How My Online Stuff Gets Seen in 2014

About a month ago I talked about how my social media footprint has been changing here in 2014, as Twitter has become the place where a lot of people read me (or is the place from which a lot of people link to me) with Whatever, while still popular and useful (and still my home base online) becoming in many ways supplemental to that. A concrete example of this might be useful, and as it happens, this last week offered up an interesting opportunity to show one, when I fired off a series of tweets which I later collected into a entry here, titled “An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: A Play in Five Acts.”

This series of tweets got a lot of play on Twitter, on my Web site and also on Tumblr, which in case you live under a social media rock, is a very popular microblogging service. But how much play in each? Here are the numbers, from stats offered by each site, from about 6:30pm ET on September 25, through September 28 at 8:20 ET, which is when I checked.

Twitter: The series of six tweets under discussion had varying viewership, but the most popular of the six, shown above, garnered 123,766 impressions on Twitter, “impressions” defined as the “number of times users saw the tweet on Twitter.”

WordPress: Noting only direct views of the relevant entry itself (i.e, leaving out “front page” views, where people read the entry by visiting the Whatever front page rather than the specific entry page), the entry was viewed 34,172 times, with an additional 6,681 views recorded via RSS, for a total of 40,853 views.

Tumblr: Tumblr user kammartinez decided to post a jpg of my entries, after which it garned 68,885 “notes” which is Tumblr’s way of noting when a Tumblr user’s entry is liked, shared, or commented on.

Combining these three numbers together (which, incidentally, is not necessarily a fantastic idea, as “impressions” are different than “views” which are different than “notes”), we get 233,504 total hits of some relevant sort or another for all or part of this series of tweets, of which only a little over a sixth come from Whatever itself.


1. Already noted I’m mixing and matching;

2. My anecdotal but long time experience tells me WordPress stats underreport (and I’ve already noted I’m underreporting views there anyway by excluding front page views);

3. Twitter’s methodology of what is an “impression” is vague — for example I don’t know if “on Twitter” means Twitter excludes tweets seen on third party clients;

4. I know people are sharing this on other social networks, including Facebook, in the same manner kammartinez shared it on Tumblr, but I have no way to track those.

So despite “233,504” looking like a very specific number, it is in fact a very rough approximation. For one thing, by the time you read this each of the component numbers will have grown by further visits and sharing. For another, experience tells me these sort of stats underrepresent rather than overrepresent, and there’s a lot of similar/relevant data missing. The point here is not to give an exact number of hits/views/impressions/notes/etc but to give a general impression of what my online footprint looks like right now.

And the general impression: My online footprint is widely distributed across several social media channels, of which only a few are under my control. I didn’t prompt or pay kammartinez to gather up my tweets and share them on Tumblr, for example; I don’t even know who kammartinez is. I’m certainly not upset that kammartinez shared the tweets; that’s the nature of tweeting, to be shared (and kammartinez did a fine job of attributing and offering context for the shared material, which is appreciated). But it does bring home the point that at this point in time my work — and there I — get around quite a lot online, in ways I can’t always expect or manage. Whatever remains a fundamental component of that (and will continue to be, for reasons I outlined in my earlier entry).

But while Whatever is my home online, it’s clear my work and I do a lot of wandering around these days. This in itself is neither good nor bad, but it is how my online stuff gets seen here in 2014.

25 Comments on “How My Online Stuff Gets Seen in 2014”

  1. Interesting. I saw your tweets re the anti feminist jerk here on your blog first, as it turns out. I have a twitter account, but for me, catching something interesting is all about randomly checking twitter at the right time. I follow a lot of people, so the wall moves quickly. And I usually don’t scroll back that far. I don’t actually catch your tweets terribly often, presumably because I don’t tend to check twitter at the time when you’re active.

    But there are still things about twitter I don’t really understand too well, as no one else seems to have this issue. Maybe I just follow too many people or something. And I think my ability to be clever or interesting in short spurts is pretty limited, as my occasional pearls of twitterly wisdom rarely result in a flood (or even trickle) of new followers.

    It’s nice that there are so many choices of social media now, but that meas blogs are just going to be one of many way authors can connect with their readers.

  2. For me, I see your tweets in close-to-real-time and then catch up on Whatever every few days, either directly or through personalized aggregators like Flipboard.

    It’s interesting that you don’t share anything about Facebook (of your own, rather than via other people). Do you not use it at all? More and more, I’m finding Facebook a noisy barrage of irrelevant content and ads and I prefer a lot more PERSONAL control over what I see (rather than algorithms built for advertiser benefit).

  3. So 1/6th of your hits for the series of tweets came from Whatever, where we got to see all six tweets at once. So We who read twitter actually viewed as much as everybody else did, in one sixth as many hits. THAT is why I don’t like twitter, I’m never gonna hang around for the dribble of posts to get done.

  4. I saw this Five Act play (first) over at PZ Myers’ blog. And then lately at Ursula Vernon’s Tumblr. I’ve seen it nine or ten other places since. It’s everywhere!

  5. One thing that may further skew those numbers is the (possibly) large number of users of RSS aggregators like feedly (the one I use). Feedly is going to show as one entity in your numbers, but there’s some number (presumably >= 1) number of feedly users who you don’t directly see. So in addition to all the other sources of error, the RSS hits may well be anything from dead on to several orders of magnitude off, depending on how many users go through such a service.

  6. I only follow you on this blog. No time for facebook, twitter, etc. (Occasionally look at twitter if something on the sidebar catches my interest.)
    I will however share things on this blog with hubby so you usually get two for one.

  7. Weird that wordpress doesn’t count main page views. That’s how I read Whatever. So my views only count if I go to read the comments, which takes me to the entry’s page? I don’t read comments on a regular basis. Not that one person would make that much difference in those numbers, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who reads Whatever that way.

