THE FIFTY PERCENTERS – Rich Paschall

Resistance, a short story by Rich Paschall

After Durward Tower narrowly won his election to the Presidency late in the century, he declared that he had a landslide victory. It was a mandate by the people to make big changes needed by the country. The wealthy leaders of the Congress and of big business helped to spread this myth. It was to their economic advantage to do so.

The many appointments to the courts gave Tower supreme control of the judiciary. Many were not actually qualified for their roles, but they would support any case for which Tower had an interest.

Both houses of the legislature also bowed to the whims and wishes of the so-called Leader. The minority party had little to say and much less money to say it. By the midterm elections, Durward Tower considered himself the Supreme Leader of the land.

All during his time in office, Tower continued to hold campaign style rallies. He loved the cheers of the people, and they seemed to love him and his policies. Many did not realize that his policies were against their best interests.

“We have great ideas for the country,” Tower told his rallies. “These are the best ideas that anyone has ever had in this office. That is because I am the smartest person ever to hold this office. Trust me on this, folks.”

And they did trust him. Many did, anyway. A few were quite skeptical. When Tower started pushing his extreme policies, their suspicions were confirmed.

The biggest change came in the tax code, which then led to changes in the voting laws. Tower had convinced the populace that anyone making less that 100,000 dollars was a drag on the economy and the country. These were the people that were taking the money of the social services and they must be made to pay. He decreed that they should pay a 50 per cent income tax for being such failures. Those making less than 11,000 were only asked to pay 10 per cent.  This was to show the people that Tower was a caring humanitarian. The Legislature approved of this. This new class of people were referred to as the 50 percenters.

Sometimes enough is not enough

Citizens making between 100,000 and one billion had a graduated tax as before. These were the 100 percenters, and Tower often congratulated them for their contributions to society and to his campaigns.

According to the fearless leader, those making a billion dollars or more must be rewarded for their enormous contributions to society. “Without these people,” Tower would say, “there would be no jobs. There would be no progress. There would be no country. Trust me folks, these people must be encouraged to do more and that can only be done with tax cuts.” Durward Tower felt that billionaires should only pay ten per cent. He told everyone that this was a lot of money and more than anyone else was paying.

It was therefore declared that the 50 percenters should only have a 50 percent vote. With each one having only half a vote, their power was greatly diminished. The one hundred percenters kept to one vote per person. The billionaire class quickly became know as the two hundred percenters, as each one got 2 votes in each election.

“You all know that the country must reward the billionaire class for their hard work. They deserve more votes. They contribute so much more than some of those pathetic losers in the 50 percenters.” Ironically, most of the people that cheered this at the rallies were themselves 50 percenters.

Billie Saunders and Robert Wright were among those that felt the majority were being mistreated by Tower and followers. They decided to form a resistance. Saunders held his own rallies to tell the people about the gross inequities. Wright took to social media to spread the word. He made videos and posted them to various platforms. When the resistance gained some momentum and the protests began to grow, Tower became angry.

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He had his Congress pass the Patriotic Actions law. Basically, it stated that anyone who spoke out against the 50 percenters law was to be considered a traitor to the country. Any traitor was to be imprisoned for a lengthy period. Tower once again took to the rallies to sell his new law.

“People who speak out against the laws of this country are traitors. We have great  ideas for this country. They are the greatest ideas any president has ever had. We can not have any disturbances in public from these bad people. There is only one way to deal with a traitor, and you all know what that is.”

At that the chants began from the audience. “Lock him up, lock him up, lock him up.” When the crowds would erupt with his favorite chants, Tower would take a step back from the podium and survey the crowd with great pleasure. Some thought the look on his face was rather smug, but his followers only saw a patriotic gaze.

In the weeks that followed Saunders was arrested and sent to a detention camp. Wright went underground and kept posting videos and opinion pieces. He formed a resistance of people who tried to hide their identities.

Wright told the Resistance, “We know Tower has tampered with the election. We must get the best computer minds to prove what he has done.”

Meanwhile, Tower kept up his campaign against the Resistance. He used his own social media presence to send out messages to his followers. In one message he treatened to shut down a newspaper that ran an opinion piece written by Wright.

“It’s all lies,” Tower wrote, “printed by that failing paper.”

Wright and the Resistance wondered how they ever got to the place in time where the majority voice did not matter, and one demagogue’s whims became the law of the land. They continued to send out messages about the inequality, calling for people to resist the Durward Tower.

 

FOR NEW BLOGGERS

Somewhere along the way during the past four years, I’ve gained a slew of new followers. Many of them fall into a group I call “baby bloggers.” Not only are they new to blogging, but they are new to life. They are children. Teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old for some obscure reason actually follow me. Some are girls and boys who want to be writers or photographers– which makes a certain amount of sense. Others aren’t sure what they want, but have discovered blogging and follow me, hoping I’ll follow them back.

If blogging had existed when I was a teen, I’d have been doing it. For a creative kid, blogging is a godsend. So much better than keeping a diary which you have to hide under your mattress so your mom won’t read it, but she always finds it and reads it anyway. Or just writing stuff no one ever reads. When you blog, even if you don’t have followers, you can be pretty sure someone will read your stuff. Eventually.

