2017 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2016 values in parentheses:

  • 9 (7) = Road trips reported
  • 73 (69) = Blog posts
  • 66 (90) = Days on the road
  • 1896 (2418) = Pictures posted — 284 (323) in the blog and 1612 (2095) in Road Trips

Things are more or less back to normal after last year’s extra long (and extra exotic) Alaska trip boosted the days and pictures counts significantly. The number of blog posts was nudged upward by 2017 having 53 Sundays. The regular weekly posts were augmented with links for the nine road trips and eleven reviews. In a flip-flop from last year’s summary, two new-for-2017 blog posts made the top five while no new-for-2017 trip journal entries did. The Hawaii trip was closest at number ten.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Remembering Timmy
    The most visited post of 2017 was also the saddest. Musician and friend Tim Goshorn died in mid-April just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Tim and brothers Larry and Dan put the Goshorn name in the top tier of the Cincinnati music scene and Tim and Larry became nationally known as members of Pure Prairie League. That fame and the fact that he was just such a wonderful person had a lot of people sharing memories on the internet. In this post I shared some of mine.
  2. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    The first post in the My Wheel series maintains its perfect top five record with a third second place ranking to go with two firsts. Visitors appear to continue to come through specific searches with no interest in anything else on this site. But I still appreciate them.
  3. Book Review — The World from My Bike
    This is the other 2017 post in the top five. It’s a book review that is here due to the author’s popularity and because she shared the review with her own followers. Anna Grechishkina is not yet a famous author but she is becoming well known as a traveler. This is her first book and it’s filled with photos and thoughts from her not yet complete motorcycle ride around the world. It’s certainly impressive and I’m betting there will be at least one more after she completes her journey and is back home in Ukraine.
  4. Scoring the Dixie
    This post about keeping track of driven sections of the Dixie Highway placed fourth when it was published in 2012, was third in 2015, and is back at fourth for 2017. I’m sensing a slow increase in interest in all old roads including the Dixie Highway. In the year’s closing months, there was even a slight uptick in the popularity of my own Dixie Highway related book, A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, as sales rose from abysmal to anemic.
  5. Ohio’s Revolutionary War Battle
    This 2012 post appears in the top five for the second time. In 2013, when it ranked fourth, I attributed its popularity to the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the post’s mention of names associated with that war. This year I have no theory at all.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Ohio Barn Dance
    Both of this year’s top two non-blog posts are mysteries to me. The most visited journal entry is a rather simple 2007 day trip on some scenic southern Ohio roads. The name comes from the fact that several old barns were passed along the way. In researching 2017 statistics, I discovered a big goof. Trip Peeks are blog posts that I publish when I have nothing better. Each one references the journal of a randomly selected road trip. A Trip Peek for Ohio Barn Dance was published in 2017. In fact it was published twice. First on October 22 and again on November 26. How that happened I don’t know but it did. It’s tempting to say the journal traffic is the result of the double posting but it clearly isn’t. For one thing, Trip Peeks never generate enough interest to account for anything near what this entry saw. Besides, the surge appears to have started back in April long before the first Trip Peek posting.
  2. Bi Byways
    I don’t understand this 2004 two day trip coming in second in in 2017 any more than I understood it coming in second in 2015 or first in 2016. The byways involved are the Miami and Erie Canal Scenic Byway and the Maumee Valley Byway and all of OH-66 is included.
  3. Tadmor
    This is an Oddment page about an Ohio ghost town. After ranking first, second, and first in the first three “Rearview” posts (2011, 2012, 2013), it dropped out of the rankings but reappears for 2017.
  4. Alaska
    he journal for that long 2016 trip to Alaska was number three last year and hangs on to number four this year.
  5. Finding It Here
    This was a three day Christmas Escape Run that never left Ohio, but it was the last trip of 2016 so had all year to accumulate enough views to claim fifth place.

Once again, overall traffic numbers were mixed. Visits, which dropped slightly last year, increased from 107,898 to 138,047, while blog views dropped again, going from 8,136 to 7485. Page views were nearly unchanged with 579,110 for 2016 and 578,893 for 2017.

Though it didn’t make the top five, the highest ranked new journal entry, My Fiftieth: Hawaii, marked a significant real word milestone for me. As the title suggests, reaching Hawaii meant I could now claim to have visited all fifty states of the union. It also provided a pretty good reason to write another book. That book, 50 @ 70, celebrates reaching fifty states and seventy years of age at the same time. Unlike my previous two books, 50 @ 70 isn’t associated with a particular road (or any thing else) so doesn’t even get attention from niche road fans. Sales need to increase a bunch to be considered abysmal. Anemic is probably out of range. 

