Lies, Darn Lies, & Statistics – Esse Diem in 2011

“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.”  — WordPress

I’ve developed an annual tradition of mentioning a “Top 10” list of Esse Diem posts at the end of the year.  I started with the most viewed, but quickly learned that post views provide limited information about how good anything actually is, and almost no information about how a piece of writing influenced anyone’s thinking.

SO….here is my new annual evaluation.  It starts with the 5 most-viewed posts according to WordPress:

These are the posts that got the most views in 2011.

Saving Everyone’s Baby was the runaway hit as far as national attention, conversation, and comments.  As pleased as I am that the post got so much play, it was far from my favorite piece of writing in 2011, and it led to some real disappointment for me when all of the talk about follow-up guest posts went exactly nowhere, despite my best efforts to encourage contributing writers.

Blogging is a fascinating lens into human behavior and motivations, but I’ll save my musings about that for another day.

This year, I want to mirror the WordPress stats with my own evaluation of the real “Top 5.”  The real Top 5 posts made the cut each for its own reasons.  I figure a giant computer program with WordPress only knows numbers, whereas I know the nuances of my own blog better than anyone else.

  • And I Thought Heresy Was So Last Century — I like this post because it was such a relief to express my feelings about the issue, and also because it drew me much closer to a long-term reader who told me what he was going through after being accused of heresy himself.  After reading the post, he wrote to me and we discussed online some layers of life-changing experience he had when he was “discovered” as someone who does not believe in hell.
  • The Simons House by Margaret Ward McClain — Each of this year’s Essays on Childhood was outstanding in its own way.  McClain’s 3-part essay was technically brilliant, beautifully written, and the one essay that after 20 readings still makes me cry.
  • This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around — This post didn’t sweep the nation, but it did have an exciting life in West Virginia.  It was retweeted, reposted, and used in talking points to young professionals.  It was one of those truth-to-power pieces of writing that makes me nervous to post, but that was well worth the risk.
  • “Divorce,” and Other Words I Wasn’t Allowed to Say by Jennifer Kayrouz — Another piece of writing for the Essays on Childhood project, this essay’s final public status hides a long road to completion.  Kayrouz and I emailed, met in person, and emailed some more.  She had a serious story to tell, not just for the world but for herself and her family, but the classic writer’s fears of “going there” were holding her back.  I will forever be moved by and proud of her courage in writing the truth of this essay.
  • Check Your Bags. And I Love You. — This one was just a pure personal joy to write, and it resonated with many readers. A friend from college asked if he could use it in preparation for his 25th high school reunion in another state.  Friends from my own school sent me messages and commented online about how much it meant to them, and how well they thought it summarizes a complex emotional and psychological experience.  WordPress stats monkeys have no way of knowing all of the non-WordPress ways I know this was a great post this year.

Happy New Year, dear readers!  Thanks for all of your inspiration, challenge, and sharing in 2011. I hope to hear a lot from you in 2012.

8 thoughts on “Lies, Darn Lies, & Statistics – Esse Diem in 2011

  1. Really liked “Check Your Bags” – I’ve ended up as chair for our 45th college reunion this summer, and recall the great times that our high school class has gotten together, and both the “you don’t know me” and the “yes I do” actually ring true!

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