WordPress enhances their blog stats

Nothing like a bit of stats news to add a bit of life support to my apparently dead blog.

If your running a WordPress blog, they added a new stat to their standard stats package today, and it’s an important one.  

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I need to make clear this is NOT my blog stats (I could only dream of such numbers!)  But it clearly shows the visitors in the dark blue bars vs. the pageviews in the light blue.  Hovering over each bar will also give a pages/visitor number that is what we really care about.

It’s important to understand what this new metric is.  It is a measure of the unique visitors your blog had.  Wordpress has always showed pageviews, so if one person came and looked at 10 pages, it would look the same on your stats as if 10 people each looked at a single different page.  

This metric is important as it shows how much or little folks are browsing around your site.  It does only go back a couple of weeks, so the data going forward will be what is important and we can learn from.  Looking at the handful of blogs I have stat access to, it appears like the majority of blogs run a pages per visitor number of 1.3 to 1.5 most of the time.  We all know that most people simply look at a single post and move on (think about how you browse the web), so anytime that number pushes towards 2 it indicates there’s quite a bit of browsing on your site.

Don’t over-react to this number, it often will actually be inverse to your blog’s popularity.  If you write a popular post that gets quite a bit of sharing and traffic, it’s likely most of those visitors will read the single post and leave, driving your pages/visitor number down.  Likewise, if your blog isn’t very active <raises hand>  your pages/visitor may be higher simply because the majority of your visitors are likely folks that check out your blog wanting to know more about you and may read a few posts.   So while there’s no “right” number here, but it is a useful metric to better understand how folks are using your blog.

One other tip, it also appears this stat will show up on the weekly and monthly views, so if trying to get new visitors to read more of your blog is a goal, and you like messing around with your blog’s design, etc.  <does NOT raise hand>  this new metric is a very useful way to track over time how successful your efforts are there.

 

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Politics and Agvocacy

It’s no secret that the ag community is significantly more conservative/Republican than the average American voter.  Last evening, I did a quick little review of some random data in social media that kinda drove the point home for me.  But I think it’s worth thinking about what it means for agvocacy, what this significant difference in outlook means for connecting farmers with their urban counterparts.

First, before I go any further, I want to acknowledge there is a very significant, passionate, group of agriculturalists out there who consImageider themselves liberal in most every sense of the word.  I’ve had an opportunity to visit in-depth with a couple of them, and the disconnect they themselves feel at times from the larger ag community surprised me. They can be organic farmers, they can be “big ag,” but they are passionate about agriculture and their politics just as conservatives are.

Secondly, this post is not about one of those “let’s all hold hands and get along things.”  None of that touchy, feely, compromise stuff from me :).  What I do want each of us (starting with myself) to think about is how our own beliefs, life experiences, etc. shape who we are, shape our outlook, and maybe most importantly our the unique lenses through which we and others view the world.  What we may consider a fairly harmless jab at the disgraces of liberalism, someone else can easily perceive as a direct attack on their core values.  What we perceive as just routine “coffee-shop” (or social media) talk, someone else may view as a fairly radical agenda.

The risk we face is that when belief systems are so radically different, it can be difficult to even get to the point of being able to honestly and openly discuss the critical matters we face in agriculture such as animal welfare or biotech opportunities and challenges.  This is not a blog post with clear answers to this dilemma, I would certainly welcome thoughts and input, and just point out a couple of things.

Most farmers, ESPECIALLY those farmers involved in agvocacy,  have a deep desire to share their experiences.  The key here is to “share,” which indicates some kind of mutual conversation and learning.  I have no doubt many of your city neighbors (liberal or conservative) would truly be interested in why or how you think the way you do, if the tone and words you open the conversation with don’t cause defenses to go up immediately. And if you make people react strongly to your political beliefs, there may be an assumption that similar reactions are in order when it comes to topics in food and agriculture.

As a starting point, I think we need to be realistic about what the agvocacy political landscape really looks like.  After that, it’s like most things, practice and experience are the best teachers.  Rather than just “writing off” the next political thought you hear or read that you disagree with, think a bit about why the person would feel that way, try to relate in some small way.  Follow a few political types in social media that think differently than you.  Try to refrain from throwing bricks at your monitor or phone, and you might be surprised at the positive results a sometimes different perspective can bring.  And remember, outside the few of you that harbor strong political ambitions, you’re not really in this to talk politics, you’re in it to talk agriculture.  Think about your ultimate goal — is it to persuade someone to vote for your candidate of choice or to be sure political differences don’t stand in the way of the food and farming conversation you’re really after?

