside.”  I didn’t want anyone to drive.  I wanted to be merely another loud voice on a very enthusiastic and speedy bus.

So after a quick rename, nashworld became more of a personal place for reflection, sharing, and synthesis of thought.  I do drive this bus.  However, I had my first guest move up from the passenger section just this month.  Though I certainly do have an amazing passenger list here, this is where the metaphor breaks down, for the readers of this blog certainly help steer my thoughts and words with their comments.  To those of you who have put in your two cents here, I thank you greatly.  You have helped to develop many of the thoughts and beliefs I currently own.

Year One Archive

A couple of months ago, when I started to really reflect on what blogging has meant to me over the past year, I decided to create a different type of archive for the blog.  If you look up, you’ll notice that just to the right of the “About” page is a link to a new page entitled:  “Year One Archive.”  This page lists every post I have written over the course of the year by month-  with somewhat of an abstract-like summary.  I hope this provides yet another way to navigate the site.  It certainly isn’t a quick and efficient way, but it does provide a bit of a different approach.  The archive page also serves as an interesting chronological history of the past year.

Meer Reflections


In fact, after that first post in April…  I didn’t write another that month.  I didn’t even write one in May.  During that month I was working hard on both Virtual Southside as well as my first shot at social media for an actual course I teach.  June, my most prolific month, was the result of using the blog  to fulfill the requirements of a really lame online grad course on “educational technology.”  Truly the worst course I have ever experienced.  You can easily tell this by the lame posts and lame books and movies and edtech articles from five and ten years ago.  Jeeeez.  I wish I hadn’t looked back over those just now.

Things got much better when school started and I began to feel a true mission for the blog.  When November began, I followed along with Steve Dembo in his 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger adventure.  That experienced helped tremendously.  Also in November, I was actually even nominated for a 2008 Edublogs Award.  You can imagine my surprise as such a green little blogger, but that was no doubt extrinsically empowering.   I am certain to post several more reflective pieces on things I have experienced, learned and accomplished over the past year.  Stay tuned for those.  As soon as my grad program is completed in May…  I have a lot of things to explore yet.  Grad school, a new baby girl…  it’s a wonder I could pull off any of this at all.

To community

Most of all-  thank you.  Thanks for coming here.  Thanks for reading.  Thanks for commenting.  Thanks for joining in the discussion.  Thank you for helping to steer my personal learning mission over the past year.  I cannot thank each and every one of you enough.  The thinking I do about the things you say… is worth a graduate course in something each time.  In reflection over this past year, I can for certain that the biggest thing I have gained from blogging is people.  I now have current and future collaborators on from all over the country.  We have and will collaborate on projects that will no doubt extend not only my learning, but that of my friends and colleagues in Saint Joseph.  I am humbled by the professionalism, creativity, and generosity of people in this newly-generated community.  Thanks isn’t enough.


*My 1st Flickr Anniversary by cuellar on Flickr.
*Meer Reflections by Dave Whelan on Flickr.
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Giving Thanks

Ok, so I am caught up in it.  I am now caught up in celebration of a holiday that my youth taught me was little more than a gorgefest.  A gorgefest with football.  A gorgefest with football, oh-  and did I mention, pretty little turkeys everywhere?  In an attempt to create a blogosphere-infinite-loop of sorts, I give you MD’s last post.

Tonight, in the interest of hugging my beautiful girls (two alive and one unborn), I bring you a strangely succinct post.  I bring you a description of what I am most thankful for.  I bring you my love(s) and I bring them to you in a Demboesque “image means a thousand words” -type format.  I might have been hesitant to do this a year ago.  Tell me I am too open if you think I am.  I know, I teach web-weirdness informally and weekly, and here I am still trying to figure this out.  Anyway, here we go…

What am I most thankful for?

momma and babe

…uh huh, that’s it.

