It’s customary at year’s end to look back at one’s career or life over that period. 2021 was a wild year. It came right after an epic 2020. 2022 also looks challenging…
I don’t really have the time this week to write about all of that, since I’m working full tilt through the holiday. But I can pause on this last day of this year to look back on how this blog fared in 2021. What did it do? What ideas floated to the top? What functions did it serve?
Subjectively, personally, on a qualitative level, I love blogging here. This is a fine place for me to write in ways I don’t do elsewhere, to stretch and explore mentally while also sparking discussion. That’s how we thought about blogs, back in the day… and it still works for me.
But let’s dig into some data. We can start by determining the most popular posts out of 87 entries in 2021:
- Delta COVID changes the pandemic struggle: a leaked CDC document and what it means for higher ed
- Bill Maher vs. higher ed
- Fall semester toggle terms so far
- How will colleges and universities plan for January? A crowdsourced tracking project
- Coronavirus and higher education resources (pinned to the top of this blog’s front page)
- Our Ministry for the Future reading: the end
- The pandemic is getting worse. What does this mean for fall semester?
- Scenarios for the next COVID-19 variants: the SAGE document
- Have master’s degrees gone too far? A critique and a discussion
- The CDC links in-person university operations with COVID spread
What does that list tell me? That the majority of these posts concern the pandemic and its impact on higher ed, so that theme is one people value, compared to the rest of the blog. I’m glad some people find the COVID resources post useful. Otherwise, two list items concern challenges to higher ed’s strategy and finance, which is a theme I’ve been working on for a while. One post engaged with tv media. And one is for the book club.
All of that makes sense. The pandemic was a leading item of concern for many people this year, of course, and its impact on higher ed has been important, uneven, difficult to grasp, and harder still to forecast. Now, academic economics is pretty dry and usually not on most people’s radar, but anxiety about costs and debt remains widespread, both within and beyond the academia. The Bill Maher post may have gained traction because the guy’s a media star. The book club… I’m not sure, but perhaps people are more amenable to online group reading than they used to be.
Speaking of the online book club, during 2021 people kept clicking on, linking to, and variously making use of older posts from 2020 on back. For example, the introduction to our Ministry of the Future reading was the single most popular thing on this blog during the past year, even though it went up in late 2020. People also love my second post on giving up caffeine, which I wrote way back in 2013. Which means either a) the long tail is real, b) my 2021 posts were not as interesting as older ones, c) people are gradually catching up with my digital output, or d) I should really focus more on books, food, and health.
Meanwhile, I spent much of 2021 working on Universities on Fire, my book about higher education and the climate crisis. I blogged 18 times about the subject, but those posts haven’t elicited a lot of interest. If we consider them under the broader header of why academia isn’t very engaged with the climate crisis, we could summon up all kinds of reasons: exhaustion; COVID blotting out all else; assigning responsibility for the problem to campus professionals working on that job; etc. For this blog by itself, the topic might be too far off the beam for what folks have come to expect: coronavirus, economics, books. As Heather Short put it during this week’s Future Trends Forum, academia’s Overton Window needs to open up in order to include the climate crisis seriously.
All of that is about posts. Let’s look at conversations on this site more closely. 605 comments graced these digital pages over 2021. That’s nearly seven comments per post or 11.6 comments per week. I’m delighted and grateful that so many of you find this blog a congenial site for discussion.
Note, too, that among those leading posts are not only ones which elicited comments, but are about collaboration. One is about a crowdsourcing project. One’s for the book club, a social initiative. And several are responses to other people. Again, the blog persists as a way for people to think and even work together.
How people get here is interesting and a bit surprising to me:
Search is how people find this blog and its posts. And search means Google, which counted for 55,858 of the 59,470 hits you see above. In contrast, Bing only brought 1,519 eyeball sets here, while duckduckgo.com hauled 1,103, and Yahoo Search a mere 558. I was surprised to see Facebook nudge ahead of Twitter, since I have little professional traction on the former. I’ve been spending more time on LinkedIn, which has yielded some traffic.
Yet back to posts for a moment. 87 posts for the year is also about 1.7 posts per week. That’s a lower frequency than I’d like. Perhaps I’m shifting to writing longer and fewer posts. WordPress says posts average 1021 words apiece. I like the length, but want to write more. Let’s see if I can crack 2 posts/week in 2022.
What else has been going on here… posts about the Future Trends Forum have finally started to elicit comments, which is good. I’ve written about some personal topics, from aging to eating. And I’ve been posting about my teaching practice. More to come on those topics.
And that’s it for now, in the last post of 2021. Thank you to readers, subscribers, commentators, and supporters of all kinds. All best wishes to you for a splendid 2022. I’ll see you there.