Inspiration

I’ll admit, when it comes to agvocacy I’ve been in somewhat of a rut lately.  Almost all of my agvocacy work involves the Agchat Foundation and my role there.  I just haven’t felt like I’ve been real involved.  Our organization is moving along, we concluded what seems to be an incredibly successful conference in August, we know have two awesome part-time staff members that take care of all the day to day work those of us that launched the Foundation used to have to do.  So all is well, except that personally I’ve felt a bit dis-connected, that I haven’t been doing much or that involved lately.

Tonight, that feeling changed, at least for the moment.  We had a very long, but fairly uneventful board meeting.  Doesn’t seem like we decided much, but a lot was discussed.  Afterwards, I had quite a few followup emails, chat, and txt conversations.  Some pertaining to the board meeting, some more general in nature.  Out of it all, I feel very inspired.

This is a weird phenomenon for me..   In my former life (pre-social media) I worked on the farm, and in my free/spare time I crunched data.  It was a lot of fun, but there was almost no people interaction, and I got inspiration from seeing data presented in new ways, little inspirations and nuggets of info I gleamed.  So, in the bigger picture tonight can seem like a bunch of “wasted” time having pointless conversations/discussions, whether as a board or individually.

Yet, I remember a specific time this happened before. Back when Google Buzz was the hangout for the cool ag kids.  A specific point where there was a lot of seemingly pointless interaction, and yet, coming of that, I had a lot of inspiration to push forward into new areas.  This is all quite fascinating to me.  I know that I am an almost off-the-scale introvert, and yet, most of my most inspirational moments seem to come from interactions with people.  Of note, it’s not interactions with large groups of people, but it is interactions vs. the isolation I used to so prefer.

My point here?  I’m not sure, although in the ongoing effort at self improvement, to better serve and support those we work with, understanding what inspires/motivates us each individually seems relevant.

Remembering 9/11

Much like my parents generation at the time of the Kennedy assassination, I remember specifically where I was standing, what I was doing.  I was in front of our shop, when over the pickup radio I heard that a plane had struck one of the twin towers.  At the time, it seemed like a freak accident, and the news was treating it mostly as such.

Being somewhat of a news junkie, but without access to a television.  (Smart phones were unheard of, internet access was slow as molasses dialup)  I turned to the news resource I usually relied on – our DTN unit.  For those unfamiliar with DTN, it was an ag specific market/news/weather terminal and service that was in it’s prime before such information moved to the internet.)

Fortunately, the DTN had an AP breaking headlines/news section, and I remember the exact moment when the headline came across that a second tower had been hit.  At that very moment, I think EVERYONE knew, without any doubt, that this was no accident.  That we were watching the most cold, cruel attack on innocent civilians that America had ever and hopefully will ever know.  It was that specific moment when the headline of a second plane hit that will forever be etched in memory.

I could write about the aftermath, the time I spent in the hospital a few days later watching the event continually, the specific memory there was watching Bush land at the site and give a short talk.  I could write about the dramatically increased security that travelers now face, about many things.

But today, I think most of the individuals and families who are no longer with those they love, and the heartache and pain this day surely brings back.  So much separation – those that died in the attacks themselves, those that have been killed in the fighting since, and the many, many more who go to bed with heartache every night hoping, praying for the safe return of those they love.

Today, my thoughts and prayers are with them.

 

A market economy at work

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post covering the rather emotional side of what has become the historic 2012 drought.  Today, I want to look at the situation from an economic perspective.

The price of corn is set by trading that takes place almost 24 hours per day at the Chicago Board of Trade.  Just a few years ago, most trading happened person to person in a “pit”, now the majority of trading has moved to an electronic form.  As I write this, the price of corn is $7.95 1/2 – it will be different when you read I am sure.

There’s a LOT that goes into the price of corn, various months of delivery, the very important factor of “basis”, various discounts for poor quality or premiums based on specific crop traits.  It would take several posts to explain all that, but the important thing to remember is that the price of corn is traded almost every weekday at the Chicago Board of Trade.

At various times, everyone hates how the corn market works.  As a farmer, it’s difficult to know when to sell, wild swings in the market seem to have become the norm, it’s easy to blame the large amount of speculative investment style money that moved around rapidly today.  But the Chicago Board of Trade serves a very important function, and for lack of a better way to put it:  “for all the ills of the market economy, no one has figured out a way to improve it”

You see, the challenge is this:  We are all well aware there is a lack of corn this year.  The problem is how we decide who gets the corn and who doesn’t?  Imagine what it would be like if we had a “corn czar” in charge, that was supposed to decide who got shorted?  For all it’s ills the job of the Board of Trade is to fairly distribute that corn, in years like this driving the price high enough so people quite using it, or find alternatives.  In years of abundance, the function of the market is to force the price lower, so more corn is used and so planting too much next year is discouraged.  It’s that basic concept of supply and demand and it works very well.  Yea, it’s inefficient, but even in a sever drought, we have 10 Billion, that’s 10,000,000,000 bushels of corn to distribute: to food processors, to livestock facilities, to ethanol plants, to end users both here and around the world.  It’s a difficult task, it’s fraught with inefficiency, but it’s almost far and away the most effective method anyone has come up with.

