Merry Xmas (and some reflections on the blog)

Irish finance expert explains (robustly!) where the Celtic Tiger went wrong

It’s time for The Melbourne Urbanist to start winding down for the holiday season. After this week, posts will flow to a trickle or even peter out while I take a holiday.

The Melbourne Urbanist has now been going for over nine months so it’s timely to pause for a moment and take stock.

The blog now gets around 2,500 ‘views’ each week. WordPress, who provide the blogging platform, say this count excludes automated searches. The busiest month was November, with 10,721 views and the trend continues upwards. That’s not quite up there with the likes of NineMSN, but I think it’s pretty respectable for a blog with a defined topic and relatively narrow geographic ambit.

It compares well with some other blogs – for example, former ANU economics professor (and now Federal MP) Andrew Leigh, who’s been blogging daily since 2004, says he gets similar numbers. It seems many of the topics addressed by The Melbourne Urbanist “travel well” – they have a reasonably broad appeal.

About a third of views are of the home page where visitors presumably scroll down and scan the first part of each post. However I measure the popularity of each individual post by the number of  ‘reads’ i.e. the number of readers who click through to “read the rest of this entry”. I interpret this to mean the reader was interested enough to keep going. 

I was lucky in only my sixth week of blogging to be one of the first sites on the web to stumble across the story about the Google Maps car photographing a pair of pliers in the UK. That has been the most read post on The Melbourne Urbanist and to this day it continues to ‘earn’ around 10 reads each week.

The ten ‘most read’ posts since the blog began are:

  1. Google Maps captures flying pliers 1,678 reads
  2. Is the Lord Mayor’s new parking charge a ‘money grab’? 709 reads
  3. How big is Melbourne? 637 reads
  4. Victorian election – why have the Greens dug a black hole? 556 reads
  5. Ken Yeang, EDITT Tower 547 reads
  6. Why are outer suburban houses so damn big? 543 reads
  7. Is the Very Fast Train all huff and no puff? 473 reads
  8. More on rail link to airport 453 reads
  9. Is Melbourne really bigger than Los Angeles? 444 reads
  10. Banging the high rise drum 400 reads

Since I started the blog on 2 April 2010, I’ve written 250 posts and made almost 300 comments in response to issues or queries raised by readers. The Melbourne Urbanist seems to be well known and well read within political circles, government administration and within the planning and property industries generally. There is a sizeable coterie of international readers and I’m delighted that the likes of Professor Edward Glaeser and Tim Harford have contributed to discussions. Posts are regularly republished in Crikey, On Line Opinion and other electronic media including various tweeters.

My philosophy from the outset was threefold. First, there would be a new post every (week) day. Second, with only a few exceptions, posts would be analytical and interpretative rather than simply links to other sites. Third, my ‘mission’ was to try to look objectively at issues where too frequently discussion had been reduced to mere slogans. That’s put tremendous pressure on me as a part-time blogger. Where there’s been conflict, work has tended to give way because blogging is simply more ‘fun’. I’m fortunate to be of an age where I can afford to be a bit flexible.

There have been over 1,000 comments posted by readers over the life of the blog, or an average of four per post. That seems to me fewer than the number of readers would suggest, but I don’t understand why that’s the case. I’ve noticed on other blogs and web sites that posts which reinforce the dominant view seem to get a lot of comments, usually agreeing or expanding on the original post. So maybe fewer comments just goes with the territory of a blog that has a questioning bent. Then again I wonder if it’s got something to do with the way I write. Perhaps the posts don’t leave enough “room” for others to contribute to the idea. Whatever, this is something I’ll continue thinking about in the New Year.

Commenters on The Melbourne Urbanist are remarkably positive and polite. There’s the odd one who judges each post as if it were an academic treatise but all in all I’m bowled over by the appreciation and positive feedback I get. Thank you readers! I get a fair few requests off line to write about this or that but the fact is with limited time I can usually only write about things that for one reason or another I know a bit about. My greatest disappointment is no one (yet) has slipped me any “insider” info on planning issues!