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It’s hard to get a blog off the ground. There are weeks, months — even years — before it begins to come together. So when these kids ask me if I’ll follow them, I try to at least give them a read, a “like,” a comment, and some encouragement. I’m already following more blogs than I have time to read, so something has to really grab me to make me sign on.

Some of these baby bloggers are surprisingly good. Others — not so much. Some young photographers need to learn the rudiments of composition and stuff like focusing the camera.

In the writing department, many youngsters need to understand there’s a difference between writing and texting. For the wannabe writers, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice:

  • Use real words, not internet abbreviations
  • Check your spelling. Spell checkers are one of the premium inventions of the past century
  • Write in sentences and paragraphs. You can break the rules, but first understand them
  • Leave white space on your pages. Too much text and graphics looks cluttered and is difficult to read
  • Punctuation is not optional. Discover how exciting commas and periods can be
  • Do not end every sentence with one or more exclamation points!!! Really, just don’t!!! If you do that all the time, it makes you sound hysterical!!!
  • Use emoticons sparingly 🙂 😦 😀
  • Contractions require apostrophes. In other words — don’t, not dont, can’t, not cant
  • Use black text on a white background (not vice-versa) if you expect anyone over 40 to read you.

If you want grownups to read your posts — by which I mean people other than your texting pals — you will have to write in a way we old people can understand. It’s not just the words you use. It’s also subject matter. I’m mildly interested in what’s going on with your generation,  but I’m way past makeup and gossip. If you are going to write about things that only interest your high school friends, your only followers will be your high school friends. Fine if that’s what you want … but … if you want a broader audience, you’ll have to find other topics.

Most importantly, make sure that you write in a real language, not text-speak. Texting abbreviations are not English. They are something, but I’m not sure what.

THEY FOLLOW ME EVERWHERE

I’M A SINGULAR SENSATION 

The news has been slow around here. Just regular stuff. Accidents, government stupidity and incompetence, scandals of the famous and wannabes. Changes in weather. Boston has a new mayor, too. So after all this ordinary stuff, I was thrilled to find this headline. From Dublin across the seas, this pops up on my browser:

Italian lodger tells police he is ‘guilty’ of cannibal murder

Saverio Bellante is remanded in custody after gruesome killing in Dublin

I bet our newscasters would be really happy to have a shot at something this juicy. Yum. Since the demise of Jeffrey Dahmer, there hasn’t been an incredibly disgusting, gory serial murderer to liven up the news cycle.

That got me wondering about today’s prompt which asks us who we would want — of all the possible readers and followers — to be reading our blog. This isn’t bragging, but I know a few of my favorite authors drop round here now and again, usually when I review one of their books or feature an interview with one of them. I know because they send me little thank you notes, probably advisable for any author that gets a really good review from any reviewer. We are prima donnas no less than they and we feed our hungry egos with the cast off kudos of the great and nearly great.

But how cool to be followed by a cannibal? It would be a coup. Definitely would come with bragging rights!

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALL

While Garry was a working reporter, we occasionally got phone calls late at night from convicted serial killers, sometimes critiquing his performance du jour. Turns out, they watched him on the telly. Who’d have guessed that serial killers have phone privileges? Icing on the cake?

Perpetrators of gruesome murders currently on trial would wave and wink at him in the courtroom. I’m sure all the other reporters were jealous. Aside from being intensely creepy, it always made me wonder if their fondness for my husband and his work would count for or against us if they were to get loose and drop by for a visit. They obviously knew how and where to track him down. Find Garry? Find me too.

Garry with Tip O'Neill

Garry with Tip O’Neill

On second thought, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I’m a major hit in the prison system. It would explain the thousand or so followers who remain nameless and never leave comments or even a “like.”

Personally, I’d prefer to be followed (breathlessly, eagerly) by a power player in the literary world. An agent!

DEAR READER

Audience of One – Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

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Dear Reader,

I should have written sooner. You have been following me since I started this whole blogging thing, when Serendipity was new and I wasn’t sure it would fly. Didn’t know what I was doing. You helped me define myself as a writer. Nearly three years now and more than 3,000 posts later, all those old posts are floating around cyberspace. It must be getting crowded!

I’m really talking to you. That’s right. You, in the Lazy Boy, with the cup of coffee. You should drink it before it gets cold. (I should take my own advice.)

Take a sip. I’ll wait. No hurry. I cancelled my doctor’s appointment today. I can’t really afford the copay right now. With the “good” car in the shop and the repairs not yet paid for, money is painfully tight. A bit frightening if I think about it. The best I can do is postpone anything that costs money until (hopefully) the coffers refill, at least a bit.

It’s good my husband likes pizza so much. It’s amazing how happy the man is eating a cheap frozen pizza. I try to fancy it up, adding mushrooms, sometimes some bacon or whatever other bits of stuff we happen to have in the house. But it’s still pizza. The king of junk food. It goes very well with football.