2016 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2015 values in parentheses:

  • 7 (9) = Road trips reported
  • 69 (77) = Blog posts
  • 90 (59) = Days on the road
  • 2418 (1926) = Pictures posted — 323 (490) in the blog and 2095 (1436) in Road Trips

The trip count was down a little but one of them was a duesy. My 41 day 11,000 mile trip to Alaska broke all previous time and distance records and pretty much accounted for the jump in total days on the road all by itself. Pictures posted increased accordingly and posted road trip pictures topped 2000 for the first time. I did not break the 1000/trip mark however. My count for Alaska trip pics is 999. In addition to the 52 regular weekly blog posts, there were 8 reviews, 7 road trip links, and 2 miscellaneous asynchronous posts. After having three of 2015’s new blog posts among the year’s five most popular, this year saw no new posts in the top five but it was close. The most visited post in 2016 missed being published in 2016 by twenty-six days. I’ve no choice but to consider that close enough and declare it the top new post. On the other hand, after two years with none, a pair of newly minted entries appear in the the non-blog top five.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Dancers and Prancers
    This was a late 2015 post made as a report on the Lebanon, Ohio, Christmas horse parade. The majority of pictures in the article were of horses and carriages but I don’t think the majority of traffic came from horse lovers. Cincinnati’s Red Hot Dancing Queens are responsible for half of the title and much of the traffic. I really enjoy seeing this group perform and obviously a lot of other people do too. They have been invited to participate in this year’s Krewe of King Arthur Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Learn more and maybe even make a donation here
  2. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    With two firsts and two seconds, this post has made the list every year of its existence. Unfortunately (from my point of view) most of the visitors seem to come from fairly specific searches and have no interest in anything else on this site.
  3. Blog View — This Cruel War
    This September 2015 entry is a description of and invitation to a Civil War related blog that launched two weeks earlier. I hope that some of the traffic that put the post in the top five during its first full calendar year also led to some subscribers for the exceptional This Cruel War blog
  4. My Wheels – Chapter 2 1948/9 Whizzer
    ppearing back in 2013 about a month after the J.C. Higgins Flightliner post, this is the first time this post has made the top five. Maybe some of the Flightliner fans are moving onto motorized transport or maybe there is an entirely separate group.
  5. Route 66 Attractions
    After three years in the top five, this 2012 review dropped off last year but squeezes into the final slot for 2016. The subject is a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Bi Byways
    This was the number two post for 2015 and something made the twelve year old trip journal even more popular last year. In 2015 both days of the two day trip got about the same amount of traffic but in 2016 day two had a clear edge. This belies my secret theory that the traffic was from people looking for US-66 (then being disappointed when they were served a story about OH-66). My drive along the length of Ohio State Route 66 occurred entirely on the first day so I’m back to not having even a secret theory.
  2. The 2010 Fair at New Boston
    This Oddment page about a visit to an annual recreation of the 1790s always gets a few visits around fair time which is Labor Day weekend. This year it apparently got more than a few. It was also in the 2013 top five list at number three.
  3. Alaska
    he journal for that record breaking trip to Alaska made the middle of the list. Even if it is partly because there is just so much of it, I’m encouraged by new journal entries appearing to the top five.
  4. Road Crew in the Fork
    This was the first road trip of 2016 so it had the most time to accumulate views. The Road Crew is a Nashville based band known for their Route 66 related songs and concerts. I suspect the popularity of this post has something to do with their fans and their Route 66 connection even though the targeted Road Crew performance was snowed out.
  5. Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour
    Prior to this year’s Alaska outing, this 35 day coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway drive had been my longest trip. It happened in 2013 and appeared on the list at number four that year. It would be wasteful of me to miss this opportunity to mention that this trip was the subject of my first book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate, available here.

I quickly became convinced that 2015’s huge drop in visits was directly connected to search engines (particularly Google) rewarding mobile friendly sites and this site’s complete lack of any mobile considerations at all. I set out to fix that and within a couple of months had made the site “mostly mobile friendly”. Two blog posts, 2016 on the Small Screen and Mobile Friendlier, talk about the project. The website was certainly made better by the changes and they may have headed off the loss of even more traffic but they did not return things to their previous levels. Overall traffic numbers were mixed with visits dropping from 113,142 to 107,898 and page views climbing from 462,171 to 579.110. Blog views dropped from 9,191 to 8,136.  

The final paragraph of last year’s “Rear View” article, written before the mobile-friendly issue was understood, considered the idea that the popularity of independent personal blogs and journals had peaked and would proceed to decline. The last sentence, following the observation that this website had never been a big player, was “It will, however continue to be the same small player it always has been.” The semi-level traffic statistics offer at least some hope that that’s true.

Advice: Take It and Leave It

tass1I’m talking about travel advice and I’m really talking about one particular website. It’s a site, TripAdvisor, that I’ve used and fed for many years. We are, in a sense, nearly the same age. The first trip I documented on the web began in August, 1999. TripAdvisor was founded in February, 2000 and has become one of the best examples of crowdsourcing on the internet. An even better example, Wikipedia, defines crowdsourcing as the “process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people”. TripAdvisor collects, vets, and organizes millions of reviews on motels, restaurants, and attractions. There are, of course, other crowdsourced collections of reviews. Yelp and Google are two that I use now and then. Google’s reviews are entwined in their maps feature which makes them unavoidable/convenient. I have nothing negative to say about Yelp or Google or any other rating service but TripAdvisor is the one I’ve come to depend on.

