Because I haven’t blogged any music in awhile

I’ve always loved this one. Seeing it played at Wrigley really adds something.

Just so you know, this is shaping up to be our best month so far, and we had a phenomenal January. I’ll capture the stats for this blog and Part Time Monster as soon as they roll over and use them for a Sunday blog post soon. Then you’ll see what I mean.

Also, if you haven’t heard, we’re mostly taking this next weekend off. But plenty of good stuff coming in the next few days.

Do stay tuned. And #KeepBlogging!

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Historical Campfire Stories: The Second Defenestration of Prague

The Second Defenestration of Prague is the coolest name for a historical event ever. It suggests someone tossed an entire city out a window, and not for the first time. It’s giggle-inducing, but don’t let that fool you. This is one of those events you should know about if you’re puzzled as to how the world got to be the way it is today.

In 1555, a treaty was signed at Augsburg which granted the princes of the Holy Roman Empire the right to establish religions in their own territories as they saw fit. This agreement made the legal division of Christendom into Catholic and Protestant states a permanent thing. Bohemia, now a part of the Czech Republic, was a kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a domain of the Catholic Habsburgs, but had a large Protestant population which included many nobles. You can probably see where this is going.

For 60 years after the Peace of Augsburg, two successive kings of Bohemia enforced a policy of toleration. Protestants were allowed to worship protestantly. Nobles and self-governing towns who chose Protestantism were allowed to endow religious institutions. There was even a proclamation granting Protestants the right to exercise their religion freely, and people were allowed to build churches on royal lands. Things were as copacetic as they could be in pre-modern Central Europe. Until 1618.

In 1617, the king, who was aging and had no children, named his cousin heir and had him elected king.  The cousin was a hard-line Catholic and a true believer in the counter-reformation. The next year, the new king persuaded the emperor to call a halt to the construction of some churches on royal land. The Protestant lords assembled to protest. The king had the emperor dissolve the assembly and relieve Count Thurn, an influential and outspoken Protestant, of his position as Castellan of Karlstadt.

The situation came to a head on May 23, 1618, in a meeting at the Bohemian Chancellory between members of the dissolved assembly (led by Count Thurn) and four Catholic Lords-Regent. The issue was a nasty letter from the emperor which had accompanied the dissolution of the Protestant assembly. The letter declared the lives and property of all the lords of the assembly forfeit, and they were afraid the Catholics were preparing to make good on that threat. They wanted to know, specifically, whether the four regents had anything to do with the letter or with convincing the king to take the hard line against Protestants.

After a bit of interrogation, the lords decided that two of the regents were too honorable and pious to use such a ploy and sent them from the room. Then they raked the other two over the coals for awhile. The two regents tried to stall for time by saying they needed to confer with a superior, who was not present, but could have the answer in a week or so. Things degenerated from there, and soon after, the lords threw the two regents and their secretary out this window:

The Castle of Prague

The Castle of Prague

Somehow, all three survived the 70-foot fall, though they were injured. I’ve heard three explanations for their survival.

  1. They were saved by divine intervention, probably by the Virgin Mary. (The Catholic pamphleteers’ version.)
  2. The were very fortunate that there happened to be a large dungheap just under the window. They fell into that, and they sure were lucky to get off with just being made to look ridiculous. (The Protestant pamphleteers’ version.)
  3. The style of clothing of the day provided lots of padding, and the wall slopes outward at the bottom, which greatly slowed their descent. (What some historians think.)

As if this weren’t hilarious enough already, one of the regents was later ennobled by the emporer and given the title Baron von Hohenfall (Baron of Highfall).

Once they’d thrown the regents out the window, there was really nothing the lords could do except arm for war and try to stir up a general uprising. That’s exactly what they did. The next year, the king of Bohemia was elected Holy Roman Emporer. The Bohemians deposed him as king and replaced him with a Calvinist. All this led to a battle in November, 1620 at Bila Hora (“White Mountain,”  in the vicinity of Prague at the time, now a part of the city). The battle in involved nearly 60,000 soldiers, the Catholics won, and Prague was sacked in the aftermath. This was one of the early battles of the 30 Years’ War.  Some people call it the first battle, because it marks the point at which the war expanded beyond Bohemia and Moravia.

The 30 Years’ War eventually engulfed all of Europe, and was the most cataclysmic armed conflict in European history up to that time. Until I read an article recently that said George R.R. Martin took his inspiration from the 100 Years’ War, I assumed he took it from this one. The series of treaties that ended it are known as the Peace of Wesphalia, and they established the legal definition of the modern state. Since I’ve recently had a few readers express an interest in some International Law pieces, I’ll have a post on the definition of statehood soon; that’s a good place to start with IL.

