Milestone: 400+ posts at AHP

AHP editor Jeremy Burman, January 2009Roughly one year ago, on 23 January 2008, I posted a progress report detailing our efforts leading up to the publication of AHP‘s 200th item.  At that time, I explained why I chose to use the word “advances” in the title of our blog (rather than “vection”).  I also thanked my partners in this endeavour, Jennifer Bazar and Dr. Christopher Green, for their continued enthusiasm and support.  Then I provided some statistics — the number of our subscribers (~100) and the number of inbound links from other sites (~100) — and listed some of our most popular items.

A great deal has happened since then.

Not only have we doubled the amount of our content (410 items with this post), but we have also moved to a new server, been named the best historical psychology blog on the web (as well as one of the best general psychology blogs and top brain-related blogs), and tripled the number of our subscribers to ~300.

In addition, since we upgraded our syndicator service and started tracking page views on 26 June 2008, the AHP servers at York University have served nearly 42,000 items to readers from around the world.  The short list of the most popular among these stories — what might be characterized as our “greatest hits” — provides a snapshot of their interests:

  1. Darwin and early American psychology (abstract, with related readings)
  2. History of sexual propaganda (link to resource)
  3. History of psychology job in Dublin (news)
  4. Presentism in the service of diversity? (moderated discussion)
  5. The history and future of bell-curve thinking (abstract, with links to related podcasts)
  6. Science journalism sucks (mostly) (link to opinion)
  7. Common errors in History of Psychology textbooks (commentary)
    Where has all the History gone? (from SHP listserv)
    Psychedelic Science (link to documentary)
  8. History of neuroscience in autobiography (link to resource)
  9. *Psychiatrist Radio-Host under investigation (continuing coverage, with links to news)
  10. Classics in the Historiography of Psychology: Tilly, 1990 (summary review)
  11. “In Our Time” on the history of the brain (link to podcast)
  12. New review of Makari’s history of psychoanalysis (link to book review)
    101 years since first U.S. Sterilization Law (link to resource, with context)
  13. *“Your very thankful inmate” (abstract, with reading list)
    Yerkes’ multiple-choice apparatus (introduction to new article, with context)
    *Brain “maps” from 1912 (links to resources)
    NY Times: Kafka’s cockroach was real! (Really?) (historiographic commentary)
  14. Does History require a variety of Contextualism? (historiographic commentary)
    *The “Life” of Psychology in Pix (link to resource)
    “The Lobotomist” now online (link to documentary)
    *More on Psychiatrist’s ties to Big Pharma (continuing coverage, with link to news)
    *Anti-psychotic Drugs, Kids, Gov’t (and Money) (continuing coverage, with link to news)
    Darwinmania in the New York Times (links to coverage)
    “Cukoo’s Nest” Hospital to be Demolished (link to news, with context)
    Happy 535th, Nick! (link to resource, with commentary)
    *Thomas Szasz on diagnostic malpractice (video, with related readings)
  15. *The Future of the DSM & $$$ (continuing coverage, with link to commentary)
    *The rise of body-building in Chicago, 1890-1920 (summary of new article)
    Canadian Archives Flooded (link to news)
    Secrets of the APA Inner Sanctum (news)
    *Sex and propaganda in The Psychologist (link to article)
    *The Psychologist on Scientific Myths (commentary)
For those interested in examining trends over time, my August update (on our return in September) includes many of the same “tracks.”  To make comparisons easier, however, I have marked all of the items we’ve posted since then with an asterisk (*).

Since these statistics focus primarily on interests among subscribers, we have also graphed the trends in AHP‘s subscriptions.  In addition to showing the blog’s rate of growth, this also shows the day-to-day variation in subscription numbers which readers might expect in starting their own blog.  (This inconsistency in readership was originally quite troubling, but is entirely predictable given that people don’t always check-in every day.)

Feedburner stats for AHP, through to Jan 2009

Yet the key lesson drawn from the experience of editing this blog over the past two years has been to understand the importance of providing an easy way for new readers to subscribe.  For example:

To subscribe, free, add this link to your feed reader:

Because subscribers have content delivered directly to whichever among the various free software solutions they find most convenient (e.g., Google Feedfetcher, Bloglines, Firefox Live Bookmarks, etc.), reminding new readers about how easy it is to subscribe is the best way to ensure that no one misses a story.  And it seems to be working.

But subscriptions aren’t the only way readers come to a blog.

Among non-subscribers, our various bibliographies continue to be the main and most consistent attraction (esp. on schizophrenia, LSD and psychiatry, and the use of cannabis). Individual items are also occasionally linked-to from high popularity blogs (e.g., Mind Hacks, PsyBlog, etc.), but this traffic is transitory: momentary spikes that punctuate the otherwise steady flow of subscription-based reading.
Google continues to provide the bulk of search-related hits, while Wikipedia provides the bulk of link-related hits.  Newer services, such as Technorati and Stumble, have also recently begun to contribute traffic.  Since these are reader-driven, however, they cannot be counted on to provide consistent traffic.  

More specifically, Google now shows 565 inbound links, with fewer than 107 coming from individual blogs linking to one of our two servers (oldnew).  Technorati shows a slightly higher number of inbound links by individual blogs — 191 (oldnew) — but the changing proportion over time suggests increasing uptake among non-blog websites devoted in some way to supporting the history of psychology (or the teaching thereof).

Yet despite slow and continuing growth, overall market penetration remains relatively low when compared to the top blogs having similar offerings.  (For example, Mind Hacks has 4890 inbound links.)  In other words, there’s still lots of room to grow.
If you have any suggestions, or comments on any of the above, please feel free to respond below.  We have been experimenting with the balance between fully moderated discussions and free-flowing commentary and seem to have come to a workable solution.

In terms of our ongoing efforts to improve things, however, many of our old posts have now been categorized with “tags.” (The process of tagging older stories is ongoing.)  Since we have now moved onto a server that can handle the traffic, the next move will be to start encouraging those who teach history to use AHP in their teaching.

Do you have thoughts about how we might improve the blog for those wishing to use it as a source of supplemental material for a course?

About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.