In the old days (i.e., five years ago), while it wasn’t unheard of for me to use TripAdvisor to help select motels en route, that selection was much more likely to happen before a trip started. My most common use of the site once I’d left home was to pick a dinner spot after checking into a motel. On that latest trip, selecting and booking motels one or two nights ahead became standard procedure. This was usually done from from another motel but I accomplished it from a roadside turnout using my phone on a couple of occasions. The phone actually became the default device  for selecting a dinner spot while the laptop booted up. That’s a screen shot from the mobile app at the top of this article.

The target of that latest trip was Alaska by way of Canada. Territory that was, once Cincinnati was a few hundred miles behind me, totally unfamiliar. Shortly before setting out, I’d told a friend that one of the things I was looking forward to was spontaneously picking each night’s lodging as was common on my earliest trips. In those days, I would start looking for a place to stay in the late afternoon and, if an appropriate independent failed to appear on the two-lane I was driving before I was really done for the day, I could usually find an acceptable Super 8 or some such in the cluster at a nearby interstate exit. Had I really thought this through before departing I’d have realized what became quite apparent within a few days on the road. Traveling in western Canada and Alaska is not at all like traveling virtually anywhere in the USA. For one thing, no matter how many lanes make up the road you are on, it is probably the only one available. There is no interstate with all sorts of services paralleling older and less popular roads. Not only is there essentially just one path, as it moves to the north towns become fewer and each night’s stop more predicable. Of course, that’s true for everybody which means those towns can fill up. Almost without realizing it I fell into a pattern of selecting each night’s motel from the one previous. TripAdvisor was always involved in the selection and sometimes in the booking, too.

The lists that TripAdvisor produces can be sequenced by things like composite user ratings or price. List position is important but not nearly as important as reading at least a few reviews. I’m always a little leery of reviews that stray wide of the pack regardless of the direction of the straying. I also discount reviews where it seems that the writer may have had a problem with a third party booking agency or a single employee that tainted their opinion of the actual motel. As someone who favors independent mom & pops, learning something about the owners can be a help. On the other hand, while knowing whether a motel allows both dogs and cats or just one or the other is crucial to many travelers, I have neither and couldn’t care less.

I mentioned booking through TripAdvisor which was a new thing for me. A third party actually does the booking. For all but one of my bookings this was Booking.com. The exception used GetARoom.com. The only hiccup was one of the Booking.com reservations went missing but the motel wasn’t full and I was able to book on arrival. I think I’ll still book directly more often than not but being able to book a room immediately after making a pick can definitely be convenient.

tass2It really was the realization that I had used TripAdvisor so regularly on the Alaska trip that made me think of doing a post to thank and praise them but it is also a chance to talk about my part in the crowd that’s doing the sourcing. I don’t know when I first used TripAdvisor but I know it was well before I submitted my first review in August, 2008. I obviously warmed to it slowly and submitted just one review per year in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The gates finally opened with a western Lincoln Highway trip but I think it was a couple of trips later and a desire to boost a mom & pop motel in Michigan that got me to thinking differently and belatedly post several reviews from the Lincoln Highway outing.

So now I’m a regular contributor. It’s how I pay for the advice I take. But even now I do not review every place I visit. I only review chains if there is something that makes a particular motel or restaurant different from others in the chain. I do not post negative reviews. That doesn’t mean I’ve never met a meal, museum, or motel room I didn’t like. It’s simply that I see no reason to spend time and energy writing a review for them. That’s the same reason I don’t post negative reviews on this blog. I submitted photos with some of my early reviews but I soon quit. TripAdvisor has the right to use uploaded photos however it sees fit without crediting the source in any way. Sorry but that’s not for me. My member page at TripAdvisor is here.

Trip Peek #38
Trip #100
Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail trip. Yes, that’s a pretty goofy name but I can explain. In May of 2011, I went to Saint Louis, Missouri, to see Chuck Berry and called the trip, Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll. My original plans for this trip were to ride a train to Washington, DC, to see two concerts. Calling it Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Rail seemed quite clever. But, less than two days before the scheduled departure, the train was canceled. I saved the trip by driving but, in the flurry of rearrangements, the best I could do for the title was replace “‘n'” with “w/o” which isn’t very clever at all. I saw Dirk Hamilton (pictured) and Josh Hisle (opening for Stephen Stills) in concert plus Fort McHenry, Ocean City, museums, diners, and colorful fall foliage. As I said in a trip postlude. “…everything was perfect for a train ride except the train.”

The trip was my 100th so I did a blog post to mark the occasion and reflect a bit on previous journeys. This Trip Peek is being posted following trip 135.

Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

2016 on the Small Screen

mobileoldI didn’t do it on purpose, Jim. Honest I didn’t. But, as has happened a time or two in the past, mentioning a problem in a blog post was enough to get some insight from blogger Jim Grey. In the recent 2015 in the Rear View post, I bemoaned the year’s tremendous drop in visitors to the non-blog portion of my website. In a comment on the post, Jim theorized that it was because Google had taken to “downranking sites that aren’t mobile friendly”. Although it should not have been, that was news to me. A little checking showed that not only was the connection believable, it was pretty much undeniable. Thanks Jim.

