On the 14th October 2011 I put my first blog post online. Now it’s one year later and this is my 100th post. It’s not a coincidence, I planned that way because it’s a nice round number. This is a chance for me to celebrate where I’ve come from, what I’ve achieved over the year and to highlight a few of my favourite posts.
I started reading blogs when I was doing my honours degree as a way to keep up with what was happening in science. I can’t remember exactly which blogs I started out on but I remember Pharyngula was one of them and, later, why Evolution Is True. They are still some of my favourite blogs, though I must say I much prefer WEIT. This was all after I’d started reading Dawkins, thanks to a professor in first year biology who mentioned the selfish gene during a lecture series on evolution. He didn’t agree with a gene-centred view of evolution but did recommend it for those that wanted to see a different perspective, and after reading it I couldn’t see how anyone could see a different view of evolution.
The way they all wrote was quite inspiring and I wanted to also share a love of science and an evidence-based way of looking at the world but I remained too timid. I kept thinking that yes I had things I wanted to share with the world but why should anyone listen to me? They were all professors with years of experience and I didn’t have nearly their depth or breadth of knowledge, something I still find annoying but I keep reminding myself that I’ll have to wait 20 or 30 years before I can make such a comparison. In any case it was eventually politics that drove me to blogging. I would look at the people leading the country and the absolutely stupid things they would say and think, “I may make mistakes but I am far smarter than those people.” If I remember this was at a time when Julius Malema was making the headlines every week and in a country which had previously seen our health minister display fruit and vegetable at the 2006 World AIDS Conference in Totonto. I haven’t forgotten that and I think I was quite justified in my thoughts.
In any case I began my foray into blogging with this message.
It will be my views, either in the form of short written pieces or comments and links to articles that I find interesting or worth sharing. I do want to keep it fairly broad so you can expect comments on what is happening throughout the world, religion and science with a general theme of evidence and reason.
I think I’ve stuck to that and have been able to watch my blog grow. I have no idea how it measures up to other blogs but it’s kept me happy and is at least better off than where I started. I now have 45 watchers and I even got a nice nomination for a Liebster Blog award from Cat Protectress! While I may not get thousands of views every day I did at one point as you can see in the bottom graph of views per week (since late February).
That peak I owe to President Zuma and his reaction to The Spear. Looking aside from pure numbers I’m also happy to say my blog has been widely read (or at least glanced at). It’s been read in most of Western Europe, Southern Africa and South America. It’s only really North Africa and Asia that still need to be reached but hopefully that will happen next year.
The darker the colour the more hits I’ve received from that country. You really can’t see any differences other than South Africa contributes the most, followed by the US. If you are interested the top contributors to my viewcount are:
1. South Africa
2. United States
3. United Kingdom
10. New Zealand
As nice as the stats are the most important part of the blog is the posts. That’s what I’m sharing and it’s what people want to read. So for the last part of this celebration I would like to share my pick of the top 10 posts of the last year. These are either ones which I’m either proud of or have some special significance to either myself or the blog.
1. All rights are inalienable and Leave the revolution behind
All rights are inalienable gets picked as it was my first blog post and served to introduce the concept of individual choice which I’ve used in some subsequent posts. It was also the first of my letters to be published in a print newspaper. It has to share the honour with Leave the revolution behind which was published on News24 before All rights are inalienable and which criticises Julius Malema, one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. I’m not completely happy with it but it does deserve a special mention.
2. Valentine’s Day and free speech
This one was posted on Valentine’s Day and dealt with, unsurprisingly, free speech. It was particularly inspired by the fatwa against Salman Rushdie but moves on against other, specifically religious, threats against free speech. I felt rather good about this one in that I actually read through a summary of a fatwa, though I didn’t find it to be anything particularly special.
3. International Fetish Day essay
It addressed people’s rights to do what they wished so long as they aren’t harming others as well as the efforts of some people, including governments, to try restrict actions that they just don’t like. It, hopefully, shows how an action that is wrong without consent can be enjoyed with consent, even if people think the action is disgusting. I also looked at South African law, which, as I’m not an expert, I may have misinterpreted. I think that’s a bad sign for the law though as it should be something that every citizen both knows and understands. With the success of 50 Shades of Grey this post may be more relevant than when I originally wrote it.
4. RIP Whitenose
This one is here for personal significance in that it’s my tribute to my dead cat. Although I didn’t blog about it at the time, her sister also died just under two weeks later. I’m not sure if their deaths were related somehow or just coincidence but it was a very depressing time. Their mother seems to be doing fine though, although with them both gone her behaviour changed quite dramatically. For example she never used to go on my parents’ bed, unlike her daughters, unless put there, and even then she would usually only stay until you stopped giving her attention. Now she jumps up onto the bed and will sleep there. It’s even more notable since she has very short legs and arthritis and to get up requires a lot of effort.
5. Hate Speech
At one point I would’ve been against hate speech but listening to Christopher Hitchens changed my mind about that. I think people should be free to express their views, even if they are hateful.
6. Amazing plants
Nature is amazing and I think sometimes plants get ignored, not having the same appeal as the fluffier life forms. This was just an attempt to show that plants can be just as interesting by showing there are examples that eat animals or move or survive through conditions that would kill almost anything else.
7. The Spear, a test for South Africa’s free expression
This is the post that probably boosted my blog to where it is now. The drama about The Spear spread world-wide and gave me more hits in a single day than I’d had in the months before it. Along with the boost in traffic came the added bonus of it being linked to in a number of other places, particularly Global Voices Online in a summary of views that has been translated into a number of languages. Despite all the attention I don’t think it’s my best piece but it’s certainly my most influential and widely read. It also lead to a second post criticising the Film and Publications Board for giving The Spear a 16N rating. I’m glad to say that second post was right and the classification of the spear has recently been overturned as the FPB had no legal right to make such a classification.
8. Animal Intelligence
I then moved onto the topic of animal intelligence with what is perhaps one of my favourite posts. I focussed on intelligence in animals other than primates as I thought that would have more impact and later followed it up with posts concerning animal culture and morality and whether they understand death.
9. Violence in Burma, a lesson for all
This one I learned about from a colleague and was shocked at what I learned was going on there. Pretty much this entire post was something totally new to me but, as I say in the title, there were plenty of other lessons to learn. Some of those involved triggers to violence, which South Africa needs to look at, the actual conditions in Burma and how sources can be biased. If you read the post you will see a group advocating for the victims gives a totally different picture of what happened to human rights watch and there are images stirring up hatred that are of event completely unrelated to what was going on in Burma.
10. Heritage Day weekend trip
This is a bit of surprising addition to the top 10 as it just describes a weekend away seeing family. However, it is currently the most-liked post that I’ve submitted so I’ve included it on this list.
Lastly, but very importantly, I want to thank everyone that watches or just occasionally finds their way here. As much as I enjoy writing it’s fairly pointless if no one ever reads it, you all give this value. Hopefully you have all have enjoyed this summary of the year and I look forward to doing this again in a years time.