And one other note on the supply-demand equation.  It’s incredible the feed alternatives one can find when corn goes to $8 per bushel.  In our case, switching to feeding corn stalks vs. wheat straw saves almost 1 pound of corn per head every day we have cattle in our feedlot.  That may not sound like a lot, but at today’s corn prices it amounts to almost $25 per head, a significant number, and even in our small feedlot, it amounts to several thousand bushel of corn in a years time.  I’ve heard of livestock farmers in Florida feeding citrus waste that used to get thrown away.  Across the country, anyone using corn is finding a way to get by with just a little or in some cases a lot less.  It’s the way a market economy works, when there is a shortage, the price is forced high enough so that what we have lasts until new supply arrives next fall.

No one knows if we’ve reached a high enough price to accomplish that.  $8 corn may be high enough, we may need to go significantly higher, or we may learn that these historic prices have accomplished their purpose of reducing use.  Time is the only way that will be answered, and the market, in this case the Chicago Board of Trade, will show us.

Looking Inward

Sometimes a specific chain of events causes one to pause and really think about things.  Actually, I spend a lot of time thinking about things, it’s an introvert personality I’ve learned!   But tonight, the thinking progressed to a point I wanted to share.

The looking inward part is this.  I came in from a busy day of harvest, headed to a school board meeting, and Marci (my wife) asks a question related to an issue we were dealing with on the farm.  At the time, it frustrated me.  I had spent a fair amount of time dealing with it today, and I didn’t want to again.  Over the next few minutes (yea, a few of you will appreciate that this was the one of the classic shower inspirations:)  as I thought about it, I realized my wife’s question offered a wonderful insight and perspective.  She asked about this issue from a different, unique, and important angle.

The problem is my initial reaction..  the quick dismissal, the not wanting to really discuss the issue, not wanting the new input.  You may be surprised to learn this is a significant character flaw I have.  I can think of many, many examples, where I will initially quickly dismiss a new idea, only to realize a few minutes/hours/days later that there is some value there, that I shouldn’t have been so quick in my rush to judgement.  I’ve thought about this for some time, I know it’s not a positive thing, yet habits are very, very hard to break.  So I continue to work on it…

Your probably tired of hearing about me, but the thought I want to leave you with is this.  Can you be honest with yourself and evaluate where your own character flaws are?  I think that is a critical, critical component to working as a team player, be it a marriage, a business, or an organization.  And it’s not about being as narcissistic as I am, and proclaiming your flaws in a blog post, but it’s about recognizing your limitations, recognizing where you truly, honestly arn’t as good as you need to be, and acknowledging it, even if only to yourself.  Doing so is a big positive step towards improvement, and it’s the continual process of learning, growing, improving that propels us forward.

Tough stuff

Goodbye to Twitter?

It seems only fitting to write this post on the third anniversary of #moo.  If one could point to a single event that began the social media agvocacy movement, it would have to be #moo.  The goal was to trend #moo for Mike’s (@farmerhaley) birthday and also highlight the economic crisis facing America’s Dairy business.  And it succeeded, wildly.  For hours the term #moo stood as one of the top trending topics on Twitter.  The uniqueness of the term caught the attention of many, lots of questions were asked, and a number of agriculturalists spent the day answering questions and explaining conditions in the dairy industry.  Janice has a good year-later perspective of the #moo effort as well.

At the time, Twitter was the primary social media tool used by agvocates.  It seems time changes things, and now there is much more emphasis on Facebook, video’s, blogging, Pinterest and more!

So it may come as a surprise to many that the Twitter we have all come to love and know.  The 140 character tweets, the simplicity, the ability to access Twitter with numerous other tools – it appears much of that may be coming to an end.  Why you ask?  For a very simple reason it appears, as useful as we’ve all found Twitter, they are not a non-profit or government entity chartered to serve the public good, they are a business, with the goal of making money.  A lot has been invested in getting them where they are, in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.  And they simply are not generating the kind of income they need to be.  So, their strategy shifts.

For many of us, this will result in a far different, possibly much less desirable Twitter than we’ve gotten used to, one with much more media, in short one that looks more like Facebook.  Time will tell if this strategy is smart, if it’s what Twitter needed to do to be successful, but one thing is sure, Twitter is changing, rapidly.  Here are a couple of great articles that explore this issue in depth if your interested.

So, when you hear talk about the death of Twitter, realize that it’s probably both sensationalized a bit, but also quite likely contains a bit of truth regarding the Twitter we used to know.  And also realize that the genie has been let out of the bottle for agvocacy via social media, and while the platforms may change, the need and ability to connect farmers and their customers remain as strong as ever.

#moo!!!

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