I don’t know if next year I’ll be able to maintain the same frequency of posts. I can hear the bailiffs banging at the door! But I’m certainly looking forward to it. With a new Government in Victoria there should be lots of change and new ideas – so there should be a fair bit to talk about.

Merry Christmas.


12 Comments on “Merry Xmas (and some reflections on the blog)”

  1. Matthew says:

    Hey they’re quite impressive figures Alan. My humble little bicycle blog only gets that many hits every 8 weeks.(And my clean air blog only gets hits from lawyers who want to sue me.)

    Still your figures are not too shabby for someone who only pretends to be pro public transport. 🙂

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks for your site. It’s great having a blog that focuses on Melbourne planning. I hope you are able to continue in the new year.

  3. Dave says:

    Maybe we could keep up in the comments if you posted only 3 times per week : )
    I don’t know how you’ve managed to get through so much – but always interesting. Great to have an excellent planning/associated blog, especially focused on Melbourne but with broad applicability most of the time.
    Look forward to next year.

  4. Bruce Dickson says:

    Congratulations on a truly splendid year of blogging Alan and for the real success of your approach and the interest your content generates!

    You have (typically) surveyed the issues and variable extremely well in your piece and with that nice relaxed style and concise writing you should be admired for. (Anything BUT ‘academic’ in this respect!)

    I admire your work for the focus you place on trying to establish some real facts and figs to help us establish more accurate understandings and make better decisions.

    This is very different to the largely opinion based approaches of the vast majority of blogs! Fox News and Murdoch’s ‘news’ outlets would never want to hire you for this very reason!!

    I also think it is this part of your evaluation today that hits close to the most likely truth about the rate of comments received – “Perhaps the posts don’t leave enough “room” for others to contribute to the idea.”

    You do cover most of the possible angles and aspects to each issue you blog about very well. Again something to feel good about and be praised for, not a fault that we cannot deal with!

  5. Bruce Dickson says:

    … And by the way, Aussies should feel genuinely proud of their very widespread Irish bloodline links … the video makes it clear just where that great spirit of bullshit detecting and blunt talking really stems from! Also explains the pleasure taken in a tipple or two … or three (the excessess of which should by now really start to be questioned a lot more seriously, maybe).

  6. Chris Greenleaf says:

    Excellent blog Allan. I came across this site through a link within a post on The Age website. You have certainly increased my knowledge of all things urban, and your insight is a breath of fresh air. It pleases me to know I’m not the only one who thinks 30km speed limits are workable solution for Melbourne.

    The number of posts on your site might be due to people having to think about what they post, as apposed to the emotive approach that you get on the Fairfax media sites. I always put a link in though where it’s warranted.

  7. Peter Hill says:

    I enjoy your blog Alan, and I only wish there was someone here in Sydney willing to do something similar. Maybe we are all worried about the bailiffs at the door.
    I hope you have a good break.

    • jack horner says:

      I’ve not found, for Sydney, anything comparable to Alan’s blog for urbanism, or comparable to the Auckland transport blog at http://transportblog.co.nz/ for transport (ie intelligent comment on transport planning issues, not just folks complaining that their train was late)

      Am I wrong? Why is it so?

      It’s a great shame considering what serious problems Sydney has on these issues.

  8. kymbos says:

    Thanks for your efforts, Alan – your blog is compulsory reading these days.

    Just on the stats, I tend to read your blog through Google Reader, which automatically updates as you upload and I don’t need to actually visit the blogs I follow. I don’t know how this affects your numbers, but I presume a fair few people read this way.

    Looking forward to your continued insights,

    Kymbos.

  9. Despite the fact that some of your views drive me up the wall Alan I continue reading your blog virtually every day.

    Your writing is always good and well thought out and I hope that my (mainly conflicting) comments help add to the discussion.

  10. Moss says:

    Great blog Alan, nicely analytical. Would love to see your take on some more of the “fluffy”, “human” side of urban design such as “place making” etc.
    Keep up the good work.

  11. Brad Hall says:

    Thanks Alan. I have enjoyed reading your blog this year and look forward to reading more in the future. As a Melbournian, I consider myself very lucky to have someone like you writing about the world I live in and inhabit.
    Merry Christmas,
    Brad Hall.


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