Skeptikai Turns Two Years Old!

Overhead jpn BG art

The blogging on Skeptikai started two years ago, and I’m happy to say things have been going well since then. I’m always learning new things, and the site itself has been growing faster than I had expected. If you’re a recurring reader, I encourage you to leave a comment on what things you like/dislike about the site. I’ll do more of what you like and less of what you don’t like if I can. Anyways, here are my thoughts, achievements, and failures, regarding the past year of blogging.

What I learned

I was surprised to learn that I can never tell what’s going to be popular! Some of the articles I thought would be trivial become extremely popular, and many articles I thought were well written are often barely ever read. One example is the article I wrote on the history of the artificial heart. I thought it was interesting, but almost no one read it.

From this kind of feedback, you can be sure I won’t be writing about that again any time soon. Perhaps the only way people will be interested in artificial hearts is if something happens to them personally, or it becomes big is in the news. Regardless, the point is that I have almost no sense for what will become popular anymore.

Actually, that’s probably true for most people. I mean… did anyone at all expect Gangnam Style to be this popular? Yeah right.

What I Achieved

Last year I had a few personal milestones. For one thing, I reached 100,000 total hits in August, but as I argued in the article announcing this achievement, there’s a good chance that about half of that traffic is not actually from real people. But since that article, my traffic has almost trippled in total, so that’s fine. In fact, each month since then has had several thousand more hits than the month prior.

Also, having readers that actually comment was a big change in 2012. Unlike the first nine months of 2011, I have plenty of activity every day now, and I love the comments I get. Even the ridiculous ones! (Oh yes, there have certainly been some ridiculous ones). There was a total of 325 comments (57 of which were mine). That doesn’t factor in the nearly 50,000 spam comments I had to delete since Skeptikai started. If I get that much, I can’t imagine what the really popular blogs get.

What I Love About Blogging

One of the things I love about blogging is that it requires me to learn. I am forced to study the topic to the extent that I genuinely know what I’m talking about, even if I knew very little before – such as the artificial heart article. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t (there are several articles of which I am not particularly proud) but getting recognition and receiving comments is really what makes me feel like I’m not just wasting my time trying to enlighten, educate, or inform others. People are actually listening.

I hope that doesn’t sound to pretentious, like a know-it-all; because that’s not how I intend to come off. In fact I was happy to report in June that an article I wrote about a week earlier had a few significant errors, after the author of a study I critiqued wrote to me. I was very happy he contacted me, and he was not hostile at all, despite the errors I made. As I said after fixing the article itself, and in the follow-up admission, it didn’t make the study flawless by any means… but it did certainly raise it to the level of acceptable science, and a study that we shouldn’t simple forget about.

Indeed, blogging can be a humbling endeavor…

What I’m Least Proud of

More than anything in my last year of blogging, the biggest disappointment was the secondary blog that I had launched with several others. It was such a complete and miserable failure that, in the end, I’m basically embarrassed by it. Being essentially the only one willing to write was a wake up call for me; it really showed me my place within the blogosphere. I figured that since I was the only one willing to write, there would be no point in doing it on a secondary blog. So what ended up happening was… nothing. It didn’t change anything for me. I kept writing on Skeptikai. The whole experience just equated to a waste of time for me and a few bad emotions that later turned to intense apathy.

But I guess the positive thing about that experience is that it showed me just how committed I was to this form of writing. Clearly, I am committed.

What I’m Most Proud of

On Skeptikai’s first birthday, it was the 94th article. This article is my 197th. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve made so many articles, because I still have never made one of those short cop-out posts saying almost nothing, like “here’s a YouTube video I saw, so you should watch it too,” which so many bloggers do. Not that I am really judging them… I mean, who knows? Maybe I should start doing that…

Also, the website-traffic-ranking website Alexa is an interesting way to look at the popularity of websites. Alexa ranks them by traffic in a 3-month period, and it was interesting to the rank of Skeptikai rise steadily. When I first started, it didn’t even register on the website. Then it was somewhere around the 4 million, and I think around 1 or 2 million near the end of 2011. I’m happy to say that Skeptikai is currently somewhere around the world’s 600,000th most popular website. This is not necessarily impressive, but keep in mind that I haven’t done any marketing for my blog and I’ve had no help and basically had to do everything by myself – half the time I have no idea what I’m doing! So I’m hoping to gradually rise in the rankings.

