So I started blogging last summer and I had no idea that WordPress sends you a helpful end of year summary.
It’s a review of the numbers that all bloggers keep an eye on in the “Site Stats” section, such as the number of views a post gets, where your “traffic” is coming from (my top referral sites were Facebook and Twitter) and the search terms that lead people to you.
That last one, the search terms, never ceases to amaze me. Sure lots of people search for “Conor Cullen” (I know, I’m surprised too!) and a lot more don’t bother with their browser’s address bar for this site and instead stick the URL (conorcullen.com) into Google.
I thank you all for visiting, reading and sharing!
Then there are the more slightly curious search terms. Take the two photos above. They appeared in this post about my love of photography and the popular iPhone app Instagram, which I had lots of fun with last summer.
The first is a photograph I took of a poster for the film “Hanna”, starring Saoirse Ronan, which was stuck on a phone box in Ranelagh. The second photo I captured in Seville. I thought it made a striking image, but I cautioned against taking photos of people’s underwear in most circumstances!
The combination of “Saoirse Ronan” and “underwear” has subsequently become one of the most frequent search terms that has led (and still leads) people to that post and this blog. I can only imagine their disappointment!
I noticed this trend shortly after the post went up on July 21 and it was confirmed by my “2011 in blogging” report from WordPress.
You’d be amazed how people arrive here though. Some of today’s search terms that have brought people here are: “people who had rickets”, “people walking unusually” and “weird bar counter”.
Search terms more obviously related to my posts that brought people here today were “Eoin Colfer history of Hook Lighthouse” and “why does animal cruelty continue”.
Other search terms that have caused me to raise an eyebrow since I started blogging have generally been carefully crafted by my friend and colleague Peter Henry to strike a fine balance of insulted/amused on this end!
I posted a total of 29 times in 2011 , from June, when I started blogging, to December. The only month I missed was September and that was due to a long holiday here.
I blogged about a lot of different things last year, from local festivals to the London riots, but my most popular post – by some distance – was 10 Things I Like About Dublin Bikes, which I posted back in August.
Here’s second, third, fourth and fifth in the popularity (number of views) stakes. My “busiest day” was August 11, when traffic peaked thanks to combination of the posts about Dublin Bikes and the London Riots.
Unsurprisingly, most of my readers came from Ireland, followed by the United States and United Kingdom. I’m doing okay in Australia, but have a lot of work to do before I “break” Asia and South America!
I hope to keep blogging on a regular basis in 2012. It’s not easy to find the time and often the inspiration, but it’s an enjoyable thing to do and I’d urge anyone who is thinking about it to give it a go.
I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who “follows” this blog and those who check in regularly or irregularly to see what I’m up to. Comments and feedback are always welcome. Thanks for reading!
Finally, to anyone who came here looking for Saoirse Ronan’s underwear, I’m truly sorry.
- Not driving. Driving in a big city is generally a pain. Dublin is no exception. Parking can also be hard to find and expensive. Cycling is easier, often quicker and altogether better for your mental health. Incidents of cycle rage are few and far between and statistics (that I don’t have to hand right now) have also proved conclusively that errant, frustrated motorists are to blame for 88.2% of them. Potholes account for the other 11.8 per cent.
- Baskets. They may not be (okay, they are definitely not) macho, but they sure are handy! There was a time in this country when a man could have a basket on his bike for carrying essential goods (e.g. the turf he had just cut or his pet Collie) and not be judged unfavourably for it. Dublin Bikes are helping men to break down the sexist bicycle barriers that have been thrown up in front of men in recent years, as well as helping us transport essential goods (e.g. baguettes and flowers) and avoid the sweaty backs caused by manly, load-bearing backpacks… or accidents caused by getting our man bags caught in the pedals. Okay, so maybe things have changed a little since baskets were last butch in Ireland.
- Exercise. No need to labour this point. Cycling is good for your health, there’s no impact on your joints and if it’s a nice day in Dublin you can pedal for a very long time without even noticing – it’s a pleasure, not an effort.
- Low expectations not being met. I remember clearly when this scheme was first mooted, and later introduced, there were plenty of sage warnings about what a savage people we are and how these bikes would quickly be second only to traffic bollards in terms of canal dwellers. We weren’t ready for this namby pamby European carry on we were told and the bikes would be quickly wiped out in a spate of thefts and vandalism. But, it turns out we’re not all hell bent on anti social behaviour and given a good public service the citizens of Dublin (drum roll please…) simply used it. In great numbers. Shocking, really. We are now closing in on a total of 2.5 million journeys on Dublin Bikes since the scheme opened in September 2009. I’m sure there have been some incidents where bikes haven’t fared too well, as one would expect in all major European cities with such schemes, but I still haven’t seen one swimming with the bollards and I see a lot of the Grand Canal these days.