How about we try one that is a bit more abstract?  Here is one from above:

daddy\'s legs

And really…  how can we celebrate mommy & babe and leave daddy out?

baby & daddy

And one last one for Michael…  of my “tadpole” (i love it, and so will she someday) as she was swimming in botanical monoculture this past July 4th:

triticum vs. homo

So-  happy thanksgiving day.  As my girls and I wait for another genetic gift… I ask you:

What are you thankful for?  I mean really thankful for?

Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you get so smart?

Day two of the Dembo assignment is a fun one.  As a relatively nascent blogger, gathering data on the traffic to and from my blog has been enlightening.  That data is what this post is all about.

I started this blog in April.  On August 22nd or so, I added the code for Google Analytics to this site, the tech PD site for my school, and my marine biology site.  I have to say tracking the who, what, when and where of the visitors to my sites has been intriguing.  It is almost addictive.  I agree with Steve when he says, “…those graphs are good for the ego and can be highly motivating. For example, the days when I do post a new blog, I clearly see a bump in traffic, which is always incentive to post more often!”

Traffic Light Tree

Not only is proof that people really are connecting to your words validating, it is a fantastic teaching point.  Since all of my students are now dipping their toes into the blogosphere, at least on our network sites, I periodically try to highlight interesting stats for them on the big screen.  What would be the main point here?  Connectedness.  One of the main reasons for participating in blogging is the building of collective intelligence.  This is the key element of Web 2.0.  This is why the read/write web has and is changing the face of communication and of education in bright little pockets all over the globe.  For people generally unfamiliar with blogs-  these connections make an impact.  I spoke of this briefly in an earlier post on blogging.

Writing and sharing to a wide audience is huge.  A few colleagues and I are about to embark on an action research project to examine the effects of writing online compared to merely hitting “print” and walking your words to your teacher.  In recent discussions, we have talked in depth about the differences we see in our student work when interacting online.  We think we see increased volume, engagement, creativity and even a stronger “tuning in” to the elements of our specific content.  Therefore, we are going to attempt a study to examine these effects across several disciplines.  If nothing else, we will certainly be better able to characterize what is going on with our students as we move more of what we do onto the transparency of the web.

So, on to the “assignment” at hand.  This one was easy for me, since I realized the value of this far before I actually added analytic capability to my site.  However, reading the assignment today reminded me of a few of the stats I had forgotten to check for some time.

I took several screenshots within my analytics page and posted them to my Flickr account.  I will post a few of them inline now, but the rest can be viewed here.  As a scientist by training, trust this:  this much data tends to make me a bit giddy.  Wow.  To start, a 30,000ft view of the traffic pattern to my blog:

Traffic to Nashworld

As you can see here, when you start any blog, the traffic is quite light.  It is also quite clear to see the bumps I get each time log a new post now.  The really cool thing to me is that the trend shows that there are consistently more people reading those posts as time goes on.  This is a good sign that I’m not making folks too terribly upset.  Or perhaps… I am.  Interesting thought.  It is cool to think of 198 absolute unique visitors in just the past couple of months.  That is encouraging to any blogger and is certainly an impetus to keep on posting.

Traffic to Virtual Southside

The chart above was clipped from the tech cohort blog I set up called Virtual Soutside.  This provides a look at the difference when you have twenty people contributing to a site.  Also, instead of a mere three months of visits, I have been tracking this site since June of 2008.

Other assorted facts gleaned from the analysis of this blog to date include:

