2020 on Grand, Unified, Empty

In 2017 I did a nice “year in review” post because I’d finally restarted the blog, was writing regularly, and was getting somewhat consistent page views. The last two years I haven’t done such a post, largely because I was blogging more sporadically and didn’t feel like I had much to really celebrate in the blogging part of my life. But now we’re at the end of 2020 I think it’s time to do another year in review.

2020 was by far the highest-traffic year of my blog, with 4000 views and over 2000 unique visitors. It was also one of my most prolific years for writing; this post will be my 68th for the year. (In 2014 I managed 71 separate posts but I would hazard that they were mostly shorter and less effortful compared to my posts this year). These new records are due to two separate events. First, and most obviously, the pandemic; I had a lot more time to write while stuck at home this year. A close second however was that I started reading LessWrong more regularly, and cross-posting some of my writing there when I thought it would be of interest.

Compared to 2017 when Facebook was my dominant source of traffic, 2020 was a more balanced year. Organic search engine traffic, Facebook, and LessWrong accounted for around 400 hits each over the year, and a lazy pair of posts I shared onto Reddit resulted in 84 direct hits plus who knows how many follow-ups. I do want to give a special shout-out to Baidu; I’m not sure why or how, but about half of my organic search traffic came from Chinese users finding me through Baidu this year.

Speaking of geography, the US passed Canada as my dominant audience this year, with 1400 hits. Canada came in second with 1100, with China, the UK, and (somewhat surprisingly) Italy all fighting it out for 3rd with around 300 hits each. The tail is very long on this list though; tenth-place Brazil gave me a respectable 58 hits, and I recorded hits from places as far afield as Ethiopia, Macedonia, and Gurnsey.

Donald Trump: Evil, or Just Stupid? was my most popular post of 2017, and also my most popular post of 2018 despite being a year old at that point. In 2019 it fell off the charts in favour of When is it Wrong to Click on a Cow? which is a post I’m still quite please with. In 2020 however, by far my most popular post was The Manual Economy; perhaps the lesson is that I should write more fiction. The other post that did quite well this year was 2019’s long sequence on conflict resolution. I’m sure part of that is due to my cross-posting it on LessWrong, but I hope some is also due to the fact that it is by far the longest and most effortful single piece of writing I’ve put up here.

My writing this year has been a bit all over the map. There was some proper philosophy in What We Owe to Ourselves. There was a random belated addition to one of my old foundational series. There was some really artistic rambling (Frankenstein Delenda Est) and some more personal diary posts (Roll for Sanity). There was some poetry (Stopping by my Brain, One Evening, and ‘Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas).

I can’t easily pick an overall favourite post for this year, but What We Owe to Ourselves and Frankenstein Delenda Est are definitely both competitors in terms of writing quality. There are also three posts I want to call out for their topics or insights, even though the writing itself was less polished: Abstractions on Inconsistent Data, The Axiological Treadmill, and Where Do We Go From Here?.

And now onward, to 2021.

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