Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Blogging Archaeology #3: Simply the best!

Continuing with the latest of my contributions to the Blogging Archaeology blog carnival in advance of SAA2014. This month Doug has asked us to reflect on our best and/or worst posts. As Doug sagely noted in his overview, there are lots of ways in which we might define ‘best’ (and worst). It might be identified in hard metric terms such as number of views or you can take a more personal perspective and define it terms of best feedback or simply personal preference.

Purely in terms of number of hits, my most popular blog post on my personal blog was a surprise – it’s a fairly niche posting on depictions of the God Pan in late 19th and early 20th century literature, which as attracted around ten times the visits of any other of my posts. I suspect that this simply reflects the wider general international interest in Greek mythology and the vast majority visits appear to have arrived via general search engine queries on Pan. Despite the high number of visitors, I doubt that many stayed long. It is noticeable that despite the large number of views, there was only one comment, and that was from a personal friend. However, what this does show is the agreeably random nature of the web!

The next biggest hitter was a short review comment of Matthew Johnson’s book Idea of Landscape – I hope this is partly because people think its reasonably insightful, although I suspect it picks up hits from archaeology students searching on “Idea of Landscape”. Another successful entry (in terms of hits and personally) is an entry I wrote on Archaeology and Psychogeography- I think this owes its success as it was quite ‘zeitgeisty’ – and was written on the back of a TAG session on archaeology and psychogeography; and was slightly more widely tweeted about / circulated than some of my other postings.

My other most successful blog entries have been those that engaged with very topical issues, particularly in my case, minor heritage or conservation controversies in the UK – again, I suspect these get picked up on because of their topicality and tend to get shared and reshared amongst my own colleagues and friends who all have an interest in this kind of material – these include comments on archaeology and road construction, archaeology and hot-headed local councillors and archaeology and industrial history.

As a result of a comment I made in a previous entry on the blog carnival about the lack of feedback/ views I’ve had, it was suggested that Twitter was a good way of publicising blog entries, so this year I took the brave decision to become one of the Twitteratti. The first post I disseminated via Twitter was on controversial and lazy remarks about conservation made by a government people I didn’t previously know, which along with the nice comments, was immensely satisfying and has certainly confirmed my future use of Twitter. It is noticeable that the other blog entries I have since circulated via Twitter all have much higher hit rates than I would have previously expected.

So, if these are my most successful blog posts in terms of hard figures, which are the ones that I am most personally pleased with? First, I should say, this has given me the opportunity just to go back and look at what I’d written in the past, some was good, some was awful and some I’d entirely forgotten. In general the things I’ve been most pleased with are those where I’ve got something off my chest (ie splenetic rants such as this or this), those where I’ve been able to jot down relatively short semi-academic thoughts I’ve had, which probably won’t ever make it into a formal publication, but have been useful exercises in hardening up previously nebulous thoughts (such as the landscape review and the psychogeography entries I’ve previously mentioned).

Finally, the other set of entries I am most satisfied with are the more reflective ones I’ve written about my own personal engagement with the past, such as the influences that led to my initial interest in archaeology and historic landscapes. . These have probably been partly fuelled by impending middle-age, a young family and changing personal priorities. However, they have provided me with the chance to perhaps move further away from direct discussions of archaeology into the wider, more discursive written engagement with the past, and one I’m keen to develop and pursue. Of all these entries, in fact of all my blog entries, I think my personal favourite is this one – a fairly short reflection on being a southerner living in Northern England, but one that I received kind comments on and still resonates personally with me

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