Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Did Terry P. Kill the Misery?

I love me some misery. I love me some Terry P.

But the page's woes got me thinking about what exactly happened. There's a line in Compound Cal's 2010 article in the Chronicle about RYS getting 400,000 page views a month at the end.

Over the past few months the traffic has been steady around 50,000 page views a month. That's obviously a much smaller audience.

Of course this page went dark between Feb 2014 and September 2014. During that time the pageviews averaged about 10,000 a month, for a page with no new material.

When it started up in mid September 2014, the numbers climbed steadily, from over 50,000 for a half month, to 100,000 by the end of school, and then 110,000 and 130,000 monthly at the start of 2015.

The Stommel kefuffle - which is a whole other matter, because if this page's biggest numbers come about because of a minor skirmish with such an unimportant fringe academic, then there REALLY are bigger problems than even what I'm talking about - boosted us above 150,000 for the month.

Then March 18th. As a precursor to the yearly April Fool's Day thing, Terry P. put an April 1st countdown clock up, and then on March 18th dropped The Mediocre Reveal, a remarkable piece that several veterans of this war (Ben, Cal, Hiram, Kimmie) thought was the "best" thing ever posted on the page!

It was nutty, obviously. The conceit of the entire page being written by one poor schmoe all these years played into so many of the various conspiracy theories surrounding RYS and CM over the past 10 years. So many big personalities from our history got namechecked in it that it was clearly a clever easter egg and nod to the page's readers.

But mail came in quickly because the post DID say the page was over "once again," yeah, for the 2nd time, relax Turbo. And Terry P. did send me conflicting messages because I did NOT know he actually had planned to leave the post up as the last entry and really DID intend to stop modding the page. But within 12 hours I got my butt off the wicker patio furniture and got things going again. (Terry P. has since made amends for all this. He was having a bit of a crisis at the time, and some of that apparently spilled over into the world of being the only person working on the page.)

And the page never came back. Our readeship nosedived after that, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. It rallied a bit after the normal summer doldrums, but it is not what it once was at ANY time in the 10 year history of RYS / CM.

Was it all too much? Was it bad timing? Did the nuttiness go over the line? Were people ready to check out anyway from the blog fatigue that Ben had mentioned earlier this year? Did Terry P. kill the misery? Or is it really dying this time, for, like, real?


I wanted to note that I chatted with Terry P. about this post during the writing of it over the past couple of days.


  1. Meh.

    As far as I'm concerned, only about 20 people read this page. And I know them all by name in the comments.

    That's enough to make me happy.

    Of course, I'm not the one doing any of the "content creation", as they call it in the "biz".

  2. For me it's fatigue. But that's not on Terry or Fab or this page. It's on this fucking profession. I loved being a part of this page. I would rev up for a new post and would float on clouds after getting some comments from folks I honestly see as colleagues.

    And my job got worse. And my profession continued to crumble. And the funny stories stopped being so funny - TO ME.

    Obviously I don't write much for the page anymore, and I find myself only coming by now and again.

    I always will come by, to see old names and new (like Frankie and OPH) who continue the good fight.

    I wish some of us, any of us, all of us could have fixed it all.


  3. I'm sort of with Hiram. Obviously I shuttered RYS back in 2010 and heard plenty about that, really, for years. But it was something I had to do on a personal level. What Fab and Lesie and Terry and others have done here, and what Ben did at his own site and on his Twitter feed, were always much appreciated.

    But, I think Hiram is right about the profession. For anyone senior in here, man, it's gotten worse every year. At least it has for me, and I've been at every kind of institution from a top ten R1 to fucking night school in an office building.

    It can wear on you. I emailed with Ben around the time he was leaving this world, and I felt that he was on the same page in many ways.

    The folks who used to populate this page and RYS before it, well there are a still few around, but most, really, most, are long gone. Whither? Where did they go? What is happening in their corner of academe?

    As long as Fab keeps the page open, I'll drop poorly made graphics in place when a post needs it, and I'll always read. But my own teaching exhausts me, and the realization that in 30+ years of fighting my profession is miles worse than when I started fills me with such regret that at times I just want to look away.

    And, of course, go golfing.

  4. I've been reading and lurking since nearly the beginning, and got up the nerve to comment on Ben's site, then commented a few times here. I did not comment for a long time because of fear that the school where I teach would associate me with a post, and there would be heck to pay. I think that the non-anonymity factor on any work-related site has an impact that makes people afraid to post -- I'm also not sure that there's anything to do about it (learn to make a burner account, people).

    What I always liked best were the outrageous tales and posts that gave me a good laugh together with a "been there" feeling. When I see a serious "how can we grow the profession" post, I'm not particularly interested; if I wanted to read that, I'd go to any number of academic web sites. You know what, though -- I'm not interested in spending my spare time to read that *anywhere*. There was a hugely subversive spirit to this page that is lost when there's too much "how can I help these kids?" on it. When the average post is no longer anything that has to be hidden from the workplace, the page really will be dead. Yes, I get that we're all supposed to care deeply, but that's so much whistling past the graveyard.

    1. This is exactly what Walt noted years ago. It is a common complaint

  5. I've only been reading for about 7 years (!) but one change I've noticed in that time is that both mainstream and academic media cover much more of the issues that used to only be talked about here: adjunct oppression, corporatization of higher ed, and even, for an all too brief moment, student fecklessness (RIP to Stacey Patton's awesome "Dear Students.") It wouldn't be surprising if some of that were pulling readers away. However, why that would all have crescendoed right after Terry's post I have no idea.

  6. Leslie K writes

    Good God, would someone tell Cal to lose my contact info. Whenever a blog crisis occurs he's on the Skype, terrorizing me by rarely wearing a shirt. (That's a joke. I'm not terrorized.)

