Looking back on 2018 from this blog

It is now a ritual for any digital site to offer a year-end retrospective. The usual patterns involve summarizing a site’s big issues and their highlights, adding a footnote either glum or cautiously optimistic about the year to come. Sometimes the authors offer tentative predictions for the new year.

I’m not going to do that today, partly because I find most such content to be uninteresting. Partly because my readers don’t seem to want that from me. (I’ve done year-end summaries before.) So instead today I’ll reflect on this blog’s progress in 2018 and add a personal note at the end. (I wrote up a different batch of thoughts for my kind Patreon supporters. Join them if you haven’t already!)

Blogging has long been a part of my professional practice. I’m not going to list the benefits here, as I and many others have already done so. I just want to mention that this blog plays a key part in my work, alongside the FTTE report, consultations, the Future Trends Forum, workshops, and speaking engagements. The blog continues to be a way for me to share my research and my questions. And each of these intertwines with the others – I blog about a workshop, clients ask me to dig into an issue which I explore here, a topic noted in a blog post appears in a speech, etc.

A key detail: blogging is, for me, a conversation. I post in part to request feedback from you, dear readers. In return you are quite generous in answering. Your responses help shape and improve my work, for which I am always grateful. These conversations inform my other offerings, from FTTE on. Thank you all for taking the time to think and write with me.

Speaker of you readers, where did you come from? Around the world, it seems –

Where blog readers came from worldwide in 2018.

-but mostly from the US, followed by Anglophonic nations.

Looking through the WordPress Jetpack tool I can find some more interesting stats. Jetpack generated material for a model of my average post in 2018: running 901 words apiece, with five comments on each one. The year-end totals were also interesting: 180,101 words, or almost exactly twice the length of the book I just turned in to my publisher. I’ve been writing so much for so long that I can’t tell if that’s a lot.

200 posts total for the year, which is lower than what I’d hoped for (one post per business day, or 260 or so), but does represent a substantial flow of content. 1008 comments, which is a fine bounty.

Post “likes” were interesting. Over the past near-decade they ran very low: 0 (2011), 0 (2012), 2 (2013), 1 (2014), 0 (2015), 3 (2016), 5 (2017), then… 236 for 2018?! I’m not sure where that last came from. Maybe a software change is at work, or WordPress users just got excited.

The most popular post of 2018? One about a queen sacrifice, my most depressing topic.

More people follow this blog through WordPress’ syndication mechanism (1244) than by email (547).

All of this is made possible by the heroic, ninja-like work of Reclaim Hosting. Bravo to that awesome team! Everyone should host their content there!

Looking ahead, I will continue this blog, and aim for that 260 post number. (And will install the WordPress Classic editor plugin, because the new Gutenberg post engine is a serious step backwards in usability. Gutenberg makes my writing life harder, straight up, with not a single advantage. If I get time I will write a full complaint. Harrumph.) I also want to comment more and link to other people’s blogs. I’ve fallen out of that habit.


On a personal note, I want to add something about real estate. Some of you know that my wife and I spent much of 2018 trying to sell our house. At this point I can only say that it has been one of the most painful, expensive, frustrating, debilitating, anxiety-fueling, and depressing processes we have ever experienced. It reminds us both of going through the American medical system for major surgery in its combination of low information, high bureaucracy, shocking errors, and gnawing dread. Like the medical experience, it has taught us o distrust nearly everyone and everything.

And yet the general American view of home-buying and house-selling seems to be one glorious and easy fulfillment. That’s the impression I get from public discourse across social media, magazines, and what I’ve seen of television. Yet when I mention that our experience is radically different, and worse, people come out of the woodwork to agree. They tell horrible stories of improverishment, personal ruin, epic stress, and disaster.

Why is there such a gap? Is the vile nature of homeselling in America our unspoken reality, covered up by cheerful media? Or is this now just a rural problem, as the cities and suburbs become ever more desireable? Perhaps the experience is broken out into some other segmentation?

Enough on that. 2018 will end in a few hours. 2019 looms ahead. Let me thank you all for your readership, which is one of the best gifts people can offer each other. All best wishes for 2019!

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9 Responses to Looking back on 2018 from this blog

  1. Jeff McCafferty says:

    Bryan, best wishes to you as well for 2019. I have enjoyed reading your posts over the past year. Always interesting and valuable.

  2. Mark Ulett says:

    Excited to see what you create in 2019!

