Hello out there! The D&T 2011 reader survey

Hmm. Out there looks … familiar. Photo by tom jervis.

After crunching the traffic numbers yesterday, it’s time to look at the results of my reader survey. With caveats for sample size, it appears my audience looks a lot like me: male, queer, young-ish, North American, English-speaking, and white. Here’s the Google Documents graphical summary of the fifty-four responses. (Or you can inspect the spreadsheet with the raw responses here.) Let’s start with the demographic bullet points I just mentioned:

  • Male. Of the 54 respondents, 20% (11) are female and 80% (43) male; no-one identified as transgendered. My readership is less gender-diverse than the current U.S. Supreme Court!
  • Queer. Twenty-eight respondents (52%) said they are attracted to the opposite sex, which is a majority—but much less so than in the general population. Nineteen (35%) said they are gay or lesbian; seven (13%) said they are bi.
  • Young-ish. A strong majority of respondents said they were either single (23; 43%) or married without children (19; 35%). That squares with the age distribution of respondents, for which the largest group are between 26-30 (16; 30%), and 65% (35) are under age 40. (There’s an interesting bimodality to the age distribution though—there’s a second, smaller peak in the 55-60-year-old bin.)
  • North American. Sixty-one percent of respondents (33) are living in the U.S; another 9% (5) are in Canada or Mexico. I’m going to bet most of those are in Canada, based on the next point.
  • English-speaking. Eighty-nine percent (48) grew up speaking English. Which makes sense, since that’s the language I write in. This and the previous point also square with Google Analytics results, which find the overwhelming majority of site visitors are from the States, followed by England, Canada, and Australia.
  • White. Ninety percent of folks (47) identified as white/Caucasian. More people chose “other” (3) than any of the other racial/ethnic categories I provided.

The folks who answered the survey are also quite well educated—72% (39) are working on or have completed either a Master’s or a Ph.D. More than 74% (40) have some sort of “formal” involvement in science—that is, anything from an undergrad science major to a tenured professor to retired from a scientific job—and a strong plurality (37%; 20) are primarily interested in biology. Under occupations, the overwhelming majority are either currently students (35%; 19) or employed “in my field of interest” (41%; 22).

As I noted at the outset, that profile looks a lot like … me. To some extent, I guess that’s not super-surprising. This is a one-man blog, and it makes sense that it would attract an audience of people most likely to share my interests, who would be most likely to be similar to me in other ways. But, to the extent I’d like D&T to be a public education project, it’s not great that I’m mainly reaching other white, educated, young-ish folks. I shall have to give that some further thought.

The answers provided under “interactions with the site” were, to me, some of the most interesting. A plurality of respondents (35%; 19) said they’ve never shared a link to D&T, and almost two thirds (61%; 33) have never commented on the site. One one level, that looks like there’s a lot of “unengaged” readers out there, but I think it’s an encouraging result. It suggests that the folks who answered the survey are a different group than the readers I know from Facebook, Twitter, or the comments section, and that was a major goal of setting up the survey in the first place.

Although the largest single response to the sharing question was “No, I’ve never shared a link,” the others indicated a lot of link-sharing: on Twitter (30%; 16), Facebook (28%; 15), Google Plus (13%; 7), by e-mail (24%; 13), or in an in-person recommendation (17%; 9). Thanks to all of you! Folks who had commented on posts mainly said they did so to add something (90%, or 10 of those who responded to this question) or to agree with the main point of the post (55%, or 6); folks who had never commented mainly said it was because “I don’t feel I have anything to add” (46%; or 16 of those who responded to that question). That actually tracks pretty well with my own commenting philosophy—I tend to chime in when I have something additional to say or an objection to lodge, but I’m more likely to express agreement or interest in a post by sharing the link, or writing about it in a post of my own, than by commenting.

In terms of topics, an overwhelming majority (85%; 46) read D&T “primarily” for the science. Asked which topics they’d like to see more about, most (46%; 25) also chose science; a number wrote in answers under “other,” but mainly to affirm the current topic mix, which is gratifying. Similarly, there was no single strong response to the question of which topic I should cover less, unless we count “other” with no specific response. (On that one, someone wrote in “DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE,” which made me chuckle.)

Finally, those folks who wrote in the final “any other thoughts?” box said, basically, a lot of very kind things. I thought about reproducing those comments here, then considered it’d be tooting my own horn a bit much even in the context of this post. So I’ll just wrap up by saying, thanks for reading Denim and Tweed, and thanks for taking the time to tell me what you think of it. Here’s hoping the new year brings more interesting, exciting, and maddening things to write about.

(Also, I’ve taken the suggestion to do something about the way photos display in the RSS feed. It’s been driving me nuts for ages.) ◼

State of the blog, 2011

The quantified blog. Photo by hyperboreal.

Happy New Year! Time for some quantitative navel-gazing, which now counts as a Denim and Tweed New Year’s tradition, since I’ve done it twice before. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the responses to my first-ever reader survey, but right now, I’m just going to go through the metrics I’ve used before.

In 2011, I wrote 198 posts for this site. According to Google Analytics, these attracted 73,899 page-views by 24,025 unique visitors. That’s an average of 373 page-views per post, and an increase in traffic of 161% over 2010, when I had 28,308 page-views. For some perspective, it’s about two orders of magnitude less than John Scalzi’s visitation rate. But not too bad, if I do say so myself.

More detail after the jump.

Weekly visitors to Denim and Tweed, for 2011 (blue line) and 2010 (green). Image by Google Analytics.

Most of that increase in traffic is attributable to a link from PZ Myers to my post taking down Jesse Bering’s ridiculous declaration that gay-bashing is adaptive. That’s the spike in the graph above. “An adaptive fairytale with no happy ending” was, accordingly, the most-visited post of the year, clocking in 4,222 page-views since publication. The next-most popular post of 2011 was a follow-up in the ensuing back-and-forth over certain evolutionary psychologists’ failure to understand basic evolutionary biology, with 3,441 page-views.

The other top posts of 2011 are less controversy-driven: my review and discussion of Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution’s Rainbow (1,188 page-views); a post on partially carnivorous plants (966 page-views, in part thanks to a nice nod from Ed Yong); and then last year’s post about whether or not female orgasm is an adaptation (836 page-views).

In fact, once you get below the top 5 posts, pieces from previous years show up pretty frequently. I guess this means D&T is increasing its visibility in Google searches? The top search phrases leading folks to the site (apart from some form of my name or the site’s name) were “herbivore,” “ant dispersal,” “mutualism,” “female orgasm,” and “what makes a species.” I’m kinda proud of that last one.

Post topics are a bit more difficult to total up. However, by my count in the Blogger post management dashboard, I published 150 posts tagged “science” in 2011. That’s compared to 21 posts tagged “politics” and 24 tagged “queer.” (Note these are not mutually exclusive categories!) Of the science posts, 47 are tagged “evolution,” 5 are tagged “ecology,” and 37 were submitted to Research Blogging, meaning they were “formal” discussions of peer-reviewed papers. An even 50 of the science posts are the weekly linkfests.

I made some pretty major career transitions this year, too: I finished my Ph.D. and started a postdoc. I’m enjoying life as a “professional” biologist, but it’s decidedly less compatible with regular blogging than grad school was. Nevertheless, I expect to keep posting at Denim and Tweed, and hopefully to continue development of the new collaborative site Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!—writing and discussion in both venues continue to be useful to my thinking about my scientific work, and (hopefully) valuable as public education, too. ◼