    Seriously, he reached out to me today because this notion of what the blog should be has come up often over the years. Some of the most impassioned emails I ever got during my time at the helm had to do with what it was and what it had become. And Walt, that touchstone, that ruffian, that nutcase, was often invoked. (If the IP address matched Waxahachie, I'd say he was behind it all, but they rarely did...)

    But, yes, RYS especially was a different animal. Just read through the posts that Cal left up and you'll get a sense of it. And of course CM (I won't call it TCM) has had its time in the fast lane, too. But, the complaints about the more serious and academic tone are valid, and many many folks have never liked that. I know some people have left because we were "trying too hard" to be a full fledged academic site.

    I am maybe in the minority on this, but I'm okay with how things changed. It was maybe a BIT too juvenile at time, too puerile. It was a boys club, and I really don't mean that in a pejorative sense. (See, I used "pejorative." I've killed the site as well.)

    But I don't have any answer. I left in February, if you remember. I'm responsible for that 5 month hiatus. I'm to blame for that, too. What can you do? I honestly think the page ran its course. Of course there are things it can still do, and obviously there are still some folks reading and writing. But it wasn't something I had the time for anymore. No judgments. I worked it as long as I could and had fun much of the time.

    But, what should it be? Well, I guess it's up to Fab.

    Sorry I couldn't help...


  7. Dr. Amelia writes

    Today, the merry band of freshpersons was peer-editing their first major writing assignment in a writing-intensive, non comp class. They are working hard for me this semester and want to do well.

    Freshie 1: What are you doing on my paper?
    Freshie 2: I'm circling all the "be" verbs.
    Freshie 1: So I should have more of those, right?
    Freshie 2: No - it's where you are being passive.

    She goes on to give a beautiful explanation of passive voice and why it's weak and how to fix it.

    I need to look up her high school English teacher and send a thank you note.

    The others are struggling more, but they ARE struggling, and they will get it.

    Days like today keep me happy in "the profession."

    1. Hey, the passive voice has been used to great effect in many instances by numerous individuals!

  8. I remain your faithful servant,
    best regards,
    Prof Poopiehead

  9. I dunno. My instinct is to lean toward some variation on the nuttiness going over the line/the drama getting to be too much as the explanation, if there is *an* explanation. More likely, that was the straw that broke the camel's back, and an accumulation of myriad variations on a combination of the usual complaints (the only one of which I see missing above is the one that the page reads/feels like a closed club) made up the much larger pile of straw to which that last straw was added.

    Of course, we've got a sampling problem here; people who disappeared c. last March and didn't come back aren't answering the question (if they were ever answering questions here; we've certainly lost some regular commenters, but I'd guess that the larger part of the lost pageviews came from people who read but didn't comment, and it's hard, at least for those of us who don't read the mail that comes in, to get a fix on who those people were). It does seem odd that a large number of irregular readers would stop reading in response to a post on any one day, because what are the chance of their visiting on any particular day? It also seems unlikely that a large number of people read the Mediocre Reveal and diligently deleted CM from their feed; I don't know about anybody else, but I'm not that efficient about responding to almost anything, let alone a blog post.

    I don't know if not being able to decide whether to be serious or outrageous or both is a problem; we seem to veer around fairly regularly, though the tone probably has gotten less outrageous (and if that's a problem, then I'm certainly part of the problem, since I'm not really very good at outrageous, thanks to some combination of inherent temperament and the tending-to-see-multiple-perspectives analytical tendency that landed me on the path to a Ph.D in the first place). Like Les (maybe not surprisingly, given the gender angle), I'm okay with a bit more seriousness (though I'm happy to have others being outrageous in the same space; it's a group blog, and I figure we're all responsible for our own content/tone, but not for anyone else's. There are some limits to that approach, but I've rarely if ever felt we were getting close to them).

    I definitely get the exhaustion and discouragement that Hiram and Cal cite. I feel some of that, too (God help me, since I've got at least another 20 years until I can afford to retire, and no tenure).

    Other than that, like others, I'm glad CM is here, and will keep participating as long as it is, and very much appreciate all the effort that goes into keeping the lights on.

  10. How one reacts when one's industry is under extreme pressure is an interesting question: how one reacts when your profession seems likely to be permanently changed for the worse by shortsighted profiteering and politicians who lack the ability to see nuance, subtlety or long-term benefits of an educated citizenry is something I think many professors are increasingly struggling with. Proffies who give a damn about teaching are assailed from both inside (customer service / university as a business) and outside (Scott Walker) the academy.

    I learned recently the acronym VOCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), and it struck me that this is the situation education finds itself in. Many variables affect whether one can find meaningful work outside of the academy, including one's field, age, ability to relocate, and contacts. Many of us do live in a VOCA world now, and it makes no difference that we worked hard to get where we are. I'm sure CM readers are very much aware of the changes taking place, and their likely negative outcomes for us, our students, and our future societies.

    I'm not exhausted yet, but it's understandable if / when readers need a break from CM or any other reminders of some of the crap we have to put up with.

    CM allows interaction in a way that RYS never did: it's also a lot more real time than RYS, which may mean a certain lack of polish to some posts, but a lot more chance of getting what one needs to get through the day.

    While I haven't needed a place for solace yet, CM is the best bet I have if that day occurs.

    I am always humbled by the efforts and care of those who contribute, but even more so by those who have moderated.

  11. Late to the party, as usual. So I posted a Big Thirsty that's semi-thoughtful without having read this. Like Bubba, I don't want CM to die. Like Cassandra, I thank thank thank the moderators even though Cal apparently cares more about golf than accuracy in blurry graphics.

    I like the smackdowns and got some good material just yesterday! Sorry I don't pull my weight more around here.