- Cheap. They wouldn’t be so well respected or used if they were expensive, but crucially they aren’t. The three-day ticket is €2. The year long subscription is €10. All journeys under half an hour are free. The average journey time for a Dublin Bike is 13 minutes so clearly the vast majority of subscribers are not spending anything bar the signing up fees, which are pretty good by any standards. If you go past half an hour you are charged on a rising scale (50 cents for an hour, €1.50 for two hours etc), but if you don’t want to do that you can always stop back at a station before the half hour mark, put your bike back, wait a minute and take it (or another bike) back out. If you attempt this thrifty practice just be sure there are enough bikes there to pull it off! With Dublin Bikes you also save money on fuel for your car, parking, public transport and taxis. That means more baguettes and flowers.
- Sturdy. I like the bikes. I have had some enjoyable journeys around the city recently on my trusty three-speed steed. These have varied from leisurely jaunts with my better half to simply getting to where I need to go in a timely and hassle-free fashion. The bikes are easy to handle and sturdy too, following the same successful model as pretty much all city bikes, with the usual features you’d expect, from the comfy saddle to the handy lock. They are suitable for all shapes and sizes and seem to be maintained quite well too.
- The wind in my hair. Cycling is fun! Not so much when it rains, but otherwise it is fun and there’s pretty easygoing terrain in Dublin too. As long as you’re careful in traffic, cycling is also a great way to discover a city, not just getting from A to B. In a car you are severely limited in terms of where you can go, stop and what you can see, never mind the characters you might meet! If you’re like me – structure is your enemy and whims beg to be indulged – than cars are out for exploring. Walking is great, but the one drawback there is there’s only so much ground you can cover and it’s generally more tiring. Sometimes cycling is the happy medium. Funnily enough, even though they say we never forget how to ride a bike, a lot of us forget why we ever wanted to in the first place. Rediscover the joy!
- Going green. We’re going to run out fossil fuels at some point, right? You may as well get with the programme now. Plus all the positive effects of cycling on your physical and mental health can be augmented by that smug feeling you get from the FACT! that you are saving the world with every rotation of your pedals. And however bad your emissions may be, they pale in comparison to the damage to the environment that the cars flying by you are doing.
- Cycling community. The Dublin Bikes have been a real shot in the arm for the much maligned cycling community. This once marginalised bunch of seemingly kamikaze Stephen Roche fans and hippies have seen their numbers swell in recent years thanks to both this scheme and the Bike to Work scheme, which has seen a great surge in people buying their own bikes. The cantankerous Irish weather notwithstanding, there just seems to be more and more people cycling in the capital every week and motorists (despite my sideswipe at them in no 1) are now well used to them and (the vast majority) treat cyclists with the respect they deserve. That’s certainly been my overwhelming experience at least. Plus, for the cycling community, with greater numbers comes greater legitimacy, lobbying power and, hopefully, facilities. The Dublin Bike scheme has almost 60,000 members, and about two thirds of those (including yours truly) have taken out a year long membership. The great thing about the bikes is that you can clearly see in Dublin now that men and women of all ages, classes and creeds are using them. Making it not just one of the city’s most effective public services, but one of its most inclusive too. It’s also great for our visitors and boosts our tourism offering. More cyclists also just make the city feel like a more social place for me too.
- Plans for expansion. There are 550 Dublin Bikes operating from 44 stations in the city. They are increasingly well used. There was a new record set for daily journeys on July 13. 6,280 journeys were undertaken on Dublin Bikes that day, compared to 6.043 on April 15, the previous benchmark. When I was staying in Dublin for a week recently I cycled to my course and back every day, but I used to walk (the indignity of it!) past two empty stations (Charlemont and Portobello) every morning, hoping there would be one left at Grantham Street. Thankfully, there was always at least one. On a sunny day available bikes can be as rare as hen’s teeth. There is also the issue of all the current stations being too close to the city centre for many. To address both these issues Dublin City Council is planning to increase the fleet almost tenfold, so there will eventually be around 300 stations and 5,000 bikes – out as far as DCU to the north of the city, UCD to the south, Inchicore to the west and Sandymount to the east. Progress has been relatively slow so far, but I’m sure they’ll continue to do their best give the people what they obviously want.