This is based on a real historical event, but written mostly from memory and intended to be entertaining, so check the facts for yourself. And really, shouldn’t you be doing that anyway? 😉

Image via Wikipedia

WordPress Tag Discussion Update and Weekly Preview

I’ve updated yesterday’s post about the WordPress tags, but I’m putting this here to make sure folks don’t miss this. Two people have now told me that they routinely use 15 tags + categories for their posts, check all the tags, and see the posts appear in all the topic indexes. So, I don’t see any reason to change my tagging strategy and I was worrying over nothing. But I’m glad I wrote that post, because I know a lot more about this stuff now for having written it, thanks to the bloggers who commented.

I also had a friend who has more all-time views that me, and a busier blog in general, tell me he’s not getting much from the WordPress reader, and we’ve been speculating about just how WordPress counts those views. That leaves the question of why I have more than 1,000 all-time views from the WordPress reader and 325 from the last three months, but only about 30 for this month. All things being equal, and given the fact that my traffic from every other major source of referrals has either remained stable or increased over the last two months, my views from the reader are short by about 120. And I think I have an explanation for that.

I’ve always been more concerned about reads than views on my stats page, so it’s been our policy from the beginning to display our entire posts in the reader on all three blogs. Except that I forgot to set Sourcerer up that way and didn’t realize it until sometime in May when I saw one of my own posts display a summary in the reader. I changed the setting immediately and promptly forgot about it until this morning. This also explains why, even though Part Time Monster’s referrals from the reader are in the same ballpark as mine, they are a bit lower, even though the monster has more overall views (differences in posting frequency are also a factor here – we post more often, so our referrals from the reader should be somewhat higher because we’re putting more content in the news feeds).

So, now the question I have to ask is whether I want to change it back. The problem is, I don’t know how many actual reads it costs me to change it back, but I know how many views it’s going to cost me to leave it the way it is. So I am curious. Do you read entire articles from your reader? And do you pass on articles that you would otherwise read when you see only the summary displayed?

In the meantime, I’m changing it back for a week, possibly two, just to see if it really makes as much difference as I think it does. I doubt this is a permanent change. To my way of thinking, losing even two people who read every word I write, but who I never see because I have no stats for people browsing me in the reader is not worth an extra 5 page views per day. And click-through rates on the internet being what they are, that could actually be several dozen people. But it’s the only way I have to account for such a large decrease in views, and I need to account for it. In the meantime, I apologize for the inconvenience.

Preview:

  • I’m introducing a new feature “Historical Campfire Stories,” later today. It won’t be a weekly feature yet, but I’m hoping it will be well-received enough to make it so eventually.
  • We’ll have more Penny Dreadful and True Blood this week from Diana, another dynamite Batman post from Jeremy, and more news on the short film A Mississippi Love Story, along with the usual photoblogging and music posts.
  • I’m doubling up on the poetry feature at The Writing Catalog this week because I don’t have the time to do another worldbuilding post before the weekend. I do plan to have another Gollum post at Part Time Monster this week, though.
  • We’re taking a break from the Feminist Friday discussions this week to regroup, and a break from blogging in general for the 4th of July weekend. We need to recharge our batteries a bit, take care of some offline stuff, and do as much writing as we can spare the time for. Beginning Friday, we’ll have mostly photo blogs until Monday, when we’ll start back up again at full speed.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Blog Traffic and Engagement: More on WordPress Tags

UPDATE – Since I posted this, I’ve had two people tell me they use 15 tags + categories all the time, check every topic, and see their posts in them all. So it seems I was worrying over nothing.  I’ve also had a friend tell me he’s also not getting a lot of referrals from the WordPress reader. However, it’s curious to me that I’ve got more than 1,000 all-time referrals from the WordPress reader and 325 for the last quarter, but only 28 for the month. I’ll add more to this when I learn more.

I spied a conversation this morning on last week’s Blog Traffic and Engagement post about WordPress tags that’s got my wheels turning. I’m not sure the tagging strategy I laid out last week is optimal, and it may even be harmful. Since I don’t want to steer anyone wrong, I decided it was best to go ahead and publish this today.

First, Hannah of Things Matter asked me if perhaps the WordPress penalty for over-tagging starts at 16 rather than 15, as I was thinking. Her question was prompted by information she read at WordPress support here.

Planetary Defense Commander has actually experimented with 15 .v 16 tags, and he says WordPress removed the posts he tested this with from some or all feeds starting at 16 tags + categories. So there’s that. The absolute maximum is likely 15 rather than 14. That’s a minor error compared to this next bit, though.

All this prompted me to re-read the original support article on tags that I used to develop my tagging strategy, and this paragraph makes me think using the maximum number on every post might not be such a good idea.

However, you don’t want irrelevant content showing up on the topic listings or search, and neither do we. That’s why we limit the number of tags and categories that can be used on a public tag listing. Five to 15 tags (or categories, or a combination of the two) is a good number to add to each of your posts. The more categories you use, the less likely it is that your post will be selected for inclusion in the topic listings.