You are the one I write for. A lot of old friends are gone, either to that great beyond or moved too far away to ever see them. It’s sad, but you help fill that empty place.

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I’m glad you exist. I’m grateful you like me well enough to spend some of your day with me. Maybe I follow you. I can’t follow everyone because there aren’t enough hours in my life to read that much and also write, but I try.

I don’t always comment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy your post, just that I’m not feeling witty … or everyone else in the world has already said whatever anyone could possibly say. If I can, I will always send a like. So you know I’ve dropped by.

I hope I can be as much a part of your world as you are of mine. You are terribly important to me. I don’t say how much I appreciate you nearly often enough. You brighten my day when I’m feeling poorly. You make me feel appreciated when I think I’ve been forgotten.

I wish we could meet. Get together to laugh and drink coffee or tea. Eat a few crumpets or donuts. Maybe someday we’ll have a giant convention. I’ll be there, with all my bells on.

Meanwhile, thanks for everything. For caring, sharing, being there. For liking me. For being part of my world and letting me into yours.

Lots of love and a great big fuzzy hug,

Marilyn at Serendipity.

A LITTLE BIT FAMOUS. MAYBE.

Ready, Set, Done!

I’ve been brooding over statistics. In particular, I keep staring at my follower numbers, puzzled, and I’ve reached a conclusion.

I don’t really have more than 7000 followers no matter what the numbers say. I bet most of these “followers” are spam-bots or people who stopped by once, clicked “Follow” and disappeared. Who knows what motivated them to “follow” at all? Maybe it was a slip of the mouse, pure accident?

Hyannis downtown people

Daily views of posts are something. They lend themselves better to analysis. I disregard surges on a single post. Often it’s situational: a big snow storm and everyone shows up to read Garry’s experiences in the blizzard of ’78. Or I write something about a new TV show so when it’s Googled, I pop up. Voila! Thousands of hits on an unexceptional post.

Most people who come to read a post for a specific reason don’t come back. Maybe a few of them will drop by again, but mostly, they won’t. It’s not personal. These are not people who follow blogs. They are looking for information and when they find it, here or elsewhere, they go home.

But I can’t ignore the more than 213,000 views I have on Serendipity. Or the recent upsurge of daily visitors. This does not seem to be a “blip,” and might constitute a trend.

I don’t know most of the people who “read me.” I don’t generate as many comments as more controversial sites. Sometimes, I regret that, but not usually.

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Most of my visitors don’t comment. They don’t even click “like.” Yet I’ve started to meet strangers and discover they’ve “read me.” I’m pleased and happily surprised when it happens.

Blogging can be weird that way. You can be a little famous — and never know it. I’m sure it’s the only kind of “fame” you can achieve without realizing you’ve achieved it.

MORE STATS AND STATS – 5,000 BLOG FOLLOWERS

5000 followersStatistics are a hot topic among bloggers. Some of us obsess over them. I don’t obsess exactly, but I’m aware and interested. I take a daily look. Usually.

Over all, things are looking up at Serendipity. There has been a slow but steady increase in readership over the past 7 months. It’s encouraging — and today I breached a threshold.

FOLLOWERS

I’ve got 5,000 blog followers, the only followers I feel I can (more or less) accurately count.

I have no idea how many Facebook “friends” check out my blog. I suppose a majority of them occasionally check out a post, but most are linked to me because we play (or played) the same game(s). A few hundred more follow me via Twitter and Tumblr. I have no idea how actively they follow. I have no idea how actively anyone follows unless they comment or otherwise make contact.

WHO IS ACTUALLY READING ME?

I’m sure at least half of my 5,000 blog followers are no longer actively following me or were never really following me at all. Some are spammers and con artists, pornographers, trolls and troublemakers. I don’t hear from the real weirdos … and there are a few of them, too. The conspiracy nuts, the ones who are planning to overthrow the government but hopefully lack the skills to do more than rant.

Many followers sign on hoping I’ll do a reciprocal follow. I don’t. Won’t.

For anyone who wants me to follow them, I often check out sites because a comment catches my interest. Don’t send your link if you haven’t read a post or two on my site. I’d just as soon you not send your link at all. If you comment, I’ll have all the information I need to find you. Sending your blog’s link as a comment is rude.

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PAGE VIEWS 

Everybody’s numbers fluctuate. They go up and down without any obvious reason. Unless it’s a multi-week nose dive, I don’t worry about it. Usually, there’s no apparent reason. Or, it can be a seasonal thing. Holidays, the weather, political stuff — all these and dozens of other factors will change what people do online. I used to fret over it, but my recent life has been so stressful, I decided to make blogging a stress-free zone.  I know if things get slow, they will pick up. Eventually. Blogging on the same site for three years has taught me patience.

And, of course, I’m a wild card, maybe the biggest wild card. Because I’m the primary writer. I post every day and have for more than two years, only missing the period when I was too sick to do it.