What I Would Like to Do Next Year

In November 2011, I made the milestone of getting 10,000 hits. I added another zero to that figure in August 2012. My next hit-count milestone will be a million, and based on the growth of this site, I’m pretty confident that I’ll achieve that in 2013.

Also, I’ve been thinking for a while about the possibility of starting a podcast. I would basically want to talk about the same things I do here, but in a totally different form, and a very different way. I like the idea of this, but I’m not sure if, how, or when I should do it. I also haven’t done anything like that before, so it would take a lot of time to learn how to make such audio files, and right now I have two many giant projects happening in the next few months to get started. So if I don’t start it in 2013 year, at least I might plan it for later. In fact the timing (and the existence…) of a Skeptikai podcast might depend on readers’ responses. After all, there’s not much point in doing a podcast if no one’s going to listen to it.

My Five Personal Favorite Articles of the Past Year

Left-brain vs. Right-brain Learning Styles – An example of what busting pseudoscience myths looks like.

Top 5 Quotes of Stupid America’s War on Smart People – Intelligence has become vilified in the West, but nowhere more than the U.S.

Tsunami Survival Guide: Japanese Culture is Not Conducive to Staying Alive – Rethinking the values of Japanese and foreign cultures.

Rich People Don’t Smoke – The Simple Socioeconomics of Tobacco Consumption – A simple thesis, with good research to back it.

Doctors Make Mistakes… Even the Preventable Ones – A lesson in humility for patients and doctors alike.

My Message to Readers

If 2012 has taught me anything, it’s that time flies in the blink of an eye. Make sure that you’re using your time the best way possible, and not wasting it on things that you’ll regret later. …But even the most seemingly trivial thing may be a good use of your time, depending on what you do with it. An hour today might be completely different from an hour tomorrow; it’s all just a matter of how you use it. Don’t let those hours go to waste – you’ll never get them back.

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10 Responses to Skeptikai Turns Two Years Old!

  1. Andrew says:

    I’d probably listen to the podcast, so thats at least 1 person.
    Also what was the other blog you started? I probably wasn’t reading Skeptikai at the time.
    And whats with the banner picture, did you make it or is it just random?

    • Ryo says:

      Hey Andrew!
      Sorry it has taken so long to respond, I only get a comment alert for first-time commenters (and I didn’t think I’d get so many comments!).
      Thanks for letting me know.

      To answer your question, I definitely don’t have the talent to make a picture that cool. I find all of my pictures on Google – I have virtually no idea where they come from. I usually give the creator credit if I know who made it, but 95% of the time I have no idea who makes them.

      As for the second blog, it was supposed to be a blog with other like-minded people, but the only thing it ended up doing for me is realizing how much a part of my life writing/blogging has become. I was tempted to keep writing on it to motivate the other writers but considering I have Skeptikai, there was no point. I didn’t want to write the same stuff on both, so in the end I didn’t keep it up.

      Anyways, thanks for the comment! I’ll try to tackle lucid dreaming soon.

  2. six8ten says:

    Congratulations on the 2nd year. I started reading fairly early on, even though I’m an infrequent commenter.

    As for podcasts, I just don’t listen to any. I may be in the minority here: I don’t even own an i-pod, still have an old flip-phone, and when I’m at the computer, I’m usually doing something else that listening to a podcast with anything resembling a modicum of paying attention just isn’t feasible.

    Ever thought about having an occasional “Skeptic meet-up” in Tokyo?