Now, here’s the kicker. I’ve been paying closer attention to my stats than usual lately because I’m monitoring search traffic and StumbleUpon referrals very closely. I don’t think I’m getting what I should be getting from the WordPress reader. These are my top all-time referrers. This covers a period of about seven months. No other source has generated 200+ referrals for me at this point.

Search Engines 1,825
Facebook 1,081
WordPress.com Reader 1,071
StumbleUpon 942
Twitter 843

I could wank on these numbers all day, but I’ll focus on the WP reader and discuss these other sources very briefly. Right now I’m sitting at about 15,900 views, so these four referrers account for a little more than 25% of my all-time views.

Until a month ago, the WordPress reader was my top all-time referrer, but the search engine traffic has passed it by. Very little of the Facebook traffic is coming from the fanpage. Ninety percent of it has come from a handful of posts with very specific characteristics which were shared on personal timelines. Most of the Twitter traffic has come in the last 4 months. The WordPress reader should be out-performing Facebook and should be bringing us a LOT more views than Twitter, but it is not. And look at StumbleUpon. That’s mostly from five or six lucky shares.

Here’s my top referrals from the last 30 days for comparison. I’m including so many because that’s how many it takes to get to the WordPress reader in this list. We’ve generated about 3,100 views this month, so the referrals here represent half our monthly traffic.

Search Engines 957
StumbleUpon 334
Twitter 177
Facebook 51
quaintjeremy.wordpress.com 38
tumblr.com 30
WordPress.com Reader 28

As you can see, this month accounts for about half our all-time search traffic, a third of our StumbleUpon traffic, and a quarter of our Twitter traffic. The Facebook number is about average – less than 2 referrals per day. But look at the WordPress reader. It’s gotten us less this month that a Tumblr page which I barely mind and don’t even have comments enabled on.

Our average monthly traffic from the WordPress reader, just based on a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, is about 150 views per month. Obviously, that comes in spikes like all the rest, and I haven’t been paying attention to the reader traffic specifically, so I don’t know just how low this number is compared to what we’ve been doing. But I think, given the size of this blog and the amount of blogging we do, 28 views from the reader this month is not enough, and an average of five per day over a 7-month period is way too low.

Part Time Monster is sitting at 842 all-time referrals from the WordPress reader with about 16,700 all-time views. Given the differences in the way we operate, PTM is doing about as well with the reader as Sourcerer. However, because of those very differences, I don’t think we should be doing the same. One of us should be doing better, I’m just not sure which one. I could make a case either way, but that would require an entirely separate post because there are so many variables to consider. Once I drill down beyond our all-time views, there are no other similarities of this sort in the numbers. It can’t be a coincidence.

Since we’ve been using the same tagging strategy from the beginning, and since both our numbers are so low, that’s got me thinking I need to experiment more with the tags. So here is how I’m tagging my posts for the month of July.

  • Use only tags that are strongly-related to whatever I’m posting about, even if this means I only use 5. So no more dropping the name of an author who’s mentioned once and barely discussed, for instance.
  • Cut my average number of tags back from 13-14 to 7-10.
  • No general tags like “all,” “random,” or “thoughts.”
  • One category only.

Here’s my reasoning for this move. WordPress is a smart and powerful assortment of technologies.  That sentence I highlighted in bold at the beginning of this post can be interpreted to mean that WordPress is telling you what the absolute maximum is, but suggesting you use many fewer than that.

Given what I know about WordPress’ philosophy, and their other ways of controlling spam like the rate-limiter on likes from the WordPress reader, it may be that the way I’ve been going about this is technically ok, but frowned upon by the powers that be. If so, I have no problem with that, and I obviously want to be a good citizen. I also want more views from the WordPress readers.

I’ve never once checked every single tag on a post to see if it was included in every topic. It’s entirely possible that even with 15 or fewer, there are other things going on that we don’t know about. Like I would think WordPress could very easily scan a post as it’s published and exclude it from feeds if there isn’t enough content related to a particular tag. In fact, that link Hannah shared to the WordPress help file on topics suggests this is exactly the way it works.

It is also possible that there’s an element of randomness to feed placement, and WordPress includes posts in some number of feeds, up to 15 at the very most. If that’s happening, and I have a comics post with 7 good tags, I think it’s a bad idea to give WordPress the option of including it in the “all” or “random” topics. I’d rather WordPress have only comics-related tags to choose from for that post. And really, for most posts, seven or eight tags are the most I can come up with without getting creative.

We’ll look at my referral numbers again at the end of July, see if we notice a difference, and draw what conclusions we can from there. I think we’ll see a significant difference. I’m so sure of it, I’m kicking myself already, and I’m not including last week’s post on my Better Blogging page until I get this sorted out.