“Annus horribilis” or “annus mirabilis”?
How should we remember 2014? Was it a “horrible year” or a “wonderful year”? Well, as always, it depends on who we’re talking about. For Robin Thicke, Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, Shia LeBeouf, Donald Sterling, the CIA, the NSA & countless others, it was the former. For Senate Republicans, the German soccer team, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Benedict Cumberbatch, feminists, the Canadian Olympic Team & countless others, it was the latter.
In my case, upon evaluating all the available evidence, I’ve come to one unmistakable conclusion: my 2014 was pretty damn good.
I’ve been blogging now for almost nine years, much of it in almost total obscurity. At the end of 2006, after being on MSN Spaces for 11 months, The Writings Of Dennis Earl had generated a measly 3200 hits. Eight years later, the grand total of overall page views for my relocated WordPress site in 2014 is almost 40000, my biggest annual total to date. It may be a slow process building a readership but by God, things are finally happening for me.
In 2014, there were three significant moments, three pivotal turning points that led to all this growth.
It all began in late March. While checking my daily stats, I noticed a huge surge in interest in Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld On DVD. Last year, this trivia piece generated less than 350 hits in 2013 altogether. But on March 29th alone, it generated almost 550 hits. A little investigation revealed why.
Someone had posted a link to the piece on Reddit. That gave me an idea. What if I started posting my work myself in various sections of the website? Would that boost my numbers, I wondered?
So, in April, I signed up. Although some pieces were either rejected or simply not read or commented on at all, there were a few that did attract some attention, both enthusiastic & harsh.
Unsolved Mysteries Of Seinfeld dates back to early 2008 during my Windows Live Spaces period but after I shared it on Reddit, it was seen almost 1700 times on April 14th alone. (I set a new daily record that day: over 1900 page views, the most single-day traffic I’ve ever had in the history of this site.) Although, comments were decidedly mixed (hey GlottostopFTW, I like my old health card picture, so fuck you), I was incredibly surprised so many Seinfeld fans took the time to read it & write about it, even if some didn’t particularly care for it. (It was filed under “controversial”. That’s bad ass.)
In the WordPress era, Unsolved Mysteries Of Seinfeld was seen just under 500 times in four years. In 2014 alone, thanks to the Reddit posting, it has generated an additional 2400 hits in 2014. Thanks to its own Reddit posting, Interesting Things I Learned About The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld On DVD generated almost 3500 hits this year (thanks for sharing it, besst!).
Before Reddit cracked down on my excessive personal linking (I got a little carried away & didn’t know they frown on this until I took the time to read their rather restrictive policy), my 2006 review of the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven (over 800 hits), The Five Men Who “Retired” At WrestleMania (over 1350 in a single day, plus an additional 300 for the rest of the year), Royal Rumble Trivia (over 450) & 9 OMG! Moments The WWE Overlooked For Its 2011 DVD Set (almost 370) all benefited from being shared on the site.
As a result of all of this, April 2014 is currently the biggest month I’ve ever had with over 7600 hits. Were it not for Reddit being such anti-linkites, I’m quite confident I would’ve had an even bigger year than I already did.
Two months later, my disappointment was immediately forgotten after I received a very nice email from Seamus McKiernan. He loved my three-part blog series, 9 Public Figures Who Rightly Opposed The Second Iraq War, and asked if it would be ok to have it published on The Huffington Post. (He’s an editor for the site.) Despite being in considerable pain (damn you, gum disease & 18 years of unchecked tartar build-up), it didn’t take me long to give him my blessing.
Although the HuffPo version was much shorter (at the request of Seamus, it was trimmed way down so it could fit into a single condensed piece) & given a new title, this was a major breakthrough for me. In the end, it was liked 356 times, shared almost 100 times on social media and through email & commented on 49 times. After she read it, my Mom could not have been any prouder of me. The outpouring of support from my friends & family on Facebook & Twitter was deeply gratifying.
Since then, five more of my pieces have been posted on The Huffington Post: 21 Things You Probably Don’t Know About ‘Hell in a Cell’, Some SummerSlam Trivia, 6 Actors Who Made the Most of Their Second Chances (which was also translated in French), A Former Obama Aide’s Revealing ‘Rolling Stone’ Article & Rob Ford Threw a Political Hail Mary That Doug Can’t Catch.
The Rolling Stone story was liked an incredible 1400 times, commented on 115 times & shared with others almost 15o times, easily making it the most popular of all my HuffPo contributions. (I wish they kept official statistics for all my pieces posted on there but strangely, they don’t keep track of any of that. I hope that changes soon.) It also inspired a brief email conversation with a globally respected math professor, a fellow President Obama critic, who not only enjoyed the piece but expressed astonishment that HuffPo dared to publish it. That meant a lot to me. Thanks, Professor Farley!
The Rob Ford story was liked almost 500 times, inspired 34 comments and has been shared over 110 times. A DJ from British Columbia liked it enough to request I do a 10-minute phoner about it on his morning radio show. (I was deeply flattered but politely declined.) That said, I have a couple of small complaints. An error I made (Doug Ford was still serving as a Toronto City Councillor at the time of its writing. I wrongly noted he was a former Councillor during the civic election campaign.), pointed out by a former schoolmate in the comment section, wasn’t corrected, even after I emailed Seamus about it. I also wanted to post a clarification regarding Rob Ford’s health history (“CLARIFICATION: During a September 17 press conference announcing Rob Ford’s rare cancer diagnosis, Dr. Zane Cohen stated that the Toronto Mayor didn’t have a benign mass in 2009. He actually had appendicitis.”) but that was ignored, too. Since the piece was first posted here on WordPress, like all of my HuffPo submissions, I simply made these changes in the original essay here.
President Obama’s War Crimes, my one & only attempt to write something exclusively for HuffPo, was not accepted. Curiously, after posting it on my site, it was reprinted without any prompting on my part by Socialistnet.net. That was cool. They published two more of my pieces, a poem called Self-Righteous Fury & the aforementioned Rolling Stone Obama aide story, as well. Too bad the site doesn’t exist any more, not even in cached form.
Finally, there’s Twitter. Truthfully, there’s no one single event that stands out as a game changer but to have prominent media folks & activists, as well as non-media people, following me or interacting with me has surely led to more interest in my work. (My account generates tens of thousands of views every week. If only my blog could be as popular.) As we begin to bury 2014 for good, after two years of tweeting, I’m proud to say I have over 400 followers. That’s more than twice the amount of blog subscribers I have (116, as of this writing). I feel like I’ve made some new friends (although I lost a few, as well) & even earned a tiny bit of respect along the way. Here’s hoping for more good news on this front in 2015. You can follow me @DennisCEarl.
While my Twitter account is far more read than my own site, The Writings Of Dennis Earl had a banner year nonetheless. Since the move to WordPress from Windows Live Spaces in the fall of 2010, it’s now been accessed over 110000 times. New stats records were set for seven individual months. (January, February, June, July & October were the only holdouts. Past years during those periods generated higher monthly totals.) Only one month (February) had less than 2000 hits. And I’ve already mentioned the new daily, monthly & annual statistical breakthroughs.
When debating whether one had a good year or a horrific one, from my perspective, based on everything I’ve just finished documenting, 2014 was, in a word, mirabilis. May my good fortune continue in the new year.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 30, 2014