    Twitter seems like too much bother to me. I’ve seen it all over Tumblr, though, and reposted it at least once myself.

  8. I first saw the tweets on Twitter, then collected here, and they’ve crossed my Tumblr dash at least 5 times since then.

    “I didn’t prompt or pay kammartinez to gather up my tweets and share them on Twitter, for example; I don’t even know who kammartinez is. I’m certainly not upset that kammartinez shared the tweets; that’s the nature of tweeting, to be shared (and lammartinez did a fine job of attributing and offering context for the shared material, which is appreciated).”

    Couple errors in there – they were shared on Tumblr, not Twitter, and a slight typo on the username the last time it is mentioned in this bit. ^^

  9. I’m also interested if WordPress counts those who read via email notifications? I don’t always click through on emails – usually only if I want to read the comments too.

    Re Twitter, like others above, I never seem to manage to catch your tweets as I’m nowhere near you timezone and the damn thing scrolls too fast (I need to work out some way to create LJ style Lists for reading it…).

  10. I’m really old. I tried twitter but found stuff scrolled by & got missed, it also seemed too often to just be messages shouted into a canyon, no context, no dialogue and very little thought. Where as blogs seem to be more thoughtful and develop a sense of community (the good ones anyway). Twitter and Tumbler come across as less thoughtful and more isolated.

    Now go away, I have to find an onion fro my belt and dig up a couple of bees to pay for the ferry to Shelbyville.

  11. John,

    My big question about WordPress stats (and stats for web visits in general) is RSS Feeds, which is how I read your blog posts (and/or they’re emailed to me as part of a subscription thing). Is WP counting those somehow? Other than visiting your site for details on how to submit to The Big Idea, I’m not sure of the last time I actually visited itself but I read your posts. I can’t be the only one RSS Feeding you, right?

    Just a thought…thanks.

  12. If you are interested in another way of seeing your reach on Twitter and Facebook, you could check out They do done interesting stats for those 2 networks. (I’m not affiliated with it, just find it an interesting site.)

  13. I’m interested in the wordpress stats too. How do you know it underreports? And in what ways?

    cjtheoracle, wordpress does count main page views, but I believe he excluded them from the count because he wanted to show exposure of a specific post, which is not possible from the main page count.

    I’m pretty sure email doesn’t count in the page views, because I often get far fewer total views than the number of people who have email subs to my blog. So I don’t think they count unless the subscriber clicks through to the actual blog.

  14. My experience with IM, Skype, Twitter and so forth is of being swarmed by gnats with an occasional butterfly struggling gamely by to provide a topic of interest. I like the butterflies (thank you very much) but I hope, John, you will continue to find value in Whatever. Your work and the many thought provoking contributors gathered here is a magnificent gem.

  15. For what it’s worth, saw twitter collection here, on Whatever, and then on Tumblr, where I reblogged it. I have around 750 followers on Tumblr and it’s generated maybe 10 reblogs/likes (hearts). But then I flood my tumblr with 50-100 reblogs on the weekend so it’s easy for a cool post to quickly go under to page 7 or 9 or whatever.

  16. From what I can tell (as a non-Twitter user), following anything longer than a 140-character punchline or newsbit is like reading a novel via Burma-Shave signs or a piece of political analysis via the cable-news ticker. But then, for me a phone is an appliance for calling my wife and a tablet is for jotting down to-do lists or ideas for a column (preferably with a fountain pen) or something I take two of every morning.

    Do not, despite the various Marks of the Geezer in the previous paragraph*, think me a technophobe or technoklutz. Blogging I get–it’s an outlet for the thoughtful or obsessed or the merely garrulous. Forums I get–the collective side of blogging, the corner bar or diner for the housebound. (I mean, here I sit at the keyboard, having a one-sided conversation with a bunch of strangers. And I don’t even have a beer to occupy me during gaps in the chat.) I also get our host’s interest in how various on-line activities keep him visible–it’s part of his professional life. But I read Whatever for John’s extended, thoughtful pieces, and for the thoughtful or funny responses they inspire. If they were all limited to 140 characters, I’d just go downstairs, turn on the telly, and hit the channel button every five seconds. It would feel rather similar.

    * I suspect that “paragraph” itself is a tell.

  17. I don’t tweet, and facebook is sort of random, but I check this blog if only for the book recs. I read about half of hte Big Idea books I see here.

  18. wagnerel – you aren’t. I don’t even follow that many people and I find the continual stream of Twitter too much to keep up with. So I only see something there if I’m looking specifically for it. Weeks go by that I don’t look at the stream at all.

  19. I posted the LINK to the Whatever blog entry on my tumblr. So if people clicked on it, they came directly here.

  20. Twitter is a hard thing to quantify, there doesn’t seem to be any official way to know that a tweet was actually seen. As opposed to WP, it’s fairly easy to link a download with a view.

  21. Wagnerel & ridger – it sounds like you’re both still using as your means of consuming Twitter. That is a frustrating and unenlightening experience, to say the least. Lots of tools exist to help you extract what you care about from Twitter, along multiple variables (e.g., “show me specific people I actually care about, as opposed to everybody I follow. And, show me tweets about knitting that have links in them.” etc.). I use HootSuite. Other options exist.

  22. As a note, I saw it on the front page of your website. I tend to most often just scroll down from the front page and read them there, only clicking on specific items when I want to read the comments.

    I’m sure that others do similarly, so the visits to Whatever could be more under-estimated than at first suspected. Not sure how front page visits compare to individual visits in your numbers though, so I’m not sure how much that underestimation actually is.

%d bloggers like this: