Weekend Coffee Share: Fear the Walking Dead Edition

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m thrilled to have Luther starting up another run of blogging here. Fear the Walking Dead starts tomorrow. We’ll have something special tomorrow for that, and Luther will be back here next Saturday with a post about the premiere. Have a trailer and a link to our Walking Dead archive.

Luther recently passed a huge blogging milestone, so when you have a second, bop on over to Infinite Free Time and congratulate him for passing 8,500 WordPress followers.

And I’d tell you I had a passable, but hectic week. Classes started this week an I’m gearing up to open my office to the public on Wednesday. I have a ton of public speaking to do over the next couple of weeks, and just in general, I am going to be busy, busy, busy from now until the last week of September or so.weekendcoffeeshare_2015

This is one of the times of year when I have the most difficulty maintaining the blogging, so I’ve been working frantically in my free time since Thursday trying to get far enough ahead to just keep the blog going until things settle down. I’ve learned to just do what I need to do to keep my hand in through August and September, then start the re-design work and planning for spring in October.

So if you see me around a little less over the next few weeks, rest assured: I ain’t going anywhere. Just doing the jobby thing. I’ll be back up to my usual mayhem before you know it.

And I’d tell you, if we were having coffee, that Serins has been running a blogger party across social media this week, and it’s still on through Monday. Then I’d have to finish my coffee and run, because I have stats to geek out on. I’ll discuss a recent Reddit spike here on Monday.

Don’t forget to add your coffee share post to the linkup at Part Time Monster and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

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Quarterly Blogwanking: Spring 2015

I pulled the quarterly stats Sunday morning, so I’ve not captured the entire month of March, but I decided to go ahead and do this before the A to Z Challenge starts so we can see where we are going in. As always, I’m not bragging nor complaining. I do these because I always learn things when other bloggers share their stats, and I have friends who like this stuff.

We’ve had a stellar quarter both here and at Part Time Monster. I knew January would be good, but February and March have exceeded my expectations and compared to how we ended 2014, the Monster is absolutely killing it. I am curious about two things going forward:

  1. What’s the A to Z Challenge going to do for our traffic and engagement?
  2. Is the increased traffic we’ve seen this quarter sustainable, or are we in for a huge dip later in the year like we saw in 2014?

Here are Sourcerer’s monthly views. I went ahead and included them all so we can compare them to last year’s.

Sourcerer_Stats_2015_03_29January of this year was comparable to January of 2014, but we didn’t see the huge drop-off in February and March this year that we saw last year. That’s because January of last year was a lucky month — we had the Zero-to-Hero Challenge, a weekend where the entire southeastern U.S. was snowed in to binge on the Internet, and some lucky Stumbles. This year, we got the numbers in January by blogging consistently, and we’ve been able to maintain that consistency for the entire quarter.

I don’t expect to reach 3400 views for March, but it’s going to be close. I’m interested to see what we get the first week of April. I think we should see a nice bump, but I don’t know how much of the traffic growth I’m expecting in April we’ll be able to hang on to. We didn’t do A to Z here last year, but it got me my best month of 2014 at my personal blog.

The traffic at my personal blog settled back to the normal level pretty quickly once April was over last year. That doesn’t mean much, though. A to Z took so much out of me last year I had to shut my personal blog down for a couple of weeks to get Sourcerer back on track. I’m hoping I’ve done a good enough job with the planning this year to just keep rolling once April is over.

Now, Part Time Monster’s monthly totals.

PTM_Stats_2015_03_29The Monster’s last three months are the best quarter Diana and I have had at any of our blogs since we started, and it’s the #WeekendCoffeeShare that’s driving this increase. March looks better than it actually is, because Diana got more than 800 views on March 12-14 from someone Stumbling one of her posts, and that’s not a predictable source of traffic. Even when we correct for that, though, the Monster’s had a good month.

Sourcerer and Part Time Monster have run neck-in-neck for views most of the time we’ve been blogging. We’ve rarely ended a month more than 1,000 views apart. When one pulls ahead, the other always catches up. I’ve said several times that I thought PTM was pulling away and been wrong, but I think it’s happening now.

Just in general, the Monster is a better blog for getting views because Diana gets the same amount of traffic for a lot less work than I put into Sourcerer, which is a bit of a high-maintenance operation. Just to give you a frame of reference, PTM has published 550 posts since we started. We’ve published 775 here.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare has made me a believer in the power of linkups, so once A to Z is done, a Sourcerer-appropriate weekend linkup is my next project. And as for the StumbleUpon luck – that’s not going to be luck forever. We will learn how to use StumbleUpon effectively, even if it takes me all of next year to figure out how. And that’s likely the last network I’m going to need to solve.

This is not to suggest that you should run out and get yourself a linkup without thinking about what you’re hoping to accomplish. Linkups have to be well-crafted to appeal to a lot of people, and they have to attract people who actually visit the other blogs on the linkup. Otherwise, they’re just more work for very little gain. But I’ve seen enough good ones to put one together for this blog and have a chance at success with it.

