Non-Teaching, Social Media, Technology

This Week in Narcissism

As perhaps we’ve established with some earlier blog posts, I’m quite interested in gleaning what minuscule amounts of evidence I can from the statistics WordPress collects about my blog and how people find it. Once I’ve closely examined the numbers, I then like to analyze what those statistics and the search terms that people used to find my site might indicate — perhaps I have more of an affinity for cliometrics than I’ve let on previously. Pretty riveting pasttime, right?

Most notably (or at least most fully articulated) I discovered that many people have found my blog because they have a great interest in James K. Polk, his diet, corn pone, presidential eating habits, or some combination or permutation of the aforementioned categories. This evidence about Polk and corn pone sparked some musings about the nature of research and peoples’ (ostensibly students?) ability to assess the quality of information they encounter online and evaluate its provenance and value. In fact, many of those thoughts share much in common with the Howard Rheingold session on “Crap Detection” on which I took assiduous notes at the ISTE Conference — a post which in its own right has become rather popular (hooray for name dropping!).

Well, this post isn’t about any nearly so analytical, but is rather something much more omphalocentric (and for those of you concerned that I’m verging on dealing with the inappropriate, here’s the definition): myself.

Certainly, one of the more frequent search terms I encounter is “Nate Kogan” — sometimes appropriately capitalized, sometimes not, but I won’t hold it against any web searchers out there who seemingly eschew the conventions of proper nouns. I’ll chalk that faux pas up to too much texting and other nefarious 21st century technologies.

Occasionally, I discover that my blog or something else I’ve written has been stumbled upon by some other education-oriented blog and written up in a brief profile. These discoveries are always indicated by a huge spike in traffic that is seemingly independent of anything in particular that I’ve written.

Statistics for since its inauspicious founding in June 2009. The huge spikes in August and January are attributable to the THATCamp Unconference and the ASCD profile respectively.

The most notable instance of this phenomenon occurred last December and carried over into January when the ASCD InService Blog wrote a nice profile of my blog noting some of the projects that I’d written about and tools that I’d incorporated into my posts. In fact, their brief mention of my use of Wikipedia as a way to teach historical research is something I’m hoping to follow up with shortly and is also something I’m thinking would make good fodder for a conference presentation…ah, so much to do.

The next mention I discovered, which helped contribute to the spike created by the ASCD profile, came from a website called MiddleWeb, which, as the name might indicate, is a middle school resource-oriented blog. The jury’s still out on whether this connection/recommendation is ironic or not as my most notable interactions with middle school students have revolved around firm (but well-intentioned) admonitions to tuck in errant shirttails. (Sorry I don’t have a hyperlink for that; it would undoubtedly be entertaining!). In any event, MiddleWeb wrote a brief follow-up on the ASCD piece about my blog, its contents, and then me (did that typographical trick indicate blushing effectively or was it too meta? I’ll have to refine that one). Here’s my favorite excerpt from that article:

He’s a geek. He also voluntarily teaches ninth graders.

Now, after re-reading the second sentence, I realize why a middle school blog would pick me up as many middle schools go through ninth grade, meaning that I do have a fair amount of experience with students who are in many places considered “middle schoolers.” However, my interest in analyzing these sentences lies less in the technicalities of why my blog made the cut for a middle school-oriented website, but more in their characterization of me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t labeling one a “geek” name-calling? Isn’t that verboten in middle schools and potentially damaging to my self-esteem?

If you read that last sentence and thought, “that’s the most inauthentic expression of an affront I’ve ever witnessed either in person or written in blog form!,” you’re right — that was a total simulacrum of having a fit of pique. In fact, I don’t really think I have much to quibble with as I’ll willingly accept their characterization as a “geek,” and, in fact, take it as a sign of respect. Certainly it’s a more favorable sentence to have written about you than, say:

He’s a turd.

Okay, now on to the second sentence. Yes, it is true that I voluntarily teach ninth graders, but how did the author of this post know that? I never received an email questionnaire, nor did I hold an hour-long TV special entitled “The Decision (about whether to voluntarily teach ninth graders).” So, at the time the author wrote this post, he was unaware of whether I had made some Faustian bargain that brought me to teaching ninth graders or had done it voluntarily. Well, just for the record, I’ll clarify that in fact that author’s assumption is right — it is voluntary.

Okay, one final segment in this navel-gazing post and then I’ll sign off. When I initially noticed these trends and nice write-ups of this blog, I decided to check out what Google had to say about me and whether any of my doppelgängers (e.g. Nate Kogan the Vector Artist, or Nate Kogan the Photographer) had been up to anything interesting. In the course of this perusal, I discovered that my alter-ego of graduate student/historical researcher and author had received a nice write up in the form of a brief summary and review of my article about the Mormon Pavilion that was published the Journal of Mormon History in their Fall 2009 Issue. Reading this write-up reminded me that I also need to complete a post that I promised the the LDS History blog Juvenile Instructor about how I conceived of, researched, and wrote my article…so, yet another something to get working on!

Thanks for bearing with me (me! me! me! — okay, that’s driven the point home, I think), and I’ll work to make the next post something a little more in line with what initially drew the attention of the ASCD and MiddleWeb folks in the first place.


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