Posted by: Jeremy Fox | January 4, 2012

Oikos blog: looking back, and looking ahead

The Oikos Blog began in March, so while we’re not yet one year old the start of the new year seems like an appropriate time to look back at how we’ve grown.

We wrote 170 posts and got just over 58,000 views in 2011. Note that that doesn’t count syndicated views and so is a substantial understatement of the total number of views (probably by more than 15%). WordPress doesn’t provide stats on the number of unique visitors, so we don’t have those numbers.

The biggest single day, with 948 views (again, not counting syndicated views) was May 27, which was the day we first advertised the blog on Ecolog-L, the widely-read ecological listserv. After that, the blog readership jumped, and its grown steadily since then. In November and December, we got over 9100 non-syndicated views/month. By way of comparison, the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting is attended by about 1/3 that many people. I know that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, but neither is it apples-to-bricks. The Oikos Blog really does have a substantial readership for an academic blog aimed at a fairly narrow audience.

WordPress doesn’t provide super-detailed stats of where our visitors come from, but they basically come from places where there are lots of English-speaking ecologists: The USA, followed by Canada and the UK, with Germany, Spain, and Australia trailing behind. But we have non-trivial numbers of readers from Asia, Central and South America, and even Africa.

The most viewed post was, not surprisingly, “Zombie ideas in ecology“, with 1460 views (including syndicated views). That was also the most-commented post (39 comments), although those comments included numerous trackbacks. Other popular posts were my compilation of resources on Bayesian vs. frequentist statistics (1167 views), my takedown of Gould and Lewontin’s “Spandrels of San Marco” (1149 views), my story of how I almost quit science (874 views), and my argument that ecologists should refight the null model wars (862 views). And of course, none of those totals count all the people who read those posts by visiting the blog’s homepage, or by scrolling down from newer posts. Without meaning to be cocky, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those numbers compare favorably to the typical number of people who read the full text of a typical article in a leading ecology journal.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m tremendously pleased and flattered that the Oikos Blog has built such an audience, so thank you all for reading. I enjoy writing for the blog, but I don’t just do it for fun, or because I’m tenured so I can whatever the heck I want (which I can’t, not if I want to keep getting grants). Blogging doesn’t take me much time (less than an hour a week the majority of weeks, a few hours a week max if I decide to write multiple lengthy posts), and I’m fully convinced that it’s a good use of my time. I’m way more well-known in the field than I was nine months ago, which has some very concrete benefits. For instance, this year I attracted many more really strong applicants for the Killam postdoc than I ever have before, and I have good reason to believe that’s not just random chance or a reflection of the weak job market. I’m also starting to get inquiries from prospective grad students who found me through the blog. And this year I expect to get at least two papers out of blog posts, or out of collaborations that were spawned by blog posts. That’s two more papers than I would’ve had had I not been blogging.

So in 2012 you can expect more of the same from me, and hopefully more from other folks. Chris Lortie will be starting up the popular “Editor’s Choice” posts again, providing detailed insight into some of the best papers coming out in Oikos each month. And we have some other ideas for how to add some new voices to the blog.

2012 is going to be an exciting year for the journal as well. A new EiC will be coming on board, with some new ideas for both the journal and the blog. And the journal will be moving to the Manuscript Central system for handling submissions. There was a period when Oikos was slow to take advantage of new technologies, but I’d like to think we’re past that stage and that we’re becoming a leader in this area. I don’t know of any other journal in ecology that blogs about such a wide range of topics, as opposed to using a blog largely or exclusively as a way to promote the journal’s own content.

In the comments, we’d welcome your ideas for both the blog and the journal: what topics you’d like to see covered, what changes you’d like to see–or even just a +1 if you think we’re on the right track.


  1. […] up on my previous post looking back at the Oikos Blog’s first year and ahead to 2012, here are some ideas I had for […]

  2. Congrats Jeremy! The blog has certainly had an awesome year and it’s well deserved based on the quality and quantity of posting.

    My request for the blog in the new year would be for you to provide full articles in your RSS feeds rather than just the teasers. Having just the teasers may boost your stats, but it makes it harder for your readers to keep up with the posts, especially for those of us who do a lot of our RSS reading on mobile devices.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what else you get up to in 2012.

    • Thanks for the kind words and the suggestion Ethan. I actually have no idea what’s in our, or anyone’s RSS feed, as I don’t use RSS myself, but I will pass your suggestion on to Chris.

      • You should definitely think about using RSS. See our post on a few reasons why.

        Right now your RSS feeds just show the first few lines of each post requiring your readers to click through to the site.

        Chris: To change this go to Settings -> Reading and then set ‘For each article in a feed, show’ to ‘Full text’

      • Hi Ethan,

        Chris is looking into the possibility of doing this. Apparently he needs to check with some higher-ups before making any changes to the RSS feed…

  3. Oops, looks like I left out part of a tag or something. Here’s the full link:

  4. I.m with Ethan – I hate having to click thru to the actual website to read entire posts.

    • Done–our RSS feed is now full posts rather than teasers.

      We aim to please. 😉

      • Hooray!

      • Thanks.

  5. What exactly is a “syndicated view”? Is the mafia involved?

    • Ha ha. 😉 They’re just views arising from our RSS feed. Our RSS feed sends subscribers to the feed “teaser” versions of the posts–just the first few lines. The subscribers then have to click a link to read the full post. If they do that, it’s logged as a “syndicated” view.

      • I’m so glad the mafia’s not involved…I learn a lot here!

      • Oh, the mafia is involved–they invented RSS. It stands for cRiminal Syndication Service. 😉

      • Given your feelings about Aaron Swartz, this last comment is hilarious (since he co-authored one of the early RSS specs).

      • Don’t think that didn’t occur to me. 😉 Although in criminal terms Swartz is more a lone wolf than a mafioso…

      • Or maybe that’s just what he wants you to think…

      • “Maybe that just what he wants you to think…”

        So you’re saying Aaron Swartz is like this man (2:29 mark)? I don’t know that I disagree! 😉

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