A long time ago (March 2) I received email from Google pointing out that much of my website was not mobile-friendly. Mobile-friendly sites are those that work well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. That usability usually comes with some effort. Other than that inherent in the WordPress based blog portion, my site made no such effort at all. The image at right shows how the cover page of my most recent road trip looked on a smartphone. The display could be zoomed to read and interact with various items but it was uneven, awkward, and ugly. That Google email had pointed me to some tools for testing pages on my site and gently suggested I do something about the many transgressions. It politely cautioned me that some of my pages would be “ranked appropriately for smartphone users”. What I did was decide it was too much work and gently ignored the suggestions.

I paid for it. When I followed up on Jim’s observation with a little web searching (yes I used Google), I found a number of online articles about the search engine’s plans to penalize non-mobile-compliant sites in search ranking. Most of the articles I found were from March and April. Roll out of the new ranking algorithm began April 21. Although I had left it out of the final article, looking at 2015 statistics had shown that the drop off had begun rather sharply in April. The connection between Google’s change and my vanished traffic was, as I said, undeniable.

Google describes the change as affecting only searches from smartphones. Searches from desktops, laptops, and even tablets were treated no differently in May than in March. That means that not only were most of the visits that disappeared in 2015 tied to Google searches, they were tied to searches from phones. That’s also undeniable and almost unbelievable.

mobilenewI revisited the Google testing tools and paid a lot more attention to the suggestions. There was some good news. The vast majority of my website is very simple so that adding just one line (to set a mobile viewport) to a page allows it to pass Google’s mobile-friendly test and makes it look better. The page shown at the top of the article reappears at the left with that one line added.

One bit of bad news is that there are more than a thousand of these simple pages. The change is easy but time consuming and somewhat tedious plus doing a thousand easy things isn’t really easy. Other bad news is that that not all pages start behaving with the one line addition. Others, such at the site’s home page, must be completely redesigned to function properly on mobile devices.

After proving the concept by updating all pages of the most recent trip, I decided that tackling cover pages for the 131 completed road trips was a task big enough to be of value but not so large as to be overwhelming. Over the last few days I have “fixed” the cover pages for all completed trips. That means that the 24 day trips, where the cover page and the daily journal page are one and the same, are done. The daily journal pages for remaining trips are being nibbled away at in reverse chronological order. Journals for the ten most recent trips have been updated at the time of this posting. Included are all nine 2015 trips plus the last trip of 2014. The simple one line change has been applied to a number of other pages even though it isn’t enough to allow the page to pass Google’s mobile-friendly test. These pages, which include the home page, the road trip and oddment listing pages, and most of the 57 individual oddment pages, will not appear in Google searches executed from a smartphone but they can be accessed directly and will be more usable (e.g., larger text size) than they have been. I will endeavor to produce mobile compliant versions of these pages in the near future but am not so foolish as to promise anything by any time.

Being mobile-friendly is a good thing and I don’t question Google’s move one bit. The “weave or get off the web” sentiment may seem harsh but it really doesn’t make sense to point people to pages they are sure to have trouble using even if what they’re looking for is hidden in there somewhere. I commend Google for taking this step and for supplying tools and information to help with the necessary changes. Google has long provided numerous tools for webmasters. During this week, I’ve become familiar with more of them and more appreciative of all of them. Becoming more mobile friendly isn’t the only improvement they have helped me with this week. They can provide insight as well. In last week’s post I jokingly said that I hoped the mysterious popularity of a journal page from a Lincoln Highway trip came from “the chicken mailbox or the Ogden Footprints”. Thanks to Google’s webmaster tools I now know that the mailbox was indeed the subject of a number of Pinterest posts. Viva la chicken mailbox!

Google made people (including me) aware of the skyrocketing use of mobile devices and some of the related issues. Those who were paying attention knew the change was coming. Non-compliant websites aren’t blocked or totally ignored they are simply ranked lower in search results for certain devices. As I proved by ignoring those emails, Google can’t make me change. All they can do is make me wish I had.

2015 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2014 values in parentheses:

  • 9 (7) = Road trips reported
  • 77 (80) = Blog posts
  • 59 (77) = Days on the road
  • 1926 (1972) = Pictures posted — 490 (384) in the blog and 1436 (1588) in Road Trips