    I wonder whether or not the difficulties of home buying and selling aren’t hidden from view because of the centrality of purchasing a home to the “American Dream”. We are, perhaps, inclined to believe the hype because it fuels and reinforces the unrealistic attainability of the American Dream, which we cling to like a child clings to their binky. We want to believe in the glorious and easy fulfillment, that we all have attainable home purchasing and selling options out there. We don’t.

    More Americans are renting than at any time since 1965, so the percentage of the population purchasing homes has dwindled considerably, further hiding the problem. Also, the people who are buying are more likely than ever to be buying a second, third, forth, or fiftieth property that they will rent out at inflated prices to the Millennials trapped under impossible student loan debt and healthcare costs. Those landlords don’t really complain openly about what a rough life it is for them, and for good reason. They can keep quiet.

    So maybe we don’t talk about the difficulties of buying and selling a home because, well, it’s unAmerican to disparage the American Dream. It’d be like openly saying that you think Bald Eagles are ugly. Maybe we don’t talk about it because the number of people who are buying or selling is declining as real estate increasingly becomes the exclusive domain of wealthy landlords.

    To the extent that we’re creating a Landed Gentry class in the US in the 21st century, …well, it’s in their best interests to make it incredibly difficulty to buy and sell property, thereby limiting access to people with the money, time, and knowledge to do so. And while that my seem cynical, increasing the complexity of purchasing decisions to limit access isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, increasing the complexity of buying and selling homes in the United States was an explicit strategy used to prevent minorities from being included once the law made outright housing discrimination illegal. Because the idea of not discriminating was seemingly unthinkable to them, they outsourced the discrimination to complex codes and bureaucratic structures that make navigating the sale nearly impossible to anyone not already familiar with the intricacies of how the system works. That’s the racist origin story for the complex, frustrating situation you now face.

    It’s dispiriting to hear about your difficulties, and hopefully 2019 will bring an exciting offer that you all can jump on and make the move.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Mark, thank you very much for the kind words.

      Thanks, too, for the extensive thoughts. Good point about the rise of renting. Ditto the growth of bureaucracy.

      Is anyone else complaining about this stuff? I confess to not tracking real estate like I perhaps should.

  3. Julie Emery says:

    I very much share your frustration with the real estate situation. We’re in a similar situation, trying to sell a home in a rural area. The market was already slow in this area. The recent economic and market turmoil has stalled the market in even surrounding more urban areas. We’re struggling with how to make the best decision for our family that takes into account not only economics, but also quality of life, time together and health. There is very little rental property on the market and we’re considering testing that possibility. It’s a very stressful, frustrating time. Best of luck with selling your home. Hope things change for the better soon!

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      I’m so sorry, Julie. This is a godawful process.

      Good luck!

      PS: have you seen anyone else complaining about it? All I’m seeing are glowing stories of personal success and enrichment.

      • Julie Emery says:

        The glowing stories are public, the frustrations tend to only be expressed privately. It’s partly the nature of our culture that we only express the prettiest parts of our lives to the public.

        • Bryan Alexander says:

          I can see that.

          Yet we do have other, confessional parts of our culture. I’m thinking of addiction stories and therapy culture, for a couple.

  4. sibyledu says:

    The real estate industry is propped up by three things: (a) public (mostly federal) policies designed to encourage home ownership, (b) the unexamined myth that home prices always increase, and (c) the bias built into the legal system, as with most systems, that tilts in favor of the expert and the affluent. The folks I know who have bad experiences in real estate run afoul of one of these three props. Maybe (a) they had originally obtained home loans that were beyond their means, or inappropriate for their income and economic status, or forced by discriminatory lending practices into buying in marginal areas. Or (b) they lived in areas with unstable home prices, which are usually caused by external economic factors (e.g. the local factory or mine shutting down, the discovery of a tainted water supply). Or (c) they were tripped up by unforgiving and/or costly legal requirements of which they were ignorant.

    The system is presented as frictionless because, for some people, it mostly is frictionless, and because the people who don’t experience it as frictionless need some extra encouragement to get in. (Especially all those shows on cable that imply that any property can be bought, upgraded, flipped, and/or sold in 30 or 60 minutes.)

  5. Bryan Alexander says:

    Great analysis, sibyledu. I feel most hit by your first c), personally.

    This feels like an underground experience. Something shared and known, but not named.

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