Even at the best of times, all my posts are not brilliant. I have inspired days and blah days. Sometimes, I think a post is terrific, yet no one agrees. Other time, I think a post is dull, pedestrian — but it gets tons of hits. Go figure. I’m definitely better at gauging my work than I used to be, but that brings me up to maybe 50%. The rest of the time, I think I’ve got it nailed, but I don’t.

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THE COOL KIDS

I keep hearing that there are “cool” bloggers who are hyper popular and garner all kinds of awe and adulation. Everyone (apparently) wants to be one of the cool kids. I don’t actually know who the cool kids are because I avoid extremely popular sites. They are so busy, it’s impossible to have a dialogue with anyone. Or at least, I can’t. I’m not going to line up to be heard.

I think there is a tipping point when a blog becomes an enterprise. It gets too busy, too professional. I’ve seen blogs morph from personal blogs to businesses. I wonder if the bloggers even realized what was happening.

The first symptom? They stop responding to comments … or only respond to a particular group of followers. If I comment but never get a response? I will stop reading and following. I don’t require 100% reciprocity, but I need some acknowledgment. If you are too busy to ever answer my comments, you are too busy for me.

TAKING A LONG VIEW

I prefer to take a long view of statistics. I have yet to match, much less exceed, the numbers I made in November 2012. I had a lot of help that month. We had a highly controversial presidential election and a super hurricane which conspired to make the Internet a wild and crazy place.

I’m getting back up there gradually, month by month. Statistically speaking. This time, maybe it won’t be a fluke and it will stick.

Then again, maybe not. I’m sure I won’t post every day forever. I’ll get tired someday. Not soon, but eventually. Nothing is forever. Definitely not me.

STATS AND STATS – 6,001 FOLLOWERS?

Someone just alerted me that the count displayed on my site shows 6,001 followers.

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No matter what it shows, I don’t have anywhere near that many followers, unless you count Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. My Facebook total is especially meaningless in this context. Most of them are people with whom I used to play Metropolis. I don’t play Metropolis anymore, but the connections I made because of the game are still officially Facebook friends. They were never real friends, just folks with whom I played a game.

For reasons unexplained (probably rivalry), Google followers are not counted.

None of the WordPress counts are reliable. Until last year, hits from the Reader were not counted. Then, for a while, WordPress provided a separate tally of Reader hits. After a few weeks, it was discontinued.

Now I have no idea how or if Reader hits count. Who is counted? Many of us use not just WordPress’s Reader, but other readers. Like Bloglovin, to name just one of many.

As far as I know, the only hits that count (for sure) are when a reader clicks on an individual post. If a readers just accesses your site, then scrolls through, reading as he or she goes, it counts as a single hit. On the other hand, if someone is looking at a photo gallery, then clicks on 6 different pictures, you will get 7 hits — 1 for selecting the post and 1 each for every picture.

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It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

You can study the statistics all you want, but all you can extract are general trends. More or less traffic. A little analysis will show you which of your posts get the most traffic, though the count on that is also suspect. It is not unusual for the number of “Likes” on a post to exceed the supposed total number of hits on it or show 17 hits when you’ve got 75 “Likes” and 55 comments. How can that be?

The only followers I count are WordPress followers yet I know I have followers who prefer to not create a WordPress profile and never register. So they aren’t part of the “follower” count. I’m not sure whether or not they count at all.  I only know they exist because they are friends and have told me they read my posts. Since none of them comment or “Like”, are they counted?

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We want to make sense of our numbers, but it isn’t going to happen. It won’t make sense because WordPress won’t tell us how they come up with the numbers. We need a definition of “hit.” I’d like WordPress to tell me if Reader “hits” are included in the count. Until we have a realistic idea of how they come up with the numbers, we will never understand what they mean.

Does anyone besides me wonder why they won’t tell us for what are they using our numbers? How are they mining our data? To whom they are selling our personal information? I don’t worry about hackers nearly as much as I worry about being sold as part of a list.

What I can tell you with certainty, is I do not have more than 6,000 followers. No matter what it says in the little box.

And all of us are getting more hits than the hit count shows.

WHERE ARE MY 4,089 FOLLOWERS?

Yesterday, I glanced at my statistics and realized I’d reached a new level. According to WordPress, I now have 4,089 4,111 followers.

That’s a lot of followers. You’d figure I’d get at least 1,000 hits a day, right? And certainly, with 1000 more followers than I had a few months ago, I must be getting a lot more hits. It just stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Not.

I have no idea who — or what — is following me.

I am convinced most of my followers are non-human. I have a couple of dozen real people in the mix. These are  my regulars who read my stuff, comment and have become virtual friends. They look at my photographs. They remember stories I’ve written in the past.

That accounts for a couple of dozen people There are a few dozen others who drop by regularly, but not daily, as the spirit moves them. What’s with the other 3,500 followers?

Image: Mashable.com

Image: Mashable.com

Where are you? You don’t write, you don’t call. Not a comment or a “Like.” What’s a blogger to do but wonder if you are real? I bet you are software spammers and cyber-bots. Unless there more than three thousand people who — for no known reason — clicked “Follow” on my site, then lost interest and never came back.