whttco65_revI made a couple more trips this year than last but they were shorter and resulted in less total days on the road. That naturally caused a slight drop in pictures posted to the journal but pictures in the blog increased so that there was not a significant change in the total number of new pictures. In addition to the 52 regular weekly blog posts, there were 14 reviews, 9 road trip links, and 2 miscellaneous asynchronous posts which adds up to just three less blog posts than last year. Three of the new blog posts generated enough traffic to make the top five. The most popular new blog post concerned a little ol’ high school reunion. Once again there were no new posts in the non-blog top five.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    After being the most popular new post of 2013 and that year’s second most popular overall, this first chapter in the My Wheels series moved to number one last year and stays there for 2015. Any doubt that web cruisers prefer single-speed fat-tired bicycles over Corvairs and Vegas is rapidly fading.
  2. Fifty Years After
    This was itself a “rear view” article triggered by the fiftieth anniversary reunion of my high school graduating class. Not surprisingly, a lot of my classmates read it but there isn’t enough of them to account for it being the most popular new post of the year. The article was hardly an in depth look at the past half-century but it did offer a glimpse at coming of age in the 1960s and that apparently caught a little interest.
  3. Scoring the Dixie
    I am guessing that this 2012 article on how I was tracking my on going efforts to drive the entire Dixie Highway got some extra attention this year due to it being the centennial of the Dixie Highway Association’s founding. I completed the drive in July and published a book about it (A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway) in November. I’d like to think that that had something to do with the spike in visits to the article but dates and numbers don’t really support that.
  4. Twenty Mile Stand Two Years On
    The J. C Higgins Flightliner article was denied the number one slot in its first year by the demolition of a nearly two century old road house and an earlier article about hopes to save it. This update published on the second anniversary of the demolition was the second most popular new post of 2015 and the fourth most popular overall.
  5. Much Miscellany 2, Sloopy at 50
    This is the third new post to crack the top five and, like the number one new post, it concerns an event from fifty years ago. On October 2, 1965, the McCoys’ recording of Hang on Sloopy reached the top of the charts. On September 12, 2015, the McCoys’ singer and lead guitarist performed the song back in his home town of Union City, Indiana. In fact, all three surviving McCoys were on stage for a one song reunion. Union City sits on the state line near where I grew up and, although we weren’t classmates, I knew all of the McCoys during our high school years so this and the Fifty Years After post have more in common than one might think.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. PA Potpourri
    This four day trip is from June 2005. The big winner was the trip’s cover page which mentions, among other things, Madonna of the Trail monuments, the Lincoln Highway, the Johnstown flood, and the Centralia coal mine fire. Traffic for the individual days was fairly even although day one, which included the visit to Centralia, had a slight edge. A time capsule, noted in the post and scheduled to be opened in 2016, was prematurely opened in October 2014. That is possibly what brought visitors here in 2015 but it is hardly better that a pure shot in the dark.
  2. Bi Byways
    Again it was the cover page that got all the attention with both days of the August 2004 trip getting roughly the same amount of traffic. The bi byways of the title are the Maumee Valley Byway and the Miami and Erie Canal Byway. Both are completely in Ohio and the Miami and Erie Canal Byway is completely contained in Ohio’s Route 66 which I drove end-to-end on this trip. I have absolutely no idea what attracted visitors to this trip last year.
  3. Lincoln Highway West
    This 2009 trip is the only repeat from last year and again the focus is on a day in Iowa.although all other days of the trip got some attention, too. Maybe it’s the Lions Club Tree Park or the Moss or Gregory markers that’s pulling them in but I like to think that it’s the chicken mailbox or the Ogden Footprints.
  4. US-62’s East End
    This outing occurred a month before the Bi Byways trip which makes it the oldest in this year’s top five. It was visits to the cover page that got it here and all days, including two pre-trip days, were about equally popular. I can’t guess at what the big attraction was but will mention that the Little League Hall of Fame panels for Dan Quayle and Bruce Springsteen did get some looks.
  5. Sixty-Six E2E and F2F
    This July 2012 trip is the newest in the top five. It is my most recent end-to-end (E2E) drive of Historic Route 66. I’d come to know a lot more people on the route than on the 1999 and and 2003 full length trips so it was also friend-to-friend (F2F). There is nothing to indicate what brought on the recent attention but I don’t question the trip’s worthiness at all.

Overall visits to the website dropped and dropped dramatically in 2015. The 248,033 visits of 2014 fell to 113,142 last year and page views fell from 741,404 to 462,171. Blog views rose from 8,062 to 9191. That massive 54% drop in the number of visits is scary. Annual traffic counts have dropped before but not to that degree.

visitchartSo what’s that mean? One possibility is that a change in the way statistics are compiled or visits detected resulted in an artificial drop in the numbers and I can produce some arguments both for and against that theory. The “for” ones are the weakest. What seems more likely and less palatable is that the numbers don’t lie and readership has truly plummeted. Jim Grey, a friend and popular blogger, recently posted an article he called Welcome to the post-blog era. In it he discusses perceived changes in visitors and their engagement. Jim is not really suggesting that his own blog is dead. 2015 was the busiest yet for him. (Note that my own blog’s visits increased 14% last year. It is overall website visits that have tumbled.) What he is suggesting is that the internet landscape has changed and blogs, specifically independent personal blogs, are not at all the big players they once were. Maybe independent anythings, including road trip journals, aren’t big players any more. Not that this one ever was. It will, however continue to be the same small player it always has been.

