Our Year in Sri Lanka is my first (and most likely my last) blog and it has been an educational experience for me as my blog teaches me about the “blogosphere.”

Today’s lesson: A new way to catch misspellings in your blog. The WordPress software gives me reports on several aspects of my blog. For example, how many hits the blog receives each day, how many hits each post receives each day, what links in my posts have viewers clicked, and what search terms were used to find my blog. So today, I find that someone came to my blog  when they typed in the search term “merle steep.” Sure enough, when I typed “merle steep” into Google my posting on Arranged Marriages was Google’s number 2 offering. And, sure enough, I had misspelled both the actress’ first and last names. But Google is smart enough to ask me whether I really had intended to search for “Meryl Streep” instead. So who would go ahead and click on my blog after getting that reminder? (I have since fixed the misspelling.)

The statistics about numbers of hits each day have been climbing, but have also ceased to tell me anything about how often my intended audience is visiting my blog. My intended audience, of course, are my friends and family in the US and my new friends and adopted families in Sri Lanka, with the secondary audience of future Fulbright scholars that I hoped would find some of the information in the blog useful. I’ve written a bit about this before when I first noticed the hits I was getting on the subject of the pronunciation of Phnom Penh.

But now my blog has apparently climbed up the search rankings on a number of topics. My blog is now number one when I Google “How to pronounce Phnom Penh.” My blog is number two when I Google “Electrical outlets in Sri Lanka,” number three for “Electrical plugs in Sri Lanka.” I am still number two for the search “pronounce Sri Lanka.” My blog is on the second page of Google results for “nonya ware.” If I Google “Mad dogs and Englishmen,” or “mad dogs and englishmen noel coward” my blog does not appear in the first several pages of Google results, but if I search on “phrase mad dogs and englishmen” or “mad dogs and englishmen poem” or “mad dogs and englishmen rudyard kipling,” my blog is among those on the first page of hits. I am also getting a large number of hits from searches about birds. Two of today’s hits were from someone who searched for “animals with curved beaks.”

What all this means is that my blog has a life of its own; a life I never really intended it to have. I do not mind so much, except I have lost the feedback from my beloved, intended audience that I used to infer from the statistics. These Google search topics are bringing a steady volume of hits to my site, so much so that they now dominate over the number of hits from my friends and families. Currently I am averaging about 350 hits per week. Earlier, I could tell if you all were reading my posts or not, now I can not.

So, from time to time, please let me know, by posting a comment or sending me an email, if you have a reaction to one of my posts. I do not care to be an authority on pronunciation or electrical plugs or the birds of Sri Lanka. I do care if my efforts at writing are of interest to you.




  1. Matt said,

    February 10, 2009 at 4:12 am

    I have enjoyed your weblog a great deal, Tim.

    I would offer this advice: write, first and foremost, for yourself. If you are writing for others, continue to do so… but you might have to be content with the knowledge that they might not be listening. At least, they might not be listening today.

    Some two or more years ago, I wrote about my experience about being scammed on eBay. Now, perhaps once or twice per year (no more, certainly), I get a new comment on that post. Someone else who has either been scammed or, because of my post, avoided a scam. Who did I write the post for, and were they listening when I wrote it? Perhaps more importantly: does it matter, if they’re just discovering the post now?

    Your thoughts and reflections here have both a timely and timeless quality. Stories, and more importantly, true stories, tend to have that quality. I would suggest you keep writing, and trust that what you have to say will be heard by the people who need to hear it, when they hear it.

    Take care, and I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

    PS. Your weblog is messing up all of my searches for pictures of Meryl Streep with rare, tropical birds.

  2. Kris said,

    February 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I second Matt’s advice. Writing is a most satisfying challenge for the writer, an optional experience for the reader, and always a way to sort out what YOU think, or how YOU feel. We live in a world that often tries to dictate these things, and writing is a way to stand up to the world with one’s own point of view and interpretation. And there is nothing as vivid as on-the-spot writing at the moment, as anyone can tell you who has tried to remember the details of dinner ten days ago.

  3. Tim said,

    February 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Matt, Kris,

    I think I have stepped in rhetorical doodoo here. I cannot both thank you for your comments and politely agree with the two of you about writing primarily for myself. So I won’t.

    I definitely agree that this uncharacteristic and prolonged bout of writing has been good for me. I have long believed in the power of writing to really clarify one’s own thoughts and critically examine one’s own feelings. And I believe that worrying too much about what other people think can keep writing from being an honest expression of one’s thoughts.

    On the other hand, I did choose to blog, rather than, say, keep a private journal. And that choice has effected my writing; there are significant thoughts that have gone unexpressed and significant experiences unrelated. So I have paid a price in honesty and full disclosure for the sake of my intended audience. So, my choice to blog is only validated if, indeed, my intended audience is reading my writing. If they are not, I should keep a private journal instead. That is why I need the feedback from time to time.

    So, having removed my shoe from the rhetorical doodoo, let me thank you for your feedback. It really helps me to know that people I care about are reading my blog and finding it interesting enough to want to read more.

  4. Anna said,

    February 20, 2009 at 10:56 am

    If I may, if your shoes are rhetorically clean, offer the observation that your musings hold the interest of those you love and who love you, but also the curious and just plain strangers. That means that your writing, and experiences, appeal to your intended audience and an unintended one. In New Orleans, that’s just lagniappe – just gravy.

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