I’m by no means alone in wondering “where have all the followers gone.” It’s the deepest, darkest mystery of blogging, these elusive followers from whom one never hears. Do I really have thousands of lurkers, none of whom have ever clicked on a post?

Anyway, although I’m (technically) more popular than ever, the number of hits per day is slightly lower than it was a couple of thousand followers ago.

If you’re out there, drop me a line. Click “Like.” Make a comment.

Or not.

ADVICE FOR BABY BLOGGERS

I’ve gained a slew of new followers recently. If I can, I check out all the my followers. I go look at their websites, if there is one … or even a profile. It’s because I’m trying to get a handle on who’s who, figure out what made them click the “Follow” button.

Sometimes it’s easy. It’s a fellow photographer or writer. Maybe we’ve had a passing encounter via his or her website. Or they have an interest in what I write about, are my generation, love the same movies or share a passion for history. Or the same taste in books.

Quite a few are probably spammers hoping to gain entry to my site. I can block them from commenting, but I can’t block them from following. Anyone can follow whoever they want. I wish it were otherwise.

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A bunch of them are from countries whose language I don’t speak, often whose alphabet I can’t read. I think some of them are photographers and come for the pictures, but I can’t always tell for sure.

And then there are the baby bloggers. Not merely new to blogging, but … well … children. Teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old. Girls who aspire to a career in fashion (why in the world do they follow me? I’m the most unfashionable person I know!) and some who want to be writers or photographers. Many who aren’t sure what they want, but have discovered blogging. They follow me, hoping I’ll follow in return and help them build a following of their own. I get that.

If blogging had been an option when I was that age, I’d have been doing it. For a creative kid, blogging is a godsend. So much better than a diary, which was my best option.

It’s hard to get a blog off the ground. There are weeks, months — even years — before it begins to come together. So when these kids ask me if I’ll follow them or imply as much, I’ll at least give their site a read, a “like,” a comment and maybe some encouragement. I’m already following more blogs than I have time to read. I’m loathe to add more, though now and then I do add one anyway.

Some of these baby bloggers are surprisingly good. Their observations are astute and sensitive, their photographs show a fine eye for composition. Others — not so much. Some need to learn the rudiments of composition and basics like focusing, cropping. Many more need to learn the difference between writing and texting.

young shooter

For all you youngsters who want to be writers, I would like to offer you some unsolicited advice:

  • Use real words, not internet abbreviations or hacker slang
  • Check your spelling
  • Write sentences and paragraphs
  • Leave some white space on the page. All text and graphics makes me claustrophobic
  • Punctuation is not optional. Discover how exciting commas and periods can be
  • Do not end every sentence with one or more exclamation points!!! Really, just don’t!!! If you do that all the time, it makes you sound hysterical!!!
  • Use emoticons sparingly 🙂
  • Contractions require apostrophes. It’s don’t, not dont, can’t, not cant.

If you want adults to read your posts — anyone older than your texting pals — you will have to write in a way older folks can understand. It’s not just the words you use.

It’s also subject matter. I’m mildly interested in what’s going on with your generation,  but makeup and gossip don’t hold much appeal for me. If you are going to write about things that only interest your high school friends, your only followers will be the kids who attend your school. Maybe that’s enough for you. But if you want a wider audience, find topics that interest a broader audience.

Most importantly, make sure that you write in a real language, not text-speak. Please.

999 BEFORE THE CRASH – STATS AND STATS

Stats OverallShortly before our ISP crashed and burned last night, I took a look at my statistics. Just before midnight, I had 999 followers. WordPress followers. Not including comment followers, Tumbler, Twitter, Facebook or anything else. On my most active day in November — a good month statistically and quality-wise — I got 300 hits from 162 people.

Where are the other 838 followers? I know I’m not the only one to ask this question. I have no doubt more than half of them are spammers, hoping to find a way to hook me for some nefarious purpose. Some are impulse follows. They liked a picture or a post and clicked follow, but have no enduring interest and never visit again.

Let’s say that accounts for 75% of what today’s statistics show as 1004 followers.

Despite the rolling peaks and valleys of hit counts, the number of people who visit Serendipity is relatively stable. Typically, it runs between 75 and 150 individuals, averaging around 100 on a “regular” day, almost all of which come in during the late afternoon and evening.

What changes more is how many articles they read, how many pictures they click on. Sometimes, the number of visitors is quite low, but the hit count is very high, meaning that each visitor hit 3 or more posts per visit. I feel very successful when I see that. Raw numbers are one thing, but seeing what people really read gives me an idea what you appreciate. If it’s something I’m especially proud of, I’m doubly pleased.

Who is everyone else? Are you real? Do you look at the email but never come to the site? Are you following through the Reader from which statistics do not count? And why don’t Reader hits count? Does anyone know? I love using the Reader. It’s a great tool that lets me identify stuff I want to spend more time exploring, but also gives me a chance to “say hello” to others bloggers without eating my entire day. But, great tool or not, I’m hesitant to use it — saving it for when I’m most pressed for time — because I know it doesn’t register statistically.

