The weirdness of our most popular posts

June 14, 2022 • 10:30 am

Like all people who write a website, I like to know how many people are reading it, and what attracts them.  But I’ve never written about issues that I thought would attract clicks, so I’m always surprised when a “throwaway post”, like the second one below, gets so many reads.

Here’s a list of the top posts read with links to them; I believe this holds over the entire span of this website—since January, 2009.

The Art Institute Post was by far the most widely read, and most widely cited, too. It was about Chicago’s premier art museum firing all its unpaid docents to replace them with a more “diverse” staff.  II heard about it from a website called “The Barbershop“, not one that I’d heard of before. (The creator, Dennis Byrne, was a journalist who had a long career in Chicago, working for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News.)

Still, it didn’t get much airplay until I wrote in some detail about it. I’m nor sure why, as I’m a small fry, but it resonated with all kinds of people, including art lovers and people who were educated by the wonderful Art Institute docents (who are still fired). The story was picked up and carried by many venues, and the Art Institute got many objections, including from people who canceled their membership.

The Art Institute of Chicago fires all 122 of its (unpaid and volunteer) docents because they aren’t sufficiently “diverse”  167,359 Views

This one, which just went up last week, is still gathering lots of reads every day. This was of course totally unpredictable: I wrote it on the spur of the moment to express a beef about consumer products like ice cream getting smaller and relatively more expensive. I guess it struck a nerve since every consumer is feeling ripped off these days. And almost everyone has noticed the decline in quality and quantity of most brands of ice cream.

The ice cream scams  76,807 Views (and counting)

Who would have thought that accusations of racism against Ed Wilson would draw such attention? Well, clearly the people who did a hit job on him, like this author in Scientific America. (Lots of people have probably read Ed’s books, too.) The Sci Am article was abysmal, even accusing Mendel of racism! Maybe a lot of people read the magazine, but they shouldn’t. It’s way too woke and lacks judgment, as in this piece:

Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist 39,394 Views

Likewise: why should Americans be interested in the doings of science educators and authorities in New Zealand? But they were:

“Ways of knowing”: New Zealand pushes to have “indigenous knowledge” (mythology) taught on parity with modern science in science class  30,231 Views

Finally, three cat posts. Now this one from last Christmas baffles me: why should so many people want to see pictures of our readers’ kitties in a Christmas theme?

Caturday felids: Christmas edition with readers’ kitties! 29,174 Views

Ditto. I fail to understand the attention given to these two Caturday felid posts, but of course the Internet is made of cats.  Many times I’ve contemplated ditching the Caturday felid posts.

Caturday felid trifecta: Celebrities’ cats; cat has rare brown kittens; giant cat screen in Japan; and lagniappe  22,748 Views

Caturday felid trifecta: Rescuing a baby Pallas’s cat; man builds elevator to help senior cat up and down stairs; kitten therapy at a retirement home; and lagniappe  16,339 Views

These aren’t a huge number of reads compared to those posted by someone like Andrew Sullivan, but I have no aspirations to be a professional “blogger.” This was always an avocation, but one that blew up beyond its original goal.


13 thoughts on “The weirdness of our most popular posts

  1. Also 237 comments on the Wilson/SciAm post. I wonder what the list of most-commented posts would look like, and is there a correlation between views and comments?

    1. Great question. I was wondering something similar, but it seems like behavioral patterns on the internet have shifted enough over the 13+ years the site has been online that we might not necessarily have a useful correlation. I picked a page at non-random (page 100 of the archives) and selected the first post. It had 40 top-level responses and 147 total thoughts. Obviously, it’s only one example, and not statistically valid research.

  2. I think “the ice cream scams” was popular because (a) everyone (almost) loves ice cream, and (b) it morphed into a general rant about the dark underbelly of capitalism: how we are victims of deceptive marketing and product design from which our government is supposed to protect us and (mostly) doesn’t.

  3. Yes, a strange and unpredictable mix – interesting that the Art Institute of Chicago came out on top.

  4. OK .. I’m here primarily for the free will stuff.
    I wonder, I just click through the posts using the previous and next links. If the subject interests me I will read the post and perhaps leave a reply – often to another comment.

    Do clicking the next and previous links count as being “read”?

    Perhaps a poll for your various sections?

  5. Interesting. I know this is about views, not comments, but it made me think about past posts with a crazy amount of comments.

    Iirc the post with the most comments was Ben Goren’s question to readers about trying to prove there was a historical Jesus…did that reach 1,000 comments? I forget. Two more I remember with really high comments were the posts about the world geography of penis-size and the announcement of Robin Williams’ suicide.

    1. Also one of the posts about Rudy Tanzi and the guy with the bejazzled eyeglasses. That one had hundreds of highly entertaining comments, including Rudy himself repeatedly dropping in to defend his woo, then swearing off this site, and then coming back to complain about the comments.

  6. I write for two websites, politically similar to WEIT.
    I always enjoy finding out which of my articles did well and which didn’t. In my case the articles I write closet to the culture war (usually slamming religion, but also about abortion or law) poll better than the ones I LIKE to write, those about foreign countries (Lebanon, Taiwan, Qatar, etc).

    All the ones you mention in WEIT I’ve enjoyed, though I read most of WEIT anyway (just not sports or forgotten Hollywood idols… hehehe).

  7. I thought the internet was invented for the sole purpose of posting cat pictures.😺

    The other posts have universal or important contemporary themes which transcend their local context. The art museum, which I’d never heard of, has people in power mistreating enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers in the name of a fashionable orthodoxy – diversity – which might result in an inferior outcome. The NZ science story is what happens when Western philosophical obscurantism, post-modernism, combines with an anti-Western political movement, decolonisation, in trahison des clercs. As for Ed Wilson, yet one more victim of the all-conquering smear of racism wielded by the wokesters. All these are important to those of us who value the enlightenment and its values.

    On a not unrelated topic, I’m 200 pages into David Wootton’s The Invention of Science A new history of the scientific revolution. It’s packed with information, a bit too detailed in places for me, but one can easily skim as necessary.

    1. Of course I want to see photos of reader’s cats! Helps us to add a face to a name, even if the face isn’t of the won posting it.

  8. I wonder, does reading almost all posts from the front page, that is, not clicking on individual articles, count as being read?

Leave a Reply