2014 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2013 values in parentheses:

  • 7 (6) = Road trips reported
  • 80 (77) = Blog posts
  • 77 (57) = Days on the road
  • 1972 (1437) = Pictures posted — 384 (406) in the blog and 1588 (1031) in Road Trips

htv50s_cvrrWhen days on the road increase, an increase in pictures posted is sure to follow. Last year an additional twenty road days yielded an additional 557 road trip pictures. 35% more days resulted in 54% more photos. Blog pictures decreased slightly. In addition to the 52 regular weekly blog posts, there were 16 reviews, 7 road trip links, and 5 miscellaneous asynchronous posts. The number two and three blog posts from 2013 moved up to one and two. Last year’s most visited post stayed in the top five at number four leaving just two of the top five slots for new posts. The most popular item posted in 2014 was the review of an ebook.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    When I started the My Wheels series of articles on vehicles I’ve owned, I really had cars and motorcycles in mind and started the series with a bicycle as something of a lark. It stands today as testament to just how bad a prognosticator I am. It was the most popular new post of 2013 and the second most popular overall. This year it moves on top. Hardly a day goes by without at least one visit to the article and there are usually several. Most are from search engines and I don’t believe many of the readers stick around for much of anything else but it appears that a lot of people had, have, or dreamed of having J. C. Higgins Flightliners.
  2. Route 66 Attractions
    This review appears in the top five for the third time moving from fifth to third to second. The subject is a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.
  3. How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips
    The most popular new post of 2014 was a review of a free ebook. Terri Weeks wrote the book partly to promote her website and a “real” book, Adventures Around Cincinnati, she co-wrote with Laura Hoevener. I suspect Terri and her friends sent as many readers to the post as the search engines did and that’s OK by me.
  4. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    After two years at number one, this article on an endangered historic building dropped to fourth. The building was demolished more than a year ago so I’m not surprised that the ranking dropped but I am a little surprised — and a lot delighted — that it still cracked the top five. I’d like to think it and the post on the demolition (Roadhouse Down) are being used as cautionary tales to help save other buildings. A gas station has been built on the corner where the building stood. There is absolutely nothing within the building’s actual footprint.
  5. Don’t Worry Be Hoppy — or Gene or Roy or…
    This is the report of my visit to the Hopalong Cassidy Festival in Cambridge, Ohio. I’m thinking that, like me, some of those Flightliner fans are also Hopalong fans.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Englewood
    For several years, an oddment page on a 2006 visit to the site of the town of Tadmor was the most popular pages on the site due largely to a reference in a Wikipedia article on ghost towns. The link never seemed all that appropriate (I had not placed it.) and I believe it has been removed. That post ranked seventh this year. This post describes a visit to Englewood Park that took place a week following my visit to Tadmor. Both parks contain dams on the National Road but I have no theory on why this post shot to the top in 1014.
  2. AMA Hall of Fame Museum
    This Oddment page covers a 2010 visit to the museum. I have no guesses as to what brought the increased interest this year. At four years old, it is the most recent item to make 2014’s non-blog top five list. Last year only one article from 2013 made the list. Does that mean I’ve already covered everything worth covering and that I might as well stop posting new journal entries? Maybe, but I won’t.
  3. Natchez Christmas
    This is the journal of my 2006 Christmas trip which included driving the full length of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Day 5, which involved a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park seemed to be the main focus so the visits may have come from an interest in the Civil War.
  4. Kentucky Short Loop
    This was a rather spontaneous 2004 day trip to Kentucky with nothing in it that suggests why it became an attraction in 2014. There is, however, an odd coincidence connected to it. One of the things I do whenever I’m unable to post a new blog entry on Sunday is post a canned “Trip Peek”. These are short articles pointing to completed trips. On January 4, the first Sunday of the year when I should have posted this look back, I was on the road and had to use a canned article. Four days after these rankings were frozen and before I’d actually looked at them, the randomly selected article posted was the Kentucky Short Loop “Trip Peek”.
  5. Lincoln Highway West
    The 2009 trip on which I clinched the Lincoln Highway for the first time completes the top five and I’ve no idea why. The focus seemed to be on a day spent in Iowa and I’m pretty sure I can’t attribute that to Civil War interest.

Visits to the website increased to 248,033 from 170,809 last year and page views rose to 741,404 from 467,084. WordPress’ Jetpack reports 8,062 views (up from 6,863) for the blog in 2014.

The increases are modest. Heck, the total traffic is modest, but I’m happy with it. I wouldn’t object to a little more feedback but that’s not the same as being unhappy. I’m a little disappointed that nothing I added to the journal in 2014 generated more interest than stuff from 2010 and earlier but I’m definitely not unhappy about that. It’s rather nice, in fact, that four and more year old articles still get read. I made no structural changes in the website in 2014 and I anticipate none in 2015. From here, it looks like another non-jiggy year has just begun.

2013 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2012 values in parentheses:

  • 0 (5) = Oddment pages posted
  • 6 (8) = Road trips reported
  • 77 (77) = Blog posts
  • 57 (76) = Days on the road
  • 1437 (2254) = Pictures posted — 406 (388) in the blog, 0 (131) in Oddments, and 1031 (1735) in Road Trips