We may deny we track our stats … but we all track our stats, one way or the other. It’s the only way to get a grip on how well we are doing.

Big Stats

No answers. Still, I’d like to know who you are and what you liked that made you follow … and why you don’t participate more actively?  I’ve never been Freshly Pressed either (are you embarrassed to visit an unrecognized site?). I think am close to a world record for non-recognition.

Whatever brought you to me — spammers, you may leave the room — thank you. To all who come and visit, to everyone who reads the emails or checks me out in the reader. Whatever your reason or method, you are welcome and I hope you find what you are looking for.

Spammers, please ignore this message.

Daily Prompt: HOME SWEET VIRTUAL HOME

I’ve been trying to figure out why I missed Serendipity so much. It was less than a week, I felt like I was missing a body part. Why? Isn’t one site the same as another?

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It turns out, no, they aren’t. Every blog has a unique flavor, a personality. They grow and change with whoever is minding it and in response to feedback from readers and followers. In other words, you. It took me almost two years to develop an active following for Serendipity. I know many of you as friends. I know stuff about your lives. I know what makes you laugh, grabs your interest. Over the almost 1500 posts I have put up on Serendipity, I tailored my writing to accommodate your interests … and mine. Finding that balance has been a dance, a complex two-step of trial and error.

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I love making you laugh. I enjoy poking holes in “what everyone says.” Your comments and responses give me ideas and feed my muse — and she’s a hungry babe. And you feed my soul, answer my need to relate to a wider world. To be part of something more than me alone.

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Writing a new blog is strange, like standing at a podium in a city I’ve never visited, knowing I have to give a speech to an audience of strangers. I know some of my old friends are out there, but I can’t see past the footlights. I’m not sure if this new group will like me. I’m not everyone’s cuppa tea.

The new people don’t know my history. Here I have a storyline which builds on itself. I don’t have to explain who I am. Here, I can build from the last story, link earlier stories, refer to things I’ve written about before. It’s the difference between comfortably chatting with an old friend and cultivating a new one who doesn’t know any of your personal history or those quirky twists and turns of your brain.

New acquaintances can easily misunderstand my peculiar brand of humor! It’s definitely odd. Weird, even.

Forgive me while I fumble a bit, trying to find my feet, but please check out Serendipity Redux. I don’t know what it will be yet. It hasn’t its own personality. How it grows — or fails to grow — will have a lot to do with you. The ground is slippery — new territory.

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I didn’t intend to start over, though I knew I would have to, sooner or later because the volume of material being supported on Serendipity is perilously large. It’s exploding; there are a lot of warning glitches. The mechanics of Blogger are different than here at WordPress. It’s not a criticism of either platform: it’s merely different. It will be a while before it feels like home.

Until then, this is still my cyber home.

Prompts for the Promptless: 502 Shining Lights

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In the midst of one of the more difficult weeks of my life, with all of the Sturm und drang, agonizing and fear, two strangely marvelous and marvelously strange events occurred.

First, because kindness and generosity are always a marvel, a gift never to be underestimated or ignored, my kind readers have rallied around — along with my oldest and best-loved friends — to make me remember that there is always a reason to go on with life.

To accentuate the amazingness, rediscovering how people you’ve met through an electronic, completely magical medium, can show they care, are real people, even though they are too far to come and personally offer a hug … I tipped over the big 500 number and stand at 502 WordPress followers.

That’s amazing. Hard to believe it’s real. More than 500 people like my pictures and my writing — and me — enough to subscribe to this little blog. It’s awesome, marvelous, and strangely wonderful!

I hope the months to come won’t take me away from this remarkable connection to so many people I have come to cherish as a virtual family. I know there will be a break at some point, at least for a while — but I hope it won’t be for too long … and won’t happen for a while yet.

There’s a third thing. It may not sound so marvelous but it means more than I have words to say. A simple thing … a bouquet of flowers from my husband. Bright and shining on top of the cold woodstove on the fireplace mantel. Reminding me that I am, despite how crazy, broken and difficult I am, I am nonetheless loved.

Thank you. All of you. From the bottom of my imperfect heart.

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85,000. What it means. What it doesn’t.

To put this into perspective, my “about” page and five top posts account for around 35,000 hits. “The Me Page” alone has gotten more than 12,000 hits.

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Still, the cumulative effect is that a lot of people have visited this little blog of mine, for whatever reason and it’s a bit humbling to realize that’s the number of people in a pretty big town, more than a packed crowd in Yankee Stadium. I know there are people out there whose statistics put them into the hundreds of thousands. What’s weird is I see if I don’t quit, I’ll get there too. Not tomorrow, unless something I write goes viral (unlikely) … but I’ll get there. Because every day, I get around 200 hits, unless the première show for the 2012-2013 season of Criminal Minds is playing — in which case I get closer to 1000 hits (that’s how I know the show is airing).

I am writing this before I quite hit the 85,000 mark. At this moment in time, I’m at 84,958, so I’ll cross that bridge tomorrow. I don’t have the exact numbers, but it ought to be more than 85,000. I’m probably jinxing myself.