  • Over 60% of the traffic here now comes from referring sites.  These are essentially, other sites that link to my blog.  Some of these are controlled by me, such as posting a link to my Twitter peeps.  Some are controlled by folks posting an outbound link to nashworld on their site.
  • My readers are from eleven different countries. (14 as of the next morning)  The vast majority are from the United States, but others are from Malaysia, Kenya and India to name a few.
  • 65% of my visitors view this site through the Firefox browser.  That happens to be my personal browser of choice about 90% of the time as well.  There are times when I fire up Safari as well.  They really do perform differently at times.  Only 19% view nashworld via Internet Explorer.  This make me strangely happy.
  • 63% of you come to my blog powered by the Mac operating system.  Wow.  That is far more than I expected, even with our heavy usage of OSX in the district.  Almost 3% of visitors now arrive here in the palm of their hand via iPhone, and one person actually found their way here from a Playstation 3.
  • The average visitor views 2.6 pages here.  This surprised me as well.  I thought that number would be far smaller.  The way I have the blog set up now, a visitor arriving via the main page can actually read ten separate posts without even clicking another link.  This is also encouraging to me.
  • Speaking well to the power of smart referrals, the average time spent on any given visit is far higher when you come from a link posted by another blogger.  The really crazy stat is that the average time spent on the site by visitors arriving from Will Richardson’s blog, Weblogg-ed, is far higher than the rest.  Those of you coming in from Weblogg-ed currently spend an average of nearly 15 minutes on the site as opposed to the four and a half minutes of all visitors.  Hey Will, your readers have taste!
  • This is but a slice of the data available from Google Analytics.  Even my Flickr set, with all of the screenshots I just referenced and a few more, is barely a fourth of what the site can reveal.
  • Also interesting is the visitor visualization on ClustrMaps.  You can see this map over in the right sidebar of this page=>  I just added this Widget to the blog abut a month ago.  I don’t think it is as accurate as GA, and it is definitely not as comprehensive, but it sure is pretty, and gives your readers a slice of your data at a glance.

So to sum things up, I am two assignments down and 28 to go.  I have a feeling that things will get rocky toward the end when our new little girlie is born, so I am buckling down for the near term.  Also:  I don’t know all of my readers, but I like them.  They tend to be super-connected Mac snobs who read some other really smart blogs.  They can also probably tell me some amazing things about these stats I haven’t yet noticed.  By all means, please do respond with what you see in this data.

If you are local and would like some help setting up Google Analytics for your blog, you know who to ask.  Right?

Artwork thanks:

Warby, William. “Traffic Light Tree.” warby’s photostream. 03 MAY 2008. Flickr.
2 Nov 2008 <http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2077/2460655511_779a1d1a5c.jpg?v=0>.

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Assignment Number One: “About” me.

I now fully feel like I’m one of Tyler Durden’s minions from Fight Club.  I’ll never forget the night Tyler (played by Brad Pitt) implored his followers to all go out and get in a fight with a total stranger…  and of all things: lose.  Watching a clip from the movie will tell you it wasn’t all that easy.  Ok, wait.  I’m not actually engaging in any sort of urban terrorism here.  This is just blogging.  Edu-blogging.  Coaching from afar.  Connecting.  And today…  telling folks about me.  I wonder if Steve Dembo has ever thought of himself as Durden.  Here’s me:  betting that he hasn’t.

faces of me

However, Mr. Dembo certainly is putting the edublogosphere, and anyone else who cares to read, on assignment.  Today’s “assignment” comes as part one of thirty in the “Thirty Days to Being a Better Blogger” series.  Now this is one ambitious task.  I feel particularly giddy if I roll off more than one post in a week.  And the assignment for day one:  the “About” page.  Seems simple enough.  However, even though this page comes complete in nearly any readymade blog theme, few people capitalize on it.  Reading today’s post at Teach42 made me a believer in the importance of this page in any blog.

“…when you get right down to it, the About page is absolutely critical to a blog. It provides visitors insight into who the author is, what they can expect to see on the blog, and what sort of lenses the information is being viewed through.”  ~S.Dembo

So be sure to fix up your About page in the very near future.  I would expect a few folks might even pay a bit more attention in the near future.  Actually, when you think about it, you have likely already tapped this page on any blog I have pointed you toward already.  Think about it.  Have you?  Be sure to check out the pages in the blogroll on the lower half of the right column here.  They are all huge references for me.  It might be good to scan a few of those to see how they let their readers know who and what they can expect to read there.

I do hope the next twenty-nine assignments stay as far away from the “Fight Club” list as possible…  I’m way too out of shape for that kind of battle.  Anyone care to play along here with me?