In the meantime, I am interested in seeing how April plays out for these two blogs. Here’s why.

  • We have consecutive list placement and a lot of mutual friends who are near us on the list, and we typically post an hour apart.
  • We’re both doing A to Z with contributors, and we are writing posts for one another, but Diana has fewer contributors than Sourcerer.
  • We’re both planning to visit the same number of blogs, but Diana will be visiting more because she’s a helper, and so she has extra ones to visit.

I am curious to compare our daily totals, and to see how the #WeekendCoffeeShare, which will continue in April, plays into the numbers. Here’s a brief run-down of our quarterly referrals and top posts.

Sourcerer’s Top Posts

  • One of Jeremy’s Batman posts that gets Google search hits every day,
  • A big bunch of Luther’s Walking Dead recaps,
  • Rebecca’s review of Disclaimer,
  • Natacha’s post on Star Wars and long-lasting franchises,
  • David’s Agents of Shield post that ran during the break in Agent Carter, and
  • the A to Z reveal. Nothing else generated more than 100 post views this quarter.

Sourcerer’s Top Referrers

  • Search Engines (3,200)
  • The WordPress reader (500)
  • Twitter (360)
  • Facebook (260)

No other single source generated 100 referrals.

Part Time Monster’s Top Posts

I’m not going to run them down, but PTM has 20 posts that generated more than 100 views for the quarter. These fall into several categories.

  • Old posts that generate consistent search traffic.
  • Weekend Coffee share posts (nearly all have generated more than 100 post views).
  • Event-oriented posts like the two Feminist Fridays, Diana’s #1000Speak post, and her A to Z Theme reveal.

Part Time Monster’s Top Referrers

  • Search engines (2500)
  • StumbleUpon (652, but this number looks low to me and the stumbled post was viewed more than 800 times)
  • WordPress Reader (560)
  • Twitter (500)
  • Facebook (250)
  • Email (175)

Interestingly, Part Time Monster received about 1000 more front page views than Sourcerer this quarter. I’m assuming a lot of these views are repeat visits from people checking the coffee share linkup periodically on the weekends. Just as a bonus, here’s the traffic spike from the StumbleUpon hit on March 12-14.

PTM_spike_2015_03_29Since this occurred Thursday-Saturday and coincided with the coffee share linkup, it got Part Time Monster our two best days ever for views.

Happy April! Best of luck with A to Z if you’re participating. If not, stop by for our A to Z posts. In general, our April posts will be our standard fare, only the posts will be shorter and we’ll have two posts on a few days of the week that we generally only have one.

Contributors: Read this, plz. A to Z Stuff!

I’m posting this late and pinning it to the top of the page because I need to get it out there but I don’t want to interrupt our normal features to do that. I’ve been working over the last couple of weeks to get our schedule nailed down through the spring and streamline my own content production. Here’s where I am with the overall scheme.

  • We have a few features that don’t need to be interrupted in April. These fall mostly on Mondays and Fridays. On those days, we’ll have two posts. Otherwise, the A to Z will be our only written post of the day.
  • We aren’t starting a new run of anything until we get done with April, but I am open to pitches for features to begin in May.
  • I am going to do my best to keep the Tuesday/Wednesday photos going here in the afternoons, but depending on how the next couple of weeks go, that may or may not happen.

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Agents of SHIELD now that we’ve seen Agent Carter

Agent Carter took a week off last week, and I’m assuming it was for the State of the Union address. Since Agent Carter is running as a mid-season show for Agents of SHIELD, I thought I would take a mid-season break from the one show to talk about the other in relation to the former… well, whatever, they make sense to compare to one another, right?

There are lots of comparisons that came to mind about the content of the show in the early days, or even before Agent Carter aired. Different eras, relationships to movies, these sorts of things – and I blogged some of my thoughts on that early on. Now that there’s been a few episodes of Agent Carter, the differences seem really stark (pun intended?). So let me look at a few features that I think really stand out between the two, now that they are both officially on the air and part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

The Ensemble versus the Protagonist

It’s inherent in the name, I suppose, but Agents of SHIELD is not the story of one person, with no central hero. Sure, the original and ongoing draw to the show is Agent Phil Coulson, brought back from the dead to give us a known leader and a mystery plot – namely, how is he back from the dead?

But he is by no means the only character on the show, just the only known character. Around him he collected a group of agents, who fly the plane, fight the battles, solve the mysteries, hack the computers, solve the genomes (Gene’O’s?), and build the tech. It was not a small team, and they took a lot of time – as they probably needed to – introducing us to all of these agents (and new ones, over time). While Phil Coulson was ever-present, so were the rest of the team.