Number of posts? Closer to 1500, but I deleted several hundred and I’ll probably have to do it again to keep the website from collapsing under the weight of too many posts. I’ve been a busy writer. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to rerun posts because — hey — I think they’re pretty good and worth running again.

The ups and down of statistics can produce a lot of anxiety, so … you gotta have faith. I don’t just look at raw numbers because they are only a part of the puzzle. I don’t have more visitors or even as many as I did — the total number of visitors is down considerably from the peak last fall. It was the election and the Internet was a wild and crazy place. Yet the overall hit count has remained reasonably steady because guests spend more time on my site, read more posts, look at more pictures. The average number of posts hit per visit is greater than 2, sometimes a lot more. That tells me I’m doing something right.

It tells me I’m writing more interesting stories, posting better pictures. This matters to me far more than raw numbers. To know you come and stick around, enjoy my work enough to read more than a one post makes me feel pretty good.

The numbers of followers I’ve got has topped 400 from WordPress. I’ve got a bunch more from Twitter and Tumblr, maybe a couple of dozen from Facebook (not quite as many as WordPress counts them). A year ago I couldn’t even imagine so many followers.

Followers get  emails. Many people read posts in email and don’t bother to visit the website. It’s a peril of email notification. If you can read it in email, there’s no incentive to go to the main site since the emails contains 90% (or more) of the post. It’s a trade-off. Followers are good to have, even if they only read the email. Honestly, I don’t care if they read my posts on a telephone pole. Where isn’t important.

Sudden drops in hits are alarming and baffling, especially when numbers pop back up the next day. What was that all about? You will never know. One of the great mysteries of blogging. Numbers by themselves don’t mean everything, but they don’t mean nothing, either. A lot of hits indicates interest at the very least. Hit counts on individual posts tell me a lot too.

There are two kinds of posts in the blogging world. There are posts that are highly topical and burn really hot for a short time. Most of these involve breaking stories, current events, scandals, stuff like that. And there are slow burners. Timeless material, fiction, reviews.

Reviews can have a very long shelf life. People keep coming to read them over and over. Many of these are informational in nature, reviews of technology, books, movies. Oddly, reviews of extremely obscure movies do quite well, maybe because it’s difficult to find reviews of them anywhere. Camera reviews seem to have an eternal life. Book reviews of popular authors continue to be accessed months after original publication.

The posts with a long shelf lives gather a lot of hits over the months. One of my top three posts has more than 5000 hits, but it took more than 9 months. As long as the material remains relevant, people will find it. Good placement on Google helps too, but over all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the longevity of reviews in general, technology in particular.

So for all that WordPress doesn’t think much of my work, a lot of other people apparently feel otherwise and in the end, that matters. It matters a lot. My followers, my readers have become a kind of family. We share each others’ lives, pains, joys. We celebrate and mourn together. We’ve never met, but we aren’t strangers.

I still save every “like” and every notification of a new follower. I would follow all my followers, but I’m out of time. I can’t keep up with that many blogs. I can barely keep up with the books I’m supposed to be reading and reviewing.

I can’t imagine how people do this when they have full-time jobs and young children. I’ve never been more impressed than I am with homemakers and career men and women who manage to handle their family obligations, jobs and blogs. All honor to you. You are the real rock stars.

Blogging Part 4: Etiquette Part II

I try hard to answer every comment, at least to acknowledge that I’ve received it. It’s courtesy and it’s also the only way to have a dialogue with ones readers and get to know them (and vice versa). I think it matters. Others obviously don’t agree. Because I know that the response rate to my comments is no better than 50% across the board.

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Metaphorically strolling through the recent entries on the Freshly Pressed page, I noticed a disturbing trend. Some of these recent winners of that coveted page placement aren’t responding to their comments. They are responding to a few, but not many.

When I got Freshly Pressed last year, I tried my damnedest to answer every single person who commented. I would have continued doing so if I hadn’t had a heart attack and wound up in hospital and almost dying. At that point my blog and getting Freshly Pressed was forgotten. I think it would be safe to say that the only things that existed in the world for me at that point was the hospital.

If I remember correctly, when I came home four days later, full of scars, stitches and medication, the first thing I did was to check my blog and answer comments.

I can hear a lot…

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Improbability Drive Powers WordPress Statistical Base!

PanicIn the wake of my cogently worded suggestion that WordPress make some alteration to its “followers” calculation, I did not receive a direct response, but I know they are listening. They apparently heard my plea and have responded above and beyond my wildest hopes for a solution.

They doubled the number of followers they say I have on Facebook.

From yesterday’s absurd calculation of 1313 Facebook followers, at midnight, WordPress recalculated my numbers and informed me — and I suppose the rest of the world too — that I now have 2,628 followers on Facebook. I admit I added one friend, an old pal from college who looked me up (Hi Charlie!) and asked to connect. I said golly, haven’t talked to him in a dog’s age and gave him the green light. That must be what triggered the WordPress engines to leap on my growing Facebook coterie and send it to new heights.

