Even now, with just ten days to go, I’m still hoping that my viewing stats for this blog in 2015 will match or exceed those of previous years. After all, I feel that I’ve been writing some decent material in the last year, even if the number of posts (and possibly the quality) has fallen off over the last couple of months under the pressure of the regular job (the suggestion in my recent staff review that I should consider becoming a ‘public intellectual’ – which I’m not sure is achievable simply by blogging and spending time on Twitter in any case – rather ignores the fact that this all has to be done in my spare time, which is in ever shorter supply). At last count, the number of views had just topped the figure from 2013, but the number of visitors is still substantially lower.
Clearly I need to write something that will quickly catch a whole new audience, even if they look at only one post. In 2013, the key to success was being rude about the discovery of Richard III’s body (and I did have hopes for a renewal of that controversy when I was asked some questions for a forthcoming article on the subject, but either that hasn’t appeared or I was much too sensible and boring to annoy anyone). However, a repeat would seem to be dependent on a suitable discovery or other public event about which I can say something controversial, and there’s nothing on the radar at the moment. The alternative strategy is suggested by the 2012 experience: only 300-odd visitors but thousands of page views, entirely down to inadvertently sparking a row with Tom Holland about the writing of popular history books. There’s nothing like the social media equivalent of people yelling ‘fight! fight!’ to get the statistics jumping.
The crucial word in the Holland affair, however, is “inadvertently”. Conflict really isn’t my thing, I am absolute zero on a controversialist scale of one to Katie Hopkins, and I feel faintly mortified whenever I discover that someone is upset with what I’ve said – even the man who got very cross with the Thucydiocy Bot’s questioning of his claim that Thucydides’ work was an explicit denunciation of socialism. So when the perfect opportunity for a bit of clickbait presented itself this morning, when a leading populariser of ancient history made comments on social media that really are deserving of critique, I fired off a sarcastic Tweet – and within thirty seconds got cold feet and deleted it. I can all too easily imagine how it could be construed as trolling by said historian’s thousands of loyal followers – and the troll’s power lies in anonymity, whereas the whole point of this blog is its interdependence with my more mainstream activities. Do I want to piss off someone with clout in both the discipline and popular media? I suppose it could actually be a route to greater visibility and a media career of my own – they don’t dominate all potential outlets, after all, just most of them – but, lacking the temperament for sustained conflict, the answer has to be no.
So, rather than continuing to refine some suitable clickbait headlines – Ten Examples of Self-Promotion on Twitter You Will Not Believe! – I think I shall just post some links to possible highlights of the year on this blog in the hope that one or two people may not have read them yet…