The January 2014 #blogarch question asks bloggers to describe their best and worst posts. This can be either a quantitative or qualitative judgement. Because I’m a pessimist (read: a graduate student with a realistic understanding of job market prospects for archaeology PhDs), I’ll put my worst foot forward first.
I’ve published around 40 posts at this point, so it’s probably worthwhile to take a look at the bottom 25 % in order to identify what people really don’t want to read about. Quantitatively speaking, my least popular posts involve the following topics: teaching, dissertation data collection, quals, and hydrogen peroxide. I suppose when you reel it off like that, none of these subjects seem particularly optimism-inducing, which may have something to do with their low number of readers. It’s also worth mentioning that five of the bottom ten were from my first few months of blogging, when there really were only two people reading the blog. Admittedly, I still have a small audience, but its large enough to guarantee more than eight views a post. For the most part I’ve also stopped writing about graduate school directly. I save my thoughts about that for snarky, self-deprecating statements on other media. Qualitatively speaking I don’t necessarily consider these my worst posts, but I do feel better about posts that are slightly longer and delve into issues more deeply. I have a few more posts about animal processing up my sleeve for when I start in on the second round of faunal analysis for the taphonomic study being undertaken by the Undocumented Migration Project, but I’ll try to couch my obsession with hydrogen peroxide in a broader, more in-depth discussion of faunal analysis.
What I find amusing is that the posts that are ‘best’, quantitatively speaking, are those where I diverge from just talking about bones (whoever could tire of THAT?), and focus on intersections between bioarchaeology and the real world. My most popular post to date is a piece I wrote about the tortuous ethics of displaying human remains in museum collections, while the runner up is an exploration of the uses of human crania in public performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Both of this posts were slightly longer – I took some time doing background research, attending lectures, and letting my thoughts percolate before finally posting them, and I really enjoyed writing both of them.
That said, the third most popular post provides evidence against my “real world” hypothesis, unless for some reason people desperately need to locate and palpate their subclavican arteries. This spike is probably attributable to first year med students, since I don’t know anyone else who would Google “palpate” instead of “feel”. Finally, I can proudly state that the shirtless, anatomically labelled photo of Thor remains one of the top ten most viewed posts on the blog.
I do think the most quantitatively popular posts are a solid set, but I’m also a fan of all of the osteology posts that I’ve written, where I pass on tricks to side and identify things like the calcaneus, cuneiforms, and femoral shaft fragments. While these are unlikely to ever be popular outside of the osteology world, I wish I’d been able to find good resources for identifying fragments online back when I was first taking osteology, and they might be useful if anyone ever lets me teach an osteology course. As it is, I’ve tried to work some osteology into some of the classes I’ve taught for recently. This past week, for example, I cruelly mixed together human dentition, non-human dentition, rocks, and deer phalanges, and had students sort them all out. Technically they learned about tooth structure, the importance of enamel, the characteristic crown shapes of human dentition, and how to categorize different teeth based on their size, shape and number of roots, so it wasn’t much of a digression from the week’s focus on diet and evolution. Still, they’re lucky that’s the only bone lab I get to give this semester…
Alright. On that note, back to what is always undeniably my least popular work: grant writing.