Friday, December 6, 2013

I don't want this blog to become too popular!

This past year I have been surprised and encouraged that this blog has a wide readership. However, I have also learnt that I don't want it to become too popular.

A few months ago, when I was visiting Columbia University I met with Peter Woit. He writes a very popular blog, Not Even Wrong, that has become well known, partly because of his strong criticism of string theory. It is a really nice scientific blog, mostly focusing on elementary particle physics and mathematics. The comments generate some substantial scientific discussion. However, it turns out that the popularity is a real curse.  A crowd will attract a bigger crowd. The comments sections attracts two undesirable audiences. The first are non-scientists who have their own "theory of everything" that they wish to promote. The second "audience" are robots that leave "comments" containing links to dubious commercial websites. Peter has to spend a substantial amount of time each day monitoring these comments, deleting them, and finding automated ways to block them. I am very thankful I don't have these problems. Occasionally, I get random comments with commercial links. I delete them manually. I did not realise that they may be generated by robots.

Due to the robot problem, Peter said he thought the pageview statistics provided by blog hosts [e.g. blogspot or wordpress] were a gross over-estimate. I could see that this would be the case for his blog. However, I suspect this is not the case for mine. Blogspot claims a typical post of mine gets 50-200 page views.  This seems reasonable to me. Furthermore, the numbers for individual posts tend to scale with the number of comments and the anticipated breadth of the audience [e.g. journal policies and mental health attract more interest than hydrogen bonding!] Hence, I will still take the stats as a somewhat reliable guide as to interest and influence.


  1. Someone once said that poetry is the sexy sibling of philosophy, the one with all the make-up on. I'm no critic but (un)fortunately that seems to be true for string theory and condensed matter, as far as perception goes at least.

  2. Ross, just a comment regarding stats.

    The tools from either blogspot or wordpress only count a view when someone enters your URL in their browser. Therefore it does not reflect the number of people reading your post via a RSS feed reader (as I do). Therefore I would strongly sugest you could have a wider audience than you think. Wordpress allows you to manually see the number of such views in a post, is called "syndicated views". I would guess blogspot has a similar feature. In this case you could take a look at a typical post and estimate the audience not capture in the stats

    All the best,

    1. Cesar,

      Thanks for the comment.
      It seems that blogspot does not have this nice feature that Wordpress does.
      Does anyone know how to get around this problem with blogspot?

  3. I use Ghostery ( to shed the remora-esque tracking apps that collect on my browser. Your blog is the only page on which I allow Google Analytics to operate, because promoting viewing statistics here has seemed in my better interest. I can throttle that upon request.

  4. Ross, I regularly come to your blog to stay in touch with our area of physics. Keep blogging and thank you!