Chris Blattman

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This blog in 2013

The big news of the year: The blog survived baby number two. This was not foreordained. I came close to quitting, because at some point I just didn’t have a lot I wanted to say. But I suppose I am far too fond of procrastination and the sound of my own voice for that to happen just yet.

While there’s some truth to that, there are better reasons. I learn a lot from my readers and the blog-driven conversations. It pushes me to read widely and think through big questions. Also, I didn’t spend my life trying to come up with good ideas to reduce poverty and violence only to have 78 people read my papers. This blog is the closest I will ever come to social change.

A surprise for me in 2013: the (slight) majority of traffic came from search engines, Twitter, and Facebook. In past years it would have been RSS readers or direct visits. The way we read the Internet and consume content is changing. I suspect this means I get a much more diverse, irregular readership as opposed to more loyal followers.

People do get bored. I’ve almost stopped reading blogs regularly, and sample from many hundreds or thousands rather than a few. With the possible exception of Marginal Revolution, I can only follow one person (or group) so long. The implication, I realize, is that a good proportion of my friends and professional colleagues are tired of listening to me. I suppose this should not be surprising.

Now, some highlight from the year. Other than the home page, the ten most viewed posts:

  1. Students: How to email to your Professor, employer, and professional peers
  2. “Correlation versus causation in a single graph”
  3. Dear governments: Want to help the poor and transform your economy? Give people cash.
  4. The problem with graduate degrees in international affairs and development?
  5. 10 things I tell undergraduates
  6. The standing desk: I am a convert
  7. About me
  8. Picture of the day? Irony. Bitter irony.
  9. Frequently asked questions on PhD applications
  10. Columbia PhD and post-doc advising

This list is somewhat misleading, however, because regular readers go to the home page, and so are not counted as reading the post. These are just the links that happened to get passed around most in Facebook and Twitter.

Number 1 is possibly my greatest public service to the profession. Or so my colleagues tell me. Especially the ones who have read my research.

Total traffic is more or less steady. There were 866,075 page views in 2011, 1,153,543 in 2012, and 1,152,949 in 2013. Possibly this is because I shut down the blog for most of July and August, in what may become an annual tradition.

Where do you come from (by number of page views)? The audience has become slightly less Western centric than earlier years:

  1. United States 598,325
  2. United Kingdom 103,323
  3. Canada 65,254
  4. Australia 32,710
  5. India 26,926
  6. Germany 26,237
  7. France 16,568
  8. Brazil 11,095
  9. Netherlands 10,917
  10. Sweden 9,691

Yes, it is still Western-centric but I am still happy to see two non-Western countries on the list. Also, Kenya and South Africa were 13 and 15.

My annual financial disclosure: as usual, I don’t look to make money from this blog, in large part because ads make me feel icky. But when I link to Amazon (for book reviews and the like) Amazon gives me 2% of any revenues from the stuff you buy. This used to just cover the cost of running this blog–about $600 a year. This year you guys were trigger happy and I made $3,032.42. So yes it seems I am profiting off of you.  Thanks. I don’t think it’s affected my judgement yet. If I don’t like something, I just don’t blog it.

Of course, if that’s true, then you might ask yourself why I am linking now to the most expensive things on Amazon I could find?

And, finally, I continue to delight in seeing the random search terms that lead people to the blog. Some favorites:

  • should i be an accountant
  • standing desk
  • community development in war zones master’s degree
  • are lobsters immortal
  • chris blattman wife
  • why is latin america poor
  • sick email to professor
  • how to get a un job
  • star wars gif
  • blog de chris

Oddly, all appear at least dozens of times. I am thinking “Blog de Chris” will become the new title.

To save everyone the trouble: the short answers to “should I get a standing desk” is yes, and the answer to “should I get a job as an accountant or at the UN?” is an empathic no.

It was a fun year. A big thank you to all the readers, regular and new. I value comments on each post, and hope to see more of them in future. Please write.


7 Responses

  1. I use Google Search to access frequently used sites more in Chrome than other browsers simply due to a small quirk of Chrome – auto complete in the address bar gives me the Google Search first and the URL second. Maybe that could explain some of the increase in traffic from search engines?

    (One second thought replace “quirk” with obvious means to direct more traffic to Google…)

  2. So you advise against working for the UN empathically, but not emphatically? Is this a hint that you have a hidden desire to leave Columbia in 2014 to take up a UN position?

  3. even the accountants like you blog
    I probably discovered it seeking a way out of the profession though

  4. A surprise for me in 2013: the (slight) majority of traffic came from search engines, Twitter, and Facebook. In past years it would have been RSS readers or direct visits.

    In other, not-unrelated news, 2013 was the year Google killed off Reader.

  5. As a self-deprecator myself, I appreciate how this blog is typically brilliant but the messenger always manages to be self-deprecating at the same time. Thanks for the great reading. By the way, I only follow 2 or 3 blogs, and this is one of them.

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