    • Ryo says:

      Thanks six8ten!
      You still have an old flip-phone? You’re missing out on the smartness of smart phones! Well I’m sure your route is much more affordable. Maybe I’ll have to do that in a year or so, when my savings go down the drain ><. And YES I have totally thought of having a skeptic meet-up in Tokyo! That's actually one of the reasons I started a blog, so I might be able to create a network of skeptics and such. In fact, that's half the reason for the KAI in Skeptikai (会). But I have a major problem. I have absolutely no idea where to start. Furthermore, I have never been to a skeptic meet-up, so I don't even know what they're supposed to look like. There's actually a skeptical meetup this very weekend (Sunday) in Tokyo, by the Japan Skeptics; but I'm not sure if I can make it. That's a shame. I suppose it would be great if I could attend the Amazing Meeting or DragonCon or something... but no amount of switching to flip-phones is gonna allow me to afford a trip to the U.S. just for that. But if I can see how it's put on by going to one in the future, I might be inclined to bring it back to Japan. Thanks for your comment!

      • six8ten says:

        A smart phone is somewhat tempting, and would be nice to have sometimes, but since my phone bill would more than triple each month (most likely due to the additional data plans) I haven’t changed over. My bill is usually under ¥2500 per month. The cheapest smartphone plan I’ve seen is in the ¥7500 range.

        In regards to the Skeptikai meet-up, I was thinking more along the lines of a smaller-scale, informal type of thing, sort of a gathering of like minded individuals, perhaps with a specific topic or guest speaker, or perhaps even something along the lines of a Skeptikai hanami party or some such that readers of the site in Japan might be able to make it to.

        I recently finished reading a book on Japanese ghosts and haunted places (I don’t believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories as well as legends and myths). There are several places of “supernatural repute” in and around Tokyo. Perhaps an “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” night trip to one of the supposedly haunted sites would be fun.

        I took a quick look at the Japan Skeptics page, but as my kanji is rudimentary at best, a quick look isn’t enough to get much of an idea of what sort of things they do, nor how often.

        • Ryo says:

          That meet-up idea you had was actually a pretty great idea – I hadn’t thought of that before. A smaller-scale event would definitely be more doable. Probably like you said, something more on the informal side would be the easiest to put together; since I’m still not sure what anything of the sort would look like. But thanks for the idea, six8ten!

          And yeah, the Japan Skeptics stuff looks relatively underwhelming. I really shouldn’t judge without attending their meeting (I’ll probably go next year, when I probably won’t be so bogged down) but it doesn’t look anything like the fun stuff you see at Skeptical meetups in America or wherever else. Of course, those are much more expensive, but still…

          Well you know what I would definitely consider starting some day? One of those “Skeptics in the Pub” thing, or something like that (maybe scratch the pub idea…). Unfortunately, I have never been to one of these either, so I have no idea what exactly to do or how that’s supposed to work. But it sounds somewhat simple (i.e., not too elaborate) from the random blog posts I’ve come across. Maybe I’ll try to start something like that next year. 🙂

  3. Sophelia says:

    Happy birthday!
    I usually read Skeptikai on my phone at work, so a podcast wouldn’t be an option for me either. Speaking of phones, I’ve read some other bloggers commenting that readers who use google reader or similar on mobile devices don’t show up as “hits”. I have no idea if that’s true, or if so if it is platform specific, but in any case… I may not show up as a hit but I read every post 🙂

    • Ryo says:

      Hi Sophelia! Thanks a lot for your comment!
      Ya, I’m pretty sure that’s true. But that’s okay, I won’t hold it against you. 😉
      I can imagine how many websites get people on Google reader and such; I imagine it evens out.
      Anyways, thanks for reading!

  4. Mike says:

    Yes, starting a podcast is an excellent idea. There are many people who would probably be keen to hear your articles, rather than read them. Like those who have to walk for long periods of time to and from work/school…like me 🙂
    So that’s 2

    • Ryo says:

      Hi Mike!

      Thanks for the info! I’ll keep it in mind. Unfortunately, by the time I start a podcast (if I decide to) it might not be for a while! But it’s good to know there are people who want to hear it.

      Thanks for the comment.

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