Agent Carter is much different from that. Sure, she’s not the only character running around, but she is the one we are focusing on. Her partner is not even a fellow agent, but a butler. And there are characters we are getting to know more about – especially Jarvis in the third episode – but not all of them.

For instance, she has some friends she has made outside of work, women who have also been neighbors or roommates. Well, one is dead and the others we might suspect of having nefarious intentions for their friendship – who can we trust? There are also her fellow SSR agents, but they exist to be contrasted with Peggy Carter, to be cliches and stereotypes and not all to be fleshed out and explored.

Sure, part of that is the 8-episode nature of the season: you can’t do it all in that time. But we have solid evidence that we aren’t going to get to know them all, as one of the agents was assassinated at the end of the third episode. That’s a number of friendlies killed in just three episodes – it’s a risky business being in that show! All we know is Agent Carter and Jarvis make it out at the end, everyone else is at risk!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Beyond Agent Coulson, the real draw for Agents of SHIELD is its connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. These got better over time. There was a ho-hum episode after Thor: The Dark World was out in theaters, with a vague connection to Asgard. Then there was a far better episode with the Lady Sif, and the Asgardian Lorelei. I think this sort of cameo was the sort of thing audiences may have been expecting or wanting more of in the show, and this episode at least showed that it could be done, and done well!

Then the ball dropped with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The SHIELD focus in the movie bled into the show, and the last few episodes of the first season, airing after the movie started playing in theaters, were really incredible, giving a payoff for a lot of the ensemble-cast character development that they had spent so much time on. I think by the end pretty much all of the cast got to be heroes and found their way into our hearts – or at least, more than they had been before.

Season 2 has more seriously delved into the mystery of the Once and Future Phil Coulson, his death and return. After Guardians of the Galaxy, audiences at least knew more about the aliens of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – even if the characters don’t know. So when it starts to turn out that maybe all these mysteries are alien in nature – and we might know who these aliens are and what they might be like! – it got pretty good. The mid-season break ended in some jaw-dropping turns of events, the implications of which have us wondering just how much this will all be a set-up for some of the upcoming Marvel movies – especially The Inhumans, who may need the most setup.

But here’s the thing: with all of that, I think it’s safe to say that Agents of SHIELD is best in the way that it relates to the larger universe. The events of the mid-season-2-finale were great and all, but the implications were better. The minutes of my wife Holly and I theorizing and guessing after the episode was done were a lot of fun, and worth keeping up with the show – but you can’t really say the show and its contents alone were what made us enjoy it so much.

Okay, that’s a lot about Agents of SHIELD. So let me keep my comment on Agent Carter here brief: it hasn’t been like that at all. The connections to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe have largely just been in the characters who come from it: Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, and Jarvis – known before just as a name and an A.I. named after him. There have been a lot of references to Captain America, largely just in the fact that Peggy and he were almost an item and now he’s gone. And that’s it – so the show is having to stand on its own, and not lean on the films for interest and intrigue.

So What Makes Good Television?

Oh man, what am I doing asking a big question like that? Well, I guess I mean that it is a show you can watch, and it’s good, and it entertains you. In and of itself. There are plenty of shows that people hang on to and watch for a variety of reasons – hoping it gets good again, wanting to know the answer to its mysteries, for love of an actor or actress or cast. If I were to try to define “good television” it would be something where it doesn’t have to rely on you “hanging on” – you just watch it and it’s good and stays there.

I think Agents of SHIELD has created a whole new category of reasons to hang on, because it really is an experiment in shared universe, between movies and film. Sure, there are shows based on movies, but generally as a re-telling – shows like Bates Motel or Fargo come to mind as recent examples. Sure, there are movies based on shows, both as re-tellings and often as end-notes, conclusions to the story or continuation. Star Trek movies seem like the best example of this. But Agents of SHIELD was a show set in the universe of the movies, not a re-telling, but a real-time continuation to keep you hyped and excited between movies.

As such, though, it does not stand on its own as “good television.” You can’t just pick up and watch an episode (or a season) of Agents of SHIELD and watch it and be like “hey that was all pretty great.” I don’t think that was ever going to be possible, but it’s an entirely new thing and as a fan, I am happy it exists and have enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s had rough patches and seemingly filler-episodes, but so have shows like Battlestar Galactica, which I followed all the way through its run.

By following an entirely different formula with Agent Carter, they have escaped that same new type of show that Agents of SHIELD belongs to. It’s a show following a movie (Captain America), but beyond that, it’s just a good, period-piece mystery show. It’s just good television. Not into comics? Not a problem, you can still get into Agent Carter. Okay, if you don’t like mystery shows or spy stuff like James Bond, maybe you won’t like Agent Carter. But no show is for everyone, right?

It’s a great mystery show so far, and if you haven’t been watching, there’s only 3 episodes to catch up on right now – out of only 8 this season! Not a lot to catch up on, so give it a chance! I’ll be back next Tuesday with my review of episode 4 – The Blitzkrieg Button!