Talk about a responsive organization, what could be more reassuring than this? I officially, as of this writing, haven’t the slightest idea how many followers I really have. The math has just gotten too complicated for me. Math has always been my worst subject, but I swear that the folks at WordPress have taken a page out of Douglas Adams‘ playbook and are now using Bistromathics to calculate my numbers.

Bistromathics (from Hitchhiker’s Wiki)

Bistromathics is the most powerful computational force known to parascience. A major step up from the Infinite Improbability Drive, Bistromathics is a way of understanding the behavior of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that space was not an absolute, but depended on the observer’s movement in time, so it was realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer’s movement in restaurants.

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Nonabsoluteness

The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.

The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of those most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexclusion, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusions now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else’s Problem fieldDouglas

The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the check, the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon in this field.)

Numbers written on restaurant checks within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the universe.

(Excerpt from the Hitchhiker’s Wiki)

Anyone else want to weigh in on this? It’s the same poll as yesterday. So far, there’s 100% agreement that this is an absurd number. Now that WordPress itself has made it clear that they know how absurd it is by making it even more absurd, I think they may have already had the final word, but give it a go anyhow.

I thought it was important to maintain an honest relationship with readers, but that was before I realized we were actually on a space ship piloted by crazy aliens, powered by the world’s first Improbability Drive. Now I know there’s never going to be a fix because the whole issue is swathed in an S.E.P. (Somebody Else’s Problem) field and it is invisible! Hail Douglas Adams! You did not die in vain!

Note: If this trend continues, we will move from the Douglas Adams paramathematical realm to the Humpty Dumpty College of Astrophysics where “a word means what I say it means” and so do numbers. Just saying.

Faux Figures from WordPress — Oh no!!

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WordPress is a great organization. Really, lots of support, recognition to many people. Not to me, but lots of other people. And most of it is for free. From templates to tech support, I get more service from WordPress than I would get from most blogging services at any price. But I think this time, WordPress has made a serious mistake and they need to rethink this thing.

Followers. Imagine my astonishment to discover that from my previous day’s statistic that counts my number of followers — 280 — I am now showing the world that I have 1,605 followers. I know I had a good day Wednesday, but I don’t think I gained more than 1,300 followers between Wednesday and Thursday. If I have that many followers, where are the hits?

Even if a mere 10% of them dropped by, that would give me a base 160 hits per day, and while I do get more than that (usually, but not always), WordPress also kindly does a pretty thorough breakdown of where all my hits come from.

So how did they get this astonishing calculation of my followers? What happened?

WordPress is now counting my Facebook “friends” as followers through Publicize. All 1,313 of them.

Most of my connections on Facebook are people I don’t know, but with whom I play games, especially Metropolis, a game that requires a lot of connection. There’s virtually no interaction between players. We post jokes on each others’ walls and silly stuff like that, but we don’t hang out or share our lives, virtually or otherwise. We ignore each others’ posts because we aren’t really friends. So from this number, let us now subtract about 1000  — because that’s how many of my Facebook association are attributable to Metropolis. About another 100 or possibly more, are associated with me via some other game, and a few of them, several games. That’s okay. That’s one of the things that you can do with Facebook. Although some of these connections might occasionally take a look at something I’ve posted, they do not participate in my virtual or real world.

The remainder of my Facebook contacts are people with whom I have or had some kind of relationship. Maybe a few dozen are friends or family. The rest are people I’ve met, worked with, used to know from my traveling days, or had some other brief association based on some shared interest and with whom I may have intermittent contact.

Yesterday, I got 216 hits. Because of WordPress’ excellent statistical analysis, I know exactly how many of these hits originated on Facebook.

The answer? One. Just one. Sometimes I have gotten as many as half a dozen, but never more than that, so counting it as 1313 followers renders the statistics not merely meaningless, but embarrassing. A joke, not a statistic.

So the follower figures are not just a little pumped. They are ridiculous. WordPress, you need to rethink this statistic. It is misleading and unfair to actual followers who did sign on to follow me. And it’s unfair to me, too,  because I have to subtract all those bogus followers to get a meaningful number. No one has anything to gain from this. To be counted as a follower, a person should be required to do perform an act of will, for example, say he or she wants to be your follower, not just a wholesale raking in of everyone on a list. That really would be like assuming that all the contacts in my email contact list are also followers, which I assure you, they are not.

I don’t mean to be ungrateful for all the services WordPress provides, but this needs to be undone as quickly as it was done. You just can’t call every Facebook “friend” a “follower” and have the term follower continue to mean anything at all.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

Let WordPress know that pumping up our statistics just makes them meaningless. In the meantime, I’ve removed the follower statistics from the “Follow Me” box. I’ll happily reinstate it if this gets fixed. Otherwise, it’s  too much of a lie. I don’t want to be a liar all over the Internet even if it makes me look good. It also rewards those of us with Facebook accounts and punishes those who don’t. As far as I know, Facebook is not connected to WordPress … or is there something I don’t know about?

I think it’s important we maintain an honest relationship with our readers. So in the meantime, I won’t post that statistic. I’d rather it didn’t exist, but I’ll settle for not being part of the scam.