jch_revClearly, I was quite the slacker last year. It didn’t feel like it but there’s the proof. Less of almost everything. Oddments were added in 2004 as a way to post non-road trip stuff. They felt a little redundant from the minute the blog was added in 2011 and I finally stopped doing them in 2013. There would not, apparently, have been many of them anyway since turning them into blog posts sure didn’t make the number of those shoot up. Total blog posts stayed exactly the same with regular weekly posts accounting for 52, reviews accounting for 12, and the remaining 13 coming from road trips and other asynchronous events. The 2011 and 2012 Rear Views contained rants about how crummy blog traffic statistics are. I’ll skip the rant this year and move onto the top five lists.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    A 2012 article on an endangered historic building that ranked number one last year, too. This year’s attention was no doubt due to the building being leveled in April. An article on the demolition, Roadhouse Down, actually came in fourth for 2013 but I’m referencing it here rather than as a list entry.
  2. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    In 2013, I started a series of articles on all the vehicles I’ve owned and the first post in the series became the most popular new post of the year.
  3. Route 66 Attractions
    This 2012 review of a GPS based product for tracing Route 66 moved to third after ranking fifth last year.
  4. Ohio’s Revolutionary War Battle
    The popularity of this article on the Battle of Picawey probably comes from mentioning George Rogers Clark, Tecumseh, and the War of 1812 all on the same page.
  5. Chili All Week and It’s Cold, Too.
    A report on eating at a different Cincinnati chili parlor each day for a week. A subsequent article, 5 More 4s, covered five additional parlors though those visits were not on consecutive days. Note that this post would have been bumped from the top five if I had allowed both Twenty Mile House items to claim a place. That’s why I did what I did, of course. I like this article and, in this teeny tiny bit of cyberspace, I’m the boss.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Tadmor
    Oddment page on a 2006 visit to the site of the town of Tadmor that also ranked first in 2011 and second in 2012. I believe traffic is largely from a Wikipedia article on ghost towns but a mention and link on Jim Grey’s Down the Road blog also accounts for quite a few visitors..
  2. Cincinnati Summer of Love Reunion
    Oddment page on a 2007 concert featuring area performers from 1967. The Lemon Pipers, Sacred Mushroom, Tony and the Bandits, and Haymarket Riot were all represented and I suspect each accounts for some of the traffic as do some of the individuals mentioned.
  3. The 2010 Fair at New Boston
    Oddment page on the 2010 version of an annual recreation of the 1790s. It is held at the same site talked about in Ohio’s Revolutionary War Battle, the fourth ranking blog post and the two probably share visitors.
  4. Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour
    The highest ranking non-blog and non-oddment (pseudo-blog) page was the base page for the year’s biggest trip, the 35 day coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway drive. This is also the only item in the non-blog list that was a new post this year.
  5. High Speed Privies
    Oddment page on the 2004 running of the Great Outhouse Race at Penn’s Store in Kentucky. It once contained a clear nude photo taken at the store for Playboy that generated some traffic. The photo has long been obscured but searches related to it are clearly what brought the visitors. I have no idea what triggered the renewed interest.

Visits to the website increased to 170,809 from 91,233 last year and page views rose to 467,084 from 337,996. WordPress’ Jetpack reports 6,863 views (up from 5,965) for the blog in 2013.

I ended last year’s Rear View with a prediction that I would not “get very jiggy in 2013” then proceeded to make the prediction come true. The closest thing to a website change last year was the decision to not add any more Oddment entries and that did not result in any actual alterations. What’s there will remain and it’s possible I could turn to that method again someday if something comes along that doesn’t fit the blog format. .

2012 in the Rear View

The year in numbers (2011 values in parentheses):

  • 5 (8) = Oddment pages posted
  • 8 (9) = Road trips reported
  • 52 (21) = Weeks of regularly scheduled Sunday blog posts
  • 77 (31) = Total blog posts
  • 76 (69) = Days on the road
  • 2254 (2058) = Pictures posted — 388 (96) in the blog, 131 (141) in Oddments, and 1735 (1821) in Road Trips

Twenty Mile Stand in the Rear ViewAvailable blog statistics kind of suck. At least they do for WordPress Jetpack statistics on a self hosted blog that is only a portion of a website. One issue is that the most popular “page” is almost certain to be something called “Home page / Archives” which is a swirling mix of the multiple pages displayed at the blog’s root or the multiple pages that satisfy a search. I have AWStats generated numbers for the entire site, including the blog, but those have some problems, too. For one thing, counts include all of the individual pages appearing in the previously mentioned “Home page / Archives” many of which are not actually viewed. For another, AWStats numbers include blog page references that I’ve made myself in creating and maintaining the blog. I try to keep these to a minimum but eliminating them completely is not possible. In the end, though, I do believe the relationship of the numbers is meaningful even if the numbers themselves aren’t all that precise. So here are the top five blog and non-blog entries and I’ll follow the lists with some overall numbers.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    Article on an endangered historic building that drew some interest locally.
  2. The World is Singing in Cincy
    Report of my one day visit to the 2012 World Choir Games held in Cincinnati.
  3. The Long Drive
    Book review posted in November of 2011 that was 2011’s top post.
  4. Scoring the Dixie
    Discussion of my own attempts to keep track of what parts of the Dixie Highway I have driven.
  5. Route 66 Attractions
    Review of a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Sixty-Six: E2E and F2F
    Trip journal for Route 66 End-to-End & Friend-to-Friend trip to the festival in Victorville, CA.
  2. Tadmor
    Oddment page on a 2006 visit to the ghost town of Tadmor. I believe traffic is largely from Wikipedia.
  3. American Sign Museum Opening
    Oddment page on the 2005 opening of the American Sign Museum. Traffic almost certainly due the the museum’s reopening at a new location this year. A blog entry on the reopening ranked eighth.
  4. Sixty-Six the Hard Way
    Trip journal for drive on US-44 and US-22.
  5. Lincoln Highway Conference 2012
    Journal for trip to the 2012 Lincoln Highway Conference in Canton, Ohio.

The entire website had 91,233 visits and 337,996 page views last year which is a goodly increase from the 43,213 visits and 227,060 page views of 2011. Jetpack tells me the blog had 5,965 views in 2012 though I’m not sure if those those views and AWStats’ page views are the same.

When I reviewed 2011, I had just completed my 100th documented road trip and had made a clickable collage of the teaser images. In that post, I waffled on whether or not I would extend the collage with subsequent trips. I decided it was a good idea and completed trips are now added to the collage when they’re added to the Trip List. This is just one of the things covered in an FAQ page that was added last year. Yep, extending a collage and adding an FAQ page were the big changes for 2012. And I’m probably not going to get very jiggy in 2013 either.

Spam, Spam, Eggs, and Spam

Monty Python spam skitA 2005 survey reported that people were spending an average of 2.8 minutes a day deleting email spam. Whether that was for the entire US population, the 75% of internet users they reported receiving spam messages daily, or some other group is unclear. Regardless of who was doing the deleting, the survey went on to state that the resulting loss in productivity was costing $21.6 billion dollars a year. My search failed to turn up more recent statistics although I imagine they’re out there. Or maybe not. Maybe the statisticians are now too busy deleting spam to conduct surveys.

I believe I’ve deleted my share. There have been times when, between work and personal email, I’ve had 200+ spam messages to deal with each day. Of course I had some filtering in place but the fear of having a critical communique erroneously identified as spam meant scanning the junk folder for messages from colleagues or customers. Eventually, as the quality of and my confidence in anti-spam software increased, I was able to configure things so that the vast majority of those messages were quietly and automatically done in by the software without me hearing the screams or needing to move the bodies. I know the amount of spam email pointed my way didn’t actually decrease but I was protected from the bad-guy software by some good-guy software.

I’m now at a similar point in dealing with comment spam. Comment spam doesn’t come through an email account. It comes, as the name indicates, through comments on blogs and forums and such. Much email spam is just silly but some of it is truly malicious or criminal; intent on doing damage or stealing something. Same thing with comment spam with one big twist. Reader comments can actually become part of the content of the site on which they are entered. This means that any malicious or criminal links contained in the comment are now available to the whole world wide web. They are usually surrounded by such inane drivel that it’s hard to imagine anyone ever clicking on them but I suppose it happens. I’ve little sympathy for any English speaker who clicks on a link surrounded by Russian or Portuguese or even the broken English gibberish that seems to be the norm.

Comment spam, at least in theory, can have value to its producer even if no one ever clicks on embedded links. Search engines do consider links to a website in establishing that site’s rank. Apparently lots of spammers believe that getting a pointer to some site on a blog with absolutely no other connection to the site will boost its rank. I feel that’s pretty much a myth though I don’t really know that. I do know that search engines are not dumb. Spammers, it seems, are.

To date, no comment spam has actually appeared on this blog. It has appeared briefly in the site’s guestbook and in the now deceased forum. In the case of the guestbook, I get email notification and it’s so infrequent that I simply manually delete it ASAP. That is usually within a few hours; Often within a few minutes. With the forum, I initially allowed comments by guests but switched that to members only when spam started to appear. Of course, with the forum completely removed, that’s all just history.

From the blog’s beginning, I’ve employed the simple but effective technique of requiring everyone’s first post to be approved by me. That keeps the spam from appearing on the blog without hampering folks I trust. I recently went one step further by installing the AntispamBee plugin. Without this, I had to manually mark each qualifying post as spam. Not a big job but one I could avoid and avoiding work is always attractive. At present, all suspicious comments are placed in a folder where I can look them over before dumping them down the cyberdrain. The big plus is that my email is not cluttered with requests to moderate every piece of crap that this way comes. It has been in place for about a week and hasn’t misidentified anything so far. Assuming that continues, I’ll probably turn on the automatic disposal in another week or two.

My blog spam snapshotIt was the pending “loss” of these comments that prompted this post. Most are just aggravating but a few are hilarious. They are almost always filled with praise in hopes, I assume, of winning my approval but the typical message is such a jumble that I can’t imagine even the most desperate ego succumbing. Like newspaper horoscopes, the messages never mention anything specific about the post they are supposedly responding to. The majority appear to be from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Brazil. There have been a few bulk posts. A bunch once showed up pushing a particular brand of shoe and there were a couple bursts touting some dress label. At one point I received quite a few from someone in Brazil saying they would “adore to reveal” something (a Portuguese word I’ve yet to find a translation for) “in web cam”.

I’m closing with three of my favorites:

Among the finest to tell a person that i’m simply brand new in order to blogging and definitely liked you are web site. Probably I will save your website . You certainly have outstanding articles. Kudos with regard to sharing around your blog.

I be aware like Im constantly looking by cause associated with inviting things to pore more than close by a number of subjects, but I be successful to include your own set up among my personal reads each and every life time since you give delivery in order to compelling records that I appear forth to